In the most recent issue of Multiversity, Grant Morrison once again brought his unique sensibilities to a well-worn comic-book theme – in this case, super-heroes versus Nazis – and uncovered new and interesting twists.
The most obvious hook, of course, was casting Superman and the Justice Leaguers as defenders of Truth, Justice and the Aryan Way. While it was intriguing to see how easily Batman fits into the fascist mold, the conceit wasn’t necessarily original. Heck, Saturday Night Live aired a Nazi Superman sketch way back in 1979.
The more interesting aspects of the story – in my mind, at least – include Morrison’s depiction of Hitler, which ranges from Golden Age buffoonery to the true horrors of his sick ideology; the re-imagining of Uncle Sam as the charismatic leader of a super-powered terrorist cell comprised of Quality Comics characters; and, of course, a slant on “weeping Superman” that actually makes sense for once, as the Last Son Of Krypton finds himself unable to look past his adopted land’s bloody past.
Morrison also fulfills his “meta” quota, as there are several scenes depicting Nazis – including Der Fuehrer himself – reading and commenting on real and imagined Golden Age comics starring Superman and a Captain America Expy called “American Crusader.”
Coincidentally enough, there was an American Crusader who battled Nazis in the pages of Nedor’s Thrilling Comics. The character, who owed as much to Superman as Captain America, also held the distinction of being one of the earliest atomic-powered super-heroes and even enjoyed a brief revival in Alan Moore’s “America’s Best Comics” line.
The Crusader was mousy astronomer Archibald Masters, who found himself blasted by atomic radiation in one of those comic-book science experiments that inevitably go awry. Instead of dying on the spot, Masters found he possessed super-human strength, speed, agility and resistance to injury as well as the power of flight.
Masters predictably donned a costume and decided to fight crime and tyranny as the patriotic American Crusader. His success at that endeavor can best be judged by the following tale …
“The American Crusader versus The Black Vulture” originally appeared in Thrilling Comics #26 (Better/Standard/Nedor, March 1942). The art is credited to Max Plaisted, whose work may be primitive but is still preferable in my eyes to Multiversity’s Jim Lee.
In case you’re wondering about the Crusader’s battle against the wonderfully named “Mr. Eyes,” it can be summed up pretty easily.
For a mild-mannered sop, Archie is pretty adept at clocking radios.