Captain America

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. 

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  • #247:


    This issue gets off to a great start with Captain American running across the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn Heights into Manhattan. Writer Roger Stern's narration puts the bridge into historical, geographical and architectural perspective. [See "Stern's References" below.] As Steve Rogers, Cap lives at 659 Leaman Place in Brooklyn Heights. His neighbors include Josh Cooper (a veteran and learning disabilities teacher), Mike Farrel (a firefighter) and Anna Kappelbaum (landlady and Diebenwald concentration camp survivor). There is also a new tenant, but we neither meet her nor learn her name.

    Cap is on his way to SHIELD's midtown HQ (I think this is the first appearance of the holographic wall entrance) to ask Nick Fury's help untangling his jumbled memories. About 20 issues back, Cap was subjected to a mindprobe which revealed many hidden memories, memories at odds with what he remembered about his childhood. This EYKIW was the "neat idea" of Steve Gerber. [See "NOTE" below.] There's no need to go into those memories at this point because they end up being false.

    Nick  Fury is away questioning Baron Strucker at the Federal maximum security prison in Ithaca, But Dum Dum Dugan, Fury's second in command, is able to help. (This was my first exposure to Baron Strucker. I had not yet read issues #130-1 or Strange Tales #158, and to this day I have not read his WWII appearances.) Dugan takes Cap to Ft. Dix in New Jersey where Steve Roger's olf footlocker has been held in storage all these years since the war. Just the simply act of opening the footlocker helps, but he finds the answers he's looking for within his own journal.

    Strucker ends up being a robot built by Machinesmith.

    STERN'S REFERENCES: When Roger Stern was given the Captain America assignment, he did a great deal of research. He not only familiarized himself with all of cap's appearances in Tales of Suspense, Invaders and Avengers, he also consulted many history books. It is from Brooklyn Bridge: Fact and Symbol by Alan Trachtenberg where Stern got the information about the Brooklyn Bridge used on the splash page. Among the other books he consulted are...

    Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen (U.S. in the 1920s)

    Since Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen (U.S. in the 1930s)

    Don't You Know There's a War On? by Richard R. Lingeman

    America: The View from Europe by J. Martin Evans 

    Brave Men by Ernie Pyle

    This is Your War by Ernie Pyle

    Inventing America by Gary Wills

    NOTE: There is a run of Captain America written by Don Glut, Steve Gerber and Roger McKenzie which tends to blend together in my mind. I had to consult George Olshevsky's index series to determine that it was, in fact, Steve Gerber who wrote the EYKIW in #225. Not that it matters all that much, I guess, but as I was looking through the index, I realized I misremembered some of the details I posted yesterday. I didn't start collecting Captain America with #230. It was after deciding to purchase the collection from Armchair Adventurer in late 1977 that i decided to start buying the new issues. My first new issue was #217.Marvel Masterworks will be up to this run in December.

    Another thing about Olshevsky's index: the most recent monthly issue in it is #235, yet the comment regarding #225 states: "probably either erroneous or pertaining to a different person from Captain America's alter ego," which is pretty much what Roger Stern fixed (and the way he fixed it) in this issue.

  • #248:


    This is my first Dragon Man (unless one counts its arm in the previous issue, which I don't) and still my favorite (and, yes, I have read  Mike Allred's FF). This is also my first (amd still only) Machinesmith. (His first appearance is slated to be reprinted next month, but I've not previously been motivated to seek it out.) Most importantly, this issue introduce's Mike's "old college pal" Bernie Rosenthal (bnot what Cap was expecting).

  • #249:


    On the initial post tho this thread I speculated that I last read the Stern/Byrne issues after moving to Texas, but I know now that that's not true. If I had, they would be much fresher in my mind as i read them now. Here's what I think happened: I bought the "War & Remembrance" Marvel Premiere HC when it became available knowing that I would re-read it again someday, but I did not re-read it at that time. then when I bought the (more comprehensive) Marvel Universe by John Byrne omnibus I got rid of the Marvel Premiere edition.

