What hath The Baron wrought?

With his "Baron Re-Reads the JSA" thread, he has inspired us all. Currently John Dunbar is writing a "Dunbar Re-Reads Thor" thread, which calls out for an accompanying "Avengers" thread, at least while Thor is part of that team. So here goes:

AVENGERS #1 (Sep 63)

"The Coming of The Avengers!"

Written by Stan Lee

Drawn by Jack Kirby

Inked by Dick Ayers

Lettered by Sam Rosen

What They're Up To: Ant-Man and The Wasp fight Trago, "The Man with the Magic Trumpet!", in Tales to Astonish #47. Iron Man stars in "The Icy Fingers of Jack Frost!" in Tales of Suspense #45. Thor battles the guy who will become Maha Yogi in "Mad Merlin!" in Journey into Mystery #96.

Synopsis: The story opens on the Isle of Silence in Asgard, where an exiled Loki plots revenge on Thor for his recent defeats at The Thunderer's hand (see Dunbar Re-Reads Thor). By means of "thought projection" Loki peeks in on Thor's civilian identity, Don Blake, doing good on Earth. But defeating Blake would be a "hollow victory" and only defeating Thor will make Loki happy. So he scours the Earth for a threat to force the Thunder God to respond -- and discovers the Hulk. "A huge human figure ... flying through the air! How is that possible?"

Determining that the figure is the Hulk -- apparently Loki keeps up with current events, and recognizes ol' Greenskin -- the Asgardian projects an illusion of TNT on a railroad track, so that the Hulk will accidentally destroy the track and be blamed for a train wreck. This "diabolical scheme" -- yes, Loki calls it that -- works, because even though the Hulk manages to save the train, word goes out that the Hulk is on a rampage.

Rick Jones, Hulk sidekick and leader of The Teen Brigade (formed in Incredible Hulk #6, May 63), decides that "if the Hulk is innocent, he needs help, fast! And if he's guilty, it'll take more than an army to stop 'im!" The solution: Call the Fantastic Four! But Loki diverts the call -- so that it comes out of Don Blake's radio! "Strange," muses Blake. "Sounds like a call for Thor!"

Of course it is! All radio messages that begin "Calling the Fantastic Four" are a call for Thor!

But others have received the message, too, probably because Loki is the God of Evil, not the God of Paying Attention to Detail. Ant-Man and the Wasp have somehow heard it, and Tony "Iron Man" Stark happened to be on the right frequency. The Fantastic Four actually got the message, too -- they're busy, but Reed says his "calculations" say the Teen Brigade will have company soon.

Mighty smart guy, that Reed Richards, because Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man and Wasp show up at Teen Brigade HQ. "It would seem the gang's all here, eh, lads?" quips that the ever-urbane Tony Stark. But while everybody's doing "Wassup!" Loki projects another illusion in Thor's field of vision, of the Hulk bounding by. Thor gives chase, and when he determines it's an illusion, sees his half-brother's yellow-gauntleted hand in the matter. He hies himself off to Asgard, to give Loki such a noogie.

Undeterred by Thor's disappearance, Iron Man says they'll carry on, and Ant-Man's ants report an incredibly strong guy at a nearby circus. It's the Hulk, dressed as a clown! (Let me repeat that: It's the Hulk, dressed as a clown!) The circus owners think he's an incredibly powerful robot that they just happened to stumble across, because ... well, we can only assume they are as dumb as a bag of hammers.

Ant-Man attacks! He has ants dig a hole that the Hulk falls into! Oh, the indignity! He has ants drop a barrel on the Hulk! Oh,the irritation! Then The Wasp attacks, by flying around Hulk in an annoying fashion! Oh, the humanity! But Hulk prevails, by smashing, except for The Wasp, whom he defeats with a fireplace bellows, which happens to be lying there at the circus. (Well, he can't just smash a girl, can he? It's 1963!)

And in defense of The Wasp's battle tactics, she was actually trying to draw Hulk under a net, that Ant-Man's ants have set up. And it works, in that the Hulk gets under the net, and runs into it while trying to leap away. Of course, it barely slows him down, but hey, it's Ant-Man! What do you want, repulsor rays?

