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CSBG Archive

Silver Age September – Captain America Joins the Avengers

After a month of spotlighting the strange (if endearingly strange) history of comic books (and especially the Silver Age), I think it is worthwhile to show the comic books of the Silver Age that are simply great stories period. Here is an archive of all the Silver Age comics features so far!

Today we look at a story that is so iconic that we often overlook just how well done it was, the first Silver Age appearance of Steve Rogers as he joins the Avengers in 1964’s Avengers #4 by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and George Roussos.


The issue kicks off with a neat contribution by one of Marvel’s other Golden Age icons, as Namor is the one responsible for Captain America’s return. This is our first retcon, as this is the establishment that Captain America did not “survive” the war (I guess the Strange Tales story with the fake Captain America got that point across, as well).

Here is one of the most impressive “dedication to cool moments” as the Avengers discover Captain America and he comes to…

Isn’t that just the greatest testament to Cap’s coolness? The dude awakes in the future, surrounded by fantastic looking people and he collects himself in, like, 30 seconds. “Yeah, whatever, I’m Captain effin’ America. You think I give a crap about this?”

And then, just for the heck of it, he demostrates how badass he is…

It is just striking to see how good of a job Lee and Kirby do in re-establishing Captain America.

Next comes the second retcon – the BIG one, the one that made “Bucky is dead” a sacred part of the Marvel Universe (which always amuses me that such a “you can’t retcon that!” idea was, itself, a retcon)…

That was done in ONE FREAKING PAGE, people!!! Amazing.

Then when the Avengers return to New York, they are immobilized by a bad guy so Cap is flying solo. I really love the way that Lee plays with the notion that this would be a really emotional thing for typical New Yorkers…

By the way, how amazing is the expression work that Kirby and Roussos do on that second-to-last panel!? Cap’s face lights up like a Fourth of July fireworks display!

And then, once again, though, Cap is so awesome that he just flips the switch and its all “let’s get the job done”…

Dude has essentially leaped two decades into the future and he just quickly adapts to the new technology and just gets the job done.


The rest of the issue is actually fairly weak, but these early pages are SO amazing that it makes the issue an instant classic.


Steve smash?

Damn, that as good. I’m a young whipper snapper, so I have NEVER read this story. Damn good stuff!

It’s too bad Ant Man and Wasp got replaced in the movie, but It’ll be great to see the Avengers get together on the big screen. Beats of this kinda feel like what we saw at the end of Captain America.

It’s great to see how many of the moments here remind me of Avengers (and Ultimates) stories to this day.

That page with Bucky “dying” could totally have opened up Bucky coming back. He doesn’t even die on panel! How many times has that scene been redone since this, though?

For some reason, the scene that sticks with me is the one where Cap’s watching TV and being impressed by it. Makes perfect sense, really.

How many times has that scene been redone since this, though?

Probably the most prominent example was the later issue of Avengers by Roy Thomas where we go back in time to see the whole tragic event unfold.

This is an incredible comic.

Mark Waid’s Captain America: Man Out of Time that recently came out also did an amazing job retelling this moment in Cap’s history.

And yeah, this issue is great.

All Kirby’s great characters had a tragic flaw, mix that with nonstop action and this is what we get.

I really love Silver Age September.

Loving Silver Age September too!

And how great is it that the Sub-Mariner, another Golden Ager and fellow member of the All Winners Squad unwittingly releases Cap from the block of ice.

Hallmark has released a great ornament this year – a mini replica of this issue with a 3D Cap popping out of the cover. Seriously. It’s about $17. And some of the story pages are reprinted within.

Let the Marvel dominance of the industry begin!

Great comic!

I am reminded also of a Mark Waid story with Captain America recently awakened that was very nice. I think it was published in the late 1990s, in Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty (sort of Marvel’s version of Legends of the Dark Knight).

Cap is new to the modern world, and Iron Man still sees Cap as an acrobatic guy in tights, wondering if he can be of much use against the sort of threats the Avengers usually face.

The story has Cap and Iron Man fighting off an alien invasion that showcases Steve’s strength of will, courage, tactical acumen, inspirational presence and all that good stuff that makes Captain America. And Iron Man finds out that Cap is the equal of any Avenger.

I love when I see old comics and the characters have stayed true to their personalities. Namor is a blowhard and a dick, and also a powerful ally. Can’t teach and old fishman new tricks!

What’s funny about this is in retrospect is that Cap hadn’t even been gone 20 years, which isn’t something to sneeze at but at the same time the “Man Out of Time” aspect is kind of over-exaggerated by Stan. If they did this story now Cap would be from the far-flung age of 1993 and the whole thing would probably come off more like the “Caveman” episode of South Park (“Sorry to break it to you, Cap, but grunge is dead…”). Most other superheroes have arguably outlived their relevance but Cap actually becomes a stronger concept as time passes and WWII is increasingly distant from us.

So if I read this correctly, the plane that exploded was a WWII-era prototype of the Predator drone… :-)

This issue was great. My only complaint was that Rick Jones’ teen brigade seems kind of goofy. It seems weird that the Avengers would get their intel from a bunch of kids with shortwave radios. But, I first read this comic in 2011, maybe it was a better concept in 1964.

I wonder if in Marvel’s new line of origins graphic novels the teen brigade will use twitter instead of ham radio. Somehow that seems even more goofy.

I also like Brian’s subtle jab at modern comics when he says Cap’s retcon was handled in a single page.

I really liked it when Cap got to tell Namor that he was responsible for bringing him back (Avengers #262 – first series). It was a great scene where they are just basically sitting around a campfire and celebrating a recent victory. It was so touching, you realize that Namor didn’t even know his role up to this point, and then Cap asks him to join the Avengers. Although it was a short lived stint, it was a very touching moment.

Actually, there were explosive-filled drones in use in WWII – the small ones were inaccurate as all heck (technically, you could even consider the V-1 of the Germans such a craft, as it was a pulse jet aircraft, though most consider it to be a forerunner of the Cruise Missile).

The larger ones were radio controlled, and in fact were out-dated or formerly damaged bombers that couldn’t be trusted, after repairs, that required a crew to launch, then they bailed out once at altitude and in formation with the bomber that housed the radio controls. JFK’s older brother died when one of these he was flying up to altitude detonated prematurely before he and his copilot could bail out.

This is why Cap is awesome. He’s a sensitive & deep thinking, but he’ll turn all that off in an instant when there is a need!

Oh and by the way, this issue starts the whole trope of
“No matter what you throw against him, Cap will find a way to win. Bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, more powerful, ultimate power, trickery, science, whatever, anything, everything, no matter what you & your pals have, Cap WILL WIN. That’s what he does. Live with it”

That’s why i love Cap. He’s the embodiment of the American Spirit & American Dream.

I read somewhere that this story was written immediately following JFK’s assassination, which adds another layer to the officer’s remark “you’ve come back, just when we have need of such a man.”

Lee and Kirby lived in the real world. This scene seems like a fitting reaction to one of the most terrible moments in US history.

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