    Shave the weird facial hair and trim the eyebrows, and Machinesmith reminds me quite a bit of Lex Luthor. I hadn't yet read the Daredevil story in which Mr. Fear was supposedly killed when I first read #249, and by the time I did, I had completely forgotten Captain America #249, so it came as a surprise to me today when it was revealed that Machinesmith was once Mr. Fear! 

  • #250:


    Roger Stern was the editor of Captain America for nearly two years before he started writing it. While he was editor, Roger McKenzie and Don Perlin approached him with an idea of Perlin's: How about if Captain America ran for President? Stern objected on the grounds that it would be a bummer when he lost, but McKenzie suggested that they actually let him win, then base the next four years' worth of stories around the White House. Stern thought that would have been too big of a departure from reality, and Perlin and McKenzie left.

    A couple of years later, Stern mentioned this idea in a story conference with John Byrne and the current editor, Jim Salicrup. But Salicrup loved the idea and suggested that they base the story around Cap's reasons for declining. I recently read and posted a synopsis of this issue to another discussion (my inspiration for starting this one) so, having made the effort of transcribing Cap's speech, I'm going to move it and the synopsis over here.

    SYNOPSIS: Captain America was approached by the New Populist Party to run for president as in independent third party candidate. He told them he would consider it ("...but not too seriously"), but before he gave them his reply, the NPP notified the press that he had accepted. The press release set of a flurry of differing and different opinions... from the Avengers and other heroes, the man on the street, The Daily Bugle... even both the Democratic and Republican parties, both of which contacted him to be their candidate. Finally came the night of the convention at which he made the following speech.

    SPEECH: "Friends! Please may I have your attention! what I have to say will not take long... but I hope it will be meaningful! As you're all well aware, there has been a lot of talk these last few days... talk triggered by certain stories appearing in the press.

    "I have give much thought to those stories... and to the public discussion they inspired. I have had to face the question of whether or not I should be a candidate for President of the United States. [Applause] As I was saying, I gave this much thought... and I have come to my decision. The Presidency is one of the most important jobs in the world. The holder of that office must represent the best interests of an entire nation. He must be ready to negotiate--24 hours a day, to preserve the Republic at all costs!

    "I understand this... I appreciate this... and I realize the need to work within such a framework. By the same token--I have worked and fought all my life for the advancement of the American dream. and I believe that my duty to the Dream would severely limit any abilities I might have to preserve the reality.

    "We must all live in the real world... and sometimes that world can be pretty grim. but it is the Dream... the hope... that makes the reality worth living. In the early 1940s, I made a personal pledge to uphold the Dream... and as long as the Dream remains even partially unfulfilled, I cannot abandon it! and so I hope you can understand--that in all fairness, I cannot be your candidate!

    "You need but to look within yourselves to find the people you need to keep this nation strong... and, God willing, to help make the Dream come true!"

    QUOTE: The issue ends with a quote from John F. Kennedy's 1955 book, Profiles in Courage: "The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle... but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy. A man does what he must--in spite of personal consequences... in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures... and that is the basis of all human morality."

  • #251-252:


    I don't think this was my first exposure to Batroc and Mr. Hyde, but it the one I remember best. Right around the time #251 was released (in which Steve Rogers expresses an interest in Glenn Miller), I joined my high school jazz band (trombone). Until that point, I had only heard of Glenn Miller (via the All in the Family theme song), but our first concert was all Glenn Miller (Jerry Grey arrangements). #252 includes a five-page feature, "The Life & Times of Captain America." 

  • #253-254:


    One of the comics I bought new was Giant-Size Invaders #1. I followed that up with #2-3 of the regular series, but it felt as if I were missing something (which, of course, I was). I thought those were three sequential issues of the same series; I hadn't realized there was a regular-sized #1 between G.S. #1 and #2. those were the only issues of Invaders I saw as a kid (or, at least, the only ones I bought). Consequently, Captain America #253-254 was my first exposure to Baron Blood. They were also my inspiration to seek out the entire Invaders series as backissues.

