Saturday, July 23, 2011

“When Captain America Throws His Mighty Shield!”

I’d like to say that I loved the new Captain America film, but I can’t. You see, I haven’t even seen it yet! Hopefully, I’ll get a chance later today. I don’t know for sure though, because we began our annual summer vacation trek across the country yesterday morning and we should be in Kentucky by now, heading to Kansas and then ultimately Wyoming. Our six children (ages 14 to 2.5) do remarkably well on such a long road trip. So, I’m uploading this post ahead of time and won’t be able to provide many updates over the next two-and-a-half weeks. Fear not faithful readers! You won’t even miss me while I’m gone as I’ve got the next two Saturday’s covered already!

Like I mentioned last week, I’ve been going a little Captain America crazy lately. I always have a huge Marvel Omnibus wish list, but due to some financial limitations this past year (Translation: I had to spend much of my ASM sale money on my regular comics, instead of reserving it for special purchases), I’m behind it getting some of the recent ones. I have about 16 of them so far, but I’ve only completely read three (They go out of print Thomm, so I have to get them now before the price increases too much). However, I’m about to finish a fourth (and my most recent one), Captain America Volume 1, which contains the stories from Tales of Suspense #59 – 99 and Captain America (vol. 1) #100 – 113 (or if you prefer the first three Cap Marvel Masterworks). Thanks to a pre-movie sale at Tales of Wonder, I got it for 50% off too! It arrived around Father’s Day and I’ve been devouring it ever sense. Clocking in at over 800 pages, this is probably the quickest I’ve ever read one of these massive doorstoppers.

I got the Garney cover.

A good portion of this material is new to me (one the reasons I’m so eager to finish it). I had the first printing of the Captain America MMW (baby blue cover) published back in 1990! You know the one WITHOUT the issue covers! Since I recently upgraded, I passed that edition along to my friend, J. Jackson, Marvel Team-Up LOC writer and lyricist/lead singer of ApologetiX (my favorite band) [shameless plug]. That volume only went up to ToS #81, the culmination of the first cosmic cube saga. I know I read it once, but that was over two decades ago! However, my familiarity with the first dozen or so of those stories goes back even further to my much loved Captain America Marvel Pocket Book from 1979. And I do mean “much loved”. I loved the cover off the thing and when I had the opportunity to buy a nicer copy, I gave my original to my nephew. The Pocket Books may have been small, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying those tales when I was a kid. Who needs an iPad, when you can carry a paperback around wherever you go? The great thing about this collection is that it also included Avengers #4 with the first Silver Age appearance of Cap after spending his time since the war encased in a block of ice. That story has always been one of my all time favorites and I even had the privilege of owning the original issue before I traded it for a Silver Age Flash Archive Vol. 2 several years ago (“sob”).

I do still have my copy of ToS #63, featuring “The Origin of Captain America”. I bought it for $70 over twenty years ago and have been waiting for a chance to get my money back on it. It’s probably a “6.0”, so it’s still not a very high dollar book given the explosion of CGC in recent years (investors and collectors now know what else is out there). Part of me wouldn’t mind keeping it, but the color separation is a little off (I’m sure that’s true in every copy), so it’s not very enjoyable to read it in it’s original form. The story, however, is wonderful and a classic, which is why it’s a big budget film right now! Other than a scattering of Marvel Double Feature and Marvel Super Spectacular reprints from this era (which don’t count), the only other original issue covered in this volume I have is number 106. I’m on issue 102 now in the Omni and I’ll soon be able to read 106 in context! Who says this isn’t the Marvel Age of patience? I probably would have finished it already if not for my Avengers cartoon binge last week.