Speaking which, now it's Iron Man's turn! So the Hulk hits him in the chest! And then ... OK, then Iron Man falls down. "Can't go after him until I repair my battery," thinks Iron Man. But as the Hulk flees, Iron Man pleads with him, "Hulk ... wait! I want to help you! You can't remain a fugitive forever! Come back!!"

This is called foreshadowing.

Meanwhile, back in Asgard, Thor pleads with Odin to let him have a little chinwag with Loki. Odin approves but says he cannot interfere, as he loves both his sons equally. (Honestly, he may be the All-Father, but he'll never win Parent of the Year.) Anyway, so be it!

Thor takes a dragon-prowed skiff -- he IS a Viking, after all -- to the Isle of Silence. Loki attacks with animated trees, which Thor buzzes through by spinning his hammer like a buzzsaw. Loki attacks with "volcanic gas globules," which Thor avoids by diving underwater. He whips up a waterspout to carry  him to Loki, and he throws his hammer, which Loki deflects by freezing the air. But then Loki springs his REAL trap: Trolls! The "Silent Ones" for whom the island is named! One grabs Thor, and Loki crows that nothing can break the grip of a troll -- it the troll that gave rise to the "Old Man of the Sea" legend of Sinbad fame!

But as Thor is dragged underground, he pounds the handle of his hammer on the ground, summoning lightning, which blinds the underground-living troll. Loki uses multiple images to fool the Thunder God, who blows them all away by spinning his hammer. Then he uses his hammer to soak up "the magnetic currents that give life to the trolls below!' Which somehow magnetizes Loki to his hammer, and off they go to Earth, because Loki "has much to atone for!"

Meanwhile, Iron Man has chased Hulk to an auto factory -- I had no idea Detroit had a suburb in the Southwest, but whatever -- and throws tires at the Hulk. The Hulk fashions a metal bow and arrow, but Iron Man catches the arrow and turns it into a big grapple, and pins the Hulk! But the Hulk pushes through the wall! "I never expected that!" exclaims Iron Man, who evidently has not been paying attention.

But just as the Invincible One and the Incredible One are squaring off for another round -- Stark has decided the Hulk is too dangerous to run around loose -- Thor arrives with Loki, and rats his half-brother out. "Let me at 'im!" roars the Hulk, but Loki has one more ace up his sleeve -- he turns radioactive! (Which shouldn't bother the Hulk, but it does!)

Fortunately, Ant-Man orders some ants to open a convenient trap door under Loki, who slides down a convenient tunnel into a convenient lead-lined tank! Thor helpfully explains "This is where the trucks that carry radioactive wastes from atomic tests dump their loads for eventual disposal in the ocean!"

There are only four panels left, but you know what happens next. Ant-Man and Wasp suggest they team up in a regular fashion, and everybody decides that's a swell idea, even the Hulk, who is "sick of bein' hunted and hounded!" Hey, maybe Iron Man's speech did some good! Oh, and The Wasp suggests the name Avengers, even though it doesn't make much sense (who are they avenging?), but nobody argues with the cute chick, and a legend is born.

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My ranking: 9/10.

OK, I admit that synopsis probably took longer to read than the comic book did. But I wanted to mention every salient element in this book, surely among the most important in the series, if not Marvel history.

There's a story going around that Avengers came to be because Bill Everett was really late on Daredevil #1, which was supposed to come out on Sep 63 instead. That apparently is true! It seems to arise from this Spring.Me post by Marvel uber-editor Tom Brevoort:

