Religion: not determined yet
Alter Ego: Lennie
Super? (Has Super Powers/Special Abilities/Technology): Yes
Number of Appearances: 3
Teams/Affiliations: The Crusaders
Enemy of: Freedom Fighters
Note: based on Namor the Sub-Mariner
Details from now-defunct webpage at http://obscure.dcuguide.com/crusaders.htm:
Marvel's Crusaders, Biography #1
In the mid-70s, DC and Marvel both had titles reviving Golden Age heroes. Marvel had their All-Winners revived in the pages of THE INVADERS. DC meanwhile revived the Quality Comics heroes in the pages of FREEDOM FIGHTERS.
At one point, both books had doppelgangers of the other hero team show up in their comics (ala Squadron Supreme). This was almost simultaneous and, amazingly, both new super-teams were called "the Crusaders".
This has always struck me as too much of a coincidence and I can't help but suspect that either there was an inter-company conspiracy or that one writer heard what the other was planning and decided to try to match him.
Anyway, here is the Marvel version of the Crusaders, as they appeared only in INVADERS #14-15, written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Frank Robbins.
They were a group of super-heroes based in Great Britain. While not having the raw power of the American group The Invaders, they still were a force to be reckoned with. The team included:
The Spirit of 76: William Nasland, an American dressed like a revolutionary hero and equipped with a bullet-proof cloak. Patriotic hero in a tricorn hat and domino mask (looking very similar in appearance to The Fighting Yank). He also had a cape that was somewhat bullet-proof and no metahuman powers. After the war, the Spirit of '76 was one of three men (along with Jeff Mace and the artificial being Adam II) who wore the costume of Captain America while the real Super-Soldier was lost (imprisoned in a block of ice). (Clearly the stand-in for Uncle Sam)
Dyna-Mite: Roger Aubrey, a six-inch tall man with the strength of a normal sized person. He was able to shrink down to about 12 centimeters tall, but retained his full-size strength. Dyna-Mite later took on the guise of the Mighty Destroyer. (Doll-Man)
Ghost Girl: An unidentified Scottish girl who had a mechanism in her gloves that could cast her image several feet away. She wore a rather revealing outfit and had the ability to create illusory doubles of herself that were very lifelike in appearance. (Phantom Lady)
Tommy Lightning: An unidentified Cockney who had the ability to absorb electricity and cast powerful lightning bolts. (the Ray)
Cap'n Wings: Upper-class gent who couldn't get into the RAF because of a heart murmur. He was able to fly and had a pair of golden wings on his back. (Black Condor)
Thunderfist: He was very strong and had the ability to throw explosive punches. (Human Bomb)
They show up in wartime London and rout the crew of a crashed German bomber, convincing the British that they finally have a superteam to rival the Invaders. An eccentric cab driver named Alfie seems to be their boss. It is later revealed that he gave most of them the devices that grant them their powers and can turn their powers off with a switch on his belt.
But Dyna-Mite, who has no memory of where he came from, becomes suspicious. He spies on Alfie and discovers that he is a tool of the Nazis and is using them in a plot to assassinate the king. Alfie, meanwhile, has convinced the Crusaders that the Invaders (Captain America, Bucky, Torch, Toro, Namor) have traitorous inclinations.
So when Dyna-Mite finally warns the Invaders, and they rush to the scene to stop the king's murder, the Crusaders naturally assume they are under attack and a slugfest ensues. Tommy shocks Cap, Cap slugs the Spirit of 76, Thunderfist punches Namor, etc.
Eventually, the truth (and a bomb in the champagne bottle) is revealed. Alfie flees but is killed when the Torch's fireball causes his taxi to go off a bridge. Most of the Crusaders give up their heroic careers, now that their powers are gone. Two of the Crusaders however remained active: Spirit of 76 took over as the new Captain America when Steve Rogers got frozen. But after the war, Nasland was killed in a fight with some robots of the evil android called Adam 1.
Dyna-Mite turned out to be a friend of Brian Falsworth, the original Mighty Destroyer, and later Union Jack II. Aubrey was restored to his normal size and succeeded Falsworth as the Mighty Destroyer.
The DC Comics Crusaders were even stranger. They debuted in FREEDOM FIGHTERS #7, by Bob Rozakis and Dick Ayers.
This team was obviously based on Marvel Comics' Invaders:
Americommando: No relation to the DC hero who was also called Mr. America. This guy had super strength and a triangular shield (which he threw!). He was later revealed to be the Freedom Fighters arch-foe, the Silver Ghost. (Captain America)
Rusty: Teenaged sidekick with no powers. (Bucky).
Fireball and Sparky: A flaming duo. (Human Torch and Toro).
Barracuda: A green-skinned, trident-wielding, super-strong, flying amphibian. (Sub-Mariner)
The Crusaders were one of the most popular super-hero comic book groups from the Freedom Fighters' past on at least two Earths (Earth-One and Earth-X). No one seemed too concerned how old comic book characters could come to life.
The Crusaders appeared for real on Earth-One, offering their services to New York City 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.
