Captain America Comics #1
Issue(s): Captain America Comics #1
...it's a nice recreation of the original issue. Captain America, nearly named instead Super American (Superman was first published only 3 years earlier), is based rather closely on another patriotic hero by MLJ Comics called the Shield. The issue was actually rushed a bit because Timely publisher Martin Goodman worried that Hitler would be defeated before the story reached the newsstands. Previously, Goodman was afraid to use Hitler's actual name in comics, instead having stand-ins like "Himmler" (in a Marvel Boy story) and "Hendler" (from the Mercury story in Red Raven #1), because he thought Hitler might sue. The cover to this issue, however, had Captain America punching Hitler in the face.
The comic starts with Captain America's origin. This is probably the Marvel origin story that has gone through the most revisions over the years, so let's look at what we started with.
First, there's a backdrop of German sabotage. This story was published before the United States entered World War II. But we've got Germans blowing up factories and filling the army with spies.
Then, J. Arthur Grover from the FBI is brought in to show the army a secret program. The program is located in a Curios shop guarded by an armed old lady...
...who turns out to be a young lady in disguise, with the designation X-13.
We're first introduced to Steve Rogers having already been selected by the program. There's no hint to his background beyond this.
It's said that he volunteered for service and was rejected "today" and it seems he was brought directly here, where he's given an injection (no oral or "vita-ray" component).
The doctor's name is "Professor Reinstein", although he isn't drawn to look like Einstein as he is in at least one telling.
Soon after Rogers is successfully turned into "the first of a corps of super-agents" (it's worth noting that the inoculation is said to increase Rogers' intelligence as well), Reinstein is assassinated by an infiltrator. Steve Rogers attacks the Nazi...
...and knocks him into some electrical equipment that kills him. Rogers shows no remorse about the death.
For the final page and a half, we next see that Rogers has been rechristened Captain America and given a uniform, and has already been on a number of successful missions.
He's also shown to have a secret identity as a soldier at Camp Lehigh, with a friendship with "mascot of the regiment" Bucky Barnes. Bucky soon stumbles into Cap's tent and Cap decides that Bucky will have to be his partner.
We're then invited to send 10 cents to Timely for a membership in Captain America's Sentinels of Liberty.
From there we have three additional stories about Captain America, plus another story in text form. All of the stories deal with Cap facing fifth columnists and Nazi saboteurs. Despite the cover showing Cap fighting Hitler, Cap never takes the fight to Europe in this issue.
The first of these involves the strange psychic dwarf named Omar and his partner Sando. Omar predicts disasters that come true immediately.
It turns out that Sando is really Von Krantz, a Nazi saboteur who rigs the explosions "that destroy the moral of your whole country". It's not a well thought out plan (why raise suspicion by "predicting" your attacks, and it's not really explained if Omar is in on the plot or what. But Cap and Bucky beat up Von Krantz and meet an investigator named Betty Ross (she goes by "Betsy" in later stories).
The story doesn't say what arm of the government she's working for.
Ross will later become Golden Girl, and thanks to the last name will much later be said to be General Thunderbolt Ross's aunt.
The third story has a crazy chess playing mastermind named Rathcone (despite the conceptual art on the first place, he doesn't have a skull-faced guy in a top hat for an opponent).
Rathcone has a group of assassins waiting in an adjoining room, and although they never see him they hear him announce which chess pieces he takes off the board, and that indicates who they are supposed to kill.
When Cap and Bucky start to investigate, their chess pieces are removed.
This results in a Nazi strangler visiting Bucky in his tent. This raises a bit of a problem. Bucky, in costume, is Captain America's partner. Out of costume, also nicknamed Bucky, he's sharing a tent with Steve Rogers, and this guy clearly knows where to find him. If Bucky's secret identity is so easily known, it shouldn't be a stretch to discover Cap's as well.
Also note that Bucky is reading Marvel Comics.
Bucky's also not much of a fighter in this first story. He's taken down quite easily by old man Rathcone.
Cap soon arrives to rescue Bucky. Note the frequent use of "arrows of shame"; comic storytelling was still a work in progress (i also love the tweety bird).
Rathcone and his goons are easily defeated by Cap.
The next story gives Cap a worthy opponent... the Red Skull.
The Skull has a "Look of Death"...
...that turns out to faked via an injection.
It doesn't make a lot of sense; the Red Skull killed his victims while they were alone, so what's the benefit to pretending he was killing them with a stare instead of a poison?
You'll notice in the picture above we see the Skull's face. Never fear; this guy, George Maxon, an American and the owner of the Maxon Aircraft Corporation...
