Captain America #177-186
Issue(s): Captain America #177, Captain America #178, Captain America #179, Captain America #180, Captain America #181, Captain America #182, Captain America #183, Captain America #184, Captain America #185, Captain America #186
Meanwhile, Lucifer escapes from the extradimensional world he was trapped in.
He breaks into a convenience store and starts eating candy bars. It totally should have been Hostess Fruit Pies.
He gets himself mixed up with a couple of local thieves, and merges himself with one of them during a fight with the Falcon. Then, since his energy is too strong for one human body to contain, he splits his power with Aries (or an Aries) from the Zodiac.
Then the two Lucifers get hired by the crime boss Morgan to kill the Falcon. After their first failed attempt, they come back to Morgan to remind him that they're not just fighting a single man! Oh no! They're also fighting Redwing! "And bird, Morgan. Don't forget the bird!"
Meanwhile Captain America's retirement has inspired a number of imitator/replacements, but they aren't doing so good. Cap is enjoying a domestic scene with Sharon Carter, but he feels bad about the fact that Peggy Carter is still in love with Captain America. But, oddly, Gabriel Jones picks up Peggy on the rebound. Granted they ought to be the same age, but Gabe looks a lot younger than Peggy and it seems weird that they'd get together.
Lucifer sends his Dominus robots after the Falcon...
...and, seeing the Falcon in trouble, Steve Rogers puts on a ski-mask and helps out. It turns out the robots aren't so tough because they were built to maintain Dominus, not fight. The Falcon is not happy at all that Steve had to bail him out.
Next, Steve is repeatedly attacked by a character called the Golden Archer...
...who turns out to be Hawkeye trying to convince Steve to become a super-hero again. He gives him the idea that he can be a super-hero wtihout being Captain America.
Meanwhile, the Viper is rescued from the police, only to be killed by Madame Hydra, simply because she wants to use his name.
She's formed a new Serpent Squad. The Squad includes Princess Python, the Cobra, and the Eel, who i still contend doesn't belong on the team since Eels are not snakes.
Steve designs himself a new costume and decides to call himself Nomad.
Sharon isn't happy that he's going back into the super-hero life, although i don't know why she doesn't just join him. Sharon is written as a really prissy "chick" in these issues and it's grating. She spends much of the book crying in the arms of her friend Dave Cox, a one-armed Vietnam vet that looks like Jesus.
Nomad gets into a fight with the Serpent Squad, but trips on his cape and lets them escape, having kidnapped the president of Roxxon oil. No capes!
As Aaron notes in the comments, this is the first appearance of Roxxon. The company will become the go-to evil corporation of the Marvel universe.
The Squad teams up with Krang, who wouldn't be allowed in the group except he has the Serpent Crown.
Madame Hydra/Viper is written as a really nasty and crazy revolutionary, and she makes nonsensical radical feminist comments as well.
Namor shows up, doesn't recognize Nomad as Cap, and tries to beat info about Krang out of him.
Steve reveals that he's the former Captain America to avoid getting pulverized. While they are talking, they hear the head of Roxxon speak and Namor realizes that he's under the control of the Serpent Crown. After a quick check with SHIELD (Nick Fury calls Namor the "sub-mareener"), Nomad and Namor head to Roxxon's oil rigs.
After mopping up Krang and the Squad (but Viper and Cobra escape with the crown), Nomad is told by Roxxon that he should have minded his own business since Roxxon has it's own private police force that can take care of such things.
We pause here to consider the limitations of my project when it comes to trade paperbacks, as Nomad's appearance in Avengers #131 takes place here. While helping out the Avengers on an unrelated matter (The Celestial Madonna saga), he hears that Cobra and Viper have resurfaced, and returns to his own book to catch them.
At this point, solid but unspectacular penciler Sal Buscema has been replaced by Frank Robbins. Robbins was a veteran comic artist with work dating back to the great depression, but this is among his earliest work at Marvel. Contrasted to Buscema, his work on Cap has high and low points. Buscema had a simple but classic look that never really made you go wow, but never looked too bad, either. Robbins' art on Cap is very stylized. His characters are very contorted and comical looking.
Sometimes, the effect is really good, especially when depicting grotesque characters like the Red Skull, but other times it doesn't seem to fit the mood of the book very well, making things look satirical when they shouldn't be.
Steve finds that the reputation of Captain America has its uses as he arrives on the scene of a siege of Cobra and Viper only to have the police knock him out and tie him up since they don't want some unknown super hero getting in their way. The police wind up getting massacred. Nomad frees himself and defeats the two Serpent Squaders, with Viper seemingly dying.
The Serpent Crown manages to hide itself, though.
