Here’s a fantastic new project from Channel SILENCE! It’s a deep, deeper, deepest dive into a comic that blew my mind – The Mighty Crusaders Number Four from Mighty Comics, 1966. I hope you enjoy listening to it more than I enjoyed making it. Future episodes in this series will be released on our Patreon page with possible public release at a future date. If you’d like to support this stupid fucking project then feel free to go to and do what you think is right.

Welcome, dear listener to this brand new podcast here on Channel SILENCE! in which I, Gary Lactus, will take you by the gland and guide you meticulously through the greatest comic ever created. A comic which pushes envelopes through the shattered letterbox of sense to deposit the most beautiful slices of solid gold amazing onto the welcome mat of your mind or something. That comic is… hang on… what’s it called… The Mighty Crusaders Number 4, published by the Mighty Comics Group in 1966. Mighty Comics was an imprint of Archie Comics, formerly MLJ. Attempting to ride a train powered by the popularity of Marvel, DC’s Silver Age output and the Batman TV show, Archie comics put all their superhero eggs into the Mighty basket. Let’s take a look at the cover. This cover wears its Marvel influence on its sleeve by employing the Corner Box. The corner box was created by Steve Ditko for Spider-Man issue 2 in 1963. Stan Lee liked the idea and rolled the corner box out over all the Marvel titles, all drawn initially by Ditko, so a nice bit of extra work for Ditko there, for which I’m sure he was renumerated fairly. A day’s work for a day’s pay. The Corner box of The Mighty Crusaders Number 4 features five costumed heroes. Up front we have, the Shield. A patriotic hero clad in Stars and Stripes who first appeared in Pep Comics Number 1, cover dated Jan 1940, a few months before the ultimately more popular Captain America. Of this common genre of superhero which includes

Captain Freedom
Fighting Yank
Miss Victory
Yankee Girl
American Belle
Captain Flag
Lancelot Strong
Yank & Doodle
The American
Agent Liberty
American Eagle
The Americommando
Commander Steel
Fighting American
General Glory
Lady Liberty
Liberty Belle
Major Victory I
Major Victory II
Mister America
Red, White and Blue
Silent Majority
Uncle Sam
Yankee Poodle
The Eagle
U.S. Jones
American Eagle III
Champion of Liberty
Lady Victory
Sgt. Flag
Liberty Girl
American Shield
Original Shield
The Badge
Mister U.S.
Sgt. States, America’s Fighting Foot Soldier
The Defender of Liberty
The Proud American
American Ace
American Dream
American Crusader
American Eagle
The Fighting Spirit
The Liberator
Shield Master
Edit Citation needed
American Maid
The First American
The All American
The Frontiersman
The Old Soldier
Lorne Brown Nazi Fighter
Mr. Justice
Guile from Streetfighter
Sheild Face
Flag Face
Flag Boy
Freedom Francis
Flag Fucker
USA Hole
And Mr Sgt Freedom Flag Fighty Funtimes Man Captain amongst others, The Shield was the first of these, the original and the best which says a lot about this incredible comic. The Shield appearing in The Mighty Crusaders is actually the third incarnation of the Shield, Bill Higgins, also known as Joe Higgins Jr in other appearances. This is because either no one was keeping track because no one gave a shit, (unlikely!) or because the dedicated and well paid creators were committed to providing exciting intrigue on every conceivable level of excellence.

To the right of The Shield are Fly Man and Fly Girl. The Fly was created in 1959 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Tommy Troy was an orphan who was set to work by mean Ben and Abigail March. Tommy Troy was a young boy, by the way. My parents are both Orphans. This is great as I get to tell people that I’m going to visit the orphans at Christmas and people think I’m kind and brilliant when actually I’m just making an octogenarian cook me a big dinner. Anyway, it turned out that the Marches were wizards, Tommy found a magic ring and, facilitated by a Fly Man called Turan of the Fly People from another dimension, ended up with the ability to swap bodies with one of the Fly People, turning him into a Superhero. He does this by rubbing his ring and saying “I wish I were the fly”. The Simon and Kirby studio only did four issues before Archie comics moved production in house. This changeover included a jump in time which saw Thomas Troy graduating from law school and remembering that ring of his that turned him into a superhero that he hadn’t thought about in years. We’ve all been there. When I was eleven I got a magic lamp with a genie in it that could grant me three wishes. I thought I should take my time to think about what I should wish for. I took so long that I forgot about it sometime in my early 20s. It’s still around somewhere unless it got lost in a move or something. Hmm… So you see, relatability is a key factor in how great The Fly was as a character. After some adventures, the writers thought they’d really get with the times and get a girl one. Kim Brand was an actress that The Fly rescued and she ended up getting the same powers somehow, I don’t know how, she doesn’t have a wikipedia entry… Okay, I’ve just looked it up and she got her own ring off Turan, the same Fly Person from the fly people dimension that gave little Tommy Troy his ring. Well, that was worth it. Happy now? The original run got canceled in 1964 then relaunched as Fly Man in 1965 as part of the Mighty Comics initiative. I guess in the wake of Spider-Man, the name, “The Fly” may have seemed a bit diminutive so “Fly Man” seemed like the best bet. It might have been fun if they’d gone the other way and changed his name from The Fly to A Fly. Fly Girl remained Fly Girl and here they are, in the corner box of the greatest comic ever made.

