Issue(s): Avengers #4, Avengers Classic #4
Avengers Classic #4
Well, the idol is a frozen Captain America, and the Avengers happen to pick him up.
He and Bucky were trying to stop an explosive-filled drone plane from launching but Cap fell off the plane and then it exploded. The villain who was launching the plane was unnamed but present in silhouette in this telling.
Bucky is presumed dead. The Avengers arrive at shore and are being photographed by the press when suddenly they are turned to statues (and the press believes that they ran away and left statues behind - it's no wonder no one's secret identity is ever discovered: we're not dealing with the brightest minds here).
Captain America shows up and spends a few panels soaking in the modern world - he marvels at the UN building and at television. These are some good character moments and a lot more could/should have been done in this direction. Then Rick Jones shows up and Cap mistakes him for Bucky.
Rick informs Cap that the Avengers are missing, and they figure out that they were turned into statues by a guy in the press crowd. The Teen Brigade scours the city looking for the guy, but Cap finds him by looking in people's windows. He attacks, and discovers that the man is actually an alien who we will call Asparagus Head.
He crash landed on the planet centuries ago and his ship is marooned in the bottom of the ocean. The Sub-Mariner agreed to help him leave the planet in return for attacking the Avengers. Cap's amnesia extends beyond not recognizing Namor; he doesn't seem to remember the Invaders or any of the retcon stories that he's participated in.
Asparagus Head revives the Avengers and they help free his ship. Then Namor attacks. Namor is drawn in such strange poses; it really works towards making him look like a slimy sea villain, which is great. I also love that shot of Giant-Man leaping over the Atlanteans.
He refers to Cap as 'the one called Captain America'. It is reasonable for Namor to not think it is the real Cap because he wouldn't expect the original Cap to still be alive and he knew at least one other Cap - the crazy one from the 1950s. The Avengers fight Namor and a small contingent of elite Atlantean guards who are still loyal to him, but Cap hangs back from the fight until Rick Jones manages to wind up getting held hostage.
The fight ends inconclusively when Asparagus Head launches his UFO, causing an earthquake on the island everyone was fighting on. Even though Iron Man notes Cap's lack of participation in the battle, he offers him a place in the Avengers, and Cap accepts. Rick knows that Cap wants to train him as a partner, but he worries what the Hulk will think.
Asparagus Head's real name is Vuk, and he'll have a number of additional appearances over the years. Before he arrives back at his home planet, it will be destroyed by the Dark Phoenix. He's said to have been on earth so long that between his wispy hair and his stone ray, he started the legend of the Medusa.
Of course that's hard to square with the fact that it's been subsequently shown that there are actual medusas in the Marvel Universe.
The early Avengers stories are fun because they are packed with colorful fights. This issue is just crammed full of plot. Captain America's drama as a man out of time add a little extra character development, as well.
The back-up, unfortunately, raises something of a problem. There is a real need to explore the moments when Cap woke up decades after his last memories, and a continuity insert like this would have been an opportunity to do so. Instead it addresses another, also valid, concern: how did the government determine that Cap was the original? To answer that, a suspicious Gabe Jones, working for Secret Service, shows up to run some tests.
Jones is rather cold even after the tests are confirmed. But what's troubling is the fact that Cap immediately receives back-pay for the time that he was on ice.
It's said to not be very much. Cap received his back-pay (again?) in a rather well known story that began in Captain America #312, and that time it was a million dollars. So i guess we write this off as an accounting error? I don't know how this got into the story without an editor catching it.
Cap picks up some other stuff as well.
This seems to contradict a similar scene in Captain America #247 but i guess it's small potatoes compared to the back-pay problem.
This is the problem with continuity inserts. I don't necessarily blame McDuffie for this but between him and editors Mark Beazley and Alejandro Arbona, someone ought to have enough knowledge or at least know who to run these stories by in order to prevent these kind of mistakes. It's especially unfortunate because a more generic story with Cap coming to grips with modern society might have played to McDuffie's strengths while avoiding these kinds of pitfalls.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP has this taking place around Tales of Suspense #51 (through no fault of their own, Iron Man's chronology for this issue is about a page long as they go panel by panel through a number of books). Ant-Man and Wasp appear here between Tales To Astonish #53-54.
Gabe Jones appears in the back-up only, not the original story.
Continuity Insert? P - reprint back-up story is continuity insert
My Reprint: Avengers Classic #4
Inbound References (51): show
Notice how Thor calls Namor "witless mutant"; makes you wonder if Stan tossed it off or had something more intentional in mind.
The Sub-Mariner most likely still has big gaps in his memory at this point. The villain Destiny would restore a chunk of it in Sub-Mariner #1 four years later, enabling Namor to remember how he wound up in the bowery to begin with.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 31, 2011 4:58 PM
spoken with honor and dignity, like a man!
Posted by: min | March 9, 2012 1:20 PM
Gamma rays are weird -- the Hulk goes from three toes to four toes in these issues. Likely Kirby kept mixing him up with the Thing.