Back in NYC, the Falcon and one of the fake Caps, whose real name is Roscoe, get captured in a set-up by the Red Skull.
Next issue (#183), Nomad is fighting Black Man in a Chicken Suit #2, whose name is either Blackhook or Gamecock.
After a mysterious person with a bazooka breaks up the fight, the Falcon's girlfriend Leila lets Nomad know that Sam is missing. Nomad then gets attacked by a bunch of Dirty Hippies who bought into the Viper's revolutionary speak. Escaping the Deadly Hippies, Nomad finds no leads on Falcon's whereabouts, although he does find out about a series of bank robberies where the money has all been replaced with counterfeits.
Nomad: Don't you know that all accounts are insured by up to $20,000 by the government?
Then things get really weird as Nomad decides to see if Luke Cage knows anything about the Falcon. "Cage's color is a very slim lead, but it's all I can come up with right now!". Uh, Steve, Cage's color isn't a lead at all. "Cage is something of a detective" is a pretty good excuse to go to Luke Cage. "Cage knows the streets of Harlem pretty well and might be able to tell me about anything unusual going on." is a pretty good excuse to go to Luke Cage. "Cage is black and so is my friend who is missing" is a terrible reason to try and get his help. Anyway, Cage is currently out of town, so it doesn't matter.
Cap also tries calling Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters to see if the Falcon went there to find out if his bond with Redwing was indeed a mutant power, as Professor X had previously suggested, but the Beast tells him that Falcon isn't there.
Finally, Redwing finds Nomad. The bird leads him to the dead, brutalized body of Roscoe.
The Falcon, still alive, is also there. Realizing that Secret Empire Agent Number One (AKA Richard Nixon) was just as bad as the Red Skull, Steve decides to go back to being Captain America.
Issue #184 has fill-in art by Herbe Trimpe.
The Red Skull says that his attack is timed to the 30th anniversary of the date Hitler committed suicide in his bunker.
Of course in the Marvel Universe, Hitler was actually killed by the Golden Age Human Torch, and also lived on in a cloned body that became the Hate Monger, but i guess the Skull doesn't know that yet. Cap and the Falcon face the Skull, but he escapes.
The Skull uses his Dust of Death to kill members of the US's Federal Open Market Committee and turn their faces into red skulls, and plays Chopin's Funeral March like he used to back in World War II. Jeopardizing his plans to derail the US economy, the Red Skull kidnaps and tortures Gabe and Peggy because he doesn't like interracial dating.
When Cap and the Falcon come to the rescue, the Red Skull reveals that the Falcon is actually his pawn.
The Stan Lee/Gene Colan origin that we read in his initial appearance was a fake one, and the Falcon was really a jive-talkin' pimp. The Red Skull turned "Snap" Wilson into the Falcon to... to... i don't know. It doesn't make sense at all, and it's really a shame to turn Marvel's first African-American super-hero into a criminal that was created by a Nazi. It doesn't serve the plot in any significant way, it detracts terribly from the character, it's an unnecessary retcon, and it really takes a lot out of the Falcon as a milestone. I don't know what Englehart was thinking. The Nomad arc has been OK so far. Not great. It hasn't touched on real political topics like some past Englehart Cap stories have done, but it's been a fine action story and it's been interesting watching Cap's search for identity. This, however, completely ruins the story.
The Red Skull escapes, and the Falcon goes into a coma.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place concurrently with Avengers #129-135. Luke Cage is currently in LA.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Captain America & Falcon: Nomad TPB
Inbound References (28): show
I like englehart but "snap" wilson was unforgivable.
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | May 8, 2011 12:27 PM
But I did love steve as Nomad. I wished hed have stayed the Nomad.
Posted by: kveto from prague | May 8, 2011 12:29 PM
The Serpent Squad story was actually inspired by Patty Hearst's kidnapping and subsequent brainwashing by the Symbionese Liberation Army. The SLA also had a patch design reminiscent of Steranko's Hydra symbol. That series of events also inspired a few obscure hardcore mid-70s porn films.
A later letters column revealed that much of the Red Skull's dialogue was taken verbatim from unprinted letters to Marvel protesting Peggy and Gabe's interracial relationship. Other columns explained that the Falcon's criminal history was written because the character was, well, boring.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 10, 2011 5:27 AM
Joe Giella was previously a longtime DC artist. He only did a few things for Marvel and may have retired afterwards.
The guy with the bazooka was never explained anywhere. I'm assuming he was an employee of Hugh Jones, sent there to stop the fight so Nomad/Cap could find the Falcon and confront the Red Skull. Considering that the Skull's plan was to destroy the economy and Jones was a businessman, it does make some sense.
