Most comic collectors have probably run across the super-hero group the Mighty Crusaders or some variation of them in their time collecting comics. They’ve gone through a number of relaunches and revamps over the years and have even crossed between publishers.

The first appearance of some of the characters were in Pep Comic (probably known better to most as part of the Archie Comics line). Characters like The Shield and Steel Sterling had their stories in the title back in the 1930s and 1940s before the Riverdale gang took over. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Shield was joined by others like the Fly, Flygirl, Black Hood, and the Comet to form the Mighty Crusaders in the group’s self-titled comic. These books were published under MLJ Comics or the Mighty Comics imprint.

In the 1980s, Archie Comics tried again with the Mighty Crusaders under their Red Circle brand and the title lasted almost twice as many issues as the prior incarnation. I remember picking up the first issue of this title, unaware of the version that came decades before I was even born.

In the 1990s, DC launched it’s Imprint Comics brand with the reappearance of the Crusaders and new versions of the old MLJ characters. Two of the biggest changes were the fact that the Web was now an organization instead of a person and the Jaguar was now a female cat person instead of a normal man with powers. This version lasted longer than the other incarnations but still failed to truly succeed.

In 2008, the Crusaders appear yet again, starting off in a series of one-shots under DC Comics but utilizing the “Red Circle” heading on the comics. The individual series, the Shield and the Web (now a single hero again), served as front men for back-up stories for the other 2 characters who got one-shots while other characters were introduced in the team title. The titles didn’t last long as the group was officially dissolved along with the other government based group of the time, the Freedom Fighters. With the launch of the New 52, they probably no longer even exist.

It’s now 2012 and Red Circle has returned but in while new format. Now we have the New Crusaders. You’re not going to find them on the rack at your comic store though. This time around, you need to go to www.redcirclecomics.com and download an app for your Apple device or a desktop program available through iTunes. There is a 6 issue “act” each week which brings you each of the 4 parts of each 24 page monthly issue. You get also access to some of the old Archie titles but not the DC incarnations. The one downfall though is that there is a subscription fee of 99¢ per week. This makes these fragmented digital books more expensive monthly than a lot of the regular print comics.

When I first saw the flier announcing the return of Red Circle Comics and the Crusaders, I was really interested despite the cartoony art displayed. It brought my back to my old days of buying comics from the rack in the corner store. (Yes, I know I’m severely dating myself with that information.) The reality that hit when I checked out their site disappointed me though. Personally, I’d rather have a book I can hold and, while I am curious about the new stories, I don’t think this format will be for me. For a younger crowd, this may work though. It’s a fresh start, no need to run to the comic store to pick up the title, and you get some history with your subscription too. We’ll have to see how it goes.