"Martin Goodman, Marvel's publisher at the time, was famous for flooding the market with anything that worked. So in early 1963, after the first bunch of Marvel super hero releases started to hit, he told Stan, 'Give me another Spider-Man and another Fantastic Four.' In other words, new characters who were very much like those characters, and would appeal to the same audience. So two books were started: X-Men, which was the Fantastic Four-style book (and even says so on the first two covers) with a team of heroes in identical blue costumes fighting a guy who resembles Doctor Doom on the cover; and Daredevil, which was the Spider-Man book (and says so on the first cover as well), the quippy urban adventurer. Now, Stan was smart enough to do more with these characters and concepts that simply knocking off his earlier characters, but that's where they started. But Bill Everett, with whom Stan co-created Daredevil, had both a day job and a drinking problem. And so production on DAREDEVIL #1 fell way behind. In those days, you booked print time way ahead of time -- and if your book wasn't ready, you paid for the printing time anyway. So it was vital to get something to press on time. But Bill Everett was a favorite of Martin Goodman, stemming back to the '40s when he created the Sub-Mariner. Regardless, there was suddenly a hole in the schedule, with no book where a book should be. In trying to solve this problem, Stan hit on the notion of doing a strip that brought all of the heroes together JLA style -- that would be a book that wouldn't require any ramp-up time, because the characters (and even the villain) all existed already. So he and Jack Kirby brainstormed the first issue, Kirby drew it up hastily, Dick Ayers inked it in what looks like no time flat, and it came out the same month as X-MEN #1. (DAREDEVIL #1 followed around six months later -- with Steve Ditko pitching in to help finish it up, and with a different artist on it beginning with #2.)"

How about that? I've been reading Avengers for 51 years, and didn't know that until this month.

But even though it appears Avengers was thrown together at the last minute, I have to give it high marks for being a blisteringly paced action story that nevertheless worked in tons of exposition about the nascent Marvel Universe and a lot of personality bits.

On personality:

* We see Rick Jones' loyalty to the Hulk.

* We see Wasp making flighty comments about everyone, from "dreamy" Thor  to "hideous" Iron Man.

* We see Ant-Man being a tightass.

* We see Reed Richards being really smart.

* We see Thing be cranky, and Sue scold him.

* Loki could kill Blake any time, but wants to fight -- and beat -- Thor at full power.

Great fun! As to powers:

* Thor makes sure we know he can't fly, but instead follows Hulk " ... by hurling my mighty hammer and holding onto its unbreakable thong!"

* Thor using Mjolnir to gather magnetic currents is the New Hammer Power for this issue.

* We see Tony Stark lounging in his chestplate .. because he can't take it off. We also see that Iron Man can't battle if his "battery" is damaged. (Say, maybe this guy isn't really invincible!)

* We see Ant-Man's mode of travel, and a myriad use of ants. We did NOT see him at full size, which is odd, but I guess we'll more than make up for that next issue!

Other observations:

* No matter how hard Lee works at it, Ant-Man is fundamentally superfluous in this issue. His attacks are weak, and his strategies usually require tremendous coincidence to function, although they fail anyway. I'm guessing it was Lee struggling through this issue that made him re-think this whole Ant-Man business, resulting in Giant-Man (with the next issue).

* Iron Man may be strong, but he's really vulnerable. I mean, punch him in the chest and he goes down.

* In fact, none of them are a match for the Hulk, individually or together. That, like Ant-Man's uselessness, becomes apparent pretty early on, as all they're doing is slowing the Hulk down as he tries to run away. God help them if he turns to fight.

* It's conventional wisdom that Stan Lee thought the perfect number for a team was four, and this grouping of Avengers is pretty much four. Yes, there's The Wasp, but she's written as a flighty ornament -- at best, a distraction for the bad guy while the menfolk figure out a plan. This is really a four-man -- and I emphasize "man" -- team. This is before women's lib, after all, and is written by a guy who grew up in the '40s.

* We have never seen trolls like the ones here, or powers like the ones they exhibit here, and we never will again.

Now for some speculation.

Why these four guys? Well, for one thing, they were pretty much the bulk of the Marvel Universe in September, 1963. The X-Men came out the same month, so none of them were available, even if Stan was inclined to use one (which I doubt). Dr. Strange had debuted the month before, but in a throwaway five-pager in the back of Strange Tales -- not a world-beater yet. The presumed break-out star of the Fantastic Four already had a solo series, so the Human Torch (and the rest of his team) were out. Stan Lee has consistently said for 50 years that he was afraid to put Spider-Man in the Avengers, for fear it would ruin his cool "outsider" status -- and I believe him.