To the left of The Shield is Black Hood. Like the original Blue Beetle and The Guardian, Black Hood is a police officer who dresses in an identity-obscuring costume to fight crime without the burden of red tape. It’s a lot of effort just to avoid admin, one could easily question whether it’s worth it. It’s an interesting inversion of reality where it’s more common for violent bastards to become cops in order to get away with heinous crimes. He first appeared in Top-Notch Comics #9, October 1940 and went on to become one of MLJ’s most popular characters, even getting his own radio serial for a while. The original Black Hood, Matthew Burland was trained by a hermit to fight evil. I love that. A hermit. I guess the very nature of hermits, living alone, having no contact with the outside world means that people who live in society, people with friends and family and communication technology can only imagine what hermits get up to. A friend of mine had a kind of hermit guy living near him when he was growing up in Norfolk. He lived in a shed, foraged for food. Not exactly a hermit because the local community would check he was okay. He ate squirrels. My friend asked him what it tasted like. “Tastes like otter” was the reply. My friend did not learn how to fight evil from that guy. The Black Hood’s popularity waned and by the late 40s he had been consumed by funny animal comics. Thank god he came back to give the Mighty Crusaders comic the off duty policeman dressed in skin tight black and yellow who punches people it so desperately needed.

Finally, on the far left, we have The Comet. Created by Jack Cole, The Comet made his first appearance in 1940 within the pages of Pep! Comics. John Dickering is a scientist who discovers a new gas so he injects it into his bloodstream which means he can fly and shoot disintegration beams from his eyes and fight crime which he did for 17 issues then he was the first super hero ever to get killed. His brother seeks revenge by becoming a vengeful bastard of a superhero called The Hangman. For The Mighty Crusaders, The Comet was brought back to life or simply reintroduced as a new Comet, not sure, I can’t be arsed to research any further and I’m going to actually go and read any of these comics. This podcast is about The Mighty Crusaders Number 4, the greatest comic in the world, why would I go and read anything else ever again? The Comet’s Mighty Comics costume is shit, by the way. He’s got this thing on his head which looks like a rainbow turban but it’s a helmet with a little peak at the front. Oh yes, and he has a weasly little moustache.

And that’s the corner box done! Let’s move on to the cover as a whole. On the top right there’s the reassuring sight of that familiar stamp, letting us know that the Mighty Crusaders Number 4 is Approved By The Comics Code Authority. Thank jesus! This comic will not pervert my mind. Below the crimson letters, letting us know that this is a comic called The Mighty Crusaders is the immortal title of the story within, “Too Many Super Heroes”. The cover depicts a brawl between thirteen characters. Fly Girl isn’t present, probably because girls can barely throw and catch, let alone do punching, but the rest of the guys are there. Sheild is punching a green clad guy in a black mask. Black Hood is getting punched by a guy dressed in blue, black and white. Fly Man squaring up to nothing in particular whilst a purple villain falls over near him. We can tell he’s a villain because he’s ugly, bald and a bit rotund. The Comet looks like he’s getting punched in the stomach or balls, hard to tell by the way he’s bending. It is unclear what exactly is going on in this composition. Apart from the two definite connecting punches, everyone else is just sort of punching and running and falling over. There are some speed lines which look like they’re intended to convey the arc of flying fists but they don’t properly correspond to any particular fists. The Sheild has a couple of these lines, one makes more sense than the other and The Comet looks like the line itself is knocking out his stuffing. In short, the cover is a confusing splurge of super nonsense, asking more questions than it gives answers. What is happening? Why is what is happening? Who’s he? And him! Is he… no he isn’t. Is thirteen too many super heroes? For some, yes, for others, no. For those who believe they can handle more super heroes before they their “Too Many Super Heroes” threshold is shattered, they may yet be overwhelmed by what lies within these pages. Let’s open that cover shall we?


