Captain America

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Captain America is a fictional character, a comic book superhero from the Marvel Comics universe. Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, he first appeared in Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941), from Marvel Comics' 1940s predecessor, Timely Comics.[1] Over the years, an estimated 210 million copies of "Captain America" comic books have been sold in a total of 75 countries.[2]

Within the comics, the title "Captain America" applies to whomever is chosen by the U.S. government (which views itself as "owning" the persona) to wear the costume and bear the shield. For nearly all of the character's publication history, however, Captain America was the alter ego of Steve Rogers, a sickly young man who was enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum in order to aid the United States war effort. Captain America wears a costume that utilizes an American flag motif, and is armed with an indestructible shield that can be thrown as a weapon.[3]

An intentionally patriotic creation who was often depicted fighting the Axis powers of World War II, Captain America was Timely's most popular character during World War II. After the war ended, the character's popularity waned and he disappeared by the 1950s aside from an ill-fated revival in 1953. Captain America was reintroduced during the Silver Age of comics when he was revived from suspended animation by the superhero team the Avengers in The Avengers #4 (March 1964). Since then, Captain America has often led the team, as well as starring in his own series. Steve Rogers was killed in Captain America vol. 5, #25 (March 2007), although the Captain America series continues publication.

Publication history

1974 Comic Art Convention program book featuring Simon's original 1940 sketch of Captain America.

Writer Joe Simon conceived the idea for Captain America, which was refined by his partner, artist Jack Kirby, in 1941. Captain America was a consciously political creation. Simon and Kirby were morally repulsed by the actions of Nazi Germany in the years leading up to the United States' involvement in World War II and felt war was inevitable. Simon later said, "The opponents to the war were all quite well organized. We wanted to have our say too."[4]

Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941) — on sale in December 1940, a year before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and already showing the protagonist punching Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in the jaw — sold nearly one million copies.[5] While most readers responded favorably to the comic, some took objection. Simon noted, "When the first issue came out we got a lot of . . . threatening letters and hate mail. Some people really opposed what Cap stood for."[4] Though preceded as a "patriotically themed superhero" by MLJ's The Shield, Captain America immediately became the most prominent and enduring of that wave of superheroes introduced in American comic books prior to and during World War II. With his sidekick Bucky, Captain America faced Nazis, Japanese and other threats to wartime America and the Allies. Captain America soon became Timely's most popular character and even had a fan-club called the "Sentinels of Liberty."[4] Circulation figures remained close to a million copies per month after the debut issue, which outstripped even the circulation of news magazines like Time during the period.[6]

After the Simon & Kirby team moved to DC late 1941, having produced Captain America Comics through issue #10 (Jan. 1942), Al Avison and Syd Shores became regular pencillers of the celebrated title, with one generally inking over the other. The character was also featured in All Winners Comics #1-19 (Summer 1941 - Fall 1946), Marvel Mystery Comics #80-84,86-92, USA Comics #6-17 (Dec 1942 - Fall 1945) and All Select Comics #1-10 (Fall 1943 - Summer 1946).

In the post-war era, with the popularity of superheroes fading, Captain America led Timely/Marvel's first superhero team, the All-Winners Squad, in its two published adventures, in All Winners Comics #19 & 21 (Fall-Winter 1946; there was no issue #20). After Bucky was shot and wounded in a 1948 Captain America story, he was succeeded by Captain America's girlfriend Betsy Ross, who became the superheroine Golden Girl. Captain America Comics ended with #75 (Feb. 1950), by which time the series had been titled Captain America's Weird Tales for two issues, with the finale a horror/suspense anthology issue with no superheroes.

Marvel's 1950s iteration Atlas Comics attempted to revive its superhero titles when it reintroduced Captain America, along with the original Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, in Young Men #24 (Dec. 1953). Billed as "Captain America, Commie Smasher!", Captain America appeared during the next year in Young Men #24-28 and Men's Adventures #27-28, as well as in issues #76-78 of an eponymous title. Atlas' attempted superhero revival was a commercial failure,[7] and the character's title was canceled with Captain America #78 (Sept. 1954).

Silver Age revival

In the Human Torch story titled "Captain America" in Marvel Comics' Strange Tales #114 (Nov. 1963), writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby depicted the brash young Fantastic Four member Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, in an exhibition performance with Captain America, described as a legendary World War II and 1950s superhero who has returned after many years of apparent retirement. The 13-page story ends with this Captain America revealed as an impostor: the villain the Acrobat, a former circus performer the Torch had defeated in Strange Tales #106. Afterward, Storm digs out an old comic book in which Captain America is shown to be Steve Rogers. A caption in the final panel says this story was a test to see if readers would like Captain America to return.

