Joe Higgin was an American soldier selected to undergo an experimental treatment that physically enhanced him. Currently in the DC Universe, this experimental treatment involved bonding him to a sophisticated suit of nanotechnology.
Created in 1940 by Harry Shorten and Irv Novick for Archie Comics, the Shield was actually the first patriotic American superhero who wore a costume patterned after the flag, predating Captain America by over a year. He quickly became the publisher's most popular superhero.
The Shield I (Joe Higgins) - 1940
Joe Higgins' father, Lieutenant Tom Higgins, was working on a formula that would grant super-strength to American soldiers. Tragically, Tom Higgins was killed in an act of German sabotage known as the Black Tom explosion, which was an attempt by the Nazis to acquire the formula. In the aftermath, Tom was framed as the saboteur. A chemistry student, Joe continued his studies after his father's death and completed the formula himself. He used the process on himself, gaining greath strength and invulnerability and deriving the name Shield from the process.
After clearing his father's name, Joe joined the FBI and let only J. Edgar Hoover know of his dual identity. He soon recruited a young partner named Dusty Simmons after foreign agents were responsibly for the death of Dusty's father, giving them a common tragedy.
The character's time in the spotlight was short-lived, lasting only a few years before the character of Archie skyrocketed in popularity and Archie Comics decided to shift their focus away from superheroes.
The Shield II (Joe Higgins) - 1942
Foreign agents murdered scientist Tom Higgins as he was on the verge of successfully creating a formula that would great superhuman strength on normal human beings. Joe HIggins, Tom's son and a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, used the process on himself and became the Shield, using a union jack on his costume (which was used at this time by Canada).
The adventures of this Shield were virtually identical to those of his American counterpart and ended at the same time as Archie Comics abandoned their superhero line.
The Shield III (Lancelot Strong) - 1959
In 1959. Archie Comics attempted to get back into superheroes with their Mighty Comics imprint. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were brought on board, and they created a new Shield character with no continuity connection to the original Joe Higgins. This Shield was Lancelot Strong and lasted only two issues due to DC finding the character too similar to Superman .
Dr. Malcolm Flemming raised and experimented on his son Roger to access the full potential of the human brain and thereby gain powers beyond the grasp of normal human beings. But early in Roger's life, Communist agents murder Dr. Flemming and he was adopted by the Strongs, a couple on a farm. They renamed him Lancelot Strong and raised him as their own.
In his teens, Lancelot began to see the effects of his father's work. Strength, invulernability, flight, electrical blasts and vision abilities were all suddenly at his disposal. He created the superhero identity of the Shield and joined the U.S. Army, behaving as a foolish klutz to protect his other identity as the Shield. After no longer using the identity of the Shield, Lancelot Strong was killed.
The Shield IV (Bill Higgins) - 1965
The original Shield, Joe Higgins, met the sad fate of being turned to stone by the villainous Eraser, so his son took the mantle as the new Shield. Bill Higgins strength and invulnerability were more limited than his father's, and these powers seemed to derive most from his costume than his body. He became a founder of the Mighty Crusaders, joining forces with the Comet, the Black Hood, the Fly and Flygirl.
In a later continuity, Bill joined the Mighty Crusaders whose membership eventually included the second Black Hood, the Comet, the second Web, Darkling, the Fly, Flygirl, the Jaguar, Lancelot Strong, and eventually Joe Higgins, the original Shield (revived from suspended animation by The Comet).
This version of the character has been used twice by Archie Comics in attempts to revive their superhero franchise. First was a short-lived attempt in 1965, followed by another use as part of their Red Circle imprint in the 1980s, which ended by 1985.
Major Story Arcs (MLJ/Archie Comics)
After Brain Emperor killed Doc Reeves and erased the mind of Darkling, the Mighty Crusaders, who had accomplished much on their own, received official backing from the United States government. This development delighted the group's then-leader, Joe Higgins, the original Shield. The group signed on as U.S. Marshals under the supervision of Colonel Kold, as part of Military Logistics and Jurisdiction (MLJ). This gave the team greater resources, and they soon found their membership swelled by the return of some older members, such as Fireball. However, strain was put on the group when Black Hood learned that there was a mole within the group. Hood had already been struggling working as part of the MLJ, and for him the idea of a traitor was the final straw.
Joe refused to believe Black Hood, and stoof by the MLJ and his team without question. The team split as a result, with The Web, Fly-Girl, Fireball, and Steel Sterling taking The Shield's side, while Black Hood was joined by The Fox, Comet, and Jaguar.
With the Crusaders divided, many of their foes began to gain ground, and it was almost too late when the heroes realized that many seemingly unconnected events - the mole within the Crusaders, the attempts by Delta 3 to seize political control, the organized crime of the Dragon's Head Gang, and the Death Monger's mercenary and arms dealing operations - were all part of a master plan by the Brain Emperor. The arch-villain had hoped to start World War III, but was foiled, sealed away by and with the heroic Mr. Justice.
