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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Jeff of Earth-J said:

Here's another one I've read only once, when it was first released. Despite the distinctive cover, the story itself is not all that memorable. It is a sequel to Tales of Suspense #62, in which a sentimental prison warden programs his state-of-the art, magnetic, voice activated security door to open to the words "Captain America." The "neat idea" behind this story is "What if a prisoner just happens to say those words?"

ClarkKent_DC said:

The question this raises in my mind: Just how many days -- no, hours -- would it take after activation before somebody accidentally said those very common words and got the door open?

Jeff of Earth-J said:

In "comic book time" or "real time"?

I used to have a program i wrote which translated on to the other, but 1) I no longer have it, and 2) it's 15 years out of date (not that I even know how it's been since the beginning of the "Marvel Age" in comic book time).

"Real Time" is easy to figure, though: 16 years.

I'd figure somebody would accidentally say "Captain America" in front of that door before the first week was out.

In the MU? You'd think.

#262:

This issue is as steeped in continuity (regarding Nomad and Lyle Dekker) as the last, and the mystery surrounding the "Teacher" deepens. He is not only the leader of the Nihilist Order and the Ameridroid, but he is in control of Will Byrner (a local news anchor) and is manipulating Nomad (Eddie Ferbel) as well. 

Leonard Spellman, the producer of the Captain America movie Cap in in California to promote, reveals that he encountered Cap in WWII and has looked up to him ever since. During a publicity parade, the Nihilist Order attacks and Nomad comes to Cap's "rescue." Will bnyner is on hand to make Cap look bad, and the Ameridroid betrays Nomad, killing him and making it look as if Cap froze up. Ameridroid then takes Cap back to the defunt Democracy Pictures studio lot where he, as Lyle Dekker, encountered Cap back in 1943. (Incidentally, those stories have been solicited to be released in Marvel Masterworks format in December. the pandemic has played hob with Marvel's release schedule, but whenever that volume is released, I'll be discussing it here.) Now, where was I?

Oh, yeah. At this point, the Teacher removes his cloak and hood revealing himself to be (wait for it)... the Red Skull! and leaving Cap to wonder, "Why didn't I see it? WHY?!"

#263:

Form many years, the Red Skull wore only a nondescript green jumpsuit (sometimes adorned by a swastika), but never has he appeared more frightening than when wearing a Nazi uniform. Oh, and just to clarify... I may have indicated that Cap traveled to Hollywood to publicize the film about his life. Whereas that was ostensibly the reason, his real motive was to investigate the new Nomad. Aftern the Red skull stands revealed, a fight ensues. The Ameridroid is apparently destroy, and Lyle Dekker's mind along with it. Cap's shield smashes into the Red Skull's, uh... skull, revealing it to be a robot. 

Elsewhere, Will Brynner, outed by captured Nihilist Order goons, has been arrested for his role in their terrorist plot. At Galactic Studios, Leonard Spellman gets the news that the studio has yanked funding for his Captain America movie in favor of a television documentary. With Cap's approval rating at an all-time high, the documentary is slated to air that night.

Meanwhile, back at Galactic Studios, another Red Skull robot ushers Cap into the presence of, supposedly, the real Red Skull. (The scene in the Skull's office is reminiscent of Sub-Mariner's movie studio office when he orchestrated a similar plot against the Fantastic Four.) Captain america is shocked to discover the Skull's office in not on the defunct Democracy Studios lot, but rather at Galactic Pictures, the outfit behind the now-cancelled Captain America movie and now television documentary. The Skull reveals that tonight's broadcast will hypnotize viewers to riot in the streets. Enraged, Captain America attacks the Skull only to reveal it was another robot all along.

Just then, the Ameridroid, not destroyed after all, staggers in using its last reserves of power. It crashes through a wall revealing the Red skull in his hidden control room. It crashes down ob top of him causing a massive explosion. "If this is yet another Skull robot, it is masterfully constructed. For, as the lunging Ameridroid careens into the machinery, live wires overloading it, the Red Skull lets fly an all-too-human... SCREAM!"

