This is the one-hundred and sixty-second in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and sixty-one. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
One patriotic-themed legend this week, for the Fourth of July, plus I address a legend people have been asking me to talk about for quite awhile (plus one more sorta topical legend to close things out!).
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Mr. America beat the Shield to the rights of being the first patriotic hero.
Mr. Recommendation, John McDonagh, sent this one my way, and it's an interesting dilemma that often shows up when people are doing reference work involving comics that they likely have not read (as they have not really been reprinted many places).
In the Wikipedia entry for the Shield, it states:
The Shield has the distinction of being one of the first superheroes with a costume based upon the American Flag, beating out Captain America by fourteen months. (Mister America, who later became Americommando was the first as he appeared at the same time as Superman in Action Comics #1, June, 1938, thereby beating Shield to the punch by some 16 months and thus beating Captain America by some 30 months.)
Here's the problem, though - while Tex Thomson DID debut in the pages of Action Comics #1, he was just a standard adventurer.
Here, from the issue (drawn by Bernard Baily, written by Ken Fitch):
The Shield debuted in the pages of Pep Comics #1, in early 1940.
In late 1940/early 1941, Tex Thomson was thought dead when a ship of supplies to Europe was sunken by the Nazis that Thomson was overseeing (Thomson would routinely do assignments for the District Attorney). Since he was thought dead, Thomson took this opportunity to become a masked adventurer, becoming Mister America!
A little while later, he took the name Americommando (that's him, on the far left of this Action Comics #52 cover).
So, yes, Tex Thomson DID beat the Shield into existence by a good sixteen months. However, he was not a patriotic hero until well after the Shield was introduced.