Before Sam Wilson, Steve Rogers or any sort of Captain America, there was another American patriotic hero wielding a shield -- and now the hero is back, with someone new under the mask.
Today, Archie Comics launched The Shield with a new female hero under the mask with an origin dating back to the Revolutionary War. Written by novelists Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig and illustrated by Drew Johnson, the ongoing series delves deep into the idea of a truly patriotic hero who is more "out of time" than Captain America's ever been.
Newsarama talked with Christopher and Wendig about the new series, the new character, and how it all came to be.
Newsarama: Adam, Chuck – how’d you come to be relaunching Archie’s The Shield?
Adam Christopher: It was one of those things where the stars aligned—we knew Alex Segura, who had just come back to Archie Comics as editor of the new Dark Circle superhero imprint, and he knew us. I think we’d all been wanting to work together for a while, and before The Shield came along Chuck and I had been noodling on a couple of comic projects of our own. So one day we got the call from Alex.
Chuck Wendig: Alex was looking for folks who were not only familiar with comics, but also for novelists (erm, which Adam and I are!). The goal was to do something more HBO-flavored with these superheroes, something looser, darker, stranger. Which was like catnip to us, I think.
Nrama: What did Alex and Archie give you to begin with in terms of story, approach and characters? Before you started writing, I mean?
Christopher: The initial pitch from Archie was actually a reboot of the original character, Joe Higgins, which was a cool idea, but soon enough they actually decided to really push the envelope and asked us to create a completely new, female version of the character. Now that was an exciting concept, and Chuck and I really jumped at the chance—these kinds of opportunity are very rare.
So because this was a new version of the Shield, we had the creative freedom to do exactly what we wanted. We created a new character, Victoria Adams, with a new origin, a new history, a new purpose, while retaining the core principles of what it means to be the Shield. We also crafted her in such a way that she slots into the existing continuity. Having said that, we only really touch on the old Shield universe when we need to. The new Shield is her own thing, and we’re looking forward to exploring the character and her world with readers.
Wendig: It helped to know that they wanted something a bit more mature, with a sharper edge—it gave us more leash to tell a more adult narrative and play with bigger themes, too.
Nrama: Digging into that, what did you see in terms of unexplored territory with the Shield character that you look to capitalize on here in this series?
Christopher: Well, she’s a completely new character, so there’s not really anything that we need to revisit or explore from the old universe. That universe—and the old versions of the Shield—do exist, but our Shield is facing new challenges in a new world. We have the old continuity there, but it’s not necessarily a foundation on which we have to build our own stories.
Wendig: With our Shield we’re digging into the notions of patriotism and nationalism, what it means to be a flag-wearing superhero and what the character represents—these are issues that are often overlooked with so-called “patriotic” superheroes, but they do form a core theme for our book. It goes beyond just Hitler-punching or standing up for your nation and asks questions about what that even means. Who do you protect? It’s something soldiers have to ask themselves. Are you protecting a government? A system? The people? It’s easy to naively suggest that all these things are bound together, but historically that hasn’t exactly been true, has it?
Nrama: The Shield, herself – describe her for us.
Wendig: She’s a soldier more than anything for me. A soldier who has lost her way. Who is she? What is she fighting for? I mean, it goes beyond that, obviously--
Christopher: She’s smart, strong, kick-ass. She’s a warrior, and a leader. She fights for what’s right—but in a modern world, what’s right and who she is supposed to represent are questions the answers for which are not as clear as they should be.
Her design was something that was very important to us—she looks like a real woman, she wears a practical costume. As a result, she’s very cosplay-able, although that was a happy consequence of the design ideals we stuck too.
Nrama: Another patriotic hero, Captain America, has a “man out of time” concept around him, but the Shield’s is even worse – she’s from centuries before but woke up in the modern day. How is that playing out in this series?
Christopher: Essentially, the Shield has her origins in the American Revolution, and over the past two hundred years has been appearing back in our world when her country needs her the most. Only now, something has changed—she’s back, but with no memories of her past and with no understanding of why she is needed again, today. It’s not really a character-out-of-time thing—that’s a cliché that’s been done to death. Victoria Adams—the new Shield—is not just a person who jumps through time. She’s bigger than that—in a way, she exists outside of time. How her cycle of resurrection and death works is something we’ll be exploring.
Wendig: Yeah, I prefer to think of it less as “out of time” and more as “out of space.” Like, she understands a certain kind of conflict, a certain brand of war, and what’s going on here isn’t it. This is an alien planet to her at this point, and she is herself not certain who she is both to herself and to the nation she believes she was born (and reborn, and reborn again) to protect.
Nrama: The first arc is titled “Daughters of the Revolution,” and I see Revolutionary War soldiers in the preview. What can you tell us about the story and the time periods covered in this initial arc?
Christopher: One thing we have to do with the new Shield is present her origin story to readers while also telling her “current” story. As it happens, the two are very much connected. In the first story arc we’ll see what happened in 1776, and we’ll also get glimpses at her past appearances over the couple of centuries too. And as we move forward, we may dive more into her journey from the past to the present.
Wendig: Her history and her memory is a shattered mirror. All those pieces reflect her, but they don’t fit together well, and some shards will be harder to recover than others.
Nrama:And what is she up against specifically in this series?
Christopher: I’m a Golden Age comic nut, so here we really dug into the last 70 years of Shield history and uncovered a deliciously evil and enigmatic villain that was just ripe for reinvention in the present day. As with the Shield herself, this enemy is a new version, but one that maintains links to the original. I don’t want to say any more, except that Walter Chase is a very bad man and that he has a secret past all of his own…
Wendig: Two words: BLACK SEVEN. And those two words may not mean what you think they mean (for those with some knowledge of the series and character)...
Nrama: Drew Johnson is illustrating this, after the original artist had to bow out. How’s he doing, coming into the series at a relatively late hour?
Wendig: Getting Drew’s art every day is like a recurring Christmas present. The book is only as good as its art, and so as a result I like to think that this book is very good, indeed.
Christopher: Drew is amazing—he’s not only a gifted artist but a talented storyteller, and in his hands the book looks beautiful. He really understands what works on the page. Not only that, he really gets what we’re doing with the Shield and he loves the character as much as Chuck and I do. We did go through a couple of artists on the book before Drew came aboard, but really I couldn’t be happier—he is the perfect match.