I have often identified the Incredible Hulk as "my first favorite character" but I don't think I've ever mentioned that Captain America is "my second favorite character" (in sequence, not in rank). I think I probably started collecting Captain America for good and all when Hulk #231 crossed over into Captain America #230. A friend of mine had a beat up copy of Captain America #227, and this was right around the time someone sold his comic book collection to the Armchair Adventurer bookstore and I was able to fill in most issues from #114 through Kirby's mid-70s return in one swell foop. I didn't take too much effort at that point to fill in the issues I had missed from #215-229. In any case, all these things happened right around the same time to the best of my recollection, and I continued to buy every issue of Captain America for many years to come.
I was lucky enough to have bought the Stern/Byrne run in "real time" and I was on hand for the DeMatteis/Zeck/Beatty run shortly after that. Unfortunately, those two runs were not a one-two punch; more like a one-two punch with a feint between. I prefer re-reading comics in collected editions on good paper stock rather than pulling my originals out of their boxes if at all possible. The good news is: Marvel has a great line of "Epic Collections." The bad news is: I didn't find the Captain America Epic Collection Volume 9 (reprinting #247-266 and an annual) to be a particularly good buy for me.
First of all, the DeMatteis/Zeck/Beatty team took a while to coalesce and gel. Second, the Stern/Byrne run has been collected an reprinted so often I really don't have any need to own it again. Third, between the two runs was a series of fill-ins. The DeMatteis/Zeck/Beatty run didn't really kick into high gear until #267. the best news is that the Captain America Epic Collection Volume 10 collects #267-285 (plus an annual and a crossover), the very height of the run. I've got a ton of trade credit built up at my LCS, but I was waiting until the release of v10 to get both.
The only (slightly) disappointing aspect concerning v10 is that the cover of #280 (which depicts Cap beaten and in chains) was chosen as the cover of the collection. Better choices would have been #275 (Cap in full-on action mode leaping directly at the reader) or #284 (Cap on a rooftop with the American Flag below him, flapping in the breeze).
Although it hasn't been just too long since I last read the Stern/Byrne run, approximately five years A.T. (i.e., after moving to Texas) as I like to say, when I return I plan to begin this discussion with issue #247.
Marvel & DC should both just come up with some sort of universal explanation that every popular (and even not-so-popular) character in their respective universes has been infected with a unique virus that keeps them forever young, at least as long as they are in at least somewhat continual publication, even as other, non-essential people get older and don't even notice that the more essential characters stay about the same age decade after decade. As things stand, last time I checked, in the DC mythos of the last few decades, Superman and Batman are no longer the Alpha and Beta of DC superheroes but are newbies to those WWII era superheroes who weren't popular enough to remain in continued publication into the Silver Age, such as the original versions of the Flash, Green Lantern, Starman, etc. The ancient Greeks resolved similar issues with their heroes by just waving a hand and either making them immortals or claiming "this is yet another another tale from their wild youth". The Scandinavians had all their old gods killed off but I'm sure kept coming up with new tales from "before" that bit with Ragnorak. Even with the Marvel & DC characters it doesn't matter all that much except for those characters whose origin stories are too closely tied to specific historical events that can't be very well waived away with a revised origin to set it closer to current times. With Cap and now even Bucky they can have it both ways, maintaining their WWII origins but continually extending the time they were in suspended animation.
Except now, writers have to be much more cautious using that oft-used bit in the Silver & Bronze ages of some passerby seeing Cap and waxing nostalgic about how Cap saved him and his brigade back in some battle of the Big One -- and I don't care how many decades have passed since WWII, no other conflict since then comes close to qualifying for reference to as "the Big One". WWII veterans are still around but even the youngest who actually saw combat in that war would now be in their 90s and more likely to be in a retirement community than hanging out on a crowded city sidewalk. My 95 year old stepfather joined the Navy at age 17 in 1943, and his ship was involved in the D-Day Invasion. He was diagnosed with dementia earlier this year and some venal con artists took advantage of that, depleting his savings and tricking him into signing his home to them (my mother, born in 1943, died in 2014; they had been married nearly 30 years). He's now living in a facility to better take care of him and his daughter is engaged in a civil lawsuit against the con artists.
