web stats

CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – Captain America Had a Brother Who Died at Pearl Harbor?

Every Saturday, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at the short-lived revelation that Captain America had a brother who died at the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Enjoy!

In Captain America #215, we are given another look at Captain America’s origin…

However, writer Roy Thomas notes that we didn’t really know about Cap’s past BEFORE he became Captain America, except a few occasional references over the years that suggest that Cap was from New York City before the war. Thomas decided to follow this idea up by saying that Cap literally could not remember his life before he walked in the door as a scrawny teenager. Thomas left the book before Cap’s origins were revealed. Steve Gerber was writing the book in issue #223 when he began to reveal Cap’s origins, which conflicted with the “growing up in New York” origin…

And in #225, Gerber went all out with Cap’s new origin…

The rest continued like the normal origin.

An interesting aspect of the story is that it has Rogers not becoming Cap until after Pearl Harbor. Obviously, originally Cap was Cap before the U.S. entered World War II, but by this time, the timing was a bit less clear.

This new origin only lasted only until #247, when Roger Stern and John Byrne addressed the revelations in #223 and #225…

And that’s been Cap’s origin ever since!

81 Comments

That’s the ’60s-ist ’30s I’ve ever seen.

So they traded a pretty interesting and developed backstory for a boring one that could be summed up in one word balloon? I get that the timetable was off, but the Gerber story was really good and I don’t see why it all had to be overwritten.

“And that’s been Cap’s origin ever since!”

At least until Mike Rogers is revealed as one of the other Winter Soldiers!

This is a story that needed to be re-retconned. John Byrne and Roger Stern made the right call here. Gerber’s story is too 1960ish with its echoing of dissenters of the Viet Nam war. You gain nothing by making Steve part of some upper middle class family. Now that the movie has come to pass with a great origin sequence this is just some oddity that thankfully never became canon.

This is a story that needed to be re-retconned. John Byrne and Roger Stern made the right call here. Gerber’s story is too 1960ish with its echoing of dissenters of the Viet Nam war. You gain nothing by making Steve part of some upper middle class family. Now that the movie has come to pass with a great origin sequence this is just some oddity that thankfully never became canon.

sorry for the double post!

Whatever else you want to say about John Byrne — the art is so much better in his story. The earlier work is really disconcerting in how the bodies seem barely connected to the heads and faces. Byrne’s Cap & Dugan just flow so much more naturally!

Was the later origin ever fleshed out? Like how much of Steve’s Bohemian past was actually true?

I usually don’t like re-retcons, or is that unretcons, as I associate them with the type of long winded fankwank explanations masquerading as stories that Roy Thomas loved or that Kurt Busiek would do on the Avengers. However when done by Roger Stern it comes off effortlessly and not very forced at all. That was actually an enjoyable read, and not just a poorly shoehorned-in chunk of explanatory exposition. Stern is one of the best. And great art by Byrne and whoever is inking him.

The reason why the story had to be overwritten was that (a) having Steve become Cap after Pearl Harbor really screwed up the chronology of the early Invaders stories and (b) Gerber changed Steve’s motive from idealism to vengeance.
Also, the Skull was already established as having come from a lower class background, so it made sense to give Steve a similar background. And the Lower East Side origin eventually resulted in the revelation that Steve’s father was an alcoholic, which resulted in some good scenes with Tony.

Is Kyle Baker’s Captain America: The Truth storyline (about black soldiers tested with the Super Soldier Serum) considered canon? If so, that would wreck the timeline again.

@Mark: Captain America: The Truth is canon. It’s set AFTER Pearl Harbor and Captain America/Steve Rogers was already active. THE TRUTH was the goverment’s attempt to recreate the Super-Soldier serum. They failed all but one of their subjects died. The one survivor Isaiah Bradley stole one of Steve’s spare uniforms and went to Germany. He got captured and eventually got free but the US Goverment put him away for a few decades in prison for stealing Cap’s uniform! As I said previous the goverment failed in their attempt to recreate the serum as the serum Isaiah had was unstable and eventually caused brain damage.

He was freed eventually and became someting of an underground legend among the black community. And among the black community the urban myth came out that Isaiah Bradley was the 1st Captain America/1st Super Soldier and Steve Rogers came after him. Even Isaih’s grandson Eli (Patriot) believes his Grandfather is the original Captain America. Even though the facts don’t support it but some lable that as “the man and his lies” Steve eventually found out about this and met with Isaih and acknowledge him as a Captain America.

