So yeah, another reading project. My Luke Cage project is nearing it's end, so I figured I'd start another.

As of right now, I'm not sure how far I'm going to go with this particular project. I'll definitely be covering Tales of Suspense #59-99. I may also cover guest appearances in other books that aren't named Avengers.

With that said, let's get this show on the road.

Tales of Suspense #59 - "Captain America!"
Cover Date: November 1964
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Captain America is stationed at Avengers Mansion awaiting any crisis situations. Jarvis leaves him a pot of coffee. As he  has little to do, he looks through one of his old scrapbooks.

Meanwhile, some mobsters are planning on taking on the Avengers. Their leader has two of them stretch a chain. To prove a  point, the leader--a guy named Bull--shatters the chain using karate! He explains that a chain can be broken if you find the  weakest link, and that link is Captain America, since he doesn't have any super powers.

At this point, a couple of the mobsters haul in Jarvis to ask him who's minding the store. Jarvis tells them it's no secret  that Captain America is there and that they could have found the information by using the telephone. Bull tells his men to  get their hardware as they're going to attack Captain America. They release Jarvis.

Back at the Mansion, Cap is looking through his scrapbook when he sees a photo of his former partner, Bucky. He feels pangs  of guilt. Suddenly he's attacked by the mobsters. They fight. The mobsters are well prepared, even having a man in an  armored suit. They get off a lucky shot (just a graze) while Cap is waiting for his magnetically attracted shield to return.   While he's knocked unconscious, they tie him up while they look for the Avengers safe.

They locate the safe and produce a torch to cut through the door. Cap regains consciousness at this point, and using the  heels of his boots--which are razor sharp--he cuts through his ropes. His feet are still tied, but Cap begins to fight  through the mobsters anyway until a stray flame from the torch cuts the rope around his legs free. The armored thugs grabs  Cap and boasts that he won't be able to break his grip. Cap breaks his grip and knocks him out.

At this point, the rest of the gang attacks. Cap recovers his shield, and despite all of them attacking at once holds his  own. The armored thug gets back in the fight, but can't touch Cap. Cap induces him to charge into a fireplace, knocking him  out again. Another thug plans to launch a sleep gas capsule. Cap blocks the gun barrel with his shield and forces the gas to   backfire.

Bull sends in his karate! team. However they're outmatched by Captain America. At this point, Bull charges and head-butts  Cap in the mid-section. He gets in another blow before Cap fights back, dropping Bull like a side of beef. He thanks the  thugs for livening up his evening and calls the police to pick them up.

My rating: 7/10

This is a good, if simplistic, reintroduction of the classic character in his first new solo story. Captain America has no  powers, but he's more than a match for as many criminals one can bring to an ambush. It's fun seeing Kirby allowed to draw  Cap as dynamically as possible, and the pacing is crisp and sharp.

There are some inconsistencies that are endemic to superhero stories however: why release Jarvis? If the thugs were willing  to attack Cap with guns before, why tie him up instead of shooting him? Also, why doesn't Bull ever get a last name?

All things being said, though, this is a solid effort.

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He wants to discredit Cap by using the Cube to hurt his fans but decides he doesn't to reveal he has the Cube so he runs away? How about attacking them with his shield, or is he too afraid the fans will hurt him if he tries to fight his way out?

Captain America #119 - "Now Falls the Skull!"
Cover Date: November 1969
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Gene Colan

The Red Skull decides that no one other than himself should be the one to defeat Captain America, and he decides to use the power of the Cosmic Cube to eliminate both the star-spangled Avenger and the Falcon. He reverses the body swao, then relocates himself, Captain America and the Falcon to his old castle in Berchtesgaden.

As Cap and the Falcon are transported to the castle, Cap tells Sam to get away as soon as the transferal is complete (a really nice sequence by Colan), as he's just an innocent bystander in all of this, but the Falcon tells him that he'll see things through. As they arrive in the Skull's castle, Cap tries to tell the Skull to leave the Falcon out of things, but the Skull tells him that both the Falcon and Redwing shall share his fate. The Skull then creates a cage around Redwing, infuriating the Falcon. He charges the Skull only to be rebuffed by the power of the Cube. The Skull then (finally) completes the body transfer, reverting Cap to his true form including his shield.

As Cap didn't tell the Falcon who he was beforehand, this is a huge surprise to the neophyte superhero. However, there's no time for figuring that stuff out now, as it's time to take down the Red Skull. Captain America attacks, only to be blocked by a huge rock the Skull creates with the Cube. In fact, the rock surrounds hi body, protecting it from the savage attack. The Skull then discards the rock, and the Falcon attacks again. This time, the Skull creates a wall of water to keep Sam from striking him. As the wave engulfs the heroes, Sam disappears momentarily, only to reappear, telling Cap that there was something he had to do.