Englehart originally wanted Roscoe crucified the normal way, but then-EIC Roy Thomas(just before Len Wein took over) vetoed it, saying that crucifixions were overdone. Englehart switched it to upside-down.
This was the Beast's reappearance after his dangling plot threads from his Canada/Secret Empire involvement were finished. Nobody else is at the X-Mansion, which could place it during the first part of Giant-Size X-Men #1 when the X-men are on Krakoa and Professor X is recruiting the new team(though I don't recall if Cyclops returned before, during, or after the recruitment).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 20, 2011 12:29 AM
Also: after # 186, Sharon Carter disappears for nearly a year.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 20, 2011 11:29 AM
Given how much an awful mistake the "Snap Wilson" story of the Falcon is, I wonder why Marvel kept it in fact. An obvious way to eliminate it is to reveal that the first origin of the Falcon is the true origin, and the Skull's "secret origin" is a lie created by possession of the Cosmic Cube. Of course, you'd need some reason why the Skull would retroactively change reality like that, but another obvious reason is that he hated Sam Wilson being such a noble character and just wanted to slime him and everyone associated with him by making him into a jive pimp.
Posted by: Chris | August 2, 2012 11:12 PM
Ralph Macchio has a letter in #179.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 27, 2013 5:24 PM
DeMatteis later retcons "Snap" Wilson into a split personality, IIRC.
The fact is, on first read, the reveal of the Falcon as the Skull's creation/sleeper agent is really good. Sam had been allowed to devolve into another Bucky, only with the tokenism aspect tagged on. But, of course, that's also Englehart's fault, since he'd been writing the book for the three previous years, during which much of Falc's world (Leila, his social-worker job, Rafe Michel, Morgan) has been erased from the book, little by little. Much like Cap's second job as Steve Rogers, NYPD.
It's hard to argue with the quality of the stories that Steve told, but they didn't fit the framework that Stan had established, that Friedrich and Conway had stayed within. Englehart is always writing Captain America, not Captain America and the Falcon. (Much as, after all of Conway's work to make Daredevil and the Black Widow its own separate, San Francisco-set partnership book, Gerber really can't write anything but Daredevil, and eventually writes Natasha out of the series and moves DD back home to NYC.)
So Sam *was* boring. The "upright, cheerful Negro" ideal sidekick that Steve would approve of, as the Skull mocks. And so Englehart decides to blow it all up. The idea of Sam actually being a criminal isn't necessarily bad, but the big-pimping Frank Robbins imagery for "Snap" (and the "Snap" name) are just over the line, IMO.
A side note is that, as the Skull's sleeper agent, Sam is actually responsible for the "locked-room" murder at the lighthouse. I don't recall John David Warner (who succeeds Englehart) ever really dealing with the fact that Sam killed a guy. Pretty much swept under the rug.
Perhaps Englehart thought that it was a bad idea for the "first" African-American hero to be just a sidekick, and by tarnishing Sam, that honor would fall to his own creation, Luke Cage?
Posted by: Dan Spector | February 3, 2013 4:09 AM
A "Pat and Nard" newspaper headline in #179 refers to the underground comix characters by Jay Lynch.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 25, 2013 6:31 PM
Mark Gruenwald has a letter in #181.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 25, 2013 6:32 PM
The Falcon's origin (Captain America #117) was by Stan Lee and Gene Colan.
Posted by: Haydn | June 2, 2014 9:13 PM
Thanks, Haydn. Fixed that.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 3, 2014 12:41 AM
My Cap collection was very hit-and-miss for a long time so I didn't get around to reading the Lucifer arc for years after I'd read some of the surrounding stories.
It still strikes me as a bizarre off-handed way to get rid of Rafe, who'd been set up as Sam's antagonist, but I guess with the impending "Snap" crap, the thinking must have been that Sam's own past would be a much more challenging opponent for him to overcome than everyday Rafe.
Still, the guy had been in the book off-and-on for years. Then he's just plucked as a host by Lucifer and it's like he never existed.
Posted by: Dan H. | February 3, 2015 5:43 PM
That panel of Cap mourning Roscoe is just hideously bad. It's the kind of panel that gets taken out of context and shows up in random places on the web.
But Hawkeye as the Golden Archer? That's just too damn confusing, especially as Golden Archer in the Squadron Supreme was calling himself Hawkeye the only time we've seen him to this date and he'll eventually have a costume just like the one Hawkeye uses, but there isn't a Golden Archer on this earth, and, oh, my head hurts.
Posted by: Erik Beck | March 6, 2015 11:39 AM
It would make more sense for Princess Python's timeline is this story took place before her Daredevil 118 appearance. Iron Man 50 ended with the princess attempting suicide-by-acid-vat and being told she'd be psychiatrically committed. I can definitely see Viper/Madame Hydra recruiting an ally from a mental hospital, and the princess's frame of mind would be right for her to throw in with a nihilist like Viper.