I'm sorry to hear about your stepfather, Fred. That's terrible. I hope the swindlers get what's coming to them.
"I'll be back upon the publication of the Marvel Masterworks reprinting #215-230."
Marvel Masterworks Captain America Vol. 12 is all over the place creatively, but I love it! the 17 comics collected feature contributions by nine writers and seven artists (including back-up features and crossovers). Rather than attempting to summarize them here, I'll deal with them as I get to them. the volume features not one but two introductions, one by Don Glut and the other by Roger Stern. First off, let me start by contradicting the story I told in the very first post to this thread. I didn't start collecting Captain America "for good and all" with #230; I started with #217. As I read through these stories for the first time in many years, old memories are uncovered.
As I mentioned above, at some point in 1977 someone sold his entire comic book collection to the Armchair Adventurer bookstore. I would have bought the whole thing if I could have, but my funds were limited. I had already completed (or soon would complete) my collection of Incredible Hulk. I figured I could buy nigh complete runs of two titles, but which ones? By this time in my life I had already negotiated the purchase of 50 or 60 issues of Avengers between #9 and #100 with paper route money, so buying most of the issue from #101 through present was never in question.
I don't know why I picked Captain America over Iron Man, Thor, Spidey or the FF but I did. that day I acquired most issues from #114 through #214 (the last of Kirby's mid-'70s return run) in one "swell foop" as I said above. It is at that time I decided I might as well start collecting Captain America with the current issue and fill in the few remaining gaps on the backissue market. The issue I started with was #217. But that's not the issue that leads off this collection.
It wasn't just too much longer after my big purchase, IIRC, that I was able to track down issue #215, but it has been a long time since I last read it. Honestly, I didn't think too much of it at the time. It presents a good overview of Cap's career, but I didn't like the art (by George Tuska) and I thought the recap was just marking time until the real story would begin. (My opinion was bolstered when this issue was followed up with a reprint.) I appreciate #215 more today than I did 43 years ago, though. I was really interested in "the captain America of the 1950s" at this point, though (a storyline I had acquired in my recent bulk purchase and was soon to be revisited), and this issue provided a good overview. In the years since I have re-read the Invaders series and What If...? #4 much more often than Captain America #215, but I'll tell you what: a lot of my seminal memories of that story come from this issue.
Kirby reintroduced the Red Skull in his run, but I never thought there was good continuity between #212 and his next appearance in #226. It wasn't until years... no, decades... later that I discovered Captain Britain #16-27 published by Marvel UK, published just post Kirby's run and available in the United States only fairly recently, in which Captain America pursues the Red skull to England and brings their conflict to a much more satisfying conclusion. There is a natural gap between the end of Kirby's run and "The Search for Steve Rogers" where I have inserted the Captain Britain run after I discovered it, but I re-read #215 just last night and it hammered home the point (like a half dozen times) that it occurs just hours after #214. No matter; Captain Britain 316-27 fits quite nicely between Captain America #215 and #217.
Captain America #216 is a reprint of Strange Tales #114 with a new cover and splash page.
My first issue of Captain America was #119, but as I mentioned above, I didn't start collecting the title until #217. Surprisingly (to me), this issue is penciled by John Buscema. If you'd've asked me last week, I don't think I would have been able to tell you. He's paired with Pablo Marcos and I don't think it's a good match. I can see Buscema under Marcos' inks, but I think Marcos overpowers the pencils (which I wouldn't previously have thought possible). Roy Thomas plotted the issue and Don Glut scripted it. Thomas introduced the "Super Agents of SHIELD" (Marvel Boy, Texas Twister, Blue Streak and Vamp) but left it up to Glut to develop and name them (except Texas Twister, who had previously appeared in Fantastic Four; Marvel Boy, too, although it was a different character).
