By Andrew A. Smith
Tribune Content Agency
Avengers: Endgame had a lot of great callbacks to the comics, not all of which were obvious. With a huge, honkin’ SPOILERS AHEAD warning, let’s look at a few:
CAP vs. CAP: Superheroes battling their own doppelgangers is a staple of comics, and Captain America is no exception – the Endgame scene where he fought his younger self could have been based on a number of old comics. But I like to think it was inspired by one of my favorites, because it was so clever and well done.
Back when the Living Legend of World War II was thawed out of his iceberg in 1964, he explained that he became a popsicle in 1945. However, Marvel Comics, who were then called Timely, continued to publish Captain America Comics until 1950. And as Atlas Comics, the publisher revived the character for three issues in 1954. If the Star-Spangled Avenger was snoozin’ in an ice cube since ’45, who were these other Captains America?
Turning lemons into lemonade, Marvel established that two other patriotic superheroes from the ‘40s, The Patriot and the Spirit of ’76, were asked by the Army to appear as Cap in public after 1945 as a matter of morale. Since both were killed in battle, the government used an incomplete version of the Super-Soldier serum to create an entirely new Captain America in 1954. That Cap went bonkers, becoming a lunatic superpatriot who saw Commies under every bed. This retroactive history jibed perfectly with the jingoistic Captain America comics of the 1950s, which are pretty hard to read now.
Anyhow, the ‘50s Cap had been kept in suspended animation while a cure was sought – until the early 1970s, when he escaped and started making life really hard for our modern, more progressive Super-Soldier. Things came to a head in the 1972 tale “Two into One Won’t Go!” where, as you’d expect, the genuine article put down the wannabe, both physically and philosophically.
Captain America battled another Captain America in 1972, just like in Avengers: Endgame.
“IF YE BE WORTHY …”: Speaking of Cap, we all knew he was worthy enough in Age of Ultron to lift Thor’s hammer, right? (And the Thunder God seemed to know it, too.) He’s already done it several times in the comics, the first being in Thor #390 in 1988. It’s not that great a story, but what it established made all us Cap fans cheer.
HAIL HYDRA: And, yes, there’s yet another Captain America callback worth mentioning. Maybe they were trying to squeeze them all in now that Steve Rogers is retired?
Anyway, in 2016 Kobik, a sentient cosmic cube, altered the timeline to establish Steve Rogers as a lifelong member and true believer of the fascist organization Hydra. Much angst and fisticuffs ensued when Cap said “Hail Hydra” and took over America. I don’t know how this was undone, as I never read the story – the idea of a fascist Captain America makes me nauseous.
I’m almost mollified by Cap’s use of “Hail Hydra” to defuse the elevator scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and walk away with the Mind Stone without a fight. Clever. But I still won’t read that 2016 story.
ASGARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: Thor didn’t pick that name out of thin air. It’s the title of a current Marvel series, a replacement for Guardians of the Galaxy, that features Angela, Thor’s sister; Valkyrie (played in the movies by Tessa Thompson); Kevin Masterson, the son of a replacement Thor; Skurge, the former villain known as The Executioner (Karl Urban); Destroyer, an animated suit of Agardian armor; and Throg, an anthropomorphic frog that wields a hammer made from a shard of Mjolnir.
And you thought a talking raccoon was weird.
PROFESSOR HULK: Yes, the “best of both worlds” Hulk has happened in the comics already. In the early ‘90s writer Peter David combined various Hulks into “The Professor,” a mild-mannered Greenskin who was as strong as the angry Hulk and as smart as Bruce Banner.
Naturally, this being the Hulk, the happy ending didn’t last. But it was part of David’s long-running effort to establish that Bruce Banner suffered from dissociative identity disorder, and that the Hulks – including The Professor – were different personalities. We’ll have to wait and see if the movies go in that direction.
