By late 1976, both Marvel and DC Comics were publishing titles that featured revivals of their respective Golden Age characters. First out of the gate was Marvel's The Invaders, which retroactively chronicled the WWII-era adventures of Captain America, his sidekick Bucky, the Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch, and his young ward Toro. On the other side of the aisle, DC offered up The Freedom Fighters, featuring Uncle Sam, Phantom Lady, Doll Man, The Ray, Black Condor, and The Human Bomb (all of whom were old Quality Comics characters DC had recently acquired).
Well, perhaps influenced by the Marvel-DC "Superman vs. Spider-Man" collaboration earlier that year, Freedom Fighters writer Bob Rozakis seemed to have caught a case of "crossover fever". As Rozakis himself explained in 2003, his idea for a pseudo Marvel-DC crossover soon took on a life of its own:
"As I recall it, I had come up with the idea of using the Crusaders...in Freedom Fighters and joked with then-editor Tony Isabella that it would be really funny if (Invaders writer) Roy Thomas used a version of the FFers in Invaders and called them the Crusaders as well. I believe it was actually Tony who spoke with Roy and suggested the unofficial crossover… but neither Roy nor I got to see these alternate-reality versions of our teams until the books were published."
Although Rozakis came up with the initial idea, Roy Thomas beat him to the newsstand with "Calling...The Crusaders!", which appeared in Invaders #14-15 (cover-dated March-April, 1977). In the story, a mysterious new group of superheroes appeared in war-torn England while the Invaders were elsewhere in Europe. It turned out the five members of the Crusaders unknowingly received their superpowers from a mysterious figure named "Alfie", who was actually a Nazi spy planning to assassinate the King of England!
As with any pastiche of another company's characters, the members of Marvel's Crusaders (left) were clever mirror images of DC's Freedom Fighters (right):
So...what was DC's answer to Marvel's opening salvo? Ah, you'll have to come back tomorrow to check out the other Crusaders, who appeared a scant two months later. See you then!