If you think I’m going to give you a detailed play-by-play of all the wonderful stories in this tome, you’re CRAZY…I mean I’m sorry to disappoint you (I’ve had to pack you know). There’s just too many of them, but I can give a general overview. I really enjoyed the tales covered in the Pocket Book again. One of my favorites is from ToS #62, “Break-out in Cell Block Ten!” Cap is invited to a prison to show off his fighting skills, but it’s all really a ruse to capture his shield with all of its high tech gadgetry. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the inmates Cap had removed all of the magnetic devices Tony Stark had added to his shield, because it upset it’s balance (This theme of the juiced-up shield is revisited later). The WWII flashback tales of Captain America and Bucky are great too, especially the one featuring the origin of the Red Skull (Hey, aren’t we getting a new Marvel series with that title by Thor: Mighty Avenger artist supreme Chris Samnee soon? YES, INDEED). Ed Brubaker didn’t retcon Bucky’s gun-totting abilities with his Winter Soldier storyline, he’s showing off those skills in several of these stories. This version of Bucky has always appealed to me over the Frank Robbins (another artist I used to hate, but now really enjoy) one in Invaders. He always seemed to be on the verge of crying in that book, but it could be just the way Frank drew his expressive eyes.

I understand that this fall, Netflix will also be carrying all of the old Marvel cartoons from the 60’s. The ones where they just traced the art from Kirby’s stories. The aforementioned cosmic cube tale is one of the few cartoons I’ve seen from that time (we used to have a copy on VHS). I could still hear the dialogue in my head as I reread those chapters. Of course, that cartoon is where we get the classic theme song quoted in today’s post title. We’ve been singing it a lot around the house lately. My youngest child, Matthew Jr. (nicknamed “Manny”), has been wearing his older brother’s Captain America mask and shield a LOT lately (even to bed a few times). It sure beats his orange and green “pumpkin prince” outfit (Oh, the joys of being influenced and playing with four older sisters). There’s even a new version of the mask and shield to go with the movie. The wings are only painted on, but the shield is actually designed the throw like a Frisbee.

I used to have my own Captain America mask that my mother made for me one Halloween. I’m guessing it could have very well been around 1979. That would’ve coincided with the Pocket Book publication, our move further out from town to six acres of wonderful tick-infested woods, and the fact that I could still wear my Captain America Underoos T-shirt. My costume looked pretty good (sorry no pictures to my knowledge). I wore jeans with snow boots, a long sleeve white thermal shirt with the Underoos print over it, which had the star and at least five stripes on the front. I’m sure I had some kind of gloves (maybe dishwashing gloves), but I doubt they were red. My shield, an unpainted metal trash can lid. I thought it was pretty neat, even though it wasn’t as good as my 5th grade award winning (I’m serious) “Luke in Hoth outfit” the following year, which had another hand made hat and my Star Wars electric toothbrush in the shape of a lightsaber hilt.

I’m getting so caught up in my own personal stories that I’m neglecting Stan and Jack’s…

Even though the Omnibus ends with Jim Steranko’s groundbreaking issues, the majority of this book all belongs to Jack Kirby. Even when he’s not doing full pencils, he’s often handling layouts. There’s a few chapters by Gil Kane, which are VERY different from Jack’s work. It’s great stuff, but a little jarring when compared directly with the “King”. I think one of the reasons this book is so enjoyable is the consistent look of the art (The Incredible Hulk Omnibus was all over the place). I never knew Joe Sinnott inked Kirby in this series. I was only familiar with his FF work, but it’s stunning here. Ditto, for Frank Giacoia. Syd Shores (from Cap’s golden age) on the other hand, inks very heavily, but after a few issues, I’m actually starting to like it too.

I also love the shortened ten-page stories. They’re perfect for a quick read (You know what I’m talking about here Lee). Tales of Suspense was a dual book (thanks to Marvel’s imposed publishing restrictions prior to 1968) of Cap and Iron Man. I’ve been reading all of the letter pages too, including the next issue blurbs and it’s really getting me excited about finally tackling my two Iron Man omniboos. When reviewing my copy of ToS, it’s slightly unsatisfying to have the book broken up with two separate characters, but here where they’re all collected together in sequence, it reads very well.