In the years that followed, Joe and the rest of the New Crusaders succeeded in virtually wiping out super-crime, easing into a well-deserved retirement to raise families and attend their other careers, founding the small town of Red Circle. Joe himself remained active to at least some extent, and maintained the "Crusader Circle" facility used by the team alongside his new friend, Dr. Uruk Ak'Ahk, who took on the name "Dusty" in reference to Joe's old sidekick Dusty Simmons. Simmons himself became the new head of MLJ, and continued to work with Joe. The retired Crusaders remained in contact, and told Joe that should evil return and anything befall them, they wanted him to look after the young generation they were raising. Joe agreed that should the worst occur, he would take in the children, and train them to protect themselves from the Crusaders' old foes.
Ashes to Ashes
After many years passed, the Brain Emperor reappeared, having gained power over the mysterious Blue Ribbon. With his new powers the Brain Emperor ambushed his old foes (now retired and raising families) at a reunion, using his new powers to apparently kill Fly-Girl, Comet, Fireball, The Web, Pow-Girl, Jaguar, and Steel Sterling. Joe Higgins, however, succeeded in saving the children of Steel Sterling, Fly-Girl, Comet, Pow-Girl, as well as Fireball's nephew, and Jaguar's protege. Joe followed his agreement with his old friends, becoming The Shield once more to protect their young. Following protocols set up by the Crusaders earlier to give the teens the abilities they would need to protect themselves, Joe gave Alex Tyler, Greg Dickering, and Johnny Sterling treatments to give them the powers of the original Fireball, Comet, and Steel Sterling. Kelly Brand received weapons and gear replicating the powers her mother had possessed as Fly-Girl, Ivette Velez was given a powerful mystic artifact that had been found by the original Jaguar, while Wyatt Raymond received a super-suit based on The Shield's own, enabling the young boy to become a new Web. Joe clearly struggled with dealing with his young charges, however, unused to interacting with teenagers. Nonetheless the youngsters decided to allow him to mentor them as they followed in their elders' footsteps, becoming the New Crusaders and swearing to bring the Brain Emperor to justice.
Impact/DC Comics' The Shield
The Shield V (Roger Higgins) - 1991
During the 1990s Archie licensed the Red Circle characters to DC Comics, under the new Impact imprint, in an attempt to revitalize the property. This time saw a few versions of the Shield during its limited run in the early 1990s, starting with Roger Higgins. In the Cold War years, scientist Roger Higgins developed a suit of armor that granted its wearer with superhuman strength and resistance to injury. He donned the armor himself, becoming the Shield. Eventually, he began adventuring with a young partner called Dusty the Boy Detective.
After years of activity, the Shield founded the American Crusaders which operated out of a base hidden under the FBI Building. The team answered only to J. Edgar Hoover or the president in order to fight America's enemies.
The Shield VI (Joseph Mitchell Higgins) - 1991
An officer in the U.S. Army, Joe Higgins had it made as one of the highest decorated officers of his time. Military service ran in his family, and his father, Brigadier General Marion Higgins, was conducting secret operations to created a new Shield. General Higgins believed strongly that his son was the perfect candidate to don the experimental armor, but military protocols stood in the way. Joe was simply of too high a rank to risk as a test subject for General Higgins' Shield program. Rather than finding another candidate, General Higgins secretly disgraced his son with a frame job that saw Joe reduced in rank to sergeant. Now, Joe was eligible for the project. Joe went through a year of intensive training with the armor, becoming the new Shield as his father always intended.
As the Shield, Joe joined forces with other heroes such as the Jaguar, the Web, the Fly, the Black Hood and the Comet in a team called the Crusaders.
Joe later decided to step down as the Shield, allowing Michael Barnes to take over the role.
The Shield VII (Michael Steven Barnes) - 1992
Michael Barnes was originally a contender for the Shield assignment, but that went to Joe Higgins, the general's son. When Joe stepped down, Michael stepped up and became the new Shield. Previously, Michael led a special team known simply as the Corps made up of other potential Shield candidates. This version of the Shield was the last for the Impact line as the imprint went under in the mid-1990s due to its poor sales.
The Shield VIII (Joe Higgins) - 2009
The licenses for the Shield and the other superheroes of Archie Comics' superhero line were picked up by DC Comics. Referred to as the Red Circle heroes, DC advertised that they would be reimagined by J. Michael Straczynski and integrated into the DC Universe.
The Shield went back to being the original, Joe Higgins, and the experimental armor that made him the Shield was now the product of nanotechnology.