These sort of advertisements for child labour were all over comics and pulp magazines right through the 20th century. I have often wondered how well they worked so I decided to do some deep research by googling “Cloverine Salve” and clicking on the
National Museum of American History website which was the very first result. It has a bunch of people’s memories which I can just copy and paste into this script and save myself a load of writing time.

MY mother sold the salve and got a print of Jesus

Sandra LaRocca

My father loved to write, and one essay he did was about the many jobs he held over the years. He noted that as a kid he sold Cloverine Salve door-to-door in our little New England town. I said “What the heck is Cloverine Salve?” I had to look it up. Dad was a fine salesman. He sold new and used cars before I was born and often a shopper intent on buying a used car drove home with a new one. He was in real estate for many years and loved the task of matching the right house to the right family. He was also a politician. He was in the Air Corps overseas in WW2. My beloved dad passed away at age 97 this past March. I bet it isn’t widely known that some heroes start out selling Cloverine Salve.

Laurie Blair

I have one of the Hoban .22 rifles they gave as prizes.


If my Dad were still living he would be 88 today (April 11, 2021) As a young boy he sold Cloverine salve door to door and some of the ads listed one of the prizes as being a live pony.

Cindy Glasgow Hullihen

When I was a little girl, I sold Cloverine Salve. I was trying to sell enough to win the grand prize…..a live monkey! I can still see the ad… was so exciting! Unfortunately, I didn’t sell enough for the grand prize.

Donna Sturgis

Why would anyone want with a monkey?!

I sold Cloverine Salve when I was 9 years old. I was trying to win the grand prize, a monkey. I gave up once I realized that I would have to sell enough salve to fill the inside of our house. That was my first attempt at selling. It stayed with me all of my life and I later won many awards selling other products. I also started a business that sold products throughout the US and some foreign countries.

Ray Steelman

When I sold Cloverine salve, They sent enough prints that one could be given with each purchase. Some didn’t want one so in time I had enough that the last sale from that shipment still had a choice of which one they wanted.

Larry Ferguson

Great story, Larry!

Cloverine Salve was in a tin years ago. I am now 78 years old, but I remember selling the salve as a young boy and got a meat grinder for my mom.


Valentine’s day is coming up, a meat grinder would make the perfect gift for my wife.

When I was 5-6 years old, I walked–ALONE–door-to-door in my rural farm community in southeastern Ohio, selling tins of Cloverine salve. Every purchaser got a free print of their choice. The prints were rolled up inside the cardboard tube that contained the tins of salve. I earned enough money to purchase a little typewriter and was very proud of myself. ”

Beverly Steinfeld

That one has a reply…

Precisely, where in southeastern Ohio? I sold in that area also.

Fred Connors

I get the feeling Fred Conners didn’t do well enough to purchase a little typewriter and has never forgotten it. All his life he’s sought to find someone to blame, and he may just have found that person in Beverly Steinfeld. I hope Beverly is safe and that the authorities have their eye on Fred. Sadly this child labour scheme in which children were turned into salespeople on the very American promises of ponies, monkeys, guns and jesus was made illegal a year after this comic in 1967, and more insidious ways of controlling children had to be invented. Very sad.

Much as I would like to end this first episode at this point, I feel we should actually cover some of the story contained within The Mighty Crusaders Number 4, although calling it a story seems to denigrate what is the worlds most incredible chunk of dynamic amazing ever to be rendered in two dimensions.

1966 was a peak time for the popularity of folk rock with Artists like Bob Dylan and The Byrds enjoying huge success and fuelling the emergent hippie movement. As we have already noted, Mighty Comics were trying to emulate the success of Marvel. Comics seemed exciting and vibrant and were being read by teenagers, even older people. Mighty Comics needed to get hip to the scene to talk to the young men who were growing their hair and getting poetic. On page one of The Mighty Crusaders Number four, the first panel takes up the length and width of the page in an inverted L shape. This panel is filled with a singing man with hair DOWN TO HIS EARS playing a semi acoustic 10 string guitar (unusual or the artist didn’t bother looking at a guitar properly). He is singing. I will attempt a kind of Bob Dylan style for this.
“Hiya, loyal, royal readers, here’s your mighty minstrel friend,
With mah big fat mouth wide open, warbling folk music again!
I’ve a tale to tell ya this time wot’s a Mighty Comics great,
‘Bout a zillion super-heroes who we’re bringin’ up-to-date!
Way back in the early ’40s “MLJ Mag” Ultra Heroes reigned supreme…
Ya’ll see ’em in this here mag, in answer to fan’s screams…
Mr. Justice, Captain Flag, Blackjack to mention just a few…
So have a ball, enjoy yourselves ki’yippee an’ Yahoo!!!
Yes, sir!!”