Captain America was then formally reintroduced in The Avengers #4 (March 1964), which explained that in the final days of WWII, Captain America fell from an experimental drone plane into the North Atlantic Ocean and spent decades frozen in a state of suspended animation. He quickly became leader of that superhero team. Following the success of other Marvel characters introduced during the 1960s, Captain America was recast as a hero "haunted by past memories, and trying to adapt to 1960s society."[8]

After then guest-starring in the feature "Iron Man" in Tales of Suspense #58 (Oct. 1964), Captain America gained his own solo feature in that "split book", beginning the following issue. Kirby, Captain America's co-creator during the 1940s period fans and historians call the Golden Age of comic books, was illustrating his hero's solo adventures again for the first time since 1941. Issue #63 (March 1965), which retold Captain America's origin, through #71 (Nov. 1965) was a period feature set during World War II and co-starred Captain America's Golden Age sidekick, Bucky.

In the 1970s, the post-war versions of Captain America were retconned into separate, successive characters who briefly took up the mantle of Captain America after Steve Rogers went into suspended animation near the end of World War II.[9][10] The hero found a new generation of readers as leader of the all-star superhero team the Avengers, and in a new solo feature beginning in Tales of Suspense #59 (Nov. 1964), a "split book" shared with the feature "Iron Man". Kirby drew all but two of the stories in Tales of Suspense, which became Captain America with #100 (April 1968); Gil Kane and John Romita Sr. each filled-in once. Several stories were finished by penciller-inker George Tuska over Kirby layouts, with one finished by Romita Sr. and another by penciller Dick Ayers and inker John Tartaglione. Kirby's regular inkers on the series were Frank Giacoia (as "Frank Ray") and Joe Sinnott, though Don Heck and Golden Age Captain America artist Syd Shores inked one story each. The new title Captain America continued to feature artwork by Kirby, as well as a short run by Jim Steranko, and work by many of the industry's top artists and writers. It was called Captain America and the Falcon from #134-222.

This series — considered Captain America vol. 1 by comics researchers and historians, following the 1940s Captain America Comics and its 1950s numbering continuation — ended with #454 (Aug. 1996). It was almost immediately followed by the 13-issue Captain America vol. 2 (Nov. 1996 - Nov. 1997), the 50-issue Captain America vol. 3 (Jan. 1998 - Feb. 2002),[11] the 32-issue Captain America vol. 4 (June 2002 - Dec. 2004)[12] and Captain America vol. 5 (Jan. 2005 -  ).[13]

There were attempts for a second series such as Captain America Sentinel of Liberty (Sept. 1998-Aug. 1999) and Captain America & the Falcon (May 2004-June 2005).

The character's death came as a blow to co-creator Joe Simon, who said, "It's a hell of a time for him to go. We really need him now."[14]

In August 2007, Marvel announced that the Captain America of the 1940s will travel to the present day in a 12-issue series drawn by Alex Ross.[15] Marvel also announced that a new Captain America, with a costume designed by Ross, would debut in Captain America #34.

The 2007 miniseries Captain America: The Chosen, written by David Morrell and penciled by Mitchell Breitweiser, depicts a dying Steve Rogers' final minutes, at SHIELD headquarters, as his spirit guides James Newman, a young American soldier fighting in Afghanistan. The Chosen is not part of the main Marvel Universe continuity.

Captain America Tribute

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References

  1. The 1995 Marvel Milestone Edition: Captain America archival reprint has no cover date or number, and its postal indicia says "Originally published ... as Captain America #000". Timely's first comic Marvel Mystery Comics #1, likewise had no number on its cover, and was released with two different cover dates.
  2. Death to ‘America’: Comic-book hero killed off MSNBC.com, March 7, 2007
  3. "Bullpen Bulletins: "Stan's Soapbox", Dec. 1999]
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Wright, Bradford W. Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America. Johns Hopkins, 2001. ISBN 0-8018-7450-5, p. 36
  5. Per researcher Keif Fromm, Alter Ego #49, p. 4 (caption)
  6. Daniels, p. 37
  7. Wright, p. 123
  8. Wright, p. 215
  9. Captain America #153-156 (Sept.-Dec. 1972)
  10. What If? #4 (Aug. 1977)
  11. Unofficial Handbook: "Captain America (III) (1998-2002) PG"; Grand Comics Database: Captain America (1998 Series)
  12. Unofficial Handbook: "Captain America (IV) (2002-2004) PSR"; Grand Comics Database: Captain America (2002 Series)
  13. Unofficial Handbook: "Captain America (V) (2005-2007) T+"; Grand Comics Database: Captain America (2005 Series)
  14. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named nydt
  15. Marvel press release (Aug. 11, 2007): "Wizard World Chicago 2007: Alex Ross Returns to Marvel" and ComicBookResources.com (Aug. 14, 2007): and "Ross' Return = Avengers/Invaders", by Jonah Weiland

Bibliography

External links