I felt that Cap’s origin was tinkered with too much. Stern made the right call explaining away the new origin. The only thing positive that came out of the Gerber origin was that Steve Rogers got an interest in art. This of course led to Rogers becoming an artist, and finally added some depth to his character outside of heroics and even led to him getting a stable civilian supporting cast.

@Zevad, that fits together more than anything I expected. Thanks!

Wonder if his false middle name “Grant” is supposed to be a nod to the Grant Gardner Captain America of the movie serial?

An oddity of the times, most of the patriotic themed superheroes of the 1940s debuted before Pearl Harbor. Only a few came after. You’d think it would have been the other way around.

Incidentally, the flashback in Cap#225, with Mike Rogers playing baseball seems to take place in the 1950′s based on the fashions-but it would have had to take place in the 1930′s, if not the 1920′s. (1941-10 to 20 years)

http://marvel.wikia.com/Captain_America_Vol_3_27

Incidentally, Dan Jurgens later revealed that the young Steve Rogers listened to “The Midnight Racer and the Chaffeur”, an obvious nod to the Shadow and the Green Hornet.

Mike Rogers, Thomas Wayne…never give a superhero a long-forgotten sibling. It probably won’t stick.

LoveEarly80'sJB

January 7, 2012 at 11:11 am

I really love that gorgeous and detailed JB art! What’s he upto these days? Is he still blackballed from Marvel?

He’s been doing work for IDW for a couple of years now. His mini-series COLD WAR just wrapped up, a spy series ala James Bond set in the 1950s. He’s got a follow-up to the recent Next Men mini and after that a superhero mini-series set in a superhero-verse of his own creation.

Don’t think he’s blackballed inasmuch he has no interest in working for the current regime there or characters as they currently are.

Great post I really enjoyed seeing this plot come full circle in just a few pages!

What a mess! I’ll take the Stern version over the other, but they’re all a little goofy.

Just want to say I’m happy that Abandoned an’ Foresaked is continuing past it’s theme month!

Actually, I wouldn’t have minded if Steve had a brother. However, seeing how this concept was executed is a bit haphazard.

BTW, the revised origin brings Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” song to mind for some reason…

My God! I’m–an Aquarius!!

I guess Gerber was really into astrology at the time!

I loved Stern and Byrne’s Captain America, to the point that where most people associate Byrne primarily with X-Men, he’s always been the guy who drew Captain America to me.

I remember reading this issue the whole implanted memories thing went over my head, not having read anything prior. Now that I see it… boy am I glad they got rid of it. It’s very Steve Gerber, but it really doesn’t work with Captain America at all.

Of course I have to ask wonder the hell was Roy Thomas going with having Steve Rogers not remember anything in the first place?

don’t know what i find more interesting that marvel let Cap be planted with false memories of having a diplomatic family and older brother who died. to make him become cap or that the idea came from the legendary Steve Gerber though can not believe Marvel had cap wind up with amanizia for so long.

This reminds me of Batman’s “brother.” He was a Wayne who was braindead and Deadman took over his body.
Another abandoned storyline.

Wow, I never noticed how many of these stories were undone by Byrne. It’s like he never met a story he liked and could resist undoing in some way. And, planting false memories of Cap’s background is supposed to help him resist giving away secrets, how exactly? The origin may have needed tweeking, but that’s a pretty stupid way to go about it.

And Byrne not having any interest in working at Marvel or DC is probably just his way of denying the fact that they’re not asking…

Wow, writers of that story, way to project your own past as a suburban, middle-class nerd onto the character.

That’s it, blame him for a story written by Roger Stern.

According to him he was approached to pitch a FF Forever but turned it down. And, IDW is obviously keeping him busy enough with work to take him through 2012.

Alot of that dialouge sounds more like Byrne than Stern, AND he co-plotted! And I heard him whine about Fantastic Four Forever, but kind of doubt it actually happened. Considering X-Men forever didn’t last, I doubt Marvel was interested enough in doing a second series like it to approach a creator who’s done nothing but bad mouth them for the last few years, and who’s last few books for either of the big two failed to last past two years.

