Captain America Comics Primer

YACReader - Captain America Comics #1 (1941).cbz 2019-08-02 23.16.03.png

Series Overview

If I had to explain to you who Captain America is then I don’t know how you also know how to operate a computer as you clearly spent your entire life living in a cave. Anyway, what else can be said about the history of this book? Through the publication of this series Captain America and his partner Bucky mostly fought generic Nazis and Japanese soldiers and on-off super-villains. There weren’t many lasting foes. Other than the Red Skull, this series also introduced the Circus of Crime (which didn’t really make recurring appearances until the 1960s). Some lesser characters were the problematic Black Talon, Doctor Crime, Lavender, and the Jokester a bad Joker rip-off.

However, the series wasn’t just Captain America stories, there was also a number of characters that were stuffed in as back-up stories. The first of these were Tuk the Caveboy and Hurricane the alleged son of Thor. Tuk stories ran until issue #5 when he was replaced with the Headline Hunter, a reporter that really really liked to get into fights with Nazis. Then came Father Time in the following issue, one of Stan Lee’s earliest creations. The pink spandex wearing, sythe wearing, superhero demonstrates that Stan Lee had a serious learning curve before he started creating his most iconic characters. Hurricane, Father Time and Headline Hunter appeared regularly in this series until issues #11, 12, and 13 respectively.Appearing from issue #12-16 was the Imp, because the editors thought a series about punching Hitler in the mouth was missing a whimsical imp that had silly adventures. Issue #13 also introduced the Secret Stamp, giving readers a different type of superhero story: A stupid one. See, the Secret Stamp was a newspaper delivery boy who loved selling war stamps so much he decided to dress up like a superhero and solve petty crimes around his small town. Somehow, Secret Stamp “captivated” readers until issue #27. Don’t worry though, not all issues of Captain America Comics had horrible features, the Human Torch became a regular feature starting in issue #19 he would appear regularly until issue #69. The Sub-Mariner also made occasional appearances starting with issue #20, his last one in that series being issue #70. There were also a series of “Let’s Play Detective” that were peppered throughout the series.

With the end of World War II, Captain America’s stories became increasingly lame. He left the military to become a school teacher, while still moonlighting as Captain America. He was typically seen solving murder mysteries, preventing insurance scams, and stopping crimes that are a waste of resources for someone with such star power. Some writers did manage to insert strange sci-fi, and horror elements into Cap’s adventures with Cap travelling through time, stopping a Martian invasion, and going to another dimension. In issue #66 Bucky was shot as a plot contrivance so they could replace him with a new sidekick, Golden Girl. A specific reason wasn’t given, but I suspect it was the same reason why, around the same time, Batman and Robin suddenly had Aunt Harriet hanging around Wayne Manor, if you catch my meaning.

With superhero stories losing popularity, Timely tried to change directions with the title changing it to Captain America’s Weird Tales. The first issue of that series featured a story where Captain America goes to Hell to fight the Red Skull and was followed by a number of one-off horror stories. The following issue had no Captain America stories at all, despite having Cap’s name in the title. Unlike other Timely books that were swapped out with new titles that reused the same numbering, Captain America was cancelled outright until 1953 when the series was briefly revived for a few issues (To see those issues check out the Atlas Comics section)

A Mountain of Retcons

Marvel is the master of what I call a “Small r Retcon”. Unlike DC Comics who loves to push the reset button on their characters every few decades, Marvel interweave continuity so everything fits in one way or another. Instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, they leave the baby in the dry bath like unintentionally neglectful parents. This way nothing really gets thrown out, but you can usually tie things together loosely or with some No Prize worthy speculation. The best example of this are some of the characters who appear in Captain America Comics. To explain it in simpler terms: Shit changes, but shit never goes away. So no matter how much new shit Marvel throws at the wall in order to see what sticks you can be certain that at least the lingering smell and crusty leavings of old shit is still around.