In Daredevil, Princess Python is back with the Circus of Crime, and she's with them again subsequently in Black Goliath. Having her interrupt her CoC stint to join the Serpent Squad seems like something to avoid, if possible.
Of course, there is the coincidence that Viper is Madame Hydra, and the CoC's operation in Daredevil is unwittingly tied in with the Silvermane Hydra operation.
It's also interesting that years later Princess Python gets a hard time from Sidewinder when she quits the Serpent Society in Gruenwald's Cap, and Viper not long thereafter makes a play for to take over the Society. Did Viper get some intel about Sidewinder's operation from Princess Python?
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 14, 2015 12:13 AM
Walter, i like this theory . But there's a footnote in Daredevil #118 that says that Python's appearance there takes place before this arc. I try to honor footnotes like that unless it's impossible not to, so i wouldn't swap the issues even though what you're suggesting makes sense. On the other hand, there's no reason why your theory couldn't still work. Viper could have already approached Princess Python before Daredevil #118 and Python could have rejoined the Circus as a double agent. Maybe she even convinced Ringmaster to get the Madison Square Garden gig on Viper's orders. Maybe Blackwing's involvement was more necessary than it seemed. Seems like great fodder for an Untold Tale.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 15, 2015 8:12 AM
Fnord, i don't know if you want to note that this was Roxxon's first appearance.
Roxxon was named after Exxon, according to a Steve Englehart interview in Alter Ego #103.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | September 6, 2015 9:24 PM
Thanks Aaron. So noted.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 7, 2015 9:55 AM
Snap isn't real! It was just the Red Skull trying to trick everyone and plant false memories!
Posted by: david | December 23, 2015 5:36 PM
I suspect that Englehart was trying to work in a low-level subplot about the Falcon being afraid of ending up like Bucky. At one point Leila says to the Falcon "He'd love another Bucky, the boy sidekick!" and another issue's caption states "He doesn't like to think about Bucky much". And I just noticed that the Falcon's last sentence in his dream in #177, "She's gonna blow!" is very close to "It's gonna blow!" which were Bucky's last words to Cap in Avengers #4.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 27, 2015 11:55 AM
I think this is the first time the Red Skull uses his "dust of death"? I have the impression Steve Engelhart was using the Red Skull as a dry run for the Joker and his Joker venom in his great run on Detective Comics with Marshall Rogers.
Posted by: Andrew | February 1, 2016 9:36 PM
The Skull actually used the Dust in the Golden Age; Englehart just revived it.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 3, 2016 12:10 PM
The "Snap Wilson" was retconned back when Sam became Captain America
Posted by: Karel | October 1, 2016 2:04 PM
The article's right that it's a wasted use of a cosmic cube. Making up a rumor, that's schoolyard bully level. It's not even a nasty enough rumor to be successful. No decent superhero would ostracize Sam over having once been involved in petty crime.
Englehart made a big mistake in adding the "Snap" background to Sam in the first place, but this attempt to roll that back isn't favorable to the characters either. For the Red Skull (with cosmic power) to do something to Sam that Flash Thompson could pull off just diminishes the Skull's villainy, and for Sam to be so broken up about it just diminishes Sam's heroism.
Posted by: Mortificator | October 1, 2016 3:54 PM
Gosh, Robbins'art look like Mickey Mouse. Or Not Brand Echh.
Posted by: JTI88 | October 29, 2016 5:11 AM
There seems to be a weird production error in #178. We see a silent panel of Steve Rogers working out in the gym, and the next panel's word balloon starts out with "...so Steve Rogers..." It appears that another word balloon fell off in the silent panel.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 24, 2016 6:55 PM
In #181, one of Krang's word balloons ends in an asterisk, which normally signals a footnote. There isn't one to be seen, so I guess it fell off at some point before printing.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 24, 2016 9:17 PM
Actually, after having read more issues drawn by Robbins, I'm eating my words: Robbins'art works. This story is strong: a very milestone character like the Falcon, an African-American who becomes the sidekick of America's living symbol, which turns out being only a puppet in the psycho game of the Red Skull. I guess that reading it back in the days was a shock. I still agree that since "blacks are crooks" is the quintessential racist stereotype, this retconned origin cramp the character. Maybe this war a price to pay to renew the character.
Back to Robbins'art: precisely because of the drama oh the story, drawing it with childish (because they're childish) tones enriches it. It's like having a children choir sing a song about hate. The content it's highlighted by the seemly inadequate channel.
Posted by: JTI88 | December 4, 2016 5:28 AM
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