Yeah, never cared for that Gerber retcon. It felt like a lot of the Roy Thomas retcons of the 60s and 70s. Just really uncalled for. Captain America has a perfectly fine origin. Sure, it’s been tweaked before (Bucky being assigned to him rather than finding out his identity by accident is the most recent example), but he doesn’t need the backstory of a brother, etc. And yeah, I remember thinking the same thing…why did it seem more like a Vietnam-era origin, rather than World War 2? Just weird.

Say whatever you want about Byrne, but the story he did with Roger Stern is better. Sorry, it just is.

“Yeh, Im into Spiderman and NOVA”!!

Obviously trying to increase Nova “profile” with the Marvel U.

Thats like Im into Batman and Geo-Force!

Glad that this feature is continuing on! Love learning more about these odd, forgotten turns of comic lore, even when the forgetting of ‘em is sort of justified.

I think previous poster, Michael, articulates well why the ret-retcon history of Steve Rogers better fits the type of hero that Captain America represents: Despite an impoverished background, it was idealism, not personal vengeance, that motivated him. Having just watched the Captain America movie, it’s hard to see Gerber’s story as having the same kind of iconic impact.

For all the supposed “Vietnamization” of the Gerber story — there was a LOT of opposition in the USA to entering the war before Pearl Harbor. There were isolationists, anti-communists who saw Hitler as the best defense against Russia, pacifists (due to the very real memories of the FIRST World War), Irish nursing their grievances against England, people who thought we should be tending to our own needs as the Depression was still ongoing, Nazi groups like the German-American Bund and socialists who were confounded by the Nazi-Soviet pact. Like Steve in Gerber’s story, Pearl Harbor — and Hitler’s declaration of war on the US after we declared war on Japan — clarified things pretty quickly. But to think that those feelings didn’t exist — well, that’s just bad history.

And we all know how Steve Rogers feels about THAT, right?

How much of this was kept/expanded on in the Adventures of CA mini by Nicieza and Maguire from about ’90 (probably tied in with the movie from that time period, huh?)? I know from the first issue, Steve had some sort of work through one of the New Deal “alphabet” groups (WPA, probably) to play on the artistic background, but I forget the rest.

If you’re taking the tack that Steve Rogers was sorta anti-war, you’ve GOT to have him become Cap post-Pearl Harbor. The changed/original version works because as mentioned above, it’s idealism that motivates Steve, and it helps the chronology because it allows him to enlist pre-Pearl Harbor, and therefore have adventures earlier (especially in Europe).

IIRC, from the intro to the collection of the Stern/Byrne stories, Stern says he was asked by the editor of the book (can’t remember who it was at that point) to clear up the origin stuff, and possibly asked to revert to the original story. It’s done very elegantly here.

BTW, that Stern/Byrne run is awesome, so you should all pick up the TPB of it. Too bad I can’t remember the name :)

Captain America has always been a difficult character to write. I don’t follow the Brubaker version, but I’ve read most of the others and the only one that was really exciting was Englehart’s (a bit of McKenzie’s also qualifies).

I guess I’ll keep scratching my head for a long time about all the trouble with Gerber’s origin and all the love for Stern-Byrne’s run. While those are two talented creators, their Captain America run was remarkably bland. But then, most Captain America stories are remarkably bland. It sort of comes with the character. He is only interesting when put really at odds with his own concept.

In all honesty, I wonder how people can say with a straight face (you _are_ using a straight face, I assume) that Captain America is supposed to be driven by idealism not vengeance. How exactly does idealism work as a motivation for people to enter a battlefield in the first place? That is one of the reasons why Englehart’s Cap worked while most simply won’t: he recognized the contradiction and ran with it, making the way for Nomad.

Pretty simple: “I don’t like bullies.”

That’s how idealism works, and not vengeance. Steve Rogers doesn’t like seeing people get picked on by a bunch of bullies. That’s a fairly simple concept that was handled well in the film (and really is what made him a much more interesting character than Thor OR Tony Stark, in my opinion). Captain America isn’t the Dark Knight, and trying to shoehorn him into that role doesn’t work.

