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Mighty Crusaders 4
"Too Many Super-Heroes!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND April 1966; published by the "Mighty Comics Group" aka Radio Comics Inc. aka Archie Comics Publications; featuring the Mighty Crusaders in "Too Many Super-Heroes!" I can't tell you what's on the cover because my copy happens to be coverless....but I can tell you that the story credits are: "Award winning editing by Rick Gee" -- I can't remember what Rick G.'s full name is "Ultra-type writing by Jerry Ess"-- aka Jerry Siegel, who will be remembered by posterity mainly for creating Superman and not for his contributions to this and the other "Mighty Comics" titles "Breathtaking art by Paul Are" (Paul Reinman) "Another coloring masterpiece by Vic Torr" (Victor Gorelick? I thought he was an editor not a colorist)

I happened to allude to this story in my Jaguar review last week and was inspired to dig back into my Archie box and review this somewhat flawed gem. As you may guess from the "cute" credits above, this book came out during Archie's "Mighty Comics Group" phase when they tried to make their small line of superhero comics-- FLYMAN, later MIGHTY COMICS PRESENTS, and MIGHTY CRUSADERS-- look as much like Marvels as possible, inspiring a complaint and warning to beware of cheap imitations by Stan Lee on his "Bullpen Bulletin" page.

Our tale of "Mighty's" equivalent of the JLA or Avengers has a musical introduction, by a guitar-twanging singer...."Hiya, royal loyal readers, here's your MIGHTY MINSTREL friend...with mah big fat mouth wide open warblin' folk music again...I've a tale to tell you this time that's a MIGHTY COMICS GROUP GREAT...'bout a zillion super-heroes who we're bringin' up to date....Way back in the early '40s "MLJ Mag" ultra-heroes reigned supreme...we'll see 'em in this here mag in answer to fans' screams--MR. JUSTICE, CAPTAIN FLAG, BLACKJACK, to mention just a few, so have a ball, enjoy yourselves, KI-YIPPEE, and YA-HOO!" The success of "Mighty's" attempt to be hip can be judged by recalling that the "Great Folk Music Scare" was pretty much dead and gone by 1966... and I think we can be deeply grateful that comics are a non-audio medium and we didn't actually have to listen to the "warbling" of our "Mighty Minstrel" host.

Anyway... our story begins with the five Mighty Crusaders, Flyman (formerly the Fly), Flygirl, the Shield, Black Hood and the Comet, observing a crystal ball like globe called the Star-olator with bemusement. The device is supposed to warn the heroes of "great emergencies", but it only shows the faces of the five of them looking "terribly aggravated". Why? "Even though I invented it, I don't know!", the Comet says. Flash back to how the various Crusaders came to gather for this mission: Police patrolman Kip Burland has just been decorated for bravery and is given a day off as a reward, but he is delighted to be summoned into action by the Mighty Crusaders; "I can't stand inactivity! I've always gotta go, go, GO!" Meanwhile, award-winning actress Kim Brand is absent from a "Hollywood presentation ceremony" (implied to be the Oscars) because she is flying to the Crusaders meeting as Flygirl. Lawyer Thomas Troy shrugs off the thanks of a client he has just saved from the death penalty in order to answer the call as Flyman. Joe Higgins, the Shield, is working at a more mundane job with a moving-van company; when he realizes he's due at the Crusaders meeting, he deliberatly drops a valuable mirror in order to get fired and be free to don his red, white and blue garb. (The shtick of this particular version of the Shield was that he couldn't hold down a regular job because he was always being distracted by his Shield duties) And scientist John Dickering suffers the "most heart-rending scene of all" as a beautiful blonde throws herself at him-- "I...can't resist you anymore! Kiss me, John!" only to get the brushoff as Dickering takes the guise of the Comet.

Back in the present, the Star-olator globes vanishes and the heroes conclude the "warning" is a prophecy of some future aggravation. But a couple of them seem aggravated enough already, as the Shield snipes at Black Hood, "If you quit the Crusaders and went back to being a loner, that wouldn't aggravate ME at all!" The Hood responds, "You'll get a crack on the jaw for that crack, Shield!" Hood slugs Shield but his blow is deflected by Shield's "invulnerable emblem", and as the two face off for a brawl Flyman and Flygirl try to cool them down by creating a powerful wind with their wings. Then a newcomer arrives on the scene...a blue-costumed character named Fireball, who declares, "I've come out of retirement because I think THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS are the hottest thing since the invention of the pizza pie! I want to join!" When Black Hood allows as how "that might be great", Fireball is offended by the lack of instant acceptance; "Wottayamean, MIGHT? I'm as ultra as any of you, if not more so!" Fireball describes one of his past cases, involving stopping a car full of fleeing crooks, and then proves his fiery powers by giving Black Hood a hotfoot. But before the Crusaders can vote on whether to admit him, two more pyrophilic heroes arrive demanding to be admitted as well-- "Bah! It's Inferno and Firefly...two brand X pale imitations of me!" (Actually, guys, you're ALL pretty much brand X, or Brand Echh, imitations of the Human Torch....but, onward....) The Crusaders send the three hotheads off in one of their flying saucer like craft to perform a heroic deed and prove their worthiness for membership.