Nick Fury asks Captain America to train them, but Cap recommends the Falcon for the job instead. for those of you reading this who are unfamiliar with the run, Cap spent some time in the hospital at the end of Kirby's run, temporarily blinded. #215 revealed that, while convalescing and thinking back over his life, he realized he had no memories of his childhood or life before becoming Captain America in 1941. He feels the need to investigate his roots by himself, so the Falcon's opportunity comes at a good time. He also separates from his long-time girlfriend Sharon Carter in this issue.
Unaware that Bill Mantlo had previously introduced a crime cartel known as "The Corporation" in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, Jack Kirby introduced a group using the same name in his last few issues of Captain America (and Machine Man). Roger Stern and Roger McKenzie decided to make these East and West Coast branches of the same organization, but I'm getting a little ahead of myself. This issue features "Kligger" (of the East coast branch) and his femme fatale Veda. (One of the "super-agents" is also revealed to be a Corporation plant, but we don't yet know which one it is.) At the end of this issue, Veda uses her feminine wiles to seduce Steve Rogers with the secret of his past, and Sharon Carter witnesses her kiss him.
#218 - "One Day in Newfoundland!":
The first time I read Avengers #4 was reprinted in Avengers Annual #3, but because I acquired it as a backissue, there's no way of knowing whether I read it before or after Captain America #218. It would have been right around the same time, though. I suspect I read #218 first, because I've been aware of Cap's description of events for as long as I can remember: "I struck the water off the coast of Newfoundland and plummeted like a rock--!" Even though my childhood next door neighbors were from New Foundland, I'm not certain I recognized the obvious discrepancy between the drone plane exploding over the English Channel and Cap striking the water "off the coast of Newfoundland" until it was pointed out in #218. Roy Thomas sure noticed, though, and tasked Don Glut with sorting it out.
Back in issue #157, Steve Englehart ill-advisedly gave captain America super-strength, but it was inconsistently handled in the years since; Kirby certainly ignored it. Don glut took it upon himself to establish, once and for all, that it "eventually wore off." Veda reveals to Captain America that her mother (by now it would have to be "grandmother" at least) was "Agent R," who was present during "Operation: Rebirth" way, way, WAY back in Captain America Comics #1. (She tells him that her mother worked in counter-espionage for ten years after the war, when she died, which would put Veda in her mid to late twenties.)
Travelling to Newfoundland incognito as an America tourist, Cap soon discovers some sort of operation led by Lyle Dekker, who Cap knew as a spy during the war. In a full-page panel at the issue's end, Dekker reveals to Cap his 3.5 meter tall "Ameridroid" replica of Captain America.
As I'm sure many of you reading this are aware, Republic Pictures released a 15-chapter Captain America movie serial in 1944... their last serial as a matter of fact. I'm sure some of you have actually seen it. (I finally got the opportunity myself when I bought it on DVD in the early 2Ks.) Captain America #219 is the story behind it (after a fashion). It accounts for "discrepancies" such as: no gauntlets or pirate boots; no wings on the cowl; no red in the costume; a different secret identity; no Bucky; and so on. Althgou there was no way I could have know this the first time I read it, the name "Lyle Dekker" is actually derived from Howard Lydecker, Republic's special effects wizard.
Cap and Bucky are sent to the "Democracy Studios" lot in Hollywood to investigate reports of Axis sabotage. During their investigation, the actor playing Captain America is wounded, forcing the real Captain America to take his place for the remainder of the filming. The only thing I don't like about this mostly flashback issue is that Glut was perhaps being a bit too true-to-life by setting the action in 1944, with Steve rogers and Bucky Barnes still stationed at Camp Lehigh. So as not to contradict established Invaders (and other) continuity, the story should have been set in pre-Pearl Harbor 1941. Other than that, I have always enjoyed this issue.