Captain America - When Captain America was reintroduced in Avengers #4, the character was found in suspended animation and it was revealed that he and his partner Bucky had been missing in action since 1945. All was well until Marvel began reprinting Golden Age Captain America stories that took place after 1945 leading readers to demand an explanation. In Captain America #255 and What If? #4 answers were provided.

In those stories it was revealed that after Captain America and Bucky went MIA, the United States government kept it a secret and successors were selected to take his place. These successors were William Nasland (formerly the Spirit of ‘76), Jeff Mace (formerly the Patriot) and William Burnside (formerly a Captain America groupie). To work around the problematic continuity, these characters also posed as Steve Rogers and James Barnes in their civilian guises as well. At any rate, however you want to slice it, William Nasland was secretly Captain America from Captain America Comics #49-58 while Jeff Mace took over the role (after William Nasland was hugged to death by an android) from Captain America Comics #59-74. William Burnside was the guy who took over as Captain America in the 1950s.

Hurricane - Hurricane is also the subject of one of these retcons. in Marvel Universe #7 it was revealed that Hurricane is not the son of Thor, nor was his foe actually “Pluto”. In reality, they were Makkari of the Eternals and Warlord Kro of the Deviants. They were also revealed to be the Mercury and Pluto from Red Raven Comics. This was likely due to the fact that both Mercury and Hurricane were co-created by Jack Kirby (just like Makkari and Kro), and the plots for both characters was very similar, because Jack Kirby’s work was derivative as fuck.

Secret Stamp - Yes, the annoying newspaper boy in the bullshit costume is also part of a retcon. Years later, probably about the time Marvel needed to renew copyrights for some of their older Timely era characters, they released a series called All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes which reinvented a lot of Timely’s failures as part of a superhuman military outfit called the Crazy SUES. One of these characters was the Secret Stamp who was briefly seen in the series. In that story he was a grown adult and part of the military. An explanation was provided for the difference in that series, that all the TImely era comics were not “true stories” about these superheroes but fictional stories based on real events that were commissioned by the United States military as propaganda for the war effort.

Young Allies - They only appear in a few small guest appearances in early Captain America stories, but there are also some things about these characters. Like the Secret Stamp they are also characters who were subject to wartime propaganda stories, as explained in Young Allies Comics 70th Anniversary Special. However this was mostly done to deal away with the problematic depictions of the characters (most specifically Whitewash Jones, one of the most racist characters in Marvel’s roster of characters) Despite what the morons at Marvel Database say, their appearances in Captain America Comics are not their firsT “canonical appearances”, their first appearances (except Bucky) was in Young Allies #1. The people over there misunderstood my original work there. The Young Allies stories a “fictional” in that the stories are based on real events. However, those stories are still referenced all over the place in Marvel Handbooks (for the best example read the Fred Davis entry in Captain America: America’s Avenger handbook).

Index Scope

Most stories of this story are bonafied 100% part of Continuity with a few exceptions. These are as follows

Text Stories - I really, really, really hate reading text stories. They’re usually incredibly boring and add little to continuity. They were used as filler. Like other books that use these stories, I have omitted their inclusions here unless the text story was about Captain America or another in-continuity character.

Funnies - Particularly at the start and end of this series run they stuck in one-page funnies to fill space. These have also been omitted. You want funnies, wait until the Sunday paper comes in.

The Imp - Was an attempt to create a character to compete with popular cartoons that kids would see at the movie theaters (Disney and Looney Tunes being the two big ones, naturally) These stories are bad, dated, and have little to do with anything. So fuck the Imp.

It’s drawn by a “Chad” which explains why the Imp is so abrasive and awful.

It’s drawn by a “Chad” which explains why the Imp is so abrasive and awful.

Captain America Comics #5

Captain America Comics #5

First appearance of the Circus of Crime. Last appearance of Tuk the Caveboy. First appearance of Headline Hunter.