GREEN SAVIOR: Hulk supporting the collapsed Avengers Compound on his back reminded a lot of comics fans of Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars, a blandly generic heroes-fight-villains story from 1984 written in support of a toy line. One highlight, though, was when the bad guys dropped a mountain on the good guys, who were saved by the Hulk, holding the entire magilla on his back.
To viewers of Avengers: Endgame, the cover to MSH Secret Wars #4 will look very familiar.
Just like in Avengers: Endgame, the Hulk held up a massive weight to save his fellow heroes.
HAWKEYE GOES LONG: In the pages of Secret Avengers in 2013, the whole world was attacked by The Descendants, murderous androids with the powers of various Avengers. There was some sort of MacGuffin that could shut them all down, and it fell into the hands of the Avenging Archer after all the big guns had been defeated. There was one whole issue of nothing but Hawkeye running through the streets of New York fending off androids like a halfback running for the goal line.
Yep, he got to do it again in Avengers: Endgame. Only the MacGuffin was the Infinity Gauntlet and his pursuers were Thanos’ animalistic Outriders. Personally, I like this one better.
Hawkeye becoming the mysterious, masked vigilante known as Ronin? Yep, that happened in the comics, too.
NEW ASGARD: Avengers: Endgame establishes where the Asgardian refugees ended up after Hela and Surtur destroyed Asgard in Thor: Ragnarok. And, fittingly, it’s Norway. (One wonders what they’ll do with the excess population when bunches return from being dusted, but future movies may help with that.)
Can Asgard co-exist with humans on Midgard? Well, sure – because it’s already happened. Only it was in Oklahoma, not Norway.
In the mid-2000s, Odin was dead, Asgard was destroyed and the Asgardians were scattered. Sound familiar? In this scenario, Thor rebuilt Asgard above Broxton, Oklahoma, and all the remaining gods took up residence. At the time the Superhuman Registration Act was in effect – see “Civil War” in the comics, or “Captain America: Civil War” in the movies – so Asgard was given a dispensation as a sort of embassy (since it was floating above ground and not on U.S. soil).
Eventually Odin returned, Asgard was rebuilt and everything god-related returned to status quo. But surely this was what Endgame makers had in mind when they established New Asgard.
CAPTAIN FALCON: An aged Steve Rogers passing the shield to Sam “Falcon” Wilson may have surprised many Endgame viewers, but it was déjà vu for comics fans. It happened in 2014 in the comics, with Sam starring as Captain America in his own series for a couple of years.
“SHE’S NOT ALONE”: Yes, the scene of all the female characters posing for a group shot was a bit ham-handed and not at all convincing (since most of them didn’t do very much in Endgame). But the line “She’s not alone” was a nice callback to the Infinity War scene where Okoye, Black Widow and Scarlet Witch battled Proxima Midnight, which was done right.
It’s also a callback to various all-female Marvel titles like A-Force and Marvel Divas.
In the former, women are in charge on an island named Arcadia on Battleworld, a temporary parallel world created by the 2015 crossover Secret Wars (yes, another one). A-Force featured an all-female Avengers, led by She-Hulk and starring Dazzler, Medusa, Nico Minoru (from Runaways) and a new character named Singularity.
In the latter, four unlikely women bonded over their lack of romance, while pursuing their own agendae. Divas starred Firestar (Angelica Jones), recovering from breast cancer; Photon (Monica Rambeau), who enjoyed an escapade with Brother Voodoo; Black Cat (Felicia Hardy) pondering a return to crime; and Hellcat (Patsy Walker) dealing with an aggravating ex, who is literally the Son of Satan.
[Trim ends] Other Marvel titles, such as Hellcat, Mockingbird and Unstoppable Wasp, have enjoyed long-running female team-ups or ensembles as organic outgrowths of the storylines. It seems inevitable that the concept will only gain traction over time.
At least in the comics. As to the movies, in this matter as it is with all others, only Kevin Feige knows for sure.
Find Captain Comics by email (email@example.com), on his website (captaincomics.ning.com), on Facebook (Captain Comics Round Table) or on Twitter (@CaptainComics).