Meanwhile, John Raymond is washing dishes and reflecting on his sad state as a married man; "Disgusting to think that I, who was once the famed WEB, have sunk so low that instead of cleaning up on malefactors, I'm wiping dishes!" He decides to sneak out on his wife, busy watching a soap opera, and have a fling as the Web. In costume, he's spotted by a car full of other returning "ultra-heroes"-- the Fox, Blackjack and Bob Phantom-- who invite him to join them in applying for membership in the Crusaders. But when the four arrive at the scene of the Crusaders meeting, their attempts to prove that they are still in "fighting trim" wind up in a brawl.

In Part 2 of "Too Many Super-Heroes," Fireball, Inferno and Firefly spot a villain called the Dragon with a flame-throwing aircraft and attempt to use their own immunity to fire to stop him. But they pay more attention to arguing with each other than to business, and the Dragon reveals himself as actually being the Hangman, former hero turned renegade villain-- "It amused me to assume another identity!" Hangman uses his "magic rope" to fend off the three flaming idiots and escape, but they think they've done an impressive job, only to find that the Mighty Crusaders have paid no attention to them because of the fight between the newer arrivals. Shrugging off their complaints, Flyman directs the group's attention to a new threat-- a rain of "robo-bomb" missiles sent by the Hangman and his ally the Wizard (another former MLJ hero who turned bad). Flyman and Flygirl and the Comet's "de-atomizing rays" destroy many of the missiles, but not all, and the heroes are in trouble until two new allies arrive-- Zambini the Miracle Man and Kardak the Mystic Magician. Zambini gestures Mandrake-style and "most of the robos are turned into harmless foam rubber", winning the thanks of Flyman...but Zambini says, "Don't thank me, just accept me into the Crusaders!" and Kardak responds, "No! Induct me...I'm an even MIGHTIER magician!" Kardak threatens to turn Zambini into a snail, and Zambini retorts, "Irk me not, Kardak! Else I shall transform you into the WORM you truly are!" Flyman calls for some "dignity", and Kardak is distracted from his feud by a mystical vision of giant parade balloons bursting to disgorge flying henchmen of the Hangman and Wizard. Before the Crusaders can act, still more heroes arrive on the scene, including Steel Sterling, who snatches away the villains' loot, and Mr. Justice, the ghostly Spectre knockoff who swallows the crooks' bullets like gumdrops. Having defeated the villains, Steel and Mr. Justice too expect an invitation to join the Crusaders. A bemused Flyman mutters, "So many super-heroes...wanting to get in! Maybe we should accept 'em on a TRIAL basis!" and Flygirl agrees, "We owe it to our organization to proceed slowly on such an important matter, no matter how terrific these heroes are!" Meanwhile, a trio of patriotic heroes-- Captain Flag, yet another Shield (the son of the original) and the Shield's old boy partner Dusty (brought by Zambini out of the past) prepare to join the swarm of super-doers.

In Part 3, the Hangman invades a "government security agency building" to steal secret files and is confronted by the trio of super-patriots, who like the fire guys fail to capture him, but with the help of Captain Flag's pet eagle Yank retrieve the stolen files. "We gave the Hangman, the BIRD, eh?" Dusty confronts the Shield with the realization that he is not his original partner, but before Shield Jr. can explain, Zambini's magic wears off and Dusty vanishes back into the past. Meanwhile, the Hangman and Wizard decide they are irked by this superhero population explosion and resolve to wipe them all out. Yet another villain also makes the scene-- the Spider, Flyman's archfoe-- but when he sees how many heroes are gathered at Crusader headquarters he decides discretion is the better part of valor; "Gulp! What's goin' on down there? A SUPER-HERO CONVENTION? I'm cuttin' out, QUICK!" He flees so hurriedly that he accidentally crashes his shiny new aircraft and, crawling out of the wreckage, vows, "This is the fault of those blasted super-louts and their ultra-chums who're cluttering up the scenery like a hord (sic) of locusts! I swear I'll kill 'em all someday!" The Hangman and Wizard, passing by, offer to relieve him of that chore and the Spider is happy to let them; "Terrific! Clobber 'em all for me!" As the two villains arrive, Kardak and Zambini start quarreling again about who has the mystic might to defeat their foes, but the Wizard settles the question by declaring, "My necromancy is mightier than your combined sorcery!" and knocking both magicians out with "phantasmal hands". Yet another hero arrives on the scene to aid the good guys-- the Jaguar, Master of the Animal Kingdom (maybe he didn't show up earlier because he was cheesed off that his book got cancelled relatively recently and he didn't get a revival along with Flyman) but Flyman is still worried: "The Wizard and the Hangman are so confident, despite being outnumbered by the greatest concentration of super-heroes in all history! What can the SURPRISE WEAPON be! Can't help feeling apprehensive!"