    In #253, Steve Rogers takes Bernie Rosenthal to see Oklahoma, which she compares to Oh, Calcutta! A couple of years later, Oh, Calcutta! was one of two Broadway shows my friends and I saw on our New york/Washington, D.C. senior trip. My choices would have been The Elephant Man and Children of a Lesser God, but because we saw The Elephant Man the night before someone else got to choose. Ironically, I ended up enjoying Oh, Calcutta! more than my friend did even though it was his choice. He later told me he wished we had seen Children of a Lesser God instead. 

  • #255:


    This is the 40th anniversary issue, as well as one of the relatively few times you'll see the word "anniversary" used correctly on a comic book cover. The logo hearkens back to the first issue of Captain America Comics. It was used for three issues and hadn't been seen since. By the time of #255, Captain America's origin had been told and retold many times. There was the original Simon/Kirby version, the Lee/Kirby versions (two of them), a version by Roy Thomas and versions be Steve Englehart and Steve Gerber, not to mention several shorter re-tellings in both the Golden and Silver Ages. 

    What co-plotters Stern and Byrne did was to take these disparate and often contradictory versions and consolidate them into a single, cohesive version, one which has pretty much stood the test of time. It even took the headlines shown in the first issue and fleshed those out into narrative form. The Adventures of Captain America limited series added some additional details, but didn't really contradict anything from #255 as I recall. There have been some later re-tellings which did contradict #255, but I ignore those as non-canon. 

    Interestingly, this issue's art was produced directly from John Byrne's un-inked pencils (except for the last page, set in the present day, inked by Joe Rubenstein). 

  • Thanks for the look back at this run of comics. It was my favorite stretch on Captain America.

  • Thankee, but I'm not finished with this discussion yet. I have not read three of the next five issues since they were first published. the first of these is...



    There are three things I remember about #256: 1) It was drawn by Gene Colan, 2) It was a sequel to Tales of Suspense #69-71, and 3) it was featured on an episode of SOAP, my favorite TV show at the time.

    First, I had not yet learned to not only appreciate but love Gene Colan art style in 1981, which may account for my not having read this issue in so many years. Now that I do fully appreciate Colan, I can't think of a more appropriate artists for this modern day "ghost" story. (It's written by Bill Mantlo, BTW.)

    Second, I had read the original "Greymoore Castle" story, reprinted in Captain America King-Size Special #1, which I had acquired as a backissue. It was still such a rarity in those days that I read the original story before the sequel that it still sticks in my mind after all these years. 


    (#256 is also a sequel to Captain America #188, which i had forgotten.)

    Third, I'd just as soon forget its appearance in Soap. Danny Dallas was in the hospital recuperating from donating a kidney and is shown giggling uncontrollably while reading this issue. Comic books have always been show as sort of a short-hand way of illustrating a character's stupidity. It would have made a lot more sense if the show's gofer had acquired a funny animal or other humor comic, because there's nothing remotely funny in this issue.

    Today I appreciate this issue far, far more than I did nearly 40 years ago.

  • #257:


    Here's another comic book I haven't read since it was first released. I have already mentioned that the Hulk was my "first favorite character" and that Captain America was my second, so this issue should have scratched both itches, right? Not exactly. That's what I thought when I first saw the cover but, especially with the Captain America #230/Hulk #232 crossover still fresh in my mind, this fill-in guest appearance was extremely disappointing. It's written by Mike Barr and drawn by Lee Elias with inks by "M. Hands" (no doubt a close relation to "D. Hands"). Barr tries to establish that Captain America returns to the spot Bucky Barnes was killed every year on the anniversary of his death, but I don't recall ever seeing that before or since. 

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