I liked Steve Gerber’s work, but even as an admitted lefty, sometimes his stories got on my nerves. If I want to be preached to, I’ll go to church. Just tell entertaining stories, and let your audience figure it out. The same tendency to preach often derailed DeMatteis and Monech, as well. And I like those writers, too. Stern is often considered “bland,” but he knew how to craft a fun story.

I guess the Vietnam part I mentioned was not so much opposition to the war in the 40s, but the argument between Steve and his “dad,” and the shots of Greenwich village. Things just seemed out of sync, even for the Marvel Universe, where Steve Ditko had guys dressing as if they were from the 1940s in the pages of Spider-Man.

And I would argue that Cap became Nomad *because* he is an idealist, not because he’s driven by vengeance. A man driven by those demons would be glad that Nix…uh, Number One of the Secret Empire had offed himself. Steve Rogers was shaken up by what he witnessed, and felt disappointed in what the nation had become. It’s because he’s such an idealistic man that sometimes he loses faith in people…they just can’t live up to his standard.

It’s also why I’m not happy with his current portrayal in Avengers and elsewhere. The Steve Rogers I remember would never be a part of any of this.

It’s also why I’m not happy with his current portrayal in Avengers and elsewhere. The Steve Rogers I remember would never be a part of any of this.

Any of what? Leading a team of superheroes? I don’t get it.

A part of a Bendis comic with a lot of sitting around and talking for 20 pages. Cap is a man of action, dammit!

Heh! “Why am I standing around talking to you guys? Let’s GOOOOO!” *dynamic Kirby movement*

Just the whole Illuminati bit. I know Cap is sometimes a reflection of what’s going on in the country, for good or ill. I probably shouldn’t make such fanboyish statements, considering how Cap was once punching out Asian yellow peril stereotypes (even as recently as the Lee-Kirby stories, although Stan softened a bit by the mid 60s).

The more I think about it, the more I would love to see an old Lee/Kirby issue of Avengers redone as a Bendis issue.

Pretty simple: “I don’t like bullies.”

That’s how idealism works, and not vengeance.

Except, well, that it doesn’t. Captain America is, when so written, essentially the Punisher in denial. You can’t have a guy wearing the US Flag punching nazis in the battlefield and seriously propose that it is a matter of being idealistic. It flat out doesn’t make sense. Heck, Captain America is only not a bully when he succesfully questions himself and his motivations. There is a reason why the 1950s Cap was subtitled “Commie Smasher”, and it was not because he disliked being a bully himself. The concept of Cap just doesn’t work with idealistic motivations.

Sorry, but that is so. The idea doesn’t really add up in any meaningful way. Maybe it did stand up reasonably well back in 1941, but even then it would really need Pearl Harbor or a ludicrous, very unhealthy dose of ufanism to make some internal sense. Also, and perhaps most importantly, we were supposed to learn a most important lesson from World War II, not to take pleasure in refusing to learn it and being stuck in pre-Wars notions of nationalism and the role of war. I will grant it that by and large the lesson seems to have been forgotten, but still, a character such as Captain America can’t help but remind it continuously, even as his insistence in being the same character as of 1941 shows that he, most of all, fails to grasp it.

Captain America, as a concept, can’t seriously claim to be about idealism as opposed to vengeance without concluding that it must become something else. For one thing, it is a patriotic hero. Idealism is by definition at odds with patriotism, particularly when wars and supersoldiers are involved. It is interesting that Brubaker recognized that enough to pair Bucky with Black Widow, a much more coherent conception of a patriotic character – and as a direct result, about as far from an idealistic one as they come. Black Widow accepts the logical consequences of being supposedly patriotic, going so far as betraying her original country to show how strongly opposed the ideas of idealism and patriotism are. Captain America needs to continually choose between being true to his own core concept and being true to logical coherence.

Steve Englehart recognized the self-denial involved in the idea of an “idealistic patriotic hero” and used that as the fuel for many of his best stories. Steve Gerber seemed to be heading much the same way. Others, particularly Jack Kirby, Roger Stern, J.M. DeMatteis (whose Captain America was physically painful to read, and wasn’t helped by Mike Zeck’s equally unfit pencils) and Mark Gruenwald missed the point completely. Heck, Gruenwald even went out of his way to characterize Flag-Smasher as a caricature villain to give Red Skull a run for his money, as well as to give USAgent a pretense of respectability.