...is not the "real" Red Skull, as revealed in Tales of Suspense #66. Tales of Suspense #65 also reveals that this isn't even the real George Maxon, just a Nazi lookalike. The 2004 Marvel Golden Age handbook lists Johann Shmidt's first appearance as this issue but i am tagging this Skull as a separate character. But this guy Maxon is killed in this story (something Cap is not at all concerned about).
Before he dies, the Skull shows himself to be formidable. Cap is surprised when the Skull can take a punch, and soon Cap himself is knocked out.
When he wakes up, he says, "Wow! I must've been hit by a gunboat!".
Simple stories (at one point Bucky just stumbles across the Red Skull's headquarters)...
...but pretty cool, and a guy with a Skull for a face and a big swastika on his chest is a pretty frightening villain.
Some fun stuff:
Not funny -- fantastic!:
It's me, you sap!:
I'll be back with more murder:
The Red Skull nearly defeated by a housewife.
The text piece has Cap foiling a plot to poison the soup at his army camp.
Also in Cap #1 is the, well, it's clearly the second appearance of Mercury, except he's named Hurricane in this story.
There's no doubt it's the same character, however; even beyond the identical look and powers, he refers to "Cousin Pluto". He also uses the alias "Mike Cury" in this story. However, he's now said to be "Son of Thor, God of Thunder" instead of Zeus.
Pluto, meanwhile, seems to have moved on from starting wars to instigating crime...
...and in this story Hurricane takes out a "murder ring" or "murder mob" organized by him.
The battle between Hurricane and Pluto really does have an epic feel to it, even in the tiny panels it's allotted to.
The aftermath of the battle continues to show that this wasn't just a normal super-fight.
Hurricane has a mischievous side, too. When he catches a criminal that a prosecutor wants to interrogate, he causes a pair of wings to grow on his back that floats the guy to the police station.
He also speeds up a taxi in a scene that has a zany early Silver Age feel.
Overall, it's a very unusual cast of characters. Very different than most of the other Timely/Marvel Golden Age characters. And of course there is the added layer of looking at this in light of the retcon that makes Hurricane the Eternal Makkari (based on the same thinking, Pluto is actually the Deviant Warlord Kro; this is confirmed in Marvel's 2004 Golden Age Handbook).
The final story in Captain America Comics #1 is about Tuk Caveboy. This story takes place "in the prehistoric wilds of 50,000 B.C." and says that Tuk (which means Avenger) was destined to search for "Attilan", Island of the Gods, to reclaim a lost throne.
There's enough there to fire up the imagination of a fan-fiction writer looking to bring this guy into continuity by way of the Inhumans, but obviously that wasn't the intent and to my knowledge nothing has been done in actual comics to suggest that this guy is part of Marvel continuity.
Here's a glimpse of Tuk's parents:
His enemies, the brain-eating Goreks:
The old neanderthal that cared for him after his parents were killed by wild animals:
And "Tanir the Cro-Magnon":
The next issue blurb says that Tuk and Tanir find Atlantis.
This issue sold at levels nearly equal to the debut of Superman, at one million copies. It probably had a lot to do with the timing of the War, and the fact that the cover was rather provocative!
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: I'm placing this directly before the Silver Age retelling of Cap's origin in Tales of Suspense #63.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Captain America Comics #1: 70th Anniversary Edition
Inbound References (13): show
A boy called Tuc (with a c) appears in Avengers 390 as part of the Crossing crossover- he's implied to be Crystal's son. But he was eventually retconned into being a Space Phantom because most of the readers didn't understand the Crossing.
Posted by: Michael | October 29, 2012 10:01 AM
"Rathcone" was probably a reference to actor Basil Rathbone.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 2, 2012 3:50 PM
The fix in Avengers Forever for The Crossing totally doesn't work because Space Phantoms were only able to assume subjects that already existed!
Interesting that the Tuc introduced during The Crossing was the proposed future son of an Inhuman (which suggests there was an intent to tie this story into the Marvel Universe proper). But alak:(
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 3, 2013 2:29 AM
I guess a Phantom could have taken a real cave-boy's formed and then just pretended to be Luna's brother---but I'm with Nathan. As bad as the Crossing was, I've always hated the Space Phantom retcon. Dire Wraiths might have been better, but I'd have preferred bona fide alternate dimension counterparts. It's not as if the MU has any shortage of those.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 3, 2013 10:54 PM
Thanks for your comment Walter. I've actually been wanting to complete a fix on The Crossing that removes the Space Phantom retcon but can't complete on my own (that way lies madness). I've been given good feedback on what I've started but need help. Are you interested in giving a hand?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 4, 2013 3:35 PM
Your project's great, Nathan, and I'd love to help sometime. I can't right now--and the Crossing may be more than I dare tackle, even in part--but one of these days I'll send you my theories about the Demi-Men.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 6, 2013 8:37 PM
Thanks very much Walter. Doesn't have to be The Crossing, just anything you're interested in. By all means send me some of your theories re: the Demi-Men now as I have hugely been theorising on their true origins for years now and would love to hear asap:)
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 10, 2013 4:57 AM
@Walter: Onto the Demi-Men.