Note: The above comments used to refer to Avengers #2-4 when i had all three issues contained in one entry. I don't have the ability to move comments, so i had to leave these here when i split these into separate entries. Sorry guys! -fnord12
Posted by: Gary Himes | March 9, 2012 8:35 PM
The best "cap catches up on lost time" story I read was in the brief Sentinel of Liberty series where we see Iron Man show Cap Ebbets Field to learn his beloved Dodgers are now in California. That scene pretty much sums up just what Cap has lost.
I think the "man out of time" aspect gives a pathos to the character, and it gets stronger with the sliding time scale.
Posted by: Chris | November 27, 2012 11:34 PM
What comic is this Gabe Jones backup from?
Posted by: S | November 28, 2012 1:54 PM
Avengers Classic #4. The Avengers Classic series reprints the first twelve issues of the Avengers with an additional back-up that takes place around the same time (like Classic X-Men).
Posted by: fnord12 | November 28, 2012 2:35 PM
I can't remember Namor ever meeting the paranoid Cap of the 1950's (although I wouldn't be surprised it such a meeting was retconned in at some point). But he did know replacement Caps William Naslund (the Spirit of '76) and Jeff Mace (the Patriot) during his later years with the Invaders/All-Winners Squad. Cap himself mentioned his memory problems after being thawed -- and specifically failing to recognize the Sub-Mariner - in Captain America #253.
Posted by: Gary Himes | July 4, 2013 8:13 AM
Namor met the 1950s Cap in Young Men Comics #26. Probably the most obscure example i could have picked, but at the time i wrote this summary i hadn't read What If? #4 yet. ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | July 4, 2013 8:55 AM
Is it possible to find scans of these short back-up stories from Avengers Classics in the web?
Posted by: SVC | August 24, 2013 2:09 PM
I think the movie lineup is better than this one. Replacing Hank Pym and Wasp with Hawkeye and Black Widow was a good decision.
Posted by: Steven Printz | January 12, 2014 8:11 AM
Probably the third most important comic in modern Marvel history behind FF#1 and Amazing Fantasy #15.
I've read this lots of times as it has been reprinted a lot. But the story with Asparagus Head often gets left out - I think Marvel Saga might have even skipped it. Is it established somewhere that he misses out on his planet being destroyed by Dark Phoenix? I always assumed he was killed there.
It's really a great story and a great idea, the revival of Captain America and the death of Bucky.
But that backup story is just a mess and should been left out. Aside from the fact that it looks like it was done with water colors, there are far too many continuity issues, as you pointed out. Just terrible and it's a shame because it brings down one of the best early issues of Avengers.
Posted by: Erik Beck | December 12, 2014 5:14 PM
Looks like it was established in a '90s She-Hulk arc.
Posted by: gfsdf gfbd | December 12, 2014 10:01 PM
Nice to know Asparagus head...er, Vuk survived Jean nuking his planet. Seriously if anyone needs to do a revenge plot on her, its him.
Posted by: Ataru320 | December 13, 2014 6:06 AM
In a 1990 radio interview -- https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RCoA1yoxino -- Kirby comments that he does not believe that it was his idea to kill off Bucky. The relevant comment is found at about 40:00 minutes into the interview. The interviewer who asks him the question is J. Michael Straczynski, who definitely knows his Kirby comics, based on the references he makes in the interview.
(Happy Birthday to the King!)
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 28, 2015 11:35 PM
Miles Davis once said there should be a certain day when all the jazz cats honor Duke Ellington. The comics artists should do something similar for Kirby. After seeing your apt reminder last night, I made a private toast and then pored over some classic pages of Thor and the New Gods.
Posted by: Instantiation | August 29, 2015 11:29 AM
My fiancée and I refer to Kirby's birthday and celebrate it as "Jack Kirby Day," and when we woke up yesterday morning, she immediately said to me "Happy Jack Kirby Day!"
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 29, 2015 5:30 PM
Something I was thinking about to celebrate such an occasion, and it's probably been done: Get some enthusiasts together, equip everyone with reprints, assign character parts, and hold a reading of favorite issues and arcs. Folks could double up on minor characters and someone with the right voice could handle the narration. It'd probably be a blast.
Posted by: Instantiation | August 30, 2015 9:39 PM
Fnord, on the checklist you have this issue as the 1st appearance of the Space Phantom.
Posted by: Thanos6 | January 29, 2016 3:20 AM
Thanks Thanos. I used to have issues #2-4 in one entry and the line got carried over when i split it out.
(Just a reminder that i strongly encourage everyone to report these sort of things in the Thread of Shame in the Forum.)
Posted by: fnord12 | January 29, 2016 10:23 AM
Sorry fnord. Old habits die hard.
Posted by: Thanos6 | January 29, 2016 2:00 PM
Has there been a Bucky/Rick Jones meeting since Bucky came back? Did we learn if they really did look similar, or if Cap was just delusional after his time on ice?
