Thursday, April 28, 2011

If DC had given me the job to re-imagine The Mighty Crusaders...

My obsession with proposing four-hero teams that aren’t the Fantastic Four is well documented within this blog. In a previous post, I reported on the revival of The Mighty Crusaders as a four-strong force for justice consisting of The Shield, Hangman, Inferno, and The Web.

Sadly, they are no longer with us, but that just gives me an excuse to re-imagine another team...

Anyhow, if I had gotten the gig, the first order of business would be to read every origin story of every incarnation of the original 15 heroes. There were versions from the Pep Comics, Zip Comics, Radio Comics and Impact Comics imprints. The reason for going back to the well is inspiration and sometimes for a laugh and sometimes both as is illustrated by...

The origin story of Captain Flag

Like The Shield, Captain Flag was another flag-draped, patriotic hero. When a nazi kills Tom Townsend’s father and attempts to do the same to junior, Tom is saved by a huge eagle carrying off to the safety of a mountain where he sees the American flag. That’s when he’s inspired to become Captain Flag! Seriously, I’m not joking here.

The misleading nature of Firefly

When I first heard mention of this hero, I thought I had him all figured out. Not so. Firefly was really scientist Harley Hudson who was obsessed with insects and in particular how they managed to lift several times their bodyweight. In time, Harley figured it out how he could do the same. Of course, he could also fly, right? No. What would make you think that? Of course, he had fire or illumination powers, right? Well, no. So, lacking those powers, Hudson logically chose the name Firefly. Btw, Firefly is now in the public domain if anybody’s interested in writing a few Firefly stories.

Okay, enough with the laughs at the expense of those two upstanding heroes. Let’s get back to how I would’ve revamped The Mighty Crusaders as a four-hero team (including an old proposal of mine for one of the characters).

My team would be:

Hangman (Yes, keep him)

I would dump the immortality bit and go back to the avenging the death of his superhero brother, The Comet (who was Cyclops before there was a Cyclops). Hangman was also the original ‘the only good criminal is a dead criminal’ vigilante (long before Marvel’s The Punisher and 2000AD’s Judge Dredd). Also, Hangman often got the bad guys to off themselves by scaring the heck out of them – Batman’s got nothing on Hangman when it comes to scare tactics and psychological warfare.

The Web (Yes, keep him too)

I love the new redesigned costume, but I’ll dump the new billionaire playboy persona. A return to the Criminology Professor (and consulting authority) by day / Vigilante by night dichotomy is needed in my pinion. A hero needs a reason to fight crime/evil and The Web (a.k.a Professor John Raymond) had a pretty good one that also explained his career choice: It was all inspired by his brother’s lifelong criminal behaviour. How come I turned out so awesome while my bro is a career criminal? From a motivational perspective, The Web was good enough to substantiate my Great Spider-Hawk Paradox. During the 1990’s Impact Comics, The Web referred to a group of spies connected by an information network. My version would make use of a back-up network of peeps who would occasionally stand-in for The Web – even wearing the costume when required.

The current Web has a website called ‘Summon the Web’ that peeps can use to call him for help. I would slightly tweak that, so that The Web uses some sort of web crawler and pattern recognizer for internet sourced cases.

Now here’s where my proposal gets a little weird as I infuse it with an idea for The Web I came up with in the 90s. I’ve noticed a trend in my proposals for new characters: I like to create ‘slightly powered heroes’ (heroes who are essentially non-powered in having to have fighting skills like Bats but have one power that won’t directly help them in any fight). In that tradition, my addition to The Web is such a power. Basically, my version of The Web is able to mentally access something a hybrid of what Jung called the ‘Collective Unconscious’ (that repository of shared memory traces of humanity’s ancestral past) and ‘Gaia Theory’ (you know, every living thing on earth is part of one giant organism). The problem is that this access to what John Raymond pictures as a web comes and goes.

The Fox

No, I'm not Terry "Batman Beyond" McGinnis!

Okay, in a previous post I mentioned that both of the Shield’s earliest incarnation predated the highly similar Cap America and Iron Man. However, I’m going to replace The Shield with the original newspaper photographer moonlighting as a non-powered superhero, The Fox! The Fox’ insignia hid a small automatic camera with which he snapped some pics to sell. Wow, who else did something similar later on in the 60s? Starts with ‘Sp’ and ends with ‘idey.’ In terms of his look, I wouldn’t change a thing about his costume. It’s black and thus cool. I include the Fox, because Fox is the most socially conscious hero created by MLJ (although, a little less outspoken than say the early Green Arrow) and he would make a great foil for the absolutist Hangman.

the preferred Impact Comics costume


the 'not-so-preferred' older costume...with skirt or really short shorts or tunic or ? Please don't bend over to pick up something, Mister. Please.

I would replace Inferno with Fireball, who can start fire via touch, melt bullets, absorb flames, all without going “flame on!” Aesthetically, his Impact Comics costume has potential to be slightly updated. He’s a bit more interesting than the angry cueball-looking, flame-surrounded Inferno. Of course, I’d have to think about his origin, one of which involves a swamp, magic and strange balls of fire. That particular origin story screams “ball lightning” (a natural phenomenon used to explain sightings of UFOs around swamps and other bodies of water) without actually mentioning “ball lightning.” With some tweaks here and there, all the elements are there for an interesting origin story and a “story engine”

Anyway, that’s my four-hero version of the team. However, DC could compromise and test the waters by creating two teams: Ten heroes calling themselves The Crusaders and a smaller 4-hero team calling themselves C.R.U. (Covert Reaction Unit or whatever), divided along worldview (e.g. follow Hangman or follow The Shield or follow The Web).

Honestly, I can come up with three or four versions of this four-hero Crusaders team. I mean, I haven't even touched on the 3 versions of The Comet or Black Hood or The Jaguar or my favourte version of The Shield. That's the major draw for me: There are multiple versions of each hero. So, as a writer you can cherry-pick elements you like (granted you have editorial approval, of course).

Speaking of The Comet, check last year's re-design of The Comet over here.

DC, you know where to reach me...Are these characters even still licensed to you? If not, forward this link to the lucky parties.

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