Meanwhile, MODOK orders AIM to not allow the Cube to destroy them. We then get a quick recap illustrating how MODOK survived his last encounter with Captain America. He then orders his men to begin phase 3, which will destroy the Cosmic Cube.

Back at the castle, the Skull has changed the wave into a sandstorm which tosses the two around. Once they land, Cap instructs the Falcon to distract the Red Skull, which he does by charging the Nazi. Cap then uses his shield to break the Skull's hold on the Cosmic Cube. He and the Red Skull fight to gain control of the Cube, but Cap is too weak to put up much of a fight. As the Skull gets away from him, the Falcon steps in--he's still weak as well, but he can delay the Skull from getting his hands on the Cube.

The Skull gets away from him, but as he seizes the Cube again, it begins to change shape, seemingly melting. At this point, we find out just what Sam was up to when he disappeared during the wave attack--he was freeing Redwing, who now attacks the Skull. The Skull declares that the Cube still has enough power to allow him to escape, which he does. At AIM, we see MODOK exuberant over the destruction of the Cosmic Cube. Captain America and the Falcon slap one another on the back over a job well done.

My rating: 6/10

I've already said more than enough about the Red Skull being an idiot, so I'm not going to reiterate that point...ah, who am I kidding? The Red Skull has a great plan, but screws it up completely due to his complete and utter idiocy. Sure, he couldn't have anticipated that AIM would have a way to destroy the Cube, but at the same time one would think that he'd have the intelligence to recognize that he needed to just destroy Captain America as quickly as possible. Oh well, just another explanation of why I think the Red Skull is a lousy villain (and yes, one of these days I will write that thread outlining specifically why).

There are some good things here, however. The teamwork between Cap and the Falcon (and Redwing) really shines here, and I do think that Colan's artwork is the star of this particular issue. Certainly the resolution was inevitable, I just wish they could have found a better way to pull it off. Perhaps if the Cube had been destroyed right after Cap got his body back and we'd seen the Skull desperately grabbing at anything to try to kill him it might have worked better.

This we come to the close of this reading project (or at least, my part of it. If someone else wants to pick it up from here, feel free). Here are some final thoughts on the matter from me:

* The Silver Age Captain America stories are pretty uneven in quality, as the formula that worked well for other Marvel properties didn't work so well here. These stories were at their best when they focused on action, action, and more action with a side of action on the side. However, attempts at injecting melodrama into the series just didn't fit, at least not in terms of the titular character.

* It's surprising to me how uneven these stores are, as the vast majority of them are Lee/Kirby. Most of the other titles from this period that weren't so stellar (Daredevil, the X-Men, early Thor) were weaker in large part due to rotating creative teams and frequently lesser talent. Here, Lee is working with his number one guy, and when it wasn't Kirby it was the likes of Gil Kane, Jim Steranko and Gene Colan. One would think the quality would be higher.

* It doesn't help that Cap has few memorable villains. In my opinion, the Red Skull was used much too frequently, whereas the likes of MODOK and Batroc could have been used more.

* In my opinion, this title really comes into it's own as it moves into the Bronze Age, particularly when Steve Englehart starts as writer. There just seemed to be a better focus and more consistent characterization during his run ("Snap" Wilson never happened. Never. It was just a dream).

Surprised the Cube could be destroyed like that. I'm sure now it's far too "cosmic" for mortals like AIM to affect it by just typing on their computer screens.

So where did the one old geezer Mar-Vell karate chopped come from if this one is gone? 

If we assume anything it made would blink out when it was destroyed then it could have melted away before Cap got his body back. So what happened to the cosmic being the Cubes are supposed to contain when this one was destroyed? Did it just die or jump into the next Cosmic Cube?

Green isn't exactly the best color for a costume for a good guy.

The less said about the Falcon's first costume, the better IMO. It definitely got better over time.

Ronald Morgan said:


Green isn't exactly the best color for a costume for a good guy.

Green and orange. Is it meant to be earth colors, show he's close to nature? He has an animal (or bird rather) companion he can communicate with.

