DC’s The Guardian has a lot in common with Marvel’s Captain America. Namely, both wield shields and both were created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. For a long time, it’s been assumed that The Guardian is, in many ways, a clone of Cap. However, I’m starting to suspect that The Guardian’s first appearance was originally meant to be a Captain America story.
Captain America debuted in Timely Comic’s (Golden Age Marvel) Captain America Comics #1 with a cover date of March, 1941. The story goes that Simon and Kirby felt like they were not receiving the royalties due to them from Timely for Captain America, so they negotiated a deal with National Comics Publications. They finished their last work for Timely (for a while at least) with Captain America Comics #10. They started their work for National in 1942 and eventually created The Guardian and The Newsboy Legion for the publisher in Star-Spangled Comics #7 with a cover date of April, 1942.
For an unrelated project, I wanted to read through that first appearance of The Guardian and The Newsboy Legion. Luckily, for me, that story is reprinted in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #141 which is on DC Universe Infinite. While reading through the debut story, I came across a moment that made me double-take:
I asked myself: “Wait a minute, who’s Steve?” That panel is referring to The Guardian’s alter ego, Jim Harper, having no choice but to bring The Newsboy Legion to justice after an attempted robbery. That panel should have read: “…and Jim is forced to bring the boys to court!” Instead, it says “Steve.” Now, who do we know who is named Steve, who also carries a shield, and was also created by Simon and Kirby?
This could just be simple mistake. I make those kind of slips in my writing all the time (and probably did in this post). It might be that Simon just wrote the wrong name and no one caught it. However, it could be that Simon and Kirby actually started work on this story for Captain America Comics before they left Timely and then repurposed it for Star-Spangled Comics once they began working for National. Considering the fact that The Guardian debuted only around a year after Captain America, this possibility is not completely outrageous.
I’ve also come across other Golden Age comic stories that I have felt were originally written for one character but then published for another character. Take this moment from Holyoke’s Blue Beetle #18 where Dan (Blue Beetle) Garret and his sidekick, Sparky, are referred to as “Wes and Sandy” (as in Wesley “Sandman” Dodds and Sandy, The Golden Boy):
Again, that could be just a simple mistake. That being said, the way that Golden Age creators and creative teams would jump from publisher to publisher or would complete work for multiple publishers through a studio, makes me think that there were probably a few occasions where a story was started for one character but then completed for another. If The Guardian’s debut was one of them then maybe Captain America has been in the DC Universe since 1942…