In Part 4, the Wizard fends off the heroes with an "electrified scythe" and the Hangman turns his magic rope into a web to tangle up the Web. Mr. Justice strikes at the Wizard, who creates a "demoniacal beastor" who starts to drag the ghostly hero down to meet "the eagerly awaiting shades of the worst villains of a thousand worlds who inhabit the nether domain of....NITE-GARTH!" (What the Hell....?) The Jaguar,however, frees Mr. Justice by "for the first time, exert(ing) my mastery of the animal kingdom over a SUPERNATURAL animal!" Deciding "we've toyed with them long enough!" the Wizard unleashes his ultimate weapon-- a big purple claw emerging from the ground, made of "the unknown ore, TRANSFINITE... a DOOM CLAW which has the wild talent to weaken, then DESTROY ALL super-heroes!" With all of the heroes on the point of perishing, the formerly rival magicians Kardak and Zambini manage to link hands and combine their powers to bring forth from the past "the ONE HERO who can save us and defeat THE WIZARD!" The hero who appears is none other than Roy the Mighty Boy, the youthful hero "who was your comrade, Wizard, years ago before you became evil!" (He was formerly known as Roy the Super Boy, but his appellation is changed here for tolerably obvious reasons.) The Wizard is unfazed-- "You can't defeat me, brat!" "You're right! I can't! But... YOU YOURSELF, as you were years ago before you became evil, CAN!" The Wizard of today is discombobulated by the appearance of his purple-costumed earlier self-- "Can't bear looking into those pure, noble eyes that were once...MY OWN!" The Hangman complains, "Don't just stand there like a shnook! Defend us, Wizard!" but the past Wizard's magic has already cancelled out not only the present Wizard's powers but the abilities of the Hangman's magic rope as well. Both present-day villains are put in a cage by the past Wizard, and the present Wizard laments, "We'll have many years of imprisonment to regret the fate that changed you and me...who were once valiant heroes...into despicable villains!" The past Wizard also cancels the effect of the Doom Claw and then vanishes, along with Roy, back into the past with an apology; "I regret the harm my present-day self inflicted1" This creates all sorts of philosophical issues... if he knows he's going to become a villain in the future, can't he try to resolve harder to maintain his morality, or even find a way to de-power himself so as not to become a threat to humanity? But anyway... with the threat of the villains eliminated, the newcomer superheroes all fall to arguing and fighting amongst each other over who deserves to be admitted to the Crusaders, and a disgusted Flyman finally declares, "Go away, applicants! TOO MANY SUPER-HEROES want to get into the act! Maybe, at some future date...." As the rejected heroes walk away, the disgruntled Fox warns, "Maybe we'll form our own NEW super-teams now! Chew on THAT, Crusaders!" And the "Mighty Minstrel" returns onstage warbling, "So there y'are, m'buddies, MLJ favorites are back again! What we really wanna know is, have you gotta mighty yen...to see some of 'em star in brand new team mags of their own? Write to us today...MAKE YOUR MIGHTY DECISION KNOWN!" As it turned out, no new "Mighty Comics" team books appeared (which is probably a mercy) though a couple of the reject heroes, the Web and Steel Sterling, along with Shield and Black Hood, pushed Flyman out of his own book when it turned into MIGHTY COMICS PRESENTS featuring rotating former MLJ heroes.

If my review makes any of you feel that this tale is a deathless epic that ought not to be lost to today's readership, Archie Comics apparently agrees; I saw a news item that Archie's next superhero reprint project, following up their Golden Age SHIELD TPB of a year or so ago, will be a TPB of the MIGHTY CRUSADERS issues. Myself I'd vote for more GA material, or the Simon & Kirby Fly and Shield (Private Strong) or even the later Bernstein/Rosenberger Fly and Jaguar... but I guess heroes so "Mighty" as these just can't be kept down forever.