Cap is able to halt the broadcast of the hypnotic film, and Leonard, Wally and Jason give him a lift to LAX where he flies commercial back to New York. Man! I had forgotten what a good story this is!

#264:

As the story begins, Captain America is returning to the United states from a diplomatic mission to South America. He had been a superhero for 20 years, then director of SHIELD for 20 years. Now he's working for JFK, currently serving his sixth term as President. Buck is chairman of the Avengers. Sam Wilson is a congressman. Captain America's wife, Peggy, is dead and their son was killed in the Far East.

This is one of only four alternate realities Captain America finds himself fluctuating among. Another is that a a racist, another that of a Nazi, another that of a child. the whole plot is very "J.M. DeMatteis" and is a follow-up to an earlier Spider-Woman story. Morgan MacNeil Hardy has hooked up four telepaths to his "augmentor", designed to bring about his ideal reality. His subjects, however, have different ideas about what an "ideal reality" is.

Like I said, this is a very "J.M. DeMatteis" type of story.

#264 was the comic book version of clickbait!

I remember liking that issue at the time.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

#264:

As the story begins, Captain America is returning to the United states from a diplomatic mission to South America. He had been a superhero for 20 years, then director of SHIELD for 20 years. Now he's working for JFK, currently serving his sixth term as President. Buck is chairman of the Avengers. Sam Wilson is a congressman. Captain America's wife, Peggy, is dead and their son was killed in the Far East.

This is one of only four alternate realities Captain America finds himself fluctuating among. Another is that a a racist, another that of a Nazi, another that of a child. the whole plot is very "J.M. DeMatteis" and is a follow-up to an earlier Spider-Woman story. Morgan MacNeil Hardy has hooked up four telepaths to his "augmentor", designed to bring about his ideal reality. His subjects, however, have different ideas about what an "ideal reality" is.

Like I said, this is a very "J.M. DeMatteis" type of story.

Some f my favorite Marvel stories are by J.M. DeMatteis. I want to read this one, and just bought a copy of this un-reprinted comic on eBay. 

CLARIFICATION: When I said, "This is a very 'J.M. DeMatteis' type of story," I did not mean that as a knock. There was a time DeMatteis was my favorite comic book writer. It hadn't happened as of this point, but it was during this run.

I didn't take your comment as critical. After I returned to comics in 1989 I loved his stories.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

CLARIFICATION: When I said, "This is a very 'J.M. DeMatteis' type of story," I did not mean that as a knock. There was a time DeMatteis was my favorite comic book writer. It hadn't happened as of this point, but it was during this run.

Just making sure.

KING-SIZE ANNUAL #5:

Here's another one I've read only once before, but i think I missed it when it first came out. Seems to me I acquired it on the backissue market some time later. I remembered nothing about the story; only that it wasn't my cuppa tea. I see why now: it's by Gene Colan (whose art I hadn't yet come to appreciate, blah, blah, blah). It's written by Dave Michelinie. 

The story begins with Cap thwarting a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, but it quickly seems to evolve into a gang war between crime bosses Gamble and Ferrini. What's really going on, though, is a series of murders perpetrated by Samson Scythe and his butler Hanson. Scythe was atypical bored rich kid who eventually joined the army for something to do. While in Viet Nam, he discovered that he got off on watching people die. Upon his return to the states, he hired Hanson (someone he served with) to be his butler. Hanson hired mercenaries to kill muggers and other small-time criminals while Hanson filmed them for Scythe to watch. The criminals got bigger and bigger as time went by.

Unlike the previous Colan story (#256's "The Ghosts of Greymoor Castle"), I remembered absolutely nothing about this one... until I got to the end. [SPOILER] Scythe meets his end watching a live feed of himself burning to death... and being fascinated by it. [END SPOILER] This story is not a good fit either visually or narratively with the concurrent DeMatteis/Zeck run, but it is a good, if disturbing, standalone. 

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