The GeeksverseCrossfire (Spire Comics): Flashback Review

Crossfire (Spire Comics): Flashback Review
Published on Thursday, June 14, 2012 by

Digging in a back issue bin for quasi-military team comics—my current obsession—I spotted a comic from a comic company that I didn’t know. Crossfire from Spire Comics caught my attention as an oddity but stayed on my reading table as an adventure.Crossfire is a police comic with a message. It shouldn’t be confused with the Marvel comics character by the same name–who has also had his own miniseries from the Mighty Marvel.

Crossfire is an unnumbered one-shot from Spire Comics, so I won’t try to make it a #0 or #1 designation. It is a self-contained story told by an unknown master Al Hartley. Since this is a comic I didn’t know I thought it was reasonably a comic from a company that others may not know.

Spire Comics and Al Hartley

Spire Comics

Spire Comics

Spire Christian Comics was a line of comic books published by Fleming H. Revell starting in 1972. The company unravelled in 1981 as partners splintered off to start a variety of other book companies and other comic imprints which kept Spire Comics in print until 1988 even though the Spire Christian Comics company did not last that long.

Most of the Spire Comics were written and drawn by Al Hartley, who was working for Archie Comics at the time. Due to this connection, he was able to get permission to use the Archie characters in many of the comics. Hartley may not be a household name to most comic fans, although he was a professional comic book writer-artist that worked for both Archie and Atlas comics before moving into christian comics. 

For Marvel in the 1960s, Hartley drew a single superhero comic: an episode of the Norse god superhero “Thor” in Journey into Mystery #90. He dabbled in Marvel scripting on two stories: the “Iron Man” feature in Tales of Suspense #68 (Aug. 1965), and the last “Giant-Man” feature, in Tales to Astonish #69 (July 1965).

Among Marvel miscellanea, Hartley drew the 1961-63 series Linda Carter, Student Nurse, which began as a humor comic then became a romance with issue #2.

He received an Inkpot Award at the 1980 San Diego Comic-Con.

Other Spire Comics comics were based on true stories, Christian novels, or Christian movies. Examples of this type include those based on Charles Colson‘s Born Again, Corrie ten Boom‘s The Hiding Place, and a modernized version of Charles Sheldon‘s 1896 novel In His Steps. The Spire Comics comics were created from 1972 and 1982, and kept in print for several years.

Another Spire Example

To read the Archie publisher’s modern day thoughts about Christian Archie comics check out this excellent article written by Jim Windolf.

I was naturally curious about Spire’s connection to Archie comics. I’ve been a fan of the Archie Action comics since I first read DC’s !mpact Comics imprint (Shield, Web, Comet, Jaguar, Black Hood, etc.) and re-discovered the TMNT Mutant Animals and Sonic World comics. Taking Crossfire and some online references as an example, the art in Spire looks consistently as a more adult Archie comic with simple yet detailed figures. The covers were representative not only of a certain comic generation but also of the interior art of the comics.

Discovering that several of the Spire Comics violated some of the comic code authorities rules is interesting. The basic formula seems to pit young characters in tricky moral situations to learn a lesson. The formula encounters sexuality, drugs, and violence. It also showcases dangerous–and often delirious– hippies. It is a archive piece from the 70s and early 80s.

But how does a Christian Comic company handle a police story? Crossfire!

Crossfire

Crossfire Spire Comics One Shot

Crossfire

Police surrounding a bad situation and taking fire was an enticing action-packed cover to this Spire Comics one-shot by Al Hartley. Hartley’s roots in teen comics, romance, and espionage is all featured in this one shot. Hartley does miss any connection to his nudie-cutie Pussycat days but that is understandable. Bringing his talents to bear in this comic it might explain why Al Hartley’s signature is not subtle on the cover in the yellow bubble that almost looks like a word balloon by a screaming officer.

Opening the cover immediately throws the reader into a medias res car chase. Perhaps this is not as subtle as Dhoom’s asian inspired opening or Fast and Furious, but the chase tries to capture the speed and screeching tires of a red sports car wheeling and careening. The red Porsche–a $6,000 car according to the arresting officer—is abused on page two to the nonchalance of the young perpetrator.

Crossfire quickly establishes a disconnected youth, a shepherding officer, and how money is not enough on its own.

Call #2 pits the officers against a dead body and a young gang problem on page 5.

Parts of the comic become a tad bit preachy, but overall this is an action packed afternoon with the police. The characterization is sparse and draws heavily from their art, but that is to be expected from a one-shot that isn’t trying to establish a world and a mythos.

Overall this is a nice comic short story. It is more natural and realistic than the overly exaggerated Christian Hero comics that turn every page into an allegory. Instead a real life situation is explored with a moral message.

Don’t take my word for it. Check out Christian Knight’s free view of Crossfire if you can’t find this comic in a back issue bin near  you.

Dirty hippies!

 

moral message

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