Outside of those characters, the only headliners left were Thor, Iron Man and Ant-Man.

So why the Hulk? Lee says in various books that it was to cause friction in the group, to put in a testy guy as a story launcher. That may be true. But I also think it was to give Hulk a regular spotlight after losing his book, because Lee had faith in him ... and because *I think* Lee was peeved that Martin Goodman had canceled Incredible Hulk to make room for a Two-Gun Kid revival. That last part is pure speculation on my part, but if I were Lee I'd have been peeved, and determined to make the Hulk a success. Your mileage may vary.

In summary, I give this book high marks because it is a great example of what was so cool about Marvel in the early '60s. Lots of action. Lots of personality. The story racing along so breathlessly that you don't have time to stop and notice the flaws. Plus, everybody not getting along. I mean, the bulk of the book is Hulk vs. the rest of the team! Can you imagine, for example, the Justice League forming because everyone ganged up on Martian Manhunter, while Superman fought solo with Lex Luthor on another planet? That sort of thing just wasn't done at Silver Age DC, but Lee & Kirby plowed through a dozen comic-book writer's "thou shalt nots" with this one issue, and it was great fun.

Then and now, Avengers #1 is a hoot!

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Thanks for the research, Philip!

No problem! It was already done.

Now I'm wondering if the readers noticed the change because I'm pretty sure that the Hulk's early intelligence and cunning was retconned away for a while with the idea that the Hulk was always "dumb".

It would be like if the Human Torch suddenly went to his lab in the middle of a FF issue!

Before Hulk-speak started he'd sometimes been depicted as having his mind clouded with rage, and I think he slipped from that form of clouded thinking to the other. There's an episode of altruism I forgot in the second episode of his Tales to Astonish series, when he stops the rocket.

AVENGERS #4 (Mar 64)

"Captain America Joins ... the Avengers!"

Gloriously written by Stan Lee

Grandly illustrated by Jack Kirby

Gallantly lettered by Art Simek

What They're Up To:  Iron Man fights the new menace of The Scarecrow in Tales of Suspense #51. Thor battles Zarrko the Tomorrow Man in the second part of a two-parter in Journey into Mystery #102. Giant-Man is "Trapped by The Porcupine!" in Tales to Astonish #53.

Synopsis: The issue opens with the escape of the Sub-Mariner at the end of last issue. He resumes his search for his people, who deserted him at the end of Fantastic Four Annual #1, and ends up on an ice floe in the North Sea. There, he encounters  Eskimos (now called Inuits) worshipping a figure frozen in ice. Enraged that humans fear a petrified image instead of his wrath, he throws the idol out to sea and generally rampages around.

The camera follows the figure in ice, which begins to melt when it hits the Gulf Stream. Eventually the ice is gone, and the figure is spotted by the Avengers, in a submarine. (Neither the omniscient narrator nor the Assemblers say what they're doing there.) They haul him in, and The Wasp recognizes Captain America's uniform beneath the figure's tattered Army fatigues.

Amazingly, the figure awakens, and leaps into action, thinking he is still in World War II. But he quickly calms down, and admits he is Captain America to the skeptical Avengers. But he challenges them to a fight, and easily holds them all off, which convinces them. He tells the now familiar story of he and Bucky (in their Army guises) trying to stop an experimental U.S. drone plane from being stolen from an Army base by a gloating, shadowy figure (that later issues reveal as Baron Zemo). Bucky, being closer, grabs the plane as it lifts off for Germany, but Cap is too far away to get a good grip and falls, just as the plane explodes from a booby trap. The last thing he remembers is falling in the icy water, knowing that Bucky was killed.

Returning to New York, the Avengers disembark among a waiting crowd of well-wishers and reporters. A flash -- everyone assumes a camera flash -- goes off, and the Avengers are replaced by statues with expressions, and in poses, of surprise. Since all reporters are complete idiots, they assume that somehow the Avengers have disappeared, and gone to the trouble of leaving weird statues of themselves, all in the blink of an eye, and disperse.