We meet Peggy Carter (her funeral was in last week’s Cap book) in a beautiful John Romita flashback tale, just before encountering her sister (now retconned niece) Sharon in the “present day” (a.k.a. Agent 13 of S.H.I.E.L.D). Cap falls for her because she reminds him of Peggy, but for numerous issues he doesn’t even know her name. They go out on what looks like their first date together and he proposes to her! What a classy guy, no pre-marital sex for him (at that stage). Along the way, we get the first appearance of M.O.D.O.K. (Yes, it WAS awesome). Batroc, the French leaper, is introduced as well as the Super-Adaptoid. The Red Skull returns at least three times and we even get an interesting tale with the Black Panther and a faux-Zemo. Cap actually invites the Panther to join the Avengers, which he later does after breaking into the mansion in Avengers #52. There’s a lot of hand wringing about Bucky’s death too. (One of the really cool episodes in the Avengers cartoon had Cap and Baron Strucker grab the cosmic cube at the same time. Cap claimed he wished for nothing, but we see at the end Bucky falling off the exploding rocket (one arm missing), paving the way for the Winter Soldier in season two!)

I could go on and on, but this has gone on long enough. I hope the movie lives up to my expectations, I don’t want it to dampen my enthusiasm for all things Captain America right now. It’s been fun!


I finished the entire Omnibus! (I wrote the bulk of this post last Saturday morning, but now I’m getting to the update with only a few hours to spare before embarking on our summer vacation. And you thought Comics had a problem with linear storytelling.) I read the last four issues fast and furious, but I didn’t want to carry that cinderblock halfway across the country. (Even though it does open fairly flat with its sewn binding and flexible pages.) Packing, reading the Omni, and setting up things at my “real” job to go on while I’m incommunicado for a couple of weeks all explain why I only had time for a one-word review of Daredevil #1.

The book ended with issue #113 and low and behold my LCS had a 90% off sale and I picked up #114 for a buck (reading copy only). I used to have #115, 116, 118, 119, and 122 – 124(?). I can’t recall exactly, but I sold/traded those several years ago. I have some Essentials that cover the next few years, but I really want to read the stories in color. So, I’ll wait for the next Omnibus (probably next year – hopefully). Besides, having completed the first issues of Cap Vol. 1, I’m bringing along the last issues of Vol. 1 (Waid/Garney) and the first 14 issues of Vol. 3 along with me for our trip. (Too bad, I can’t read in the van.)

So, before I disembark (and the kids wake up – too late!), a few quick thoughts on the latter stories…

Remember when I told you Steve proposed to Agent 13? (We get Sharon’s name in #103.) Well, I forgot to mention that in the same issue (ToS #95) he QUITS being Captain America! (It lasts two issues.) Not only that, but he OUTS his secret ID too! I was totally shocked and had no idea how they were going to rectify that little issue. (Boy, were people upset about that in the letter pages.) Jim Steranko’s Death of Captain America trilogy provides the answer. The solution: He’d just been going around with a Steve Rogers facemask! There’s a nice four-page afterward by Steranko in the book and he goes into a play-by-play of all the innovations he used during his short tenure. (Madame Hydra was based on Jim’s girlfriend.) Fool that I am, I had no clue he brought so much to comics. (I’d heard, but didn’t know the details.)

I discovered the reason the Marvel Super Action reprints don’t really count, because you can’t fit 20 pages of story into an 18-page mid-70’s comic! They cut out Mao in #106 for goodness sake! Turns out I wanted to read the story in the Omni, rather than my original “ish”. I really enjoyed the first appearance of Dr. Faustus in #107. It was an awesome story. I was overjoyed when Cap made an inference to Jesus Christ at the end of #105, but there were at least two scathing, but thoughtful, letters against having “religion” in comics. (Maybe, I’ll tackle that another day…) It was interesting how readers were explaining what is now Marvel-lore such as the secret of Cap’s shield and how the 1954 Cap fit into continuity. It was a great read and I highly recommend it.

Take care, everyone. I’ll be away, but I won’t be gone.

1 comment:

  1. Update 2!

    I saw Captain America in Louisville on Saturday and again in Leavenworth today. I LOVE IT!!! It's very rewatchable and the portrayal of Steve Rogers is perfect. I'm still mystified why they started the movie the way they did (that scene could have been a DVD extra), but it doesn't bother me that much anymore. I really enjoyed the expanded relationship between Steve and Erkskine (SP?). Tommy Lee Jones was really funny too. Loved the grenade and flag scenes. My favorite was the Bucky Rescue, including the jeering from the GI's. Maybe I'll write more another time...this AOL dial-up is impossibly slow. I think I'll get the soundtrack tomorrow.