The actual Republic serial makes a good complement.
I keep forgetting to mention it, so this time I'll say it right off. After his one-issue stint in #217, John Buscema was replaced by his brother Sal, returning to Captain America as the new regular penciller. In #219 Sal was inked by Joe sinnott, which is who I wish had inked John in #217. But I digress...
#220 is a short one, 13 pages, because the others were lost in the mail. the rest of the issue was filled with a not-very-good Falcon inventory story. Whereas much of #219 was a flashback to 1941 (or "1944" as the story would have it), much of #220 is a flashback to 1945. At the end of last issue's flashback, Lyle Dekker was presumed drowned. #220 reveals that he was "rescued" (if you can call it that) by the Red Skull's submarine. After being interrogated by the Skull, Dekker is ejected through the torpedo tubes into the waters of Newfoundland and is rescued by Canadian fishermen. There, a man without a country, he builds his own private army.
Flash forward to Captain America and Bucky's last mission of WWII. Baron Zemo's drone plane explodes, hurling Cap and Bucky into the English Channel, where Lyle Dekker is waiting in his submarine. He rushes Cap back to his secret base in Newfoundland where he is developing a nerve gas to be used against the Americans and/or the Nazis. To make a long story short, Cap revives and takes off in a plane loaded with Dekker's nerve gas. It is at this point, supposedly, that Cap is shot down and plunges into the water "off the coast of Newfoundland" as per Avengers #4.
There are a couple of problems with this scenario.
First, at the end of #219, Dekker was lost in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. It is no more likely that the Red skull ejected him from the sub in the waters of Newfoundland than it is that Captain America floated there from the English Channel. That's a relatively minor discrepancy that could have been fixed in the dialogue and narration stage. A far bigger problem is that the entire adventure takes place after the incident with Zemo's drone plane, and Captain America doesn't spare a thought to Bucky. We aren't even provided with a "comic book" explanation that "he was confused from the explosion" or something. This is especially odd considering his very first words upon being thawed after being frozen for nearly 20 years are, "Bucky!--BUCKY! LOOK OUT!"
Actually, this could be fixed. I would love to be given the opportunity to retell this story, but at this point, who (except me) really cares? The #210 flashback would have to take place in 1941, and the #220 flashback would have to take place prior to that last mission. After Dekker was expelled from the Red Skull's submarine in the Pacific, he was rescued by California fishermen made his own way to Newfoundland. As published, Cap is remembering these events wildly out of order because, as we shall see, there's a whole lot of stuff rattlin' around in his head at this point.
LOTS of changes going on behind the scenes this issue: Steve Gerber replaces Don Glut as writer; Roger Stern replaces Roy Thomas as editor; Jim Shooter replaces Archie Goodwin as editor-in-chief.
#221 is another short one (12 pages). The rest is filled up by another not-so-good inventory story, this one featuring Rick Jones. Although uncredited, the first five story pages are obviously the ones from #220 that went missing (they "end" with a "cliffhanger"), but scripted by Gerber. I should have mentioned last issue that, in the present, Lyle Dekker has his own mind and Captain America's strength transferred to the 12 foot tall Ameridroid. this issue picks up immediately where the last left off, and Gerber brings the story to a very abrupt close.
During the course of the "Newfoundland" story, the "Search for Steve Rogers" story was put aside. Now that Gerber is the new regular writer, he spends the last page refocusing on that goal.
That's a good place to end for the day.
I'm going to jump ahead now, just a bit, to #224. I'm doing so for two reasons: first, it's a fill-in issue, and when I get to the Gerber stuff I'm not going to want to be interrupted, and second, it has unearthed a few more old memories. The memories first. (To those of you not interested in "Life on Earth-J" feel free to skip the next three paragraphs.)
