Captain America #270
Issue(s): Captain America #270
They're on the verge of reconciling about that when a guy interrupts them.
He recognizes Steve and identifies himself as Arnie Roth. In fact, he's a childhood friend of Steve's.
But both he and Steve are a bit coy about that until they are alone.
It's said that Arnie knew even as of that final flashback panel above that Steve was Captain America.
Arnie Roth is gay. The script is perhaps slightly less subtle about it than Northstar. In both cases it would be over the head of a kid reading this. But this story spells it out more clearly for someone a little older while still retaining plausible deniability. To start with, getting married "just never seemed like... the right thing for me" and he's been "rooming" with his "best friend" Michael for ten years.
Michael's been kidnapped, purportedly by guys that Arnie owes money to. But in fact the people who approached Arnie overheard him say that he knew Captain America, and Arnie's story is a set-up. Michael has been taken, but Arnie knows he's leading Steve into a trap. And at the last minute he tells Steve the truth. So Cap goes in prepared, and first takes out a bunch of goons (wearing purple shirts, for what it's worth).
And then faces off against against a big purple monster. And his "skin" or whatever freaks me out. It's almost like his whole body is made of brains. Or couch pillow stuffings.
While Cap is fighting the monster, Arnie discovers Michael but he's unconscious. Arnie thinks he's dead. So he rushes downstairs. The monster is
The monster (pretty clearly, to us anyway) says "Arn...ie?" before falling down, and Arnie senses that it's Michael. Cap is weirdly dismissive (i think trying to be reassuring) but secretly thinks that Arnie is right.
When the monster is knocked out, Michael wakes up, and the two men embrace, with Michael saying that somehow seeing Arnie brought him out of it.
Now i've had some roommates in the past. All still good friends. But i'm fairly certain that after six months of rooming with them, let alone ten years, my first reaction if my brain were put in a monster body and then i saw them would be to attack while grunting "Stop leaving dirty dishes in the sink!". So i think it's clear that Arnie and Michael are more than just roommates. But again, not something a ten year old would have picked up on.
I mentioned above that Cap is being written as old fashioned, but what i think is nice is that seeing Arnie with Michael helps Steve make a decision about his relationship with Bernie.
So being old fashioned doesn't mean that Cap disapproves of Arnie and Michael's relationship.
While Cap was with Arnie, Bernie was talking down a psychotic homeless person. And before that, we get a little more insight into her character.
Which again, is nice. Wordy, maybe, but rational and complex thoughts that make Bernie seem like a full human character in her own right and not just a romantic object for Cap.
Hopefully without opening a can of worms about my Quality Ratings system, this is a story that could qualify for something in the A range. It's got a little something more to it than just an action story. And not just the fact that it includes gay characters, although it definitely deserves kudos for being really the first Marvel comic to acknowledge that gay people exist in a non-stereotypical or "rape you at the YMCA" sort of way (i'm ignoring the fact that Arnie was shown to be in the navy). But for me it's the larger tackling of relationship issues in a mature and rational way, with people working out differences without everyone flying off the handle, and having nuanced opinions and just really being human. While also getting some mileage out of the fact that Cap and Bernie are from different times, and looking at how that might affect their relationships (i could personally quibble about whether Cap really ought to be so old fashioned considering his background and experiences, but i'm fine with DeMatteis' interpretation).
The story also begins building a mystery (who was it that approached Arnie and released the purple-shirted goons and monster?), and that's well handled too.
So why didn't this issue get the surely coveted SuperMegaMonkey A rating? Well, a lot of it is J.M. DeMatteis' scripting. It's wooden and devoid of personality. In conversation and thought bubbles, everything reads like it is coming from textbooks. Now i grant you, the main character is Captain America and he's hard to write in a non-vanilla way; he's vanilla by design. But if i swapped out context and proper nouns, you couldn't tell if it was Bernie or Arnie talking, for example. And that's not the end of the world. I'll take it over fake slang, melodramatic histrionics, or god forbid some kind of gay dialect any day. It just doesn't pass that test of natural sounding speaking to me.
On top of that, Zeck's style, while often awesome, is definitely "built for speed" and that sometimes results in facial expressions that look goofy or other awkward panels; that pick of Cap in uniform standing next to Arnie looks really goony, for example.
I hesitate to even bring all of this up. But this comic has a lot going for it so i wanted to lay out my reasoning a little more than usual. As always, your mileage may vary.
In a subplot, a Guardian Angels type vigilante is shot down.
We'll learn in two issues that it's Jim Wilson, who was previously shown in an issue of Marvel Team-Up to be a member of the Young Watchers.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP, probably following the 1995 Avengers Index, places this between Avengers #220-221. But this opens with Bernie and Cap talking about their discussion in Anna Kappelbaum's kitchen "this morning", so i've placed this soon after issue #269 and before any other Cap appearances. It's about a four hour drive from New Hampshire to Manhattan, possibly less by motorcycle if you're Captain America. Takes place after Jim Wilson's appearance in Marvel Team-Up #114.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
The robot's skin looks like Razzles bubble gum candy.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 28, 2013 5:38 PM
" So he rushes downstairs, the monster is distracting,"
I heard about Arnie and this story. I did wonder if it'd be a bit stereotypical ,82 after all, but ultimately well meaning since I heard Cap accepted his friend. The Navy thing isn't really a big deal and it looks like a really thoughtful and sweet issue.
Posted by: david banes | September 5, 2014 7:45 PM
Some elements of Arnie were incorporated into the Bucky character in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER.
Posted by: Gary Himes | September 5, 2014 9:31 PM
fnord, there's a couple of times you call Arnie "Archie."
Posted by: Thanos6 | May 4, 2015 5:10 AM
Thanks; fixed it.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 4, 2015 7:29 AM
I'm sure its solely because I was such a huge fan of Secret Wars as a kid, but Mike Zeck's art style is always a winner in my book.
Posted by: Bonez | February 14, 2017 1:10 PM
I am 100% sure the gay part of this went over my head at age 13 in 1982, though it mirrors my own grandfather's life. He was gay, was a navy WWII vet, and had a longtime "roommate" too. Reading this in 2017, it is interesting how they presented the gay character without actually saying "gay." Overall good story.
Posted by: William Harrison | December 27, 2017 9:45 PM
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