Review: 'Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Captain America Volume 6'

Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Captain America Volume 6

Marvel Comics

$74.99, color, 267 pgs.

Writers: Stan Lee, et al

Artists: Syd Shores, Don Rico, et al

Collecting Captain America Comics #21-24 (Dec 42-Mar 43)


As the introduction makes clear, the Captain America Comics found in this volume are the only wartime issues with Stan Lee as writer and Syd Shores as artist – which makes them the most familiar to modern audiences.

The timeline is this: After Cap’s creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had a falling-out with Timely publisher Martin Goodman, Stan Lee became editorial director and Al Avison was promoted to art director – which apparently, among other things, translated to writer and artist, respectively, on Timely’s top-selling title: Captain America Comics. But Avison was drafted – his final issue was #20 – and Shores, who had been the primary inker, stepped up as art director and primary Captain America artist. Then Lee was drafted, with his final in-house issue – he continued to contribute scripts while in the military – was #24.


Lee and Shores would work together on Captain America again, notably a memorable run with Kirby pencils in the late 1960s. Which is why some of the stories in this book will look a little familiar.


But only a little. Both Lee and Shores were much younger, and therefore less sure-footed. Also, the stories were much less sophisticated. So there are only hints of the greatness to come: Some distinctive Shores feathering here, some snappy Lee dialogue there. You may have to hunt a little, but it’s there.


Other than that, there’s not much to say about these stories, as they are typical fare for the times. Simon once famously said that he considered Captain America a horror book, and these stories are in that mold: Cap and Bucky face “Weird Tales” sorts of villains, like a human eel, a vampire and, in one story, Satan himself. Back-up features include Human Torch tales, which are competent; "Dippy Diplomat," which is dopey; and "Secret Stamp," which is tedious.

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I think the Sando and Omar story in Captain America Comics #1 (retold in Tales of Suspense #64) was likely imitated from the pulp story "The Brain Murders" by John Kobler (from Dime Mystery Magazine Dec. 1938). It can be found in the collection The Defective Detective in the Pulps ed. Gary Hoppenstand and Ray B. Browne, which can be previewed at Google Books. Unfortunately, the preview doesn't include the illustration, which is what makes me think this.

I pretty much agree with your assessment of the war years, Cap, but these are comics I never ever thought I’d own and I am enjoying them on that basis. The ones I am really looking forward to are post-war issue #59-74!

...One late-end MARVEL MYSTERY i have always been curious about is #81 - with a post-WWII housing riot featured on the cover !!!!!!!!!!!

  That last Cap-featuring CAPTAIN AMERICA'S WEIRD TALES ish , as well.........

(Which GCD appears to not have up ??????? I couldn't find it in a fast scan...)

Emerkeith Davyjack said:

(Which GCD appears to not have up ??????? I couldn't find it in a fast scan...)


The Captain America's Weird Tales issues are listed separately. Presumably there was a change in the indicia title, as this is what the GCD seems to usually follow.

...I think that Marvel's recognition of a lot of Timely-era , perhaps even Atlas-era?? stories as having " really " rtaken place on the " real " Earth-616 has been , at least until recently , somewhat spotty , anyway .

  Let's remember that the elaborate explanation for the existence of these post-WWII Cap stories we're discussing now was first done as a WHAT IF ? issue then incorporated into the MU (That the US Government had had a series of minor Timely heroes fill in " as " Captain America - and I believe the official Marvel storyline holds that there were 3?? 4?? post-missle '45-'49 Caps but only ?? Buckys during that period??)

“Earth 616” is the unofficial designation of the Marvel Universe Earth, coined by Alan Moore in a Captain Britain story and taken from the publication date of FF #1, June 1961 (6/61 to us Yanks, but 61/6 in Britain).

Captain America’s Weird Tales #74 did feature Captain America (he left the field as he entered it: fighting the Red Skull). Issue #75 was all horror, no Cap (except the title), but it did feature Gene Colan’s first published work.

I am right with you in your desire to read #56, but Bucky wasn’t so much “bumped off” as he was “bumped out.” Post-WWII, kid side-kicks were out and girl sidekicks were in. I haven’t read the actual story, but I do know the last we see of this Bucky he is in a hospital bed promising to get better and be back on the job soon. This “Bucky” was “retconned” to be Fred Davis, BTW, the partner of both Captain America II (William Naslund, the Spirit of ’76) and Captain America III (Jeff Mace, the Patriot). He has appeared in the modern MU from time to time, but I seem to recall it he died recently.

So that's why it's Earth 616! Thanks, Jeff. I knew about the number but not the reason. But shouldn't it be Earth 3910 for Marvel Comics #1 (O'39)? Then again, I guess that they couldn't call it Earth-One!

Glad to have been of help! In a universe of “infinite Earths” I suppose it could have been any number. I have no idea why “616” caught on, especially considering that particular story wasn’t reprinted in the states until several years after its initial date of publication.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Glad to have been of help! In a universe of “infinite Earths” I suppose it could have been any number. I have no idea why “616” caught on, especially considering that particular story wasn’t reprinted in the states until several years after its initial date of publication.


In the 70s and early 80s the concept of parallel Earths wasn't all that prominent at Marvel. The ones I can think of are the Earth Reed-Thing came from (in couple of Fantastic Four stories), the Squadron Supreme's (in Avengers and Defenders), and the one in the Iron Man Black Lama storyline (spoilers at link).(1) Some of the stuff DC did with its alternative Earths Marvel instead did with Counter Earth. What If represented its stories as taking place in alternative realities, but the idea was only given lip service; the heroes from these Earths didn't subsequently crop up in mainstream Marvel U stories. So I think Moore's stuff helped give the multiple Earths concept its later currency at Marvel, particularly through its influence on the X-verse (e.g. via Excalibur, with which Alan Davis was involved and which had Captain Britain and Meggan in the cast).


(1) Thundra came from an alternative future Earth.

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