That is not writing Captain America as an engaging, convincing character, but instead taking a firm instance of pretending that it is so.

Steve Rogers doesn’t like seeing people get picked on by a bunch of bullies. That’s a fairly simple concept that was handled well in the film (and really is what made him a much more interesting character than Thor OR Tony Stark, in my opinion). Captain America isn’t the Dark Knight, and trying to shoehorn him into that role doesn’t work.

It is a good concept for the Punisher, for those who like such a character. That is why the movie fell so flat. It relies on an emotional appeal that just isn’t there.

I liked Steve Gerber’s work, but even as an admitted lefty, sometimes his stories got on my nerves. If I want to be preached to, I’ll go to church. Just tell entertaining stories, and let your audience figure it out. The same tendency to preach often derailed DeMatteis and Monech, as well. And I like those writers, too. Stern is often considered “bland,” but he knew how to craft a fun story.

Different strokes and all that, but Gerber was far more tolerable than DeMatteis or even Stern, when it comes to Cap.

I guess the Vietnam part I mentioned was not so much opposition to the war in the 40s, but the argument between Steve and his “dad,” and the shots of Greenwich village. Things just seemed out of sync, even for the Marvel Universe, where Steve Ditko had guys dressing as if they were from the 1940s in the pages of Spider-Man.

There is little point in wanting to read about a Captain America that is at once faithful to his 1941 depiction and yet also not out of sync, however. That was what Gerber wanted to highlight, far as I can figure. Like Englehart before him, he wanted to make the character courageous enough to learn and grow. Unfortunately, that means that the character he writes can’t very well be Captain America, or at least can’t very well be certain that he wants to keep being Captain America as such. And market considerations make it an uphill struggle to write the character in that (far more interesting and convincing) way for any length of time. Patriotism sells, idealism doesn’t.

Cap’s mom: “A slight cubist influence, but it’s very good!”

That line is hilarious to me. Not just the fact that she feels the need to relate a child’s doodle to a modern art movement (in very sophisticated language, too!), but the “…BUT it’s very good!”

“Wow, son! This reminds me of cubism, which is of course complete and utter garbage, and yet somehow it doesn’t suck!”

>How exactly does idealism work as a motivation for people to enter a battlefield in the first place?

What if I told you that a lot of US citizens enlisted in foreign armies even before the States entered the war, just so they could fight against (or for) the Nazis? Or what about the dozens of historical figures, like Giuseppe Garibaldi, Che Guevara, Ernest Hemingway or Lord Byron, who fought in wars that didn’t involve their native lands at all, just because they believed in a cause?

Patriotism and idealism are not opposing, self-excluding concepts. Behind every patriotism, there’s idealism. Even tough I must say I believe the latter is better without the former.

@Felipe

“Behind every patriotism, there’s idealism. Even tough I must say I believe the latter is better without the former.”

You had me until this line, but based on what you were saying BEFORE this line, I think you probably didn’t mean what this line reads/scans as.

I don’t think ever patriot is an idealist at all. I think many use patriotism to justify barbarism, and even fascism. After all, Hitler used patriotism to appeal to the German nation.

I do think that a true idealist can often also be a patriot – but really in those instances I think most only SEEM patriotic because they are simply embracing ideals that are shared by whatever seems to be the ‘character’ of their nation.

Of course I am making a distinction here (if only for myself) between IDEALS and IDEALISM or IDEALIST. In my mind – though this may not be the OED definition – I think ideals can be twisted and perverse, but when I use the term idealist or idealism, I think of someone who aspires to be the closest he can to a moral, upright and decent human being.

Most Americans are working class. That’s why Captain America should be, too. He is, after all, our greatest socialist hero, a working class kid given great power and responsibility by the government.

The problem with this “patriotism v. idealism” discussion is that concepts of “nationalism” tends to be left out of the discussion. No one wants to be a nationalist, due to the connotations that the name implies, and tend to label themselves as “patriots” to hide the fact that they are loyal to the state. In fact, terms have evolved and changed to mean entirely different things, depending upon the political circumstance.

Yeah, we’re just going to have to disagree about Cap being ANYTHING like the Punisher, or the idea of someone who dislikes bullies being anything like someone on a vendetta to avenge his dead family.

