New York Harbor was doing a good business during World War One, with barges and freight cars filling every possible space, over-loaded with war materials headed for Britain and France. In the dead of night on July 30, 1916, the Harbor's small Black Tom Island (above), full of dangerous munitions (including one hundred thousand pounds of TNT and two million pounds of ammunition), exploded. German agents, directed by German spymaster Franz von Papen, had successfully ignited a series of small fires around the pier. Two night watchman, discovering the spreading flames, had fled for their lives, unfortunately neglecting to raise an alarm in their haste. Seven died in the horrific explosion, and most of the man-made (landfill) island simply disintegrated. Von Papan was expelled from the US for his involvement (he would later stand trial at Nuremberg for other matters).
It was this explosion which damaged the nearby Statue of Liberty to such an extent that the arm, which used to be available to visitors, has been closed ever since. Perhaps it is this injury meted out to a sacred symbol of national pride that would compel two comic book creators nearly a quarter of a century later to tie this historical event into the origin of the US's first patriotic hero, The Shield.
Harry Shorten, legendary Golden Age comic creator, writer and editor, was born in 1914 to Jewish Polish-Russian immigrants. He grew up in New York City, was a star halfback at New York University, and even played professional football for a time post-college. His first published work was a humor book, 'How to Watch a Football Game.' Eventually, he would enter the infant comic book field, becoming a writer and editor at MLG Comics (later the company's name was changed to Archie Comics). Years later, Shorten would impact the Silver Age of Comics as publisher of Tower Comics' THUNDER Agents.
Teaming up with innovative artist Irv Novick (above), a graduate of the National Academy of Design who had gotten his start in the field at the Chesler studio, the two (perhaps with the assistance of Robert Kanigher) created the very first superhero to literally wrap himself in the American flag: The Shield, G-Man Extraordinary. A good fourteen months before the more famous Captain America made the scene, Novick's dynamic art on the cover of PEP Comics #1 (January, 1940) announced The Shields arrival in unforgettable style.
Below is the Shields origin, first printed in Shield-Wizard #1 (Summer, 1940). At the bottom of the page are links to two more Shield tales, his first and third appearances from PEP Comics #1 and #3. This is superior comics entertainment, kids! Enjoy!
Sources: http://goldenagecomics.co.uk/ http://www.jewsinsports.org/profile.asp?sport=football&ID=338
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