Characters Appearing: Bantam, Captain America, Karl Malus
Captain America annual #12
Issue(s): Captain America annual #12
Bantam is Roberto Velasquez a (of course) bantamweight boxer weighing somewhere between 119 and 121 pounds (his weigh-in for the trading card must have been on a different day than the comic). He wishes that he was bigger so that he could fight in a higher weight class, so he accepts an offer from people working for Dr. Karl Malus, who subjects him to the power broker treatment.
Velasquez's first subsequent match has him blacking out and going into a rage. He winds up killing his opponent.
You see, Malus' treatment didn't just increase Velasquez's strength. It also allows him to unleash (wait for it).... the fury of the chicken!
Velasquez opts to not work for the criminal that funded his experiment, and he's shot, put into a box, and thrown into the swamp. But he finds that getting hit (including by bullets) increases his strength.
Inspired by the proximity of a chicken...
...he becomes Bantam.
And i'm not kidding about that chicken rage.
Meanwhile, Captain America has learned that enhanced fighters have begun infiltrating professional boxing. We all know Captain America's opinion of Pro Wrestling (see Captain America #271), but boxing's a real sport so this apparently merits Cap's involvement (and, to be fair, in the Marvel universe the wrestling industry did the right thing by creating an Unlimited Class but that doesn't seem to have happened in boxing). Cap crosses paths with Bantam, but Bantam is unable to contain his chicken fury so they get into a fight.
Bantam eventually calms down and they beat up all the crooks (Malus is captured).
A back-up shows Bantam unable to contain his mighty rooster rage.
Between his fury and his strength, he's upset that he can't box anymore. But he's convinced to become a boxing coach, and he is able to get some local gang members to join up and take out their aggression in the ring instead of the street.
Do not "um, actually" me about cock fights...
...modelling someone after a chicken and giving him berserker-like rages is ridiculous and no one will take it seriously. He's a chicken! The premise is absurd and frankly humiliating! And also bizarre!
Bantam has one more, basically cameo, appearance.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
As I've mentioned on a few occasions, I was a *huge* fan of Captain America in the 1990s. I really really really wanted to like this annual, but as much as I really attempted to be open-minded, a part of me always recognized that the Bantam was a ridiculous character. A guy in a rooster costume with boxing gloves feels sort of like a throwback to the oddball animal inspired characters who popped up in the early Bronze Age. Maybe the Bantam might have kinda sorta worked in the early 1970s, but two decades later he was ridiculous.
I always laugh at that one panel where Cap thinks to himself "he's in some sort of berserker rage!" Really?!? This is a boxing chicken you're dealing with, not Wolverine or Sabretooth!
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 15, 2017 2:33 PM
Something tells me Gruenwald didn't like the editorially-mandated "create a new character" gimmick any more than anyone else, so he created a character as ridiculous as possible, basically making a mockery of the whole thing.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | February 15, 2017 3:59 PM
All Bantam needed was the proper archenemy ... the C*ckbl*cker!
Posted by: Gary Himes | February 15, 2017 5:52 PM
A very minor point but the weight limit for the bantamweight class is 118. Technically he is a super bantamweight (which may be the point) or a junior featherweight. Neither of which serves to make him any less ridiculous.
Posted by: Mizark | February 15, 2017 6:39 PM
Why are the rooster-men always minorities? That's just weird.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | February 15, 2017 7:01 PM
Posted by: Ubersicht | February 15, 2017 7:32 PM
A spoof superhero show called Chickenman played on the radio in the 1960s. Wikipedia has a page on it.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | February 15, 2017 8:12 PM
Back in 1988, Marvel Age 64 announced that a new black hero called Bantam would be appearing in Web of Spider-Man Annual 4. But he never appeared, and instead Posion appeared. I wonder if this is the same character reworked. It's an interesting question- which is worse- a minority boxing chicken or a Hispanic maid that dresses like a prostitute?
Posted by: Michael | February 15, 2017 8:52 PM
Bantam feels like a pastiche on Wolverine to me, what with the diminute height and the reliance on dangerous berserker furies.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | February 15, 2017 8:56 PM
If Gru isn't mocking the whole annual create-a-character idea, my guess is he's indulging in his affection for Silver Age DC, partivularly Batman. I could see late Silver Age Bats fighting a guy like this. He's no worse than a Calendar Man.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 15, 2017 11:16 PM
I think I've got it: he's a Batman joke! "Bantam" is "Batman" with the letters scrambled. The tip-off is the title of the third story: BATMAN RETURNS came out the previous year.
The bit where he's thinking he needs a costume, and a chicken goes by, is a subtle parody of the bit from Batman's origin where the bat flies in through the window.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | February 15, 2017 11:28 PM
Oh my god, Luke, you're right. That's hilarious. All it needs is a line like, "It's an omen! I shall become a creature of the morning! The early morning!"
Posted by: Andrew | February 16, 2017 10:55 AM
Ever dance the funky chicken in the pale dawn light?
Posted by: Jack Chickenson | February 16, 2017 11:17 AM
Holy roasted chicken, Bantam!
Posted by: clyde | February 16, 2017 1:44 PM
Now the next logical step should be a guy who has the Donald Duck rage. He would be pretty unstoppable.....
Posted by: Jay Montoya | April 22, 2017 3:18 AM
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