My "Armchair Adventurer" haul wasn't in 1977; it was in 1981. (Maybe. Not unlike Captain America, I have two conflicting sets of memories.) When I said my haul consisted of issues #114-214, all I was really sure of is that there were no Kirby or Steranko issues between #100-113. I think it more likely that the run began in the #120s. I said yesterday that I didn't remember why I decided to buy Captain America over the runs of other titles available for sale. I think it was because my initial post to this thread back in October was correct: I started collecting Captain America when Hulk crossed over into #230. I was already collecting it when I bought the backissues.
My first issue of Captain America ever was, as I have said, #119; there is no question about that whatsoever. In that issue, Steve Rogers had black hair. For years I wondered why his hair was black in that issue when, in every subsequent comics I read, from before or after, it was blond. Then, in issue #224, Cap awakens with a slight case of amnesia (the past 24 hours are a blank) and looks in the mirror to see an unfamiliar face with black hair! I thought i was finally going to learn the secret that had eluded me for the past 20 years.
That turned out not to be the case, however. this fill-in issue was a call-back to Kirby's "Madbomb" saga. I remember specifically that I had not read Kirby's mid-70s run at the time, nor had I read #114-118 (which explained the black hair). I think it was my decision to start collecting Captain America with #230 which prompted me to collect backissues #217-229, not the purchase of backissues #220 (or so) through #214. (It was sometime later I acquired #215-216.)
Regarding the story itself, it's written by Peter Gillis, who has never been one of my favorite writers. He wrote quite a few issues of What If...? as I recall, then he took over two of my favorite titles (Defenders and Micronauts) and turned them into two of my least favorites. I really like the cover, though, by Mike Zeck. The interiors are also by Zeck, and of course he went on to become one of Cap's best artists ever.
#222 begins with "the strangest car chase in comics history" as an empty VW Bug crashes through the wall of Steve Rogers' third floor apartment and begins chasing him around. He eventually leaps through a window and the car crashes through the wall and crashes to the ground below. Using the phone of the old woman who lives beneath him, he calls the Avengers and SHIELD. Jarvis tells him that Veda has left the mansion (Cap had been letting her stay there), and from Nick Fury he learns that the Falcon is missing. After he leaves, the "old woman" removes a mask and reveals herself to be Veda! She calls Kligger and tells him the Corporation's plan to kill Captain America has failed.
Cap takes the train to Washington, D.C. and visits the Pentagon to continue the search for his lost memories. Using his Avengers priority clearance, he accesses Steve Rogers' Army records. What he learns from them is a complete EYKIW from what he thought he knew. His parents' names were Walter and Elizabeth, his father was a diplomat and his own middle name if Grant. they lived in a colonial mansion in Sayville, MD. His nest step is to visit the estate, but seeing it doesn't trigger any memories. from there he visits the offices of the local newspaper where he learns that he had an older brother, Mike, who dies at Pearl Harbor and that his parents died in a plane crash in 1955. He himself was declared missing in action.
He takes the train back to Washington and visits the Lincoln Memorial. Suddenly, the statue comes to life and attacks him! Because of its psychological effect on him, he at first has a difficult time fighting back. After he defeats the stature, a misshapen pink giant with a bulbous head appears and attacks him!
Animus is "a strange being who appears to embody the worst of both ends of the evolutionary scale, the savagery of early man coupled with the massive mental capacity of man's future potential." After fighting Animus to a draw, the creature simply disappears. Cap returns to his hotel only to find Veda waiting for him in his room. He sends her away, then discovers two tracers in his shield and assumes SHIELD planted both of them.
The next morning, he and Veda have breakfast together. After he leaves, she takes a call from Kligger. We learn that the corporation planted the other tracer and are behind Animus, but have nothing to do with his memory problems.
As Cap is on his way back to New York, Animus attacks the train and derails it. They fight again and Cap observes that the creature cannot use its mental and physical powers at the same time. Using this knowledge to his advantage, Cap defeats it. Animus disappears again, just as it did at the Lincoln Memorial, but this time its voice was that of a woman at the very end of Cap's attack.