Captain America #153-156
Issue(s): Captain America #153, Captain America #154, Captain America #155, Captain America #156
This arc resolves a sub-plot in which Nick Fury thought that Val was cheating on him with Cap. (Nick Fury is wearing a "SHIELD Action Suit, complete with solid-steel arm" in the pictures below. Almost sounds like they were marketing an action figure.)
Based on what i saw in Hulk #152, that was a pretty silly story line so it's good to see Steve Englehart wrap it up.
Sharon Carter quits SHIELD in the aftermath of the Cap/Fury fight. Then Cap and Sharon go on vacation (which Sharon pays for, since she has "plenty of money")...
...and get into fights with beach bullies.
Meanwhile, the Falcon runs into a Captain America and Bucky running around Harlem beating up black people.
The Falcon actually has to be rescued by people from his neighborhood, who were starting to turn on him because of his support for Cap. Standing up to the fake Cap turned the tide for them.
Falcon shows up at Sharon and Steve's vacation spot in time to help Sharon in a subsequent fight, after Steve was ambushed.
It turns out that there was another Captain America active during the McCarthy-ite 50s. He loved Cap so much...
...that he devoted his life to researching him. He eventually discovered the notes of a German spy named Kerfoot who had discovered the super-serum formula.
He brought it to the government where it was developed and used on him. He even changed his own name to Steve Rogers and was given plastic surgery to look like him.
However, the Korean War ended and the program was suspended. But this new Cap went on regardless, even recruiting a "Bucky"...
...and then battling a number of communist era threats, including the communist version of the Red Skull (as seen in Young Men #24). However, this Cap began interpreting his mission more broadly, going after "Reds" at home, which were further redefined as non "pure blood" Americans.
The government tried to reel him in. They try to apply the Vita-Rays that they now feel might have helped keep the original Captain America sane, but the new Cap and Bucky refused...
...and they were put into suspended animation. They have now been awoken thanks to a loyal patriot annoyed by Nixon's outreach to China.
This Cap is still under the impression that the real Captain America died in World War II and the one that's around today is another copy, but one that has gone soft and liberal. He infiltrates the Avengers mansion...
...to find his location and tracks him down.
He's stunned to find out that it's the real Cap...
...who after several fights finally beats the commie-hating Cap even though that one has super strength (did the vita-rays negate the super-strength in return for blocking the insanity?).
Sharon and Falcon take out Bucky.
Marvel must have been badgered for years over the question of "How come, if Captain America was frozen during World War II, there was a Captain America comic published through the 1950s?". I would have expected a Roy Thomas to attempt to tackle this sort of continuity problem, not Steve Englehart, but Englehart, one of Marvel's most political writers, makes great use of the character to challenge fake patriotism, racism, and commie-bashing.
The Bucky that appears along with commie hating Cap is Jack Monroe, who will subsequently wake up and take the identity of Nomad.
Also in this arc, disgraced Sgt. Muldoon forms an alliance with Steve Roger's jilted patrol partner, and they perform an illegal search on Steve Roger's apartment, but don't find anything.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (21): show
Wow. only a C+ for the best cap arc ever?
Posted by: kveto from prague | May 7, 2011 10:23 PM
i'm pretty stingy with my As and Bs (see the link on the sidebar for The Rules). Furthermore, while this was a pretty good arc, Sal Buscema's art is basic 70s Marvel House Style, and Englehart's dialogue is pretty stilted and feels dated to me.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 8, 2011 6:49 AM
Yeah, I noticed:-) IM not protesting your rankings, I just felt i had to comment on one of my favourite stories ever
Posted by: Anonymous | May 8, 2011 8:55 AM
When Steve Englehart began writing for Marvel, his first assignments were the Beast in Amazing Adventures, the Defenders, and a revival of the Ringo Kid. The last obvious;y never happened, but Englehart eventually stuck him in the Avengers in 1976.
It's been stated numerous times that Cap was nearing cancellation under the horrible efforts of Gary Friedrich and Gerry Conway; Englehart supposedly made it one of Marvel's top sellers within 6 months.
Roy Thomas actually did suggest this idea for the 1950s Cap to Steve, as revealed in a subsequent letter column.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 14, 2011 12:51 AM
The Englehart era was very important to the title, but while I liked his Secret Empire story and other elements, I've never been able to like this story. It's just bad. I understand the tenor of the times, and the liberal politics of the writer, but he's essentially saying that anyone who is anti-Communist is essentially a racist fascist and that's just stupid. I can understand the writers moving away from the Cold War era story lines of the 1960s, but establishing the 50s Cap went insane this way was just the wrong way to do it.