I don’t know if the Mighty Minstrel is a regular in this comic. Either way, the tone it aims for feels absurdly irrelevant to the rest of the comic which is why it’s brilliant. There’s the added enjoyment coming from the fact that I can’t help feeling like whoever wrote the Mighty Minstrel’s words here hated the idea and the type of musician they were trying to emulate, with his big fat mouth wide open, warbling folk music again. The folk music of the 60s was synonymous with protest and I get the impression the writer did not approve and would rather young upstarts like this guy would cut their hair and work hard, maybe getting children to sell guns door to door for jesus with the prospect of owning a lion as payment.

At the bottom of this panel is a caption reading,

“Only the incredibly inspired Mighty comics group jolly whackos could’ve had the genius, the power and the glory, and the downright NERVE to concoct an epic masterpiece of such dazzling, unforgettable splendor!!!”

This may well be true. I certainly have never come across a comic quite like this before and it surely must be the work of a group of particularly jolly whackos.

The second panel on this page, sitting within the incongruous frame of the Mighty Minstrel, restates the title of the comic with “The Mighty Crusaders in Too Many Super Heroes” at the top. Below this, standing around on either a patch of grass or a vast field, there’s no way to tell, are the five team members, Fly Man, The Shield, Fly Girl, The Comet and The Black Hood. To the left of the panel is some kind of metallic technology. It is unclear whether this is a vehicle, some kind of crime fighting computer console or futuristic hostess trolley. The Mighty Crusaders number four is full of these sort of ambiguities, leaving more than the usual amount to the imagination. When something asks so much of the reader, every reader will experience a different comic. Each reading revealing something about the individual reader. Profound. On the ground beneath the Crusaders is a black star, the characters are stood at each of the star’s five points. This star wasn’t immediately apparent to me. Without the close examination I’m giving The Mighty Crusaders number four for this podcast, my brain perceived the blackness beneath them as shadow. The way this black star has revealed itself feels a bit magic, so I’ve had a little dig into the relevance of the symbol.

In 1919 as part of the The Back To Africa movement, Marcus Garvey founded the Black Star Line, which modelled its name on that of the British shipping company White Star Line, changing the colour from white to black to symbolise ownership by black people rather than white people. The black star became a symbol of Pan-Africanism and anti-colonialism. Given that this comic shamefully has exclusively white people in it, I don’t see any significance here.

According to a discussion on, in western magical tradition, stars are the dead, the ancestors. The star is black (as with the other black anarchist symbols — flag, mask, etc), because black is the color of death, and also of negation, the unseen and the invisible. So taking these together we see that the black star symbolizes the dead who are forgotten and erased by history.

This idea has some resonance given the story which… I would say unfolds but it just sort of dollops or spills… or splatters. Actually maybe it smears.

The five heroes are all looking at a bubble, five or six foot in diameter which is floating a little above the grass like a giant crystal ball. Inside the ball are the faces of the heroes. Fly Man says,

“Hey, Comet! What’s wrong with the Star-Olator? When we concentrate, the globe that’s formed is supposed to pictorially alert us to great emergencies”

Fly Girl adds,
“But it’s only picturing the five of us looking terribly aggravated! Why???”

The faces don’t look “terribly aggravated” by the way. They look rather blank. A bit miffed maybe. Like they’ve all got resting bitch face. The expressions certainly don’t warrant the reaction they’re getting.

Comet is as surprised as anyone here as he exclaims,

“Even though I invented it, I don’t know!”

The comet is facing away from the reader here and we can see on the top of his stupid rainbow helmet turban thing, a small, black star. And the globe is bis and called the Star-Olator. Okay, this explains the black star. It’s the Comet’s “thing”. So he’s the guy with the gear. If The Mighty Crusaders were a band, Comet would be in it because he could drive and had a van.

