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Origin

The original Crusaders
The Crusaders were a team of superheroes appearing in comic books on Earth-1 during World War II. The Crusaders appeared "for real" on Earth One during the 1970s, offering their services to District Attorney  David Pearson to help capture the Freedom Fighters, who were at that time fugitives because they were believed to have been working with the villainous Silver Ghost. Pearson gave the Crusaders the authority to pursue Uncle Sam and his group after a report that they had caused a blackout in upstate New York. After a lengthy fight, at the end of which the Crusaders are defeated, the Freedom Fighters ask the Crusaders how they became the comic book heroes of World War Two. The group revealed that the Americommando had approached a group of young comic book collectors at a convention (Marvin, Lennie, Arch, and Roy) and had offered to recreate them as his former teammates, using a special device to transform them into their super-powered identities.
 
Meanwhile, the other Freedom Fighters had caught up to the Americommando and a captured Martha Roberts in flight. Americommando dropped Martha, but the Ray was able to save her. He left Martha with Doll Man and headed off after the Americommando. The Ray again caught up with him, and the sky battle between them burned off the Americommando's mask, revealing him to indeed be the team's arch-enemy the Silver Ghost. The fight also attracted the attention of some state trooper helicopters, which swooped in to arrest both of them. The Ray accidentally hits one of the helicopters with an energy blast, prompting the troopers to open fire. The Ray was wounded and fell to Earth. The Silver Ghost gloats and leaves him to die. The Ray was later rescued by Rod Reilly, the golden age Firebrand who had emigrated to Earth-1 some time prior to the Freedom Fighters.  
 

Creation

 The Crusaders' secret origin
The original Crusaders were an homage to Marvel Comics’ patriotic heroes the Invaders; their leader, the Americommando (secretly the Silver Ghost) was a stand-in for Captain America; Bucky became Rusty; Namor the Sub-Mariner became Barracuda; and the Human Torch and Toro became Fireball and Sparky. The result pitted Marvel’s patriotic World War II team against DC Comics’ patriotic World War II team.
 
In the continued vein of homage, the original Crusaders were revealed to be four comic book fans transformed by the Silver Ghost into their comic book idols. These four fans (Marvin, Lennie, Arch, and Roy) were drawn in the likeness of famed DC Comics’ writers and artists Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Archie Goodwin, and Roy Thomas.
 

Team Evolution

The New Crusaders

Over the course of their two Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters maxi-series, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray continued to mine the history of both the Quality Comics properties and the silver age Freedom Fighters series for allies and enemies for their relaunched Freedom Fighters. The two revamped the Crusaders, and once again set them up as enemies of the Freedom Fighters before becoming allies. This new team included two revamped Quality Comics characters ( Captain Triumph, now a female, and Magno) and two newly created characters who would not survive their appearance ( Citizen X and Libertine). The designs for this new team of Crusaders were the brainchild of artist Renato Arlem.
 

Key Story Arcs

The New Crusaders and the Freedom Fighters

During the Infinite Crisis, the Secret Society of Super-Villains dropped Chemo on the city of Bludhaven, nearly destroying it. The resulting nuclear fallout triggered the meta-gene in many of its surviving inhabitants. Most of these inhabitants were taken by a branch of the U.S. Government named S.H.A.D.E., and further experimented upon. S.H.A.D.E. developed their abilities, while layering in mind control to keep them loyal to S.H.A.D.E. These super-powered individuals would become S.H.A.D.E. operatives, assigned with keeping America safe, no matter the cost. Most of these agents were defeated by the Freedom Fighters, but the Crusaders remained, reporting directly to new S.H.A.D.E. Director Robbins, who was actually also one of those mind controlled agents that used his telepathy to take over S.H.A.D.E.
 
The new Crusaders, at the order of Director Robbins, began a smear campaign against the Freedom Fighters and other super-heroes, like Superman, the Amazons, and the Green Lanterns. The Crusaders protected civilians, while Crusaders member Captain Triumph appeared on talk shows berating the other heroes for getting too caught up in fighting villains instead of making life better.
 
 The new Crusaders and the Freedom Fighters
When Freedom Fighter member Red Bee escaped Robbins’ captivity and came hunting for him, Robbins called in the Crusaders. Unfortunately, Robbins did not know that the Red bee had been infested by an alien bee hive. The Freedom Fighters came to help rescue the Red Bee, but she turned on both the Freedom Fighters and the Crusaders. She killed Director Robbins, and used her new pheromone abilities to take both teams as her slaves.
 
Eventually, though, the heroes broke free of the Red Bee’s mind control. The two teams fought the Red Bee, with Crusader Citizen X dying in the fight. With the appearance of the original Ray, the heroes were able to purge the infestation from the Red Bee’s mind. Then, the Crusaders and the Freedom Fighters traveled to the alien hive, where they wiped out the queen and stopped her invasion of Earth, but not before the death of Crusader Libertine.
 
The heroes returned to Earth, with the Freedom Fighters disbanding. The two remaining Crusaders, Captain Triumph and Magno, continue to operate as a crime-fighting duo. 

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