Captain America disembarks alone, and after pausing briefly to wonder about the odd statues, begins wandering New York.He reflects on fashions, cars, etc., and just about everybody who sees him, remembers him or has heard about him (remember, at this point he had only been MIA for 19 years -- barely a generation). A cop is briefly overcome with emotion, but guides Cap to a nearby hotel, which presumably gives him a room for free.

He is found there by Rick Jones, who has "followed your trail halfway across town." Cap thinks he's an exact double for Bucky, but one wonders how much grief plays into that. At any rate, Jones says the Avengers are missing, and Cap says he'll help him find them.

He has Rick gather pictures of the scene at the dock, blows them up, and spots a man with a strange gun in the crowd. Jones signals his Teen Brigade to look for the man. They find him in a hotel, and Cap bursts in through the window. The man is protected by at least seven armed thugs, but Cap plows through them easily. When he reaches the man he notes that the gun didn't come from Earth, and pulls off his mask -- revealing a Broccoli Man from outer space! Cap immediately charges the alien with turning the Avengers to stone, which the alien admits. He tells how he had crash-landed in the ocean centuries ago, and had hidden from humans ever since, using his stone ray in self-defense. Cap notes that his hair and the stone ray probably gave rise to the legend of Medusa.

Why turn the Avengers to stone? Because the Sub-Mariner had found the Broccoli Man, and promised to free his ship if he "stoned" the Avengers. "Sub-Mariner!" Cap says. "I seem to remember that name from the dim past! But time enough for him later! First, you must bring the Avengers back to life -- and we will free your ship for you!"

Meanwhile, the Sub-Mariner is somehow watching from his "now-deserted imperial palace." He knows his plan has failed, and vows to continue fighting to destroy the Avengers. As luck would have it, he espies some passing Atlanteans, a "troop of my elite guard!" He enlists their help.

Back on the surface, the Avengers have found the alien's craft, and pull it out via Thor's hammer, which exerts "cosmic magnetic waves." While he's repairing his ship, Cap approaches Giant-Man, clearly intending to ask to join the Avengers -- when they're interrupted by an explosion that scatters the Avengers, knocking Cap and Giant-Man into the water! It's the Sub-Mariner and his heavily armed elite guard!

Namor fights Iron Man for a page, with the latter barely holding his own, and rescued briefly by The Wasp, who distracts Namor by flying around his eyes. Meanwhile, Thor is making mincemeat of the guards, so Namor takes command. He orders the guards to concentrate their ray guns on Thor, who deflects their bolts into the ground, channeling the power back at them along the ground. So Namor attacks hand to hand.

Meanwhile, Giant-Man is caught underwater in a net by the Atlanteans. He shrinks to escape, then re-grows to avoid becoming fish food. He emerges from the water to aid Iron Man, who is battling elite guardsmen. They both race to aid Thor, and triple-team Namor.

Meanwhile, Cap comes out of the water and thinks of the Avengers "Their courage is undeniable! Even the Sub-Mariner is a fearless foe! If there had been such men in my day, what epic battles we might fought!" But Namor makes the mistake of threatening Rick Jones, so Cap leaps in the fray. Sub-Mariner says, "Another one! But who -- ???" They begin to mix it up, but suddenly the island they're on begins to break apart, as the alien ship blasts off. Sub-Mariner and his men retreat into the sea, with Namor assuming the Avengers will drown. (He thinks it's an undersea earthquake.)

The Avengers regroup, and offer Captain America membership, which he accepts. Meanwhile Rick Jones wonders how the Hulk will take the news that he's been replaced by the Star-Spangled Avenger. "Will anything be able to stop him then??!"

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My rating: 9/10

Another action-packed, lightning-paced issue, full of ray guns, bombast and primary colors -- if you were a reader in 1964, this must have been irresistible fun. I'd give it a perfect score, except that Broccoli Man kinda came out of left field. (Incidentally, I call him Broccoli Man because we see his race years later, when Jean Grey -- possessed by the Phoenix -- consumes his planet. The race is named D'Bari, but fans took to calling the Broccoli-Headed People, or just the Broccoli People. Retroactively, I've christened our unnamed alien Broccoli Man.)

