Wednesday, March 07, 2007

O Captain, My Captain

The first comic book I remember was an issue of The Avengers in which the frozen body of Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, was found floating in the North Atlantic. It was an epic tale that included the Sub-Mariner, and Cap filling the Hulk sized hole in the Avengers. It was the first Jack Kirby comic I had ever seen, and all those big faces and square fingers really made an impression on me. So much so that I started buying every issue of the "New" Captain America. Superman may have been fighting for "truth, justice, and the American way," but he didn't have "America" in his name. And he didn't have that shield.
The shield: It had been radically redesigned since Cap's origin. When he first appeared, the shield was more of a red, white and blue badge. According to retroactive continuity (as Captain America has existed through many publishers), the original triangular shield was given by Captain America to King T’Chaka (father of T’Challa, the Black Panther) of the fictional isolated African country Wakanda as a pledge that the nation would remain uninvolved in the rest of the war. The original shield still resides in Wakanda as a national treasure. The circular shield, a jumbo-metal Frisbee, was presented to Steve Rogers by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The shield was created by an American metallurgist named Dr. Myron MacLain, who had been commissioned by the United States government to create an indestructible armor material to aid the war effort. MacLain experimented with vibranium, an alien metal found only in Wakanda that had unique vibration absorption properties. I know this now, but back then I was very keen on the way it made sounds like "spang!" as it bounced off of bad guy's heads.
Captain America was my guy until I hit puberty. Then it just seemed to make more sense to read Spiderman. I still picked up an issue now and then, but Steve Rogers didn't translate as well into the seventies as Peter Parker in bell bottoms. Imagine my surprise, thirty years later, when I find out that Captain America is dead. He was shot several times, according to eyewitness accounts, by a lone sniper. Conspiracy theorists, start your search engines. Marvel's President and Publisher Dan Buckley: "Captain America will continue to be published despite the very real death of Steve Rogers. Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing a number of books that deal with the fall-out of this turn of events in Captain America #25. In May, Captain America #26 is where the aftermath of his death must be faced, beginning with the autopsy of his body. So, yes, Captain America, Steve Rogers, is dead."
As for me, I'm sorry to see him go. I know that in the comics world, nobody's really gone. Even Superman was dead for a few issues back in the 1990's. Still, I can't help but think that this is exactly the time that America needs its Captain. Back in 1969, about the time I started to devote myself to all things Captain America, a movie called "Easy Rider" hit the theaters. The hero, played by Peter Fonda, gets blown off his chopper by rednecks in a pickup. The bike blows apart and the camera pans up to the sky - Captain America is dead by the side of the road. That was thirty-eight years ago. Since then he's teamed up with the Falcon, and even gone in to semi-retirement, only to return as Nomad (with a cape? please!). Others have carried the shield and worn the uniform, but Steve Rogers kept bouncing back. He even led the Anti-Registration faction that stood against the the Registration Acts—the Mutant Registration Act (or MRA) and Superhuman Registration Act (SRA or sometimes SHRA) — controversial legislative bills which, when passed into law, enforce the mandatory registration of superpowered individuals with the government. Steve Rogers was killed as he was surrendering to U.S. Marshals. Now he's gone. For now.

1 comment:

Robin said...

Didn't the Capn also have some WWII-era history with Wolverine - or am I conflating multiple heroes?