Had we seen Steve Rogers going out of his way to mutilate the Red Skull’s men in the most horrific way possible, then I’d agree with you. But that’s not what he did. He took the punches the bullies threw at him and kept coming. He threw himself on a grenade to protect OTHER people. I don’t see Frank Castle doing that.

Also, this is getting too PHIL/HIST 301 for me. I just wanna talk about a guy who punches Hitler! :)

Captain America’s origin has remained relatively stable (besides being thawed out after an increasing amount of time to cover the 60+ years since WWII) so he’s lucky.

Iron Man, on the other hand, has had his origin retconned and re-retconned and even re-re-retconned over the last 30 years. If I’m not mistaken his original origin was set before America got into the Vietnam War but has had to be fixed to each major American conflict since to stop him being in his 80s now.

So Jack Kirby missed the point of his own creation?

That’s funny.

Patriots can be idealists, and the ideals that people believe their nation to embody can be a little bit different for each person. A “nation” is a fluid thing, changing over time and with each new perspective. Captain America probably believes in a very basic civics class version of American ideals, something quite close to the intentions of the founding fathers like Jefferson and Washington. When he was frozen he missed the 60s and 70s, and only heard about the civil rights movement long after it had succeeded. No doubt this reinforced his belief that the American systems is basically sound, and is capable of improvement over time.

So Jack Kirby missed the point of his own creation?

That’s funny.

Maybe it is, but it is a well-documented fact that the Kirby run of the 1970s (which ended in #212, just three issues prior and gave him complete creative control) was controversial at best. It just didn’t work. There is a reason why he was let go without even much of a plan on what to do with Cap after him.

I have read some of the stories. They aren’t really very creative, dynamic, or even well-drawn.

1970s Kirby writing at Marvel was disconcerting far more often than it was succesful. His Black Panther wasn’t all that well-received, either. Eternals, for all the good will, was a very bland read as well. Important as he was in the 1940s and 1960s, he just did not adapt very well to the 1970s. His Cap was not only at odds with the characterization of Englehart and previous writers, it made a point of so being, and it had barely any personality at all. His relationships with Sam and Sharon were written in a very unconvincing and even contradictory way, and he even managed to contradict his own earlier Hate-Monger stories in FF.

So, yes, I think it is fair to say that Kirby failed to grasp the point of writing Cap in 1976. Or maybe he just failed in the implementation.

The problem with this “patriotism v. idealism” discussion is that concepts of “nationalism” tends to be left out of the discussion. No one wants to be a nationalist, due to the connotations that the name implies, and tend to label themselves as “patriots” to hide the fact that they are loyal to the state. In fact, terms have evolved and changed to mean entirely different things, depending upon the political circumstance.

Nationalism has been a favored concept on occasion as well. In due time, Patriotism will fall out of favor, as it must. Such concepts are vague and subject to revisionism, and in a sense they must be – their purpose is to create an artificial sense of union, after all.

Nor do I agree that there is a true distinction between the terms. Whatever difference there is happens to be a matter of perception, not of meaning.

Yeah, we’re just going to have to disagree about Cap being ANYTHING like the Punisher, or the idea of someone who dislikes bullies being anything like someone on a vendetta to avenge his dead family.

Had we seen Steve Rogers going out of his way to mutilate the Red Skull’s men in the most horrific way possible, then I’d agree with you. But that’s not what he did. He took the punches the bullies threw at him and kept coming. He threw himself on a grenade to protect OTHER people. I don’t see Frank Castle doing that.

Also, this is getting too PHIL/HIST 301 for me. I just wanna talk about a guy who punches Hitler!

Well-written (that being, basically, when written by Englehart) he is indeed nothing like the Punisher. But neither is him about punching the “bad guy” either. A true idealist refrains from such puerile behavior, of course.

But under lesser writers, yes, Cap is often (even usually) presented with a particularly deluded version of Punisher wrapped in a flag. That is not only boring (see for instance Cap #129, written by Stan Lee) but also dangerous from an inspiration standpoint. It becomes a lesson of “might makes right, and dammit, I just happen to have been born might and you better accept that” that takes us back to the mentality that justified slave-owning and the white man’s burden.

It is no coincidence that in the 1980s and 1990s Nick Fury began to cooperate with the Punisher more than with Cap. Once one accepts the premise that for some unmentioned reason Punisher should not be arrested, he is very difficult to tell from the usual portrayal of Captain America.