Does it make sense that President Eisenhower - who knew the original Cap, enforced desegregation, and would warn of the military-industrial complex - would have authorized some McCarthyite, who's obsessed so much about Steve Rogers that he used plastic surgery to look like him, to become the new mantle bearer? The "insane due to missing element of the serum" angle is very interesting, but it would be utilized much better later on with Nuke.
Posted by: Chris | September 3, 2012 7:19 PM
To be fair, Eisenhower had a complicated relationship with civil rights and the military-industrial complex. But IIRC, Englehart implied that the 50s Cap initially acted without governmental authority and nobody realized how nuts he was until it was too late.
Posted by: Michael | September 3, 2012 8:18 PM
Honestly, I can't believe the low grade you assigned this arc. It seems that no matter what - ALL comics through Silver & Bronze get slapped by you. Yet, Miller, O'Neil, and a few other "darlings" get A grade. The fact that ASM O'Neil's earn A grades is crazy - it was O'Neil's worst work.
Posted by: Jack | May 24, 2013 12:18 AM
Hey Jack, don't get too peeved about the grades. It's always subjective anyway. Just read the reviews and appreciate our host's insights.
Although I tend to agree that Fnord is a bit hard on silver age stories, looking at them from a modern perspective and not the context they were written in. Nicely for us, he put in the star rating system. Just sit back and enjoy the commentaries. Also, read his post on grading criteria and it puts a better perspective on it.
(Interestingly, I think part of it stems from a feeling that a "grade C" feels a lot harsher than "3 out of 5" for some reason, even though they are the same)
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | May 24, 2013 4:08 AM
I like this story a lot. I don't think Englehart was trying to say that if you dislike communisism you're an evil Captain America, think it was more a warning of being a rabid dog like McCarthy. As well as a less rose tinted nostalgic look of the 50s.
Jus wish the final battle between the two Captains lasted another page or so.
Posted by: david banes | April 21, 2014 9:32 PM
The problem I have is that Englehart seemed to think that Cap would have been a supporter of Henry Wallace if he hadn't been frozen in the ice. Remember, Steve joined up after the Hitler-Stalin pact but before the invasion of Russia- he was almost certainly intended to be part of the section of the Left that was disillusioned with Stalin and probably would have become an ADA member if he hadn't been frozen in the ice.
Posted by: Michael | April 21, 2014 9:52 PM
The 50s Cap was portrayed as being dated and reactionary. He was racist and sexist, as well as supporting the rabid anti-Communism of McCarthy.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 21, 2014 11:23 PM
I didn't mean to start something, sorry folks.
I felt really sorry for 50s Cap's fate a few years later and thought it was a lousy end for the character. I mean he probably came back since this is a comic book.
Posted by: david banes | April 21, 2014 11:35 PM
Recall that the impetus for these issues was a continuity fix, to explain why there was a Captain America comic published in the 1950s if Cap was frozen at the end of World War II. And the politics of these issues are a reaction to the racism and jingoism of those 1950s comics. Chinese people in those books were depicted as subhuman; from what i've seen, there was no distinction between regular Chinese citizens and the Communist leaders. Steve Englehart isn't the subtlest writer, but if the characters here seem unhinged, it's worth considering where they're coming from.
And David, you're right that the character comes back. He appears as late as Ed Brubaker's run.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 22, 2014 7:54 AM
But was there really more racism in the 1950s Cap comics than in the 1940s Cap comics against Japanese? And remember, the 1940s had Cap fight a painter driven crazy by a black man's hand:
Posted by: Michael | April 22, 2014 8:20 AM
Englehart had a lot of anti-State Communist stories. He introduced a character in his Green Lantern run who came from a Socialist planet who was excited to see how a human society set up along Socialist lines would look like, referring to the USSR, and the character hated it, saying that wasn't what Socialism was like.
And, people were concerned with Communism because the government wanted to people to be in the 1950s. They had to sell wars, because the economy was being set around war production, because economists were afraid that a return to a civilian economy would lead to a return to Depression-era problems.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 22, 2014 4:23 PM
Yes, Native Son, from the 1940s I believe, had many accusations of the protagonist being a communist. Lots of characters in the book figured there were communist kidnappers every where.
Alright that's off topic. I totally forgot that this storyline was to handle a retcon. I also did not know that the Marvel Hitler was killed by the original Human Torch, somewhere here I read that. Now the 50s Red Skull is Red Skull II or III and supposedly killed Peter Parker's parents? I think I asked that one already
Posted by: david banes | April 22, 2014 8:03 PM
I'm pretty sure that's the second Red Skull that killed Parker's parents. He was a Communist agent.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 22, 2014 8:13 PM
Chris, I'm not disputing that Englehart wrote anti-Communist stories but the ones I remember were AFTER Gorbachev took power, which is... weird.
Posted by: Michael | April 22, 2014 8:18 PM
I think we're getting well into offensive territory here so let's let the political side of this drop.