While most fans always had the impression that Eric the Red wasn't interested in Lorna Dane as such, but was merely using her to keep the Summers brothers off balance in yet another way, Claremont's Uncanny X-Men #239 finally reveals clues that suggest otherwise.
In this issue Mister Sinister refers to Lorna as "the unchanging pole star... that points the way to glory..."
Now recall that Lorna was named "Polaris" by Eric the Red/ Davan Shakari suggesting he knew about the destiny to which Sinister refers above.
Otherwise Claremont would never have written the above line.
As for what that destiny is, I have some ideas!
When Sinister successfully bonds Malice to Lorna he says "Unlike the Marauders, you are now unique" so this comment, along with the earlier one mentioned above, would suggest her importance is separate to her relationship with Alex Summers.
Now recall how Claremont later hinted that the actual Marauders were cloned, including Sabretooth (and possibly even Savage Land Mutate, Vertigo)!? Was Claremont therefore suggesting that Lorna was another of Sinister's clones?
Is this the path he intended to take in revealing what the Demi-Men plot was all about too?
And Sinister's reference to her being leader of the Marauders, pointing their way to glory and their true destiny is his reference to clones supplanting mutants to inherit some power?
What that power is I'd suggest is that shown in Uncanny X-Men Annual #11 (i.e. that coming from winning the quest for the Crystal of Ultimate Vision). But I digress...
Was Claremont using all of this to suggest Sinister was the true villain behind the Demi-Men plot, the Magneto-robot and secretly Mesmero's true master, and not Davan Shakari?
Now the why needs to be worked out, in addition to what the real reason was behind Sinister having the Marauders massacre the Morlocks...
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 28, 2013 2:23 AM
Please take any further discussion about the Demi-Men, Polaris, Eric the Red, etc., to a relevant entry, like UX #49-52.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 28, 2013 1:28 PM
Perhaps worth noting - technically speaking, Agent "X-13" in the Captain America origin story could theoretically be (at least in part) the retroactive basis for the later "Agent 13" in Cap's Silver Age backstory... aka Peggy Carter.
Peggy wasn't introduced as a distinct character until the mid-60's, but it seems entirely possible that writers in the 60's were working from copies of the original 40's comics when reworking Cap's backstory (the Tales of Suspense origin issue clearly indicates someone working from the original copy and not just from memory).
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 14, 2014 4:49 PM
fnord, do you plan to add the Adventures of Captain America mini from 1991 to this section?
Posted by: JP | May 4, 2015 5:11 PM
The MCP lists that series as non-canon so i don't intend to add it. I also don't own it, so i don't know what makes it non-canon.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 4, 2015 6:49 PM
Hmm. I wonder why they have it listed as non-canon. I can't think of any particular reason why it wouldn't fit (although its been quite a while since I last read it), and Niceiza includes a reference to it in NEW WARRIORS #4.
Posted by: Dermie | May 5, 2015 12:17 AM
Here's Don Campbell's justification for excluding it:
First, several of the characters are portrayed differently than they were in earlier stories. For example, General Phillips no longer has the white mustache that he has had in ALL his other appearances, and Doctor Erskine is now balding and speaks with a strong accent.
Second, Erskine's assistant, Doctor Anderson, is supposedly killed by the Red Skull's assassins in March of 1941---even though Giant-Size Invaders #1 shows him alive in late December of that year.
Third, Steve Rogers is shown undergoing the experimental process on March 10, 1941---whereas an earlier story (Captain America #255) states that by March of 1941 Rogers had been in "a special training program (with his new body) for three months" before General Phillips told him that he was to be a special agent, Captain America, who was intended to be the opposite of the Nazi special agent, the Red Skull.
Third, Steve Rogers supposedly joined the US Army in March of 1941 so that he could be hidden from the Red Skull's agents---whereas earlier stories state that the army gave him a "cover identity" (as Private Rogers) that would enable him to move about in secret but still be close by for special missions.