What if I told you that a lot of US citizens enlisted in foreign armies even before the States entered the war, just so they could fight against (or for) the Nazis?

I will then ask what are you implying. I don’t doubt you, but I don’t see what meaning that would have. It really depends on how many are “a lot”, for one.

Or what about the dozens of historical figures, like Giuseppe Garibaldi, Che Guevara, Ernest Hemingway or Lord Byron, who fought in wars that didn’t involve their native lands at all, just because they believed in a cause?

I will then say that most patriots and nationalists have convinced themselves that they are idealists, yes. And that believing in a cause, in and of itself, is not a desirable trait. It is far more important to be aware of the implications of a cause before embracing it. Discernment is healthy and needed. Commitment is harmful as often as it is not.

Patriotism and idealism are not opposing, self-excluding concepts.

Not completely, I will freely grant that. But they are not helpful to each other, either.

Patriotism is a concept that may only thrive in a healthy way when it is vague or misunderstood, while idealism has hardly any use for patriotism or its usual synonim, nationalism.

People often fail to fully grasp the meanings and implications of some concepts – and often enough that is a good thing, too.

Behind every patriotism, there’s idealism. Even tough I must say I believe the latter is better without the former.

Every patriotism? I really doubt it.

randypan the goatboy

January 9, 2012 at 5:11 am

Oh My… Steve Rogers was living as a beatnick in the 1930′s. explains the memory loss. with the influence of the evils of MARIJUANA and the introduction of BLACK TAR HEROIN…[silver age marvel villains that will be re introduced as soon as I start writting captain America]. In todays era Steve rogers would have forgotten about his pervert uncle who woke him up playing stinky pinky. The origin reboot was a service to captain America fans everywhere because beatnick Steve was a bad idea

That Gerber story is terrible. Did you catch the reference that Steve’s father was worried that he was gay?

How about the lesson that being anti-military is wrong! How lucky we are the young Steve learned a hard lesson and embraced the power of violence!

“I have read some of the stories. They aren’t really very creative, dynamic, or even well-drawn.”

Ok, see you lost me now.

And bad Kirby is still better than good anyone else any day of the week.

Looks like page 11 inspired the montage in the Cap movie.

Luis Dantas:”Nationalism has been a favored concept on occasion as well. In due time, Patriotism will fall out of favor, as it must. Such concepts are vague and subject to revisionism, and in a sense they must be – their purpose is to create an artificial sense of union, after all.”

Since patriotism is an emotion, it is ineradicable, unlike nationalism, which is an ideology. Patriotism has been around since humans lived as hunter-gatherers. It’s not going away.

Captain America as patriotic idealist: Cap’s patriotism is explicitly linked to his democratic ideals. He has few qualms about opposing the American government, if he thinks that it is acting in a fashion that it contrary to those ideals. As Frank Miller observed in BORN AGAIN (back when Miller was still sane), Cap is loyal to nothing but the dream.

” Idealism is by definition at odds with patriotism, particularly when wars and supersoldiers are involved.”

Only when you define one or both of the words simplistically.

For instance, Captain America defines himself as a patriot, yes. Many people define themselves as patriots and the word means different things to each one of them. For Captain America, and this feels fairly firmly established at this point, he feels “patriotic” towards the ideals that America represents in his mind. As opposed to “patriotic” meaning “loyal to the government” or “Our country is the best no matter what” or all sorts of other things. Now, you may disagree, and you may dislike it, but that’s a pretty clear instance of somebody whose patriotism informs his idealism (and vice versa) rather than the two being at odds with each other.

Going one step beyond that, I think you could pretty easily argue that “patriotism” is often *steeped* in idealism, since many forms of patriotism require people to turn a blind eye to whatever bad stuff their country has done at some time, most especially when it’s comprable to whatever think the patriot is criticizing about some other country.

When characterizing Captain America, I think it’s important to remember that he was a “New Deal” Democrat under FDR who believed in helping the underdog. His idea of the American Dream isn’t that of today’s 1%–he would be marching with Occupy Wall Street.