After the reintroduction of the Shield in a oneshot by Straczynski, Eric Trautmann wrote a Shield ongoing series that was very well-regarded by readers but ultimately proved low selling, resulting in DC allowing the rights to the Red Circle characters to revert to Archie Comics in 2011.
Major Story Arcs (DC Comics)
Lieutenant Joe Higgins was stationed in Afghanistan, where his orders had him leading a team to intercept illegal weapons being smuggled in to insurgents. Besides his mission, his mind was also on his father. He believed his father to not only be dead but murdered and sent a message to The Web in the hopes that The Web may turn up some answers. What was unknown to him was that his father was not dead at all. Shortly after sending a message to Web, Joe and his unit were lured into a devastating ambush. Out of his entire unit, only he survived and barely at that.
To save his life, Joe underwent an experimental process developed by Project Shield. A precisely programmed layer of nanotechnology was merged with his skin, which remained invisible in its inactive state. Upon activation, the nanotechnology hardened into a nearly indestructible warsuit patterned after the American flag and outfitted with a huge array of offensive and defensive capabilities.
He became the U.S. Army's foremost metahuman under the direct command of General Jack Latham and stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Kicking Down the Door
In one of Shield's earliest missions, he was sent to the Kahndaq/ Bialya border to investigate the disappearance of a whole unit of soldiers. During his rescue operation, he unexpectedly ran into Magog, and the two got along as well as anyone would expect an Army and a Marine to. They joined forces despite their military rivalries though and proceeded with the Shield's mission. The missing soldiers were discovered to be mind-controlled and protecting a hidden H.I.V.E. installation. Responsible for this was the Brain Emperor, a telepathic man that H.I.V.E. had experimented on.
To make matters worse, Shield and Magog discovered that the Brain Emperor was not even the mastermind behind it all. Gorilla Grodd had commandeered the installation and was forcing the Brain Emperor to serve him. Shield's warsuit protected him from mind-control, but the same could not be said for Magog. Shield succeeded despite the odds, taking down the Brain Emperor and Gorilla Grodd and freeing Magog's mind.
During this mission, Shield attempted to befriend his guide, a boy named Shuja. Despite some good will between them, hostilities between their two cultures were just too much for Shuja to get over, but Shield was satisfied that at least making the effort was worth it.
Shield was next sent to Brazil, where an unknown paramilitary force was attacking businesses and strange abductions were occurring. Since many business were American, he was dispatched. It did not take him long to engage the perpetrators and was surprised to find himself fighting heavy duty Nazi robots working for an old scientist called Baron Gestapo. Complicating matters further for him was the arrival of the Great Ten, who came to see to the security of China's holdings. August General In Iron was not interested in working with the Americans, and this put Shield in direct conflict with him because he was not going to back off. Another surprise in store for Shield was the Jaguar, a new hero who had become a victim of Baron Gestapo's abductions. With Jaguar's help, he was able to track Baron Gestapo down and stop the baron from successfully launching rocket attacks around the world.
After averting disaster, and brushing off The Great Ten's threats of war, Lt. Higgins, with his men, made their way to the Himalayas, specifically in the North Sikkim District in India, in where they found another abandoned H.I.V.E. facility, guarded by remnants of H.I.V.E. Higgins and his men dealt with the resistance pretty easily, even against a robot that played Ride of the Valkyries. It then showed a flashback Higgins had after having the suit grafted onto his skin. One of the men that prepared him for being more than capable to handle the Shield armor suit, albeit with tough love, was Staff Sergeant Cullen. Constantly pointing out that Higgins got lucky for having that suit.
Back to the present, and General Latham informs Higgins of Operation: Gunslinger, which its priority was to look up a series of catastrophic events that plagued the world; from an assassination with a highly-advanced sniper rifle that's not even in the brass, to the unfortunate crash of Ferris Flight 771 to Barcelona, Spain. He emphasized the need to stop Black Seven immediately. Also, Gen. Latham included a man to go with Higgins and company, Malik Al-Thaka, the Brain Emperor.
Unequivocally, Higgins' first reaction was to attack Al-Thaka, but Latham quickly assured him that Al-Thaka would play under Higgins' rules. After the fiasco was cleared, the team quickly made their way to France, in order to find Viktor Burgos, a man who previously worked for Kobra and H.I.V.E. before working for Black Seven. After going through the sewers and disposing of any intial obstacles, Shield and company cornered Burgos, but Burgos had just enough time to activate a gargantuan monster to prevent Shield from capturing him. The tall monster initially gave Higgins a lot of trouble, and was on the verge of killing him. A brief interference from one of his subordinates, Sargeant Stringer, gave him a brief moment to access his previous fighting experience with the Great Ten, specifically, Seven Deadly Brothers, to give him an edge and subsequently win the fight against the monster. The Shield then cornered Burgos, which gave Al-Thaka enough time to use his powers on Burgos, who recognized him in fear...