Things to note:

* Neither Namor nor Captain America remember each other, which is only surprising if you realize that at the time, Marvel didn't recognize any events that happened before Fantastic Four #1 as being in continuity. Yes, Captain America was recognized as having fought in World War II, and there were hazy references here and there to the Sub-Mariner having been around a while. And there were more hazy references to the past when the original Human Torch appeared in Fantastic Four Annual #4. There never were any references to the Invaders, of course, because that whole series was a retcon. The only superhero team that existed at Timely Comics was the All-Winners Squad, which lasted for exactly two issues in 1946. At any rate, Marvel was much slower than DC at re-inventing its Golden Age and incorporating it into modern continuity. Now that they have, they write off Cap and Namor not recognizing each other as being the result of being frozen in ice and frequent bouts of amnesia, respectively. It is amusing in hindsight, though, to hear Cap think "If only we had such men in my day ... " Because you did, Cap!

* Incidentally, not only does Cap show great battle skill in this issue -- holding off the Avengers, barely breathing hard to wipe up a squad of armed thugs -- he is also pretty worldly. He says to Giant-Man that he's fought bigger foes, he immediately realizes the alien's gun comes from off-planet, he is unsurprised to find an alien and he is the only one to guess what had happened to the Avengers. A formidable guy, this Cap -- he may not know the world of 1964 yet, but he is completely unfazed by the fantastic.

* Two New Hammer Powers this issue! Mjolnir channels "cosmic magnetic waves" and re-routes energy weapons along the ground back at his foemen.

* The credits don't list an inker, but it sure doesn't look like Kirby inked himself -- I'd say Paul Reinman did the inking, or possibly George Roussos.

* As usual, there's a lot of hyperbole, such as "Editor's Note: We sincerely suggest you save this issue! We feel that you will treasure it in time to come!" For once, the hype is justified!

* The alien restores the Avengers by "reversing the polarity" of his weapon. So that's where Star Trek learned that trick!

* This is the first issue in which the Hulk doesn't appear in person. He still manages to slip his image in, though, in Rick Jones' thought balloons in the last two panels. Since we almost never see images in thought balloons, it must be assumed that Stan still wanted a Hulk "presence," no matter how marginal. Given that the Hulk appears in the following issue and (reluctantly) fights with the Avengers against the Lava Men, maybe Stan still considered him a member of the Avengers -- or at least a member of the cast.

* Stan Lee plays fast and loose with distance, if we assume the Avengers are looking for the Sub-Mariner. (And that IS an assumption, because the book doesn't say.) The Avengers lost track of Hulk and Sub-Mariner at Gibraltar, where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean Sea. But we're not sure where they are when they find Cap, because the book doesn't say -- except that they must have been in or near the Gulf Stream, which stretches from Florida to Iceland and doesn't get very close to Gibraltar. Why were they there?

We have to kinda piece together Cap's journey, as well. His story begins at "an E.T.O. Army base" -- presumably in Europe. So why did was the drone plane heading TO Europe from Canada? It has to be, because it blows up shortly after takeoff, and Cap  "struck the water off the coast of Newfoundland." Then, somehow, his ice cube ends up "atop an ice floe in the North Sea," which is where Namor finds him. After Subbie throws him in the water he finds his way to the Gulf Stream -- which doesn't meet the North Sea, so we must assume his ice cube floats around the northern tip of Scotland into the North Atlantic and the Gulf Stream there. We don't have a time frame, so maybe he floated down to the mid-Atlantic, where the Avengers ran into him returning from Gibraltar, or they went North for some reason and ran into him west of Ireland. I'm going with the first choice, to make life simpler.