Fourth, the Adventures of Captain America adds several new characters to Cap's origin. The three most notable "additions" are Lieutenant Colonel James Fletcher, Project: Rebirth's security chief who was "The American Eagle" in World War One; Lieutenant Cynthia "Cindy" Glass, Steve's love interest who turns out to be Agent X, the Red Skull's spy within Project: Rebirth; and Harmon Furmintz, a genius who was a candidate for the super-soldier experiment but was rejected because he was a hemophiliac. Furmintz is the only character who has appeared in any Marvel Universe story but the info provided in New Warriors #4 does not substantiate anything from the limited series except the "fact" that he was one of the candidates.
Lastly, The Adventures of Captain America completely changes the way in which Captain America first encountered the Red Skull. I prefer the earlier version from Tales of Suspense #65-66, especially since these issues incorporate the first 1940's Red Skull story. Tales of Suspense #65 retells that first story in which the Red Skull turns out to be "John Moxon" while Tales of Suspense #66 reveals that Cap suspected that Moxon wasn't the real Red Skull because Cap felt that he caught Moxon too easily based on what he "had heard about (the Skull's) fighting prowess". This clearly shows that Cap had never met any Red Skull, real or fake, before TOS #65.
Basically, you can't consider the Adventures of Captain America to be canon unless you're willing to ignore the Tales of Suspense stories and the 1940's Captain America story upon which they were based. I choose to stay with the older version of Cap's origin.
Don Campbell "
(I copied this from Buzz Comics, BTW.)
Posted by: Michael | May 5, 2015 2:26 PM
A couple of additional notes- since then, Cynthia Glass has been mentioned in a Captain America story. Also, New Warriors 4 came out before Adventures of Captain America 1, so it wasn't a reference to Adventures of Captain America 1 specifically.
Posted by: Michael | May 5, 2015 2:44 PM
I would love to be able to leave a room with the line, "I'll be back...with more murder!"
Posted by: kveto | February 11, 2016 10:55 AM
kveto: I remember that Skull line from the Linkara review: probably one of the best things to come out of the Golden Age.
Posted by: Ataru320 | February 11, 2016 11:03 AM
Is it me, or Cap looks a lot like Martin Goodman in that scan with Omar and Sando?
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | October 4, 2016 4:20 AM
Gah. Betsy Ross being retconned into Thunderbolt's aunt is a combination of Roy Thomas' worst instincts and John Byrne's. What a mess. The sliding timescale works best when you don't draw attention to it.
Posted by: JP | October 4, 2016 11:39 PM
Betsy is later retconed into being Peggy Carter. The "real" Betsy doesn't appear until she becomes Golden Girl in Captain America comics #66.
Posted by: Baby | September 4, 2017 9:00 PM
Wait never mind. This appearance of Betsy is genuine. Only in later stories cap and Betsy start dating is it really Peggy.
Posted by: Baby | September 4, 2017 9:09 PM
I should have done more research before posting. All of fnords golden girl appearances are real.
Posted by: Baby | September 4, 2017 9:11 PM
Regarding The Adventures of Captain America:
Most of Project: Rebirth entry from Captain America America's Avenger Handbook is based on this comic, so I guess despite what MCP says or thinks Marvel consider this series to be canon.
So maybe You can cover it after all?
Posted by: fragsel | September 5, 2017 9:24 AM
IIRC, the official line on Adventures of Cap was that it was an in-universe retelling of Captain America's origins. So the story was based on "actual" events retold with artistic license to account for any continuity glitches.
Posted by: bigvis497 | September 5, 2017 10:01 AM
OK, but If we don't read The Adventures of Captain America how will we know the "actual" events?
Still believe The Adventures of Captain America are essential and suggest them to be covered in this project...
Posted by: fragsel | September 5, 2017 10:15 AM
If what You say it's true it's similar to Punisher stories in 'Nam
Posted by: fragsel | September 5, 2017 10:17 AM
If Man Without Fear doesn't violate anything, then Adventures of Captain American doesn't.
Posted by: JP! | September 5, 2017 2:25 PM
Or fnord just doesn't own it and has more pressing holes to fill than a series of questionable continuity that has never been reprinted or explicitly referred to again and retelling an origin he has covered loads? Man Without Fear is readily available, is critically acclaimed and is actually referred to again in Joe Kelly's run.
It is getting a trade in a few months. It's a decent series and pretty much the spec script for the first 50 minutes of Captain America: The First Avenger.
Posted by: AF | September 5, 2017 7:11 PM
I know fnord doesn't own it and getting it isn't a priority. There's nothing wrong with that.
Posted by: JP! | September 5, 2017 9:31 PM
Adventures of Captain America has been listed on the What's Missing page for a long time now. No further need to debate its canonocity on this entry.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 6, 2017 7:05 PM
Comments are now closed.
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