Characters Appearing: Captain America, Red Skull
Captain America annual #13
Issue(s): Captain America annual #13
The story begins with what turns out to be the present day, although between the scripting and the premise - the Red Skull robbing a house safe - i originally assumed we were already in flashback mode.
It turns out that the Red Skull is seeking a diary of Adolph Hitler, which will supposedly detail plans that were meant to be used in conjunction with the release of the Sleepers. The Skull manages to get away with the diary. We then go into our flashbacks. The first one shows the Skull and Hitler discussing the Sleepers and the other plans for "Der Tag" (the day, in this case the day when the Sleepers were supposed to be woken). And Hitler gives the Skull the strongbox with his diary. The next part of the flashback shows Captain America and two of his soon-to-be-replacements - the Spirit of '76, and the Patriot - raiding the Red Skull's bunker at what is said to be the same time the the Human Torch and Toro were going after Hitler.
They are joined by the Red Guardian.
All have orders to retrieve the strongbox.
Both the Spirit and the Patriot express anti-Soviet distrust.
The Red Guardian nonetheless puts himself in danger to allow Cap to continue on to his final Golden Age encounter with the Red Skull (as originally seen in flashbacks in Tales of Suspense). The strongbox was assumed to have been destroyed in the subsequent explosion. But, with the Red Guardian having failed to retrieve it, the Soviet Union later sends the Communist Red Skull to get it. It is now, for some reason, thought to be at the United Nations. This is a revision in motivation for the Commie Red Skull's first appearance in Young Men #24. Another revision has the Commie Skull reviving the Communist Electro to make another attempt for the strongbox, and this time succeeding.
Electro is subsequently defeated by 1950s Cap again while the Skull gets away.
But - as the original/current Skull learns when he opens the strongbox - the one that the Commie stole from the UN turns out to only be a replica. It does give the location of the original, though; the Commie Skull's old hideout. So the Red Skull lures Captain America to that location, allowing Cap to trigger all of the Commie Skull's traps before stepping in to retrieve the strongbox himself. But it turns out that the strongbox just held a bunch of Hitler's memorabilia.
The Skull is seemingly killed during the subsequent fight with Cap, but the narration confirms that he's not really dead.
A second story has Cap at the grave of a man that he knew from World War II. It turns out that Cap wasn't very careful with his secret identity back in the day. Not only did Bucky learn it basically by accident, but so did a man nicknamed Biz (because he was "all business").
Biz suffered through the army's segregation, but he befriended Cap and didn't give up Cap's secret identity even when "foreign agents" kidnapped and tortured him. And now that there are some racists who don't want Biz buried in a "white cemetery", Cap needs to roll up his sleeves.
The intention behind stories like this is good, but it always raises questions for me. I'd rather that Cap was just oblivious to the problems of segregation. But once he becomes aware of what Biz had to go through, and befriended the guy, i have to wonder why Cap never took a stand against segregation. If not during the war, then after he woke up again (without having to be cajoled into doing so on a few occasions by the Falcon). It's generally annoying when a random friend never before or again seen is inserted into a character's backstory for a fill-in story, and more so in this case.
The main story is just Roy Thomas being Roy Thomas. The confusing number of Red Skulls and Captain Americas involved isn't his fault, exactly, except in the sense that he chose to delve into it all again.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP place this between Captain America #430-431. But as Ben notes in the comments, the Red Skull spends a lot of time admiring Cap's fighting prowess, suggesting that this takes place before his super-serum starts to degrade. So i'm placing this after Captain America #421.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I have always thought that it makes more sense for this story to take place *before* Cap #425, which was the beginning of the "Fighting Chance" storyline. There are no references to the Super-Soldier Serum deteriorating, and Cap appears to be operating at his normal level throughout the events of this annual. I think a better place to put this would be after Cap #421. It can't be before that, since in #420 we see Cap expressing frustration that ever since his resurrection the Red Skull has managed to avoid a direct confrontation, so obviously this annual hasn't happened yet. That issue pretty much leads right into the crossover with Nomad. So I think it makes sense for this story to occur right after that, and before #422, which is the first time Cap starts to experience physical problems due to the Serum starting to fail.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 13, 2018 8:56 PM
Note that there was a strongbox in Tales of Suspense 72 that contained the names of the agents responsible for the Sleepers. And Cap supposedly took it from the Skull's headquarters in their final wartime battle. So there were two strongboxes Hitler gave to the Skull?
Posted by: Michael | February 13, 2018 11:36 PM
@Ben, thanks. Your suggestion makes sense and i've pushed this back.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 18, 2018 4:46 PM
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