I remember seeing Avengers # 4 up on a wall in the first comics shop I went into -- I think this might have been circa 1975, when I lived in San Francisco, and it was priced at $100 (or some price that was well beyond what I was able to pay at the time as a Junior High school kid, although if I had gotten it and kept in good shape it might be worth at least 50 times that amount now!  I first read the actual story in the PocketBook collection of Cap's earliest Silver Age tales published in the late '70s, and to be honest I thought it was rather goofy and I still think so, while perfectly understanding it its landmark issue status.  Ok, the Avengers just happening to find Cap floating in the ocean after Subby had thrown his ice-encased body into the brink is one thing, but Stan neglects to have anyone tell Cap, "hey, it's 1964 now" before Cap himself refers to being 20 years out of time.  Then Cap just stays behind in the sub long enough to miss seeing Brocolli Man transform the Avengers into stone and just assumes when he comes out that, 'hey, the guys who just rescued me from the ocean ditched me but someone put up these very lifelike statues of them right here."  Well, ok, Cap was still a bit out of it.  Then the other people just assume that this is the real Cap and no one seems to wonder if this is yet another phony like the one who would have been in the news recently after tussling with the Human Torch. But for all that and more, this is still a fun & classic story.  It makes perfect dramatic sense that Lee & Kirby would come up with a yarn that through some freak event, Cap was frozen (never mind exactly how) during the final days of the fight against the Nazis and after seeing his youthful partner killed in action.  Much better than having Cap show up, and explain, "well, I've grown bored teaching and would like to get back into action, although I know I'm a bit out of practice and pushing 50, but since I've heard the Hulk left I thought you guys might just have an opening for an old warhorse like me."  As it is, Cap had been asleep for about 20 years (or is it 60 now?) and he has those horrifying memories of Bucky's death (well, he was dead as far as anybody, including Stan & Jack, were concerned back then!).  And with Cap becoming an Avengers under such circumstances, they have a member who really has a cause to avenge! 

Some time ago, I did get a battered (and thus cheap) but intact copy of Avengers # 8, which included letters about Cap's return, and there actually a few from readers who weren't particularly enthusiastic about him becoming an Avengers, referring to him as "too bossy", etc.  I'm sure that didn't reflect the overwhelming majority view of Marvelites in 1964, however.  Even more than the actual founders, Cap is Mr. Avenger.

BTW, oddly it seems aside from their brief fight in this issue, Cap & Subby didn't meet again until nearly 10 years later, during the Avengers/Defenders clash, which made reference to their "one panel fight".  The next time Subby showed up in the Avengers, issue 40, Cap too tied up in events in Tales of Suspense, although he did send a message.  I also recall in Roy Thomas' re-telling of the FF's origin in FF 126, he has Johnny Storm explicitly name himself after his Golden Age predecessor (which didn't happen in Stan's version), but as far as I know the first time Lee had any post FF #1 characters refer to the Golden Age Torch was in King-Size FF #4 from 1966, featuring the elder Torch.  Nor do I think Lee ever had Cap or Subby acknowlege having known each other or the Golden Age Torch during World War II; all that was left to Thomas, Englehart and other writers.

While Lee & Kirby revived the concept of the Human Torch, they decided to bring back the character of the Sub-Mariner. Even though he wasn't starring in a title, he was appearing semi-regularly in Fantastic Four with featured roles in The Avengers, Strange Tales and soon in X-Men. So he must have been getting some good feedback/sales figures.

Captain America was Timely's best selling character and the only one to star in a movie serial. (actually he was the only one of Timely's Big Three who could!). He was the most "super-hero-ish" superhero they had and well worth reviving. But they played it safe by having him be the emotional center of the Avengers instead of throwing him into his own feature too quickly.

I think that was a good call on Lee's part, especially given that most of the early Silver Age solo Cap stories in Tales of Suspense weren't all that good.  In fact, IMO the best stories featuring Cap in that era were when he leading the Kookie Quartet, when he wasn't depicted as quite the paragon of perfection he was too often treated as in later stories.

 

Curiously, the Sub-Mariner was originally created for a movie that was never made and a few issues of a preview sampler were created by Bill Everett that came out before Marvel Comics #1.  Apparently it was deemed too expensive and difficult to make the special effects for a Sub-Mariner movie in 1939.  As initially depicted, neither Subby nor the original Torch fit the typical template of Golden Age superheroes.  Cap, as you note, was far more typical, in the mold of standard top tier DC superheroes than the other popular Timely or Marvel heroes.
 