I think the over-reliance on "action, action, action" was part of the problem, from my perspective.  There was so much action that Steve Rogers essentially became a cipher in his own series.  Lee did a better job giving him a distinct personality in the Avengers than ToS or this series.  There were certainly ways that Lee & Kirby could have used a variation of the formula that proved so successful in Amazing Spider-Man or with Ben Grimm in the FF, to give some genuine sense of humanity to Cap, but it wasn't by having him wallow in guilt over Bucky, at least not by relying solely on that.  Englehart touched on the solution in his very first issue by having Cap note during his struggle with a jealous Nick Fury that he had lost those 20 years spent on ice, something Lee hardly ever touched on.  Lee & Kirby, etc., focused more on the super soldier than on the actual human,and to my reading it was Englehart who brought more focus on the man under that winged mask, and without having him moan about Bucky every few issues.

Was Steve Rogers much more than a cypher before he turned up in the 60s? Were he and Betty Ross close in the 40s?

Not only did he lose those 20 (what is it now, 70?) years, but since then what had he done besides kill Baron Zemo? Was his relationship with Sharon going anywhere? Did he have any friends besides the Avengers? He couldn't even keep Rick, the only buddy of his I can think of before Sam, from running out on him. (A real friend would have thought Cap was acting weird and try to find out why instead of running off to play Billy Batson.) Action, action, action worked with Thor, but then he had a girl and four buddies to talk to. Maybe his Tales of Suspense stories would have worked better if the Kookie Quartet had turned up more often without taking over the show.

Thor had a lot of action but it also included interaction with Odin and the soap operatic drama of their conflict over Thor's relationship with Jane and after that was resolved Sif and other Asgardians took a larger part in the regular series which became a quasi-group mag -- still the main focus on Thor but Sif, the Warriors Three & Balder all becoming regulars.

I'll take the ridicule -- I actually liked the original Falcon look.

I also liked the original Wonder Man look, the original Goliath (blue and yellow) and Goliath II (Clint in the blue) looks,  along with the original Captain Britain....I could (and do) go on...
 
Randy Jackson said:

The less said about the Falcon's first costume, the better IMO. It definitely got better over time.

Ronald Morgan said:


Green isn't exactly the best color for a costume for a good guy.

Back in the Golden Age, most of the super-heroes' alter-egos were near-ciphers: Mild mannered reporter, bored wealthy playboy, earnest young scientist, etc. By those standards, Steve Rogers was possibly above average for the time, with a clear cut "career" as a slightly downtrodden Army private, seeming forever relegated to KP duty, and had a fairly complete supporting cast, with a kid sidekick (Bucky), a semi-platonic female companion (Betty Ross, who was herself a more fully realized character than her Silver Age namesake ever was), and a cranky "boss", Sgt. Duffy, who in many ways was Jonah Jameson to Steve's Peter Parker. Silver Age Steve Rogers never settled into any kind of civilian career for more than a couple issues in a row, and his supporting cast was mostly the Avengers, Rick Jones, and a girl whose name he didn't know for ages. Plus, while Steve more than reached the low bar that served for Golden Age character development, by the Silver Age, standards had changed, at least at Marvel (Steve would probably been more at home at Silver Age DC), and to my mind, no one has ever really figured out just how to give Steve Rogers the kind of "soap operatic" elements that the rest of Marvel used so successfully--poor Steve's biggest flaw was that he was too well adjusted, even with several decades missing from his life.


Ronald Morgan said:

Was Steve Rogers much more than a cypher before he turned up in the 60s? Were he and Betty Ross close in the 40s?

Not only did he lose those 20 (what is it now, 70?) years, but since then what had he done besides kill Baron Zemo? Was his relationship with Sharon going anywhere? Did he have any friends besides the Avengers? He couldn't even keep Rick, the only buddy of his I can think of before Sam, from running out on him. (A real friend would have thought Cap was acting weird and try to find out why instead of running off to play Billy Batson.) Action, action, action worked with Thor, but then he had a girl and four buddies to talk to. Maybe his Tales of Suspense stories would have worked better if the Kookie Quartet had turned up more often without taking over the show.

I'll go along with the original Wonder Man. Hated that safari jacket. He looked like he was playing superhero instead of actually being one. Also very fond of Iron Man's clunky old gold armor.
 
Richard Mantle said:

I'll take the ridicule -- I actually liked the original Falcon look.

I also liked the original Wonder Man look, the original Goliath (blue and yellow) and Goliath II (Clint in the blue) looks,  along with the original Captain Britain....I could (and do) go on...
 
Randy Jackson said:

The less said about the Falcon's first costume, the better IMO. It definitely got better over time.

Ronald Morgan said:


Green isn't exactly the best color for a costume for a good guy.

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