Posted by: Berend | June 15, 2016 4:30 PM
Their hair had opposite parts, IIRC.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | June 28, 2016 10:51 AM
There's a novel that brings back the Inuit shaman who led the worship of the frozen Captain America as detailed in this link: http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix/kenojuakaningan.htm
(said novel also deals with Kang and a possible member of the Cockroach Conspiracy)
Posted by: D09 | October 8, 2016 12:15 AM
I place this immediately before FF#25 and 26. This is the comic that made the Avengers and it is a personal favorite of mine because it brings my all time favorite hero into my all time favorite series.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 28, 2016 5:09 PM
Going back to Mark's comment about Thor call Namor a witless mutant (that's racist, by the way), it would appear that Stan was hinting that Namor was a mutant, which would be the most logical explanation why he had greater strength and the ability to fly, since it's not related to his mixed heritage. Even Namor referred to himself as a mutant this very issue. This would make Avengers #4 more significant, since it predates Uncanny X-Men #6.
Posted by: Matthew | January 21, 2017 3:08 PM
If the internet had been around in 1964:
"How dare Stan Lee and Jack Kirby ignore all of the appearances that Captain America and Bucky made in the late 1940s and in the mid 1950s! What gives them the right to retcon away all of those great stories? And to reveal that Bucky was killed by some lame loser we've never heard of who has a pink hood glued to his face, instead of Cap's arch enemy the Red Skull? Lee and Kirby are destroying Captain America! I am outraged! I am never buying another Marvel comic book again!" :P
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 16, 2017 7:23 PM
Funny thing, it seems like a lot of Zemo stories try to make him a significant bad guy, but something's always off about it. (On an unrelated note, there's this great Marvel comic from the late 90's called Thunderbolts. Anyone who hasn't heard of it should check out the first issue. Yeah, no idea what made me think of it.)
Posted by: iLegion | February 17, 2017 2:48 AM
I think Helmut ultimately works better than Heinrich is because he actually had time to evolve and develop as a character as opposed to suddenly appearing as a plot device to create another villain to the level of the Red Skull, particularly with how the "Bucky dies" story changes so much as much as Cap's origin But that's an advantage of hindsight: Helmut was created in the 70s and while originally bizarre himself ("The Phoenix?"), had good writers to get him to the point of well known aspects like the Avengers Mansion assault and the Thunderbolts; Heinrich...was created by Lee and Kirby as an early Avengers villain to create some sort of "old foe" that wasn't the Skull once Cap was on the team.
Posted by: Ataru320 | February 17, 2017 9:49 AM
Given that GA comics tended to be episodic and not drag out plot threads across multiple issues (Or so that's my impression; not an expert on them), it probably didn't seem like a big deal to insert a new "old" enemy into Cap's backstory. Plus it's at least being done by Kirby and not some newcomer.
Helmut is an interesting character in that he's a try-hard. Instead of running a fiendish organization and doing normal, super-villain things like the Skull, he sulks around in his castle between grand schemes like invading the Mansion and then the Thunderbolts. Most of his dialogue and actions like destroying Cap's memorabilia reflect his wanna-be status.
Oh, and if the internet was around in the early 60's, I'm sure Lee and Kirby would have faced a lot more complaints about their new direction at Marvel.
Posted by: iLegion | February 17, 2017 1:28 PM
But it's also worth mentioning that the Zemos are mainly scientists and not really cut-out to be full-time masterminds. A story late in the first T-Bolts series makes this clear with a flashback where Heinrich is salvaging the android Human Torch for the Skull.
Posted by: iLegion | February 17, 2017 1:31 PM
My memory is faulty but best as I can reconstruct it was ~1967 & I was ~11 when I found worn copies of this comic & FF #2 in my attic where one of my older brothers had abandoned them. Nobody was sure & only I cared much so I got to keep them.
~'69 an ad appeared in the local paper, someone was offering $ for old comics, came to our home & offered a few dollars for these 2 comics. I didn't sell but in ~'71 I gave them away, in a big box of all my old comics, to 2 younger neighbor kids. Their mom threw them away in the '70s, along w/ any other used magazines, as they appeared in her living room, as part of her regular housecleaning routine. My point is, few ppl cared all that much about comics until well after Roy Thomas started at Marvel. IIRC Stan Lee once said they didn't care too much about continuity in the early 60s 'cause only kids read comics, so few ppl outside the industry were expected to remember comics from the 40s & 50s. All that started changing in the 70s. There was no internet.
IMO small continuity gaffs like in Avengers #4 were little messes that didn't become giant clusterf'k messes until later writers tried to fix 'em w/ continuity inserts & retcons, usually working independently, w/ little regard for, & w/ little knowledge of, what other writers had done, were doing, and/or were about to do. In the 20th c. computers were relatively unsophisticated & mostly had li'l networking 'til the 90s. Editors were/are underpaid & less historically-minded than U.Thx.
Posted by: Holt | October 24, 2017 6:16 AM
Stan Lee makes Cap sound very bombastic in these early stories. Less applepie assertiveness, more like a lesser Namor (uses the verb "shall"). Did he write Cap like that in the 1950s, retcons nothwithstanding?
Posted by: squirrel_defeater | January 6, 2018 10:05 PM
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