Philip Portelli said:

While Lee & Kirby revived the concept of the Human Torch, they decided to bring back the character of the Sub-Mariner. Even though he wasn't starring in a title, he was appearing semi-regularly in Fantastic Four with featured roles in The Avengers, Strange Tales and soon in X-Men. So he must have been getting some good feedback/sales figures.

Captain America was Timely's best selling character and the only one to star in a movie serial. (actually he was the only one of Timely's Big Three who could!). He was the most "super-hero-ish" superhero they had and well worth reviving. But they played it safe by having him be the emotional center of the Avengers instead of throwing him into his own feature too quickly.

It still seems like someone missed a bet by not doing a Sub-Mariner serial back in the day--sure, they'd be some changes, but look at the Captain America serial!  If Cap could hit the silver screen without  his shield, Bucky, or Steve Rogers, Namor could have worked without his ankle wings, flight, and homicidal tendencies, and Buster Crabbe had both the swimming skills and the cheekbones for the role...

Captain Comics said:

We have to kinda piece together Cap's journey, as well. His story begins at "an E.T.O. Army base" -- presumably in Europe. So why did was the drone plane heading TO Europe from Canada? It has to be, because it blows up shortly after takeoff, and Cap  "struck the water off the coast of Newfoundland."

Newfoundland didn't become a Canadian province until 1949.  It had been a British colony for a few centuries, from 1583 to 1907.  It was then upgraded to the status of Dominion, still attached to Britain, but with more autonomy for day-to-day affairs.  Despite this, when Britain declared war on Germany, Newfoundland was automatically in.  Due to its geographical location, Newfoundland was important strategically for the war effort and deemed vital to the defence of both Canada and the United States.  However, it had been hit hard by the Depression and could not defend itself, and due to the resources of the United Kingdom being stretched thin, the British could not do the job of defending it alone.  Negotiations were made that resulted in a heavy military presence from Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.  A number of bases were set up and while I don't think it would be accurate to include Newfoundland in the E.T.O., it wouldn't be far fetched for Cap and Bucky to be there, or the Nazis to have spies there.

Now I can't remember if it was ever definitely established where Cap was when he & Bucky got blasted by that drone.  Shortly after Kirby's last run on Cap, Thomas or Gerber did a story detailing other events that happened to Cap just after the drone exploded, but other than Cap being captured and then escaping before he was frozen I can't recall any details of the story and have no idea if it's still regarded as canon in the current M.U.  But just having Cap fall into the ocean anywhere and then winding up in a block of ice and worshipped by Inuits on part of the polar icecap is just all sorts of goofiness, which Lee & Kirby whipped right past because they had to get us to the brocolli headed alien and didn't want to get bogged down trying to explain the details as to how Cap wound up in that block of ice.  It was good enough just to tell us that Cap had no memory of anything from the time of that explosion in 1945 to waking up in the Avengers' sub in 1964 (or is that 2004 now?).
 
John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

Captain Comics said:

We have to kinda piece together Cap's journey, as well. His story begins at "an E.T.O. Army base" -- presumably in Europe. So why did was the drone plane heading TO Europe from Canada? It has to be, because it blows up shortly after takeoff, and Cap  "struck the water off the coast of Newfoundland."

For my money, getting bogged down in the details of where Captain America and Bucky started from and where they were headed when they got caught on the bomb before it exploded and "killed" Bucky and sent Cap falling into the ocean where he froze into a block of ice for 20 30 40 50 60 70 years falls in the realm of "Whenever someone speaks of making comics 'realistic,' more often than not they mean doing something that takes all the fun out of them."

In other words, we know what we need to know -- Captain America and Bucky got caught on the bomb before it exploded and "killed" Bucky and sent Cap falling into the ocean where he froze into a block of ice for 20 30 40 50 60 70 years. Don't ask -- just buy it!

...I never had an original printing , but I think Newfoundland WAS the setting given in AVENGERS #4 ! 

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