It is the third, communist Red Skull that killed Peter's parents, and here's the link to Amazing Spider-Man annual #5. The Red Skull you may not be thinking of, Chris, was George Maxon, who appeared in Captain America Comics #1.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 22, 2014 9:04 PM
Fnord - going in a totally different direction, could that "Arnold" be the Marvel version of Schwarzenegger? He was already Mr. Olympia at this point and it does seem similar to him. If so, he appears again later as the star of the Arkon films and even has a brief skirmish with Wonder Man when Wonder Man goes to the studio. He could be tagged.
Posted by: Erik Beck | February 10, 2015 8:19 AM
You're probably right that the Arnold here is meant to be Schwarzenegger. But i'm not sure that i should tag him. This could be dismissed as a one-off parody of Schwarzenegger or just a random guy named Arnold. He's not necessarily "Arnold Schwarzburger". I don't like to be the one that makes the decision that he's actually a different established character. I would wait until Marvel established that in an Index or something.
That said, i guess i should be tagging Arnold Schwarzburger in his West Coast Avengers appearances, so thanks for bringing that up. Since the MCP doesn't list him, i'll follow the Marvel Reading Order for his appearances, but if anyone knows of any others, please let me know.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 10, 2015 12:03 PM
There will also be mention of an "Arnold Schwarzenheimer" during Erik Larsen's Revenge of the Sinister Six storyline. How many Arnold expies does one universe need??
Posted by: TCP | April 15, 2015 4:37 PM
I just noticed something in your comments about how perhaps the Vita-Rays were the "stabilizing" component of Cap's Super-Soldier formula and that perhaps 50s Cap had super-strength due to not having Vita-Rays. Considering not too long after this is the whole "Cap gets super-strength" sequence (did Englehart just think Cap worked better with powers when he's supposed to be the peak of human potential?), I sort of wonder if 50s Cap was a prelude to that...and that perhaps due to the circumstances (the Viper and the antidote) that somehow it may have temporarily allowed for Cap to gain the same super-strength that 50s Cap had while keeping his sanity...and that eventually when it wore off or his body became adjusted to it, it went away. It's not a perfect theory but that's what happens when you think on the fly.
Posted by: Ataru320 | April 15, 2015 4:52 PM
I read this when it came out and I was 10. There's dated stuff to critique today but the beats and the feeling are pure Marvel. Proving once again that the golden age of comics isn't the 40s or the 60s but one's own childhood. I will love Englehart and Buscema always for making these comics.
Posted by: Solo500 | October 21, 2015 12:39 PM
One of my absolute favorites, for Englehart as well as for Cap.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 21, 2015 6:58 PM
Certainly dated now, it truly was pure Marvel then. I so appreciated Steve Englehart's use of Sharon and Sam, contrasting them with their battle with Bucky. I felt Sharon would never be written as well or even at all until Mark Waid.
Posted by: TomL1960 | November 16, 2015 5:30 PM
Hey fnord, the Falcon's nephew Jody appears in this story as well. I don't know if you have him tagged in his other appearances but he did show up more than once around this time period. He might be worth tracking.
Posted by: JP | May 23, 2016 10:53 AM
I did have him tagged elsewhere but missed him here. Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 23, 2016 11:04 AM
Has any man anywhere, except in comics, ever REALLY referred to a woman as "Frail"?!? The beach bullies do it and, if I recall correctly,Wolverine seemed to do it under Claremont.
Posted by: MOCK! | July 10, 2016 8:45 AM
Good catch, Mock. I didn't think anybody but Claremont used (and used, and used, and used) the term "frail". According to onlineslangdictionary, though, it dates back to Harlem in the 1930s. So, naturally, white writers in the 1970s would think it was hip...
Posted by: Andrew | July 10, 2016 9:34 AM
Yeah, Denny O'Neil used that term frequently too, over in the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series, usually spoken by antagonists to Black Canary. This would have been in the early 1970s.
Posted by: Shar | July 11, 2016 12:56 PM
O'Neill liked old private eye novels, which is probably where he and the others picked it up.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | July 11, 2016 7:53 PM
Fifties Cap / Grand Director will eventually have his real name revealed as William Burnside, from Boise Idaho.
Posted by: Andrew | October 25, 2017 1:40 PM
Excellent tale, this one. A bit of personal trivia: at the time that it was published here in Brazil the Avengers where not likewise translated, so I assumed that Cap was not na active member. It took this story to make me realize that Cap was indeed na active Avenger, as opposed to simply having been found and rescued by them.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | December 1, 2017 1:35 PM
This is seriously one of my favorite arcs in all of Captain America.
Posted by: Zach | January 17, 2018 3:20 AM
Comments are now closed.
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