Patriotism Can Be F’d Up: Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig Talk Re-Imagining The SHIELD
Out October 7th from Dark Circle Comics, The SHIELD sees writers Chuck Wendig and Adam Christopher taking the iconic character in an exciting new direction. Speaking to The Mary Sue via email, the creators talked about patriotism, practical costuming for female superheroes, and the real-life ladies that inspired their work on the series.
The Mary Sue: In many ways this series has to redefine and revitalize an iconic character. How has that influenced your creative process?
Adam Christopher: Really, it’s tremendously exciting, and very inspirational—we’ve been handed the keys to one of the original Golden Age superheroes, but at the same time we have the freedom to create something completely new. That kind of opportunity doesn’t come around very often, so I think we both jumped at the chance to play in the Archie superhero universe.
Chuck Wendig: The process itself is the same – we don’t want to coast on former history and hope people understand the story. It’s on us to rock out and give a great character and a great story that showcases that character.
TMS: I imagine working on a comic like this involves a lot of research, both into the history of the character and American history. What has that been like for you two?
Christopher: I’m a bit of an armchair fan of The Shield, so I was familiar enough with the character and that superhero universe to provide at least a starting point for our new take. But while we are maintaining, in some form or other, the established continuity of the character, we’ve also created a brand new character of our own, with her own origin and backstory and purpose. So that’s given us a lot more flexibility, which is important for the story—we’re not tied to anything in particular and we’re free to go off into new directions.
American history is something I’ve always been fascinated with, so writing a comic that is at least partially connected to the Revolutionary War has been a lot of fun. Because The Shield has been around since then, I’m always on the lookout for interesting bits of history we might be able to incorporate in the series as it progresses.
Wendig: History is always a great resource for any kind of story – even science-fiction that hasn’t happened yet. And we’re lucky enough to have this giant wellspring of amazing American history, a lot of it (regrettably) tied to war. And our Shield, well, she is a warrior. A soldier for the country.
TMS: What does “patriotism” mean to you, and what is it like to develop a character that’s supposed to embody the American ideal?
Christopher: This is a really interesting question—I’m not American, and I think to outsiders, the American ideal of patriotism and nationalism is a very particular thing, and something that is perhaps unique to that country—it’s part of the very foundation of the United States, after all.
With The Shield, we can explore how the concept of patriotism is different now to what it was thirty, fifty, one hundred, two hundred years ago. She first appears in 1776 during a period when the entire country was being fought for. The world—and America—of today is very different place, so as a superhero who literally wears the Stars and Stripes, what does this mean for her? Who is she supposed to represent—the country, or its people? Is there a difference between the two?
The Shield represents a very particular idea—or did, anyway. That’s definitely a central theme of the comic.
Wendig: Patriotism can be sort of fucked up. Like, on the one hand, it’s amazing that we live in a country we love and believe in and can get behind. But patriotism can also become this cultist, intense thing where you HAVE TO BELIEVE or YOU ARE TRAITOR TO THE STARS AND STRIPES, and that’s super-creepy. What is patriotism? Love of country? Its borders? Its government? Its people? Its history, its ideals?
Look at the thing with the Confederate Flag – so many people twisting in the wind to want to protect that flag because of, well, insert excuse here. Because it’s part of history, because it’s about pride in the South, because this, because that. When really it’s racism slathered in its own special brand of patriotism sauce.
TMS: What kind of responses have you guys received to the re-imagining of The Shield so far?
Wendig: So far, all positive. Hopefully that positivity continues once they see the story we’ve written!
Christopher: For me it’s been overwhelmingly positive—people really see the need for a new hero like The Shield, and really seem to understand what we’re trying to do. I mean, it’s a superhero action book and she’s a kick-ass female superhero—what’s not to love? And we haven’t razed the old Shield universe to the ground, which I think fans of previous iterations of the character appreciate.
One of the things I’m most pleased about is the reaction to the look of the character—she’s strong, powerful, and most important, realistic. Sure, she wears a costume and a mask, but it’s deliberately designed to be practical. Which also, by happy coincidence, makes it rather cosplayable.
TMS: Did any real-life ladies inspire your writing on The Shield?
Christopher: Deborah Sampson, for sure. She was a woman who disguised herself as a man in order to join the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. There were actually several women who took a direct role in that conflict in that way, defying the tradition, etiquette, and even law of the period. There’s certainly a link there with The Shield’s own origin…
Wendig: It’s recent, but holy hell those two women who just graduated into Army Rangers? Bad-ass. But it’s not just about them being bad-ass, but about who they are and the struggles they endure to be soldiers and to be allowed to fight for this country.
TMS: What do you think is the number-one thing fans have to look forward to in the series?
Christopher: I think it’s the historical aspect – our version of The Shield has existed across two centuries and is tied to the very foundation of the USA, which allows us not just to enjoy her adventures in the present, but to explore her experiences in the past. That increases the scope of the book a little, which is something I personally have enjoyed working on.
Wendig: While hopefully they like the writing, I think fans can look forward to some hellaciously amazing art. The work Drew Johnson has put into this thing is—well, let me put it to you this way. Every day he sends us updates to the art as he works on it. Every day. The guy is a craftsman, and every day those emails are the highlight of that particular day.
The SHIELD will be out October 7th with art by Drew Johnson, letters by Rachel Deering, and colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick. In the meantime, please enjoy some exclusive preview pages from The SHIELD #1:
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