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Cover Stories by Jon B. Knutson
Jon Knutson presents comic book covers with a common theme
and relates any information and comments about them.

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COVER STORIES for 07/03/2005

Welcome to this eighth edition of "Cover Stories," in which I look at a number of comics covers with a common theme!

It's that time of year in the USA when picnics are planned, and various incendiary devices are purchased and exploded... in other words, the Fourth of July, aka Independence Day!

I'm amazed that in my scouring of comics covers, I've only come across just one Fourth of July-themed cover...

Batman 18

...and this is it! Naturally, it's a wartime cover... as are the covers that I'm also sharing with you today... but later for that! First, let's deal with the contents of this issue... the Batman and Robin figures were by Ed Kressy with finished art by Dick Sprang, which was lifted from a story in Detective #24. The Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini figures were new art by Stan Kaye. Thank goodness for the Grand Comics Database, eh? Without them as a resource, I'd never be able to tell who did what on these things!

This issue featured Batman in "The Secret of Hunter's Inn," written by Joe Samachson, and pencils by Jerry Robinson, one of my favorite Batman artists of all time. In this story, the Dynamic Duo face off against Tweedledum and Tweedledee... and if you can't afford the original, this story was reprinted in Detective Comics #443 in 1974!

Also in this issue was a filler featuring Private Pete by Henry Boltinoff, "Robin Studies His Lessons" by Joe Samachson, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson, a filler with Chief Hot Foot by Boltinoff, Batman in "The Good Samaritan Cops" by Bill Finger and Jack Burnley, the text feature "Good Books Worth Reading" by Josette Frank (a feature that was probably rarely read, itself), and finally, "The Crime Surgeon," starring Batman, by Finger, Kane and Robinson. This would be the first appearance of the character later known as the Crime Doctor, unless I miss my guess!

Now, as I said... this was the only Fourth of July cover I've come across... and you should know by now, I won't let a column go with just one cover... so what to do, what to do? Oh, I've got it! How about a trio of just plain patriotic covers?

Shield Wizard 1

Here's Shield-Wizard Comics #1, featuring the first red, white and blue superhero in comics... the Shield! (Yes, friends, that's right... he beat Captain America to the stands... but Cap will get his due, keep reading!). This wasn't the Shield's first appearance here (That would be in Pep Comics #1)... but it's still a good one for today's column, right?

I've long been a fan of the MLJ/Archie heroes, going back to the 1970s when I read about them in fanzines like the Rocket's Blast/ComicCollector... so I can tell you a bit about the Shield's origin (although I'm going from memory here, so forgive me if a neuron misfires along the way, okay?). This story was featured in this issue, which was likely written by Harry Shorten, and definitely penciled by Irv Novick (probably best known to most of you for his 1970s comics work on Flash and Batman).

Joe Higgins' father was obsessed with finding the key to human perfection, but died before he could make his findings public. Joe, his federal agent son, discovered his father's notes, along with the cryptic formula "SHIELD." He later realized this was an acronym telling him where the formula needed to be injected in the human body to work (i.e., Skin, Heart, Eyes, Lungs, that sort of thing... I can remember what SHAZAM and THUNDER stand for, but I can't recall this perfectly!). Using the formula on himself, and donning the familiar outfit, Joe Higgins became the G-Man supreme, The Shield!

The Shield also appeared in two other stories this issue, "Lou Zepke's Murder Syndicate" and "The Vampire Murders," both also drawn by Novick. His co-star, The Man with the Super Brain, the Wizard, was featured in "The Historical Story of Blane Whitney" by Harry Shorten and Edd Ashe, "The Battle of Bunker Hill" by the same team, and "The Treason of Benedict Arnold." These appear to be a three-part story.

These two Archie super-heroes had a bit of a scattered publishing career... by the time Archie started doing super-heroes again in the Silver Age, the Shield was replaced by his son, and the Wizard appeared as a super-villain! The original Shield was brought back in the 1980s as part of the Red Circle revival (as short as that was), and then a different Shield appeared in DC Comics Impact! Imprint! The original Shield has been back a few times since then, including a few appearances in Archie's Weird Mysteries (or something like that), as well as a trade paperback collection of the original stories! Whew!

Captain America 1

And then we come to Captain America, certainly the best known of the patriotic super-heroes! This first issue was a Simon-Kirby extravaganza, with multiple Cap stories (available in the trade paperback Captain America: The Classic Years, and recently made available in Marvel Masterworks format, unless I'm mistaken), so I won't go into any more detail on those... but that first issue also featured Hurricane (in reality Mercury - at least, that's what the story said at the time, although in more recent times it was revealed that Hurricane was really an identity the Eternal Makkari used back then) as well as Tuk, Caveboy... both features by the Simon-Kirby team!

Uncle Sam 3

And finally, here's issue #3 of Uncle Sam Quarterly! I picked this cover to share because I just happened to dig it, okay? This cover was courtesy of the very talented George Tuska! Uncle Sam was featured inside in the stories "The Ant Men," "The Return of the Redskin," "King Killer's Kingdom" by Eisner and Tuska, "Buy Defense Bonds," "The Coward's Courage," and "The Jinx," all by Will Eisner and Tuska! Also in this issue was "Heroic Exploits of the War: The Battle of Macassar" by Al McWilliams, and the text feature "Uncle Sam's Album of Heroes."

Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at for other musings and ramblings by me... and don't forget, comments on this column can be sent to me at!

Jon B. Knutson

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