Uncle Sam, The Ray, Doll Man, Black Condor, Phantom Lady, and the Human Bomb were in upstate New York, at Niagara Falls, in fact. The Ray had been forced to use his powers to stop the Falls temporarily, which naturally affected the hydroelectric plants that used them to generate power for a large part of the eastern United States. Jokingly, the Human Bomb suggested the Ray light up Buffalo himself, and the others thought that it was actually a good idea, and would hopefully convince people that they never willingly did any damage anywhere (even back in New York City where they were wanted by the authorities).
The Ray lit up the sky over Buffalo, much to the puzzlement of the citizenry. As he did, he was attacked by Fireball and Sparky, who began tossing flames at him and tried to capture him in a cage of fire. The Ray retreated and the fiery duo followed him back to the others at Niagara Falls, where a huge flaming "C" in the sky summoned the rest of the Crusaders. The Americommando parachuted in and threw his triangular shield at Uncle Sam, cutting the hero's star-spangled top hat in half. The pair then began to duke it out.
Barracuda tried to capture Phantom Lady, but she went intangible, allowing the Human Bomb to push their blue-skinned adversary over the railing and into the water. The fact that being underwater increased Barracuda's powers ten- fold was not lost on The Human Bomb, who's explosive punch made sure his finny friend did not stay in the water very long.
Doll Man was momentarily distracted by the appearance of reporter Martha Roberts (the Earth-One equivalent of his own deceased girlfriend) so that Rusty was able to grab ahold of the tiny hero. Unfortunately, Rusty hadn't counted on Doll Man weighing the same 175 pounds that he did when he was full- sized, and Doll Man quickly overcame the young man.
Black Condor and the Ray went after Fireball and Sparky. Using his cape to protect his hands, the Black Condor stunned Sparky with a punch, while the Ray absorbed the flames of Fireball, extinguishing his flames and causing him to fall. Sparky recovered and caught Fireball, but he was too heavy and was dragged down with him. As they fell, Fireball's body struck Martha and pushed her over the railing. Doll Man attempted to pull her up, but Rusty swatted him away.
Martha was saved by the Human Bomb, who was climbing up from the lake below. Phantom Lady blinded Rusty with her blackout beam, but The Americommando, in the midst of his fight with Uncle Sam, saw her and kicked his shield which blindsided her just as the Human Bomb made it back to the battleground. Barracuda chose that moment to make a reappearance, and ripped the Human Bomb's helmet off. Barracuda hit him, causing a huge explosion that knocked out everyone but the Americommando and Uncle Sam, who was distracted by the blast and knocked out by the other patriotic hero. Meanwhile, only Martha was conscious to see the Americommando pull off his mask to reveal himself to be Raphael Van Zandt, also known as the Freedom Fighter's archenemy, The Silver Ghost.
Martha woke up Barracuda and tried to tell him about the Americommando's dual identity, but was interrupted by the criminal, who struck her, much to the dismay of the sea-spawned hero. The Americommando knocked Barracuda out after a brief battle, and sent the rest of the Crusaders to track down the Freedom Fighters (who he said had escaped), while he took Martha to D.A. Pearson in New York City. He had actually taken their unconscious bodies to the power plant and wired them all to the power generator, which would soon come back online and electrocute them all.
Luckily, the first person in the "human circuit" was The Ray, who woke up and was able to contain the electricity long enough to wake up Uncle Sam, who unplugged the generator. The Freedom Fighters then took off in pursuit of the Crusaders to prove their innocence. The Americommando was enraged to find the Earth-X'ers to have escaped, and proceeded to kidnap Martha and head back to Manhattan.
The heroes met up with the comic book team soon after, and The Ray used the remains of the current he had absorbed to shock them all out of the sky. After a brief battle, Uncle Sam sent Doll Man and the Ray after the Americommando, and asked 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. NOTE: These fans are based on real-life creators Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, and Archie Goodwin.
Meanwhile, the others had caught up to the Americommando and Martha. The villain dropped Martha, but the Ray was able to save her. He left Doll Man with Martha 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 Silver Ghost. The fight also attracted the attention of some state trooper helicopters, which swooped in to arrest both of them. The Ray inadvertantly hit one of the copters with a light blast, prompting them to open fire. The Ray was wounded and fell to Earth. The Silver Ghost followed to gloat and left him to die. The Ray was soon after moved and patched up by a hidden figure (who would later be revealed as Rod Reilly, the original Firebrand). The Silver Ghost would next turn up in an adventure that was published (but not widely distributed) in CANCELLED COMIC CAVALCADE.
The Crusaders fought among themselves until finally, after being deserted by Americommando, they revealed their origins. They disappeared at the end of the story (FREEDOM FIGHTERS #9) and there was no sign that they have lost their powers, but they never appear again. Maybe the experience disillusioned them from being super-heroes.
There was no mention of how the Silver Ghost gained super-strength or developed the technology to turn comic fans into golden age superheroes. (Much less why he chose to bestow these powers on comic fans instead of hired thugs.)
Appearances: Freedom Fighters #7-10
Bob Rozakis was writing FREEDOM FIGHTERS and Roy Thomas was writing THE INVADERS, and both decided together that each would introduce a super-hero team called The Crusaders, and go from there.
There appears to be a computer game out now called The Crusaders, with some Kirby-esque art on the box.
Amid the flood of all these Crusaders, no one even remembered that there was an earlier team of superheroes, the Mighty Crusaders, which was made up of the old MLJ (?) heroes.
Suggested links for further research about this character: