Captain America #255
Issue(s): Captain America #255
This is a recap of Captain America's origin. I assume it's meant to be the definitive version (
...now that Cap has retrieved his real memories but it also works as a tribute issue. As an actual story, however, it doesn't really have any value.
Let's run through the elements of the origin.
Steve Rogers is a city boy and a bookworm:
He gets very upset by newsreels on the Nazi menace:
The regular army won't take him, but he attracts the attention of a special program:
Old lady mask:
His treatment involves an injection, an oral component, and vita-ray:
Erskine is then killed:
Rogers is trained and given the identity of Captain America and a uniform and shield:
After an incident with the original mask nearly exposes his identity...
...his costume is modified to prevent that from happening again:
He also gets a new shield, the materials of which were created during a metallurgical accident:
He's deployed as a private while moonlighting as Captain America:
And that's where it ends, except for a montage spread...
...so no details or clarifications on the origin of Bucky or the final incident with Baron Zemo.
Oh, and we started off with Byrne's version of Cap punching out Hitler.
This is the last issue of the awesome but too short Stern/Byrne run. Several reasons for this. The John Byrne version is that Jim Shooter made a sudden decree that there would be no books with continuing stories, and that ruined an upcoming three part Red Skull storyline and would have left them scrambling to submit new stories in time for publication, so they quit in protest:
Start with Jim Shooter. One day he decided that all stories should be complete in one issue. There could be "continued stories" in the sense that subplots or locations could carry over from one issue to the next, but each issue had to contain a complete story unto itself. And, as with all such Shooter declarations, this was to be put into place +now+, immediately-with no consideration of the fact that some of us (say, Roger and I) might be already working on what was intended as the first chapter of a three part story.
It's worth noting that while it definitely seems that the norm at this time was single-issue stories, there were several multi-part stories published at the same time and after this issue in other books (the Frightful Four arc in Amazing Spider-Man, the Arcade/Dr. Doom arc in X-Men, a number of Iron Man issues), which makes that version somewhat suspect.
Roger Stern has said it was due to deadline issues:
Marvel was starting to crack the whip on deadlines, and all the editors were under pressure to get their books on time. I'd had some stomach trouble midway through our run on Cap, and John was about to get married, and Jim Salicrup was understandably worried that we would fall further behind. I thought we could pull ahead in just a matter of weeks - my digestion was already back to normal, and I knew that John's work ethic was as strong as mine - and to prove it, I sat down and plotted the next three issues straight through. Jim was still uneasy about the deadlines, and so he decided to schedule a fill-in by another writer. I pointed out that we already had a fill-in underway; Frank Miller was drawing a stand-alone Cap story that I was going to script. (It eventually saw print in Marvel Fanfare.)
Note that the "Jim" in the above quote is editor Salicrup, not Shooter.
Either way, as Byrne says, it's a great pity, because it was a very nice run that was still going strong.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: There's one page at the end of the issue depicting Cap returning to his apartment after a long day to burn the midnight oil on a freelance art assignment, which means that i keep this issue placed in modern times as opposed to back in the Golden Age. The modern day scene takes place after Captain America #256-257, which are fill-in issues that take place while Cap is still in England.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
John Byrne later stated that his run with Stern was supposed to eventually reveal that Cap & Wolverine fought in WW2 together.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 11, 2012 3:03 PM
Byrne also wanted to dump the Red Skull's green jumpsuit, permanently replace it with a modified gestapo outfit(like that seen in the original Marvel Universe Handbook) and show his face for the first time(he was unaware of the Golden Age stories that did that).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 18, 2012 4:34 PM
There's something a bit off about the way young Steve is drawn here... he looks more like an old man in some panels.
Posted by: Berend | February 9, 2014 5:08 PM
A Night Raven text story suggests this as an appearance by Jameson. Night Raven started as an homage to the Shadow and the Spider.
Posted by: PB210 | February 15, 2014 1:12 PM
You should Walter Jameson as appearing, as he appears later in Busiek's 1993 mini-series.
Quick question on Captain America in the 1940's and later:
Did Captain America use Doc Savage or Dick Tracy style gadgets other than his shield?
Posted by: PB210 | June 11, 2014 7:50 PM
I might have asked this before but did Sarge ever get a closure on his story or has he just disappeared with time?
I really REALLY dislike Steve having to be in the army and pretending to be the worst soldier ever. I would like a mini story of Steve visiting his old instructor and telling him or saying 'sorry about giving you grieve, sir."
Posted by: david banes | June 11, 2014 9:19 PM
In retrospect, Cap didn't need the Private Steve Rogers secret identity and poor Sarge should have been spared. It's a relic of the golden age that doesn't make sense. In so far that Steve has to abandon his post to complete his missions as Captain America, the "Private Rogers" cover story actually hurts the secret of his true identity.
He needs some other cover in the military (perhaps a staff officer or adjutant role in one of the less glamorous military departments far from combat, perhaps payroll, heraldry, or military intelligence) and his ostensible commanding officer should know his secret ID and have it part of his job to make excuses for his absence.
Posted by: Chris | June 11, 2014 9:57 PM
@PB - i wouldn't tag him here since he only appears in flashback. And in Marvels #1 i stubbornly persisted in tagging him as J. Jonah Jameson but i left a little jokey note in there saying that it isn't really the case. The revision hinges on a bunch of issues (Marvel Super-Heroes #394 [UK], Sgt. Fury #110) and handbooks (Spider-Man: Back in Black) that i don't have but if anyone wants to see more about this, here is the Appendix.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 11, 2014 11:43 PM
It was a brilliant move, I thought, to have FDR narrate this issue and present the invincible shield, as it further defines Cap's ethos as the quintessential "New Deal/Greatest Generation" American -- idealistic yet tough enough to survive the Great Depression and beat the Nazis.
This issue became my "go-to" for Cap's origin, mostly supplanting even 109 (Lee/Kirby) and 176 (Englehart/S. Buscema). (Didn't have the earliest ones.)
This was the only issue in the famed Stern/Byrne run that wasn't inked (except for one pg.) by the excellent Joe Rubinstein, whose work complemented Byrne's so well, as earlier it had Starlin's.
Just re-read "War & Remembrance" ... and yeah, taking refuge here in the early 80s, as the early 90s, at least w. respect to Marvel, mostly just depress me.
Posted by: Instantiation | October 2, 2015 9:35 PM
Actually, this issue wasn't inked by Byrne. They were shot from pelvis, which he made ultra-tight for this issue. He had said that the process did not turn out as well as he hoped - which would explain why he never tried to do this again.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | November 1, 2015 12:09 AM
Ciao, Vincent! Shot from pencils, right? We understand.
Posted by: Cecil | November 1, 2015 2:56 AM
Oops! Yes that's what I meant. Stupid autocorrect.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | November 1, 2015 4:50 AM
Cecil, thanks for that - I thought VV was making an obscure joke.
Posted by: cullen | November 1, 2015 5:34 AM
Thanks Vincent. I wonder if the process not working is why Josef Rubinstein was brought in and given a special credit, or if the "inker of today" line is a pun indicating that only the flashback scenes were shot directly from pencils.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 1, 2015 9:25 AM
Sure, Cullen! It's not for me to speculate on other implications of John Byrne's ultra-tightening pelvis. But Vincent's insight was effortlessly both historical and hysterical. I like any points about the innovations and creativity.
Posted by: Cecil | November 1, 2015 10:13 AM
Aim for the pelvis, eh? Speaking as someone unlikely to ever be in a gunfight, this sounds like good advice. Unless it was against a Liefeld character. You'd never hit such a tiny target. Same for their head. You could aim for their giant torso, but who knows where the vital organs would be in all that mass?
Posted by: Jonathan | November 1, 2015 12:34 PM
One thing I love so much about The First Avenger movie is that they turned Erskine into something of a father figure to Steve, or more importantly: an actual character. In most comics Erskine is just the guy who gave Steve a healthy body and that's all.
My favorite part was Erskine offering Steve a toast only to remember Steve shouldn't drink before an operation...then says he isn't the one having an operation and has a drink right in front of Steve.
Posted by: david banes | May 2, 2016 3:12 PM
The proposed Stern/Byrne Red Skull story was announced as showing the Skull's face "for the first and last time", and stories with Arnim Zola and the Ameridroid were also mentioned.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 3, 2017 5:28 PM
Salicrup screwed the pooch on this one.
Posted by: VtCG | January 16, 2018 6:11 PM
Shooting the plates directly from the penciled art gives the book a sort of a Golden Age look, which might or might not have been intentional, I don't know, but it looks pretty good in any case.
I think maybe a big reason why Steve Rogers was cast in his secret identity as an Army private was so that new enlistees in the Army, and in all the service branches, and all of their wannabes back home, could better identify with him as a power fantasy focus character. Because at that time, and even before Pearl Harbor, they say record numbers of people were enlisting in the Army or trying to enlist. It wouldn't do at the time (and maybe not at any time) for him to be given an easy or undemanding behind-the-front-lines service job, no matter how inconvenient it might prove to be for his Captain America duties, and such inconveniences just provided more grist for the story mill really. In 1941 especially I don't think those stories were aiming so much for realism as for fantasy.
Posted by: Holt | April 25, 2018 7:47 PM
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