In the dark days of World War II, America needed heroes. Thankfully, some very creative writers and artists answered the call, leading to the birth of the American super hero. Most of the original crop of colorfully clad super heroes had American values embedded deep within their DNA, which makes sense especially when considering the very real threat of the encroaching Axis powers. Some super heroes took that patriotic zeal a bit further, essentially serving as a walk, talking -- and let's not forget butt kicking -- American flag come to life.
Many super heroes wore American iconography in the Golden Age, fighting for freedom and equality, but some survived beyond the '40s and remain lodged in the hearts and minds of modern fans. This Fourth of July, CBR salutes the heroes who stand for the American dream, heroes who wear the red, the white and the blue proudly and defend life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Most of all, we salute the creators that breathed life into these icons as we run down the greatest patriotic super heroes in comic book history.
First appearance: "Pep Comics" #1 (1940)
Created by Harry Shorten and Irv Novick
He may be overshadowed in history by other flag wearing heroes, but The Shield spawned a legacy of characters who followed in his patriotic footsteps. Published by MLJ Comics (now known as Archie Comics), the Shield is widely considered the very first flag wearing, patriotic super hero. Beating Captain America to the punch by fourteen months, the Shield was a direct reaction to the growing sense of patriotic fervor spreading across America amidst growing fascist aggression in Europe. To clear his father's name, Chemist Joe Higgins created a formula to give him enhanced speed, strength and senses. MLJ's American champion was a fair minded, brave and patriotic hero who took the fight to the Axis powers. The Shield is still fighting the good fight today in the guise of Victoria Adams, a hero recently introduced by Archie Comics via their "Dark Circle" line.
Jeff Mace: First Appearance "Human Torch Comics" #4 (1941)
Created by Ray Gill & Bill Everett
Elijah Bradley: First appearance "Young Avengers" #1 (2005)
Created by Allan Heinberg & Jim Cheung
Two Marvel heroes have used the Patriot moniker. The first was Jeff Mace, a Golden Age hero inspired to don a star-spangled outfit by Captain America. Mace had no super powers, instead relying on stamina, toughness and will to battle the Nazi menace at home and abroad. After Steve Rogers was frozen and lost at the end of WWII, Mace took up Captain America's mantle and fought for his country well into the Cold War. Just as Captain America inspired Jeff Mace to become a hero, Mace inspired Elijah Bradley to do the same in the modern age. In addition to Mace, Bradley was inspired by his grandfather, Isaiah Bradley, a Tuskegee airman whom the U.S. government used in an attempt to reproduce the Super Soldier Serum. For a brief time, Isaiah used his enhanced speed and strength to fight for America in the same way Rogers did. On the backs of his grandfather's legacy and Jeff Mace's Elijah continues to bear the Patriot name in the modern Marvel Universe.
First appearance: "National Comics" #1 (1940)
Created by Will Eisner
While every hero on this list embodies the spirit of America, Uncle Sam is the spirit of America. Modeled after the famous propaganda icon of a wizened old patriot unafraid to get into a good scrape for the benefit of his country, Will Eisner and Quality Comics brought this patriotic image to life in the pages of "National Comics." This Uncle Sam was once a simple soldier who fought and died in the American Revolution. However, he would rise again whenever his nation needed someone to lead the charge against tyranny. Uncle Sam answered the call in WWII and became one of comics' great heroes. When DC Comics purchased the Quality stable of heroes, Uncle Sam came along for the ride and found himself on Earth X, a planet where the Nazis won World War II. Even on such a horrible planet, Uncle Sam rolled up his sleeves and fought for the American ideal.
First appearance: "Boy Commandos" #1 (1942)
Created byDon Cameron & Chuck Winter
Liberty Belle has the distinction of being DC Comics' third costumed female. Libby Lawrence was already an Olympic level athlete when she discovered that she would receive enhanced speed, stamina and strength whenever the Liberty Bell was rung. Liberty Belle was a rather obscure bit of Golden Age history until the great Roy Thomas revived her and made her chairwoman of his "All-Star Squadron." In the pages of Thomas' masterpiece, Belle became a truly deep character, a patriotic woman who fought for the American ideal just as hard as she fought for gender equality.
(Quality/DC) First appearance: "Military Comics" #1 (1941)
Created by Elmer Wexler
(Marvel) First appearance: "Marvel Mystery Comics" #49 (1943)
Created by Otto Binder & Al Gabriele
Miss America is a name so iconic that three all-American heroes from three different publishers have used it defend the fifty states. The first Miss America might have the strangest origin of all, as journalist Diane Dale was given the power to transmute matter by the Statue of Liberty who visited her in a dream. Miss America made a few brief appearances in the Golden Age but filled an important role in the DC Universe of the 1980s and '90s. After DC purchased Quality's heroes, Roy Thomas used Dale in "All-Star Squadron" as a replacement for Wonder Woman following "Crisis on Infinite Earths." Meanwhile, Marvel's Miss America played a key role in both the Golden and modern ages, serving as a member of both the All Winners Squad and the Invaders -- and for a time was believed to be the mother of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. This Miss America was a socially aware teen crusader named Madeline Joyce who gained super powers after exposure to a crazy scientist's super machine after it was struck by lightning. Today, Joyce's patriotic legacy lives on in the form of a brave young hero named America Chavez, a hero who has gained quite the fan following since her first appearance in the pages of "Young Avengers."
First appearance: "Action Comics" #1 (1938)
Created by Ken Fitch and Bernard Baily
Appearing in 74 issues of DC's inaugural super hero anthology, Mr. America was a Golden Age staple in "Action Comics" from the very first issue (the same issue that saw the debut of a little-known hero named Superman who would also go on to fight for the American way). Thompson started his heroic career as a prototypical non-costumed man of action. When America entered the war effort, Thompson adopted the iconic red, white and blue masked identity of Mr. America and became one of DC's first patriotic symbols of justice. Later, he took the name the Americommando and fought the Germans behind enemy lines. In the modern day, Mr. America served as the tragic antagonist in James Robinson and Paul Smith's classic "The Golden Age" miniseries. This was Mr. America's most high-profile appearance -- though it ended poorly for him -- but in the early days of DC this all-American Nazi smasher shared the spotlight with Superman and, for a time, became DC's premier patriotic hero.
The Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy
First appearance: "Action Comics" #40 (1941)
Created by Jerry Siegel & Hal Sherman
Co-created by one of Superman's fathers, this heroic duo stands as sterling examples of American champions. Sylvester Pemberton had the brains and the wealth. His chauffeur Pat Dugan had the muscle. Together, they kept America safe from fifth columnists and saboteurs during World War II. These two heroes wore the red, white and blue proudly during the Golden Age in their own strip and as members of The Seven Soldiers of Victory. Today, the Star-Spangled Kid's legacy lives on in the form of current Justice League United member Star Girl. Inspired by the Kid and Stripesy, the latter of which was her step-father, Courtney Whitmore donned a Star-Spangled costume similar to Pemberton's to defend her country in the same manner original Star-Spangled Kid did so many years ago.
First appearance: "Captain America Comics" #1 (1941)
Created by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby
It's hard to find a hero more patriotic or iconic hero than Captain America, and when Steve Rogers burst onto the scene in 1941 it was immediate clear a piece of American history had been born. From the very first cover -- that saw Cap punching Hitler right in the mouth -- Captain America has been the standard for super hero patriotism. Now the star of a billion-dollar film franchise, Captain America is more enduring and relevant than ever. While he was created to battle the Axis menace, but the symbolic meaning of the character combined with decades of innovative storytelling make Steve Rogers and his legacy a true part of the American fictional landscape.