Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Captain America

Seeing as how Wednesday Comics comes on July 3 this year, let's talk about the most patriotic character in all of comics....the one-and-only, often imitated but never duplicated CAPTAIN AMERICA.

I don't know the history of this character other than that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created him in the fall of 1940. They were against the Nazis and what was happening in Europe at the time, although the US was not yet at war. The cover of Captain America #1 (shown here) has Cap knocking Hitler in the jaw.

Think about that for a minute. It's easy to imagine this scene now, some 70 years later. However in 1940 this was Cap hitting an actual, sitting leader of a well-known country! According to Joe Simon's autobiography Marvel got complaints and for awhile he and Kirby had to have police protection at their studio. Still, the comic sold more than one million copies.

From that austere beginning Captain America has been a part of the US popular culture almost non-stop. He existed in the Fifties for a few years, but was retired when the vast majority of super-hero comics were cancelled. He returned in The Avengers #4 (1964) and has been around ever since.
One of my favorite runs on his book was during the Watergate Scandal, when Cap questioned his allegiance to the US. He actually dropped his Captain America identity for a few issues and was known as Nomad. He eventually realized that America is more than just who happens to be President at any given time and resumed his Cap identity.
Personally, one of the reasons I like Captain America is because of his origin. He was scrawny, weak Steve Rogers but he still wanted to help the war effort. He couldn't enlist (4-F) but he was determined to help out in some way. Scientists use him as a guinea pig for their Super Soldier formula, and the rest is history. The important point, however, is that he *used* to be the bullied. He wasn't one of the privileged, rich, jock types; he was the bullied kid who eventually turns the tables on the bullies.
Another good Captain America was more recent. Immediately after 9-11 he appeared in several Marvel Comics as a type of focal point. One of the best stories from this time had him come across a group of bullies who wanted to beat up on a Muslim teenager. Cap stood up for the kid and basically told the bullies, "Americans don't do that. We don't stoop to the other guys' level." THAT is why Captain America is cool.

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