Below this pulse-steadying tableau reads the credits,
“Award winning editing by Rick Gee
Ultra-type writing by Jerry Ess
Breathtaking art by Paul Are
Another coloring masterpiece by Vic Torr”

Second use of the word masterpiece there on this page. Quite right too. The way the credits are presented here is clearly an attempt to emulate Marvel’s chummy nicknames like Smilin’ Stan Lee, Jolly Jack Kirby, Steve Diphtheria Ditko or whatever. Here we see the creators’ names reduced to phonetically spelt initials, showing either a paucity of imagination or a wealth of simple, classic style. I know which one I think it is, and that one is the one that it definitely is. So let’s look at who these Jolly Whackos are. Editor Rick Gee is actually Richard Goldwater. At only 30 years old, Richard was the guy hip enough to helm this crew and inject the Mighty Crusaders with the youthful spunk that drips from every page. Richard Joined Archie comics straight out of college, and worked his way up from the mail room to Editor in just a few years! His talent cannot be underestimated. This talent was particularly remarkable in that his father, John Goldwater is one of the founders and co-publishers of Archie, formerly MLJ comics. What’re the chances?! John Goldwater went on to become editor in chief of Archie Comics.

Vic Torr is actually Victor Gorelick who graduated from college having majored in Cartooning. I didn’t know that comic production was covered by higher education back then. Working his way up through the company’s art department, he learned how to colour comics and he coloured this comic. A seemingly lowly task but this Victor became the victor by becoming editor in chief of Archie Comics, the jolliest of whackos. I can’t find anything particularly interesting in Victor Gorelick’s story. Good name though. Gore Lick. He seems like a nice guy. I like his cozy story of working his way up and staying with the same company all his life. It fits with the wholesome image that Archie like to project.

Paul Are is Paul Reinman. 65 when he drew this, Reinman was possibly losing his enthusiasm for comics, his best work having already happened in war comics in the 50s. He’d worked in commercial art, been a neon artist, drawn the golden age Human Torch, Namor, Green Lantern, The Atom and a bunch of other super heroes, drawn bible comics, horror, crime and inked Jack Kirby on early issues of the Hulk and X-Men. He drifted away from comics in the 70s and wound up his career as a courtroom sketch artist. Oh, it says here he drew John Force. Is that John Force or John Force. I hope it’s John Force. I’d like there to be super team, brought together because they all had the same name. They could combine into one giant John with the power of 10 Johns. Let’s see… Oh, it’s John Force, Magic Agent. A government agent with an eye patch and a magic coin. Whatever.

But who is this Jerry Ess? This jolly whacko who did this ultra-type writing? It’s none other than Jerry Siegel. Alongside his childhood friend Joe Shuster, Jerry Seigel created Superman, the worlds first costumed, super-powered hero. You’ve probably heard of him. Superman is one of the most potent symbols created in the last 100 years. A symbol so powerful he scared Nazis into writing their own counter propaganda. In a 1940 SS newspaper, an article dripping with antisemitism attacks Seigel and describes Superman as a “pleasant guy with an overdeveloped body and underdeveloped mind” and mocks his “bathing suit”. It reads like a Jeremy Clarkson column. Superman was the first super hero my son and no doubt countless other children was aware of (although the pull of Spider-man has his interest currently). Superman. You know what superman is. Everyone knows what Superman is. Seigel’s financial struggles are well known, earning a pittance compared to the wealth generated by he and Shuster’s creation. He also created a large number of other characters still in use today such as Doctor Occult, The Spectre, Robotman and a big chunk of the Legion Of Superheroes like Chameleon Boy, Lightning Lord, Braniac 5 and Phantom Girl. Seigel has created characters that have echoed through the ages. By far his greatest work is The Mighty Crusaders Number 4, a work which shall no doubt echo louder and longer than the rest of his work combined, it just so happens that we’re waiting for that first echo. Maybe this incredible podcast is that first echo. Yes, it definitely is, and here you are listening to it. You are here at the start of the new ultra age of amazing where every person on this troubled planet will be elevated to become Jolly whackos

Well, we’ve covered the cover, the advert on the inside cover and the first page, I think that’s enough for now. Hope you liked it. If you did, let me know as it’s quite a bit of work and right now I have no idea if I’ve just made an annoying load of shit that no one wants. I’m aiming to get one of these done a month and put it on the SILENCE! patreon, ( I will need support to get through this project, so if you refer enough friends to the SILENCE! patreon, you could win a monkey. Next time we’ll be looking at the second page, maybe even more! I hope you’ll join me, Gary Lactus, here, next time, here… On… THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS NUMBER 4!

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