For all the supposed “Vietnamization” of the Gerber story — there was a LOT of opposition in the USA to entering the war before Pearl Harbor. There were isolationists, anti-communists who saw Hitler as the best defense against Russia, pacifists (due to the very real memories of the FIRST World War), Irish nursing their grievances against England, people who thought we should be tending to our own needs as the Depression was still ongoing, Nazi groups like the German-American Bund and socialists who were confounded by the Nazi-Soviet pact. Like Steve in Gerber’s story, Pearl Harbor — and Hitler’s declaration of war on the US after we declared war on Japan — clarified things pretty quickly. But to think that those feelings didn’t exist — well, that’s just bad history.

Except you’re setting up a strawman. No one before your comment claimed there was no opposition to America entering WWII, so no one was espousing bad history. It’s not the mere fact that Steve has antiwar feelings that makes people feel its a Vietnamization, it’s the particular way that opposition is depicted and expressed that people are complaining is a Vietnamization. It’s reminescent of a teenage bohemian hippie in the hippie mold. Not to mention how the scene in Greenwich VIllage is depicted.

Dude is trolling. He’s a bit more intelligent than most trolls, but he’s totally trolling.

Benefit of the doubt for me, I don’t think he’s trolling, just arguments over semantics of abstract terms with loaded connotations and debatable denotations… and that really is the territory of PHIL/HIST 301 :).

Although I did like the movie, it isn’t the “I don’t like bullies” ideal that my favorite versions of Captain America focus on. It’s more the “New Deal” Democrat values that will shetterly notes above.

Even though he’s fictional, I am more inspired by a Captain America that was a child of impoverished immigrants and lost both parents to the very bad social conditions during the Great Depression (alcoholism and pneumonia). Despite all these setbacks that could have created a bitter thug, Steve Rogers retained a belief in an America where it was possible to overcome your circumstances, more specifically through determination, hard work, and some science/innovation. Joining the military and becoming Captain America out of vengeance, even for the loss of a loved one, isn’t quite as noble of a inspiration as joining the military and becoming Captain America because the dream of America was threatened. And it is the dream/ideal of America that I think Captain America is defending, not the Nation. My Cap doesn’t fight for America because it can do no wrong (is “too big to fail”) but because pluralistic liberty is a challenge to preserve when it is so much easier to give into base tendencies (including the drive for vengeance). That’s where the “I don’t like bullies” comes in, however. Might doesn’t make right but the mighty can still rule the world. Cap understands intimately what it means to be a ‘have not” and now that he has the power to be one of the mighty, his main role is to block those who use their might to undermine values of pluralism, liberty, and social advancement. (Although, yes, it is hard to know in the real world when benevolent defense morphs into tyranny, aggression, and offense).

Does it mean something that even though I know I have read the Gerber issues before, I had completely forgotten that the Silver Age-to current Cap was anything other than a poor starving artist from Brooklyn? Maybe I can’t escape my personal politics any more than Luis Dantas, but I think the only way Captain America works is if he is an idealist, a Roosevelt Democrat and yes, even a bit of a sensitive artist type. You do him any other way, he looks like a fascist, defending the status quo without considering the ideals behind America. I mean, he beats guys up for a living, and he wears a flag. He would seem very jingoistic if he wasn’t an idealist, but an idealist who believes that you can fight for your ideals.

And I thought the movie got it exactly right, at least with regards to Steve’s character and motivations.

And while overall there is no way to reconcile Cap’s golden age stories with the current Marvel history of WWII, as is maybe shown by how almost all the WWII history of Captain America in modern times comes from ‘The Invaders,’ ‘Sgt Fury…’ and others, I do think it is necessary that Steve became Captain America before Pearl Harbor, or else the timelines don’t work at all. So I really appreciated Felipe citing how he could be compared to Americans who fought in Spain or China before Pearl Harbor, idealists who thought it was a moral decision to join the armed forces.

Captain America isn’t a Socialist. He volunteered to serve his country when he was called upon. Just like millions of people have done over the years. Certainly the Gerber version would be marching with Occupy Wall Street. Since some of us are twisting Cap based on our political beliefs, I believe Cap would see their point and wish them luck but then he would go to work.

Maybe it is just me, but I just don’t see how a character based on a political concept such as patriotism can escape being “twisted by political beliefs”. Or whether there is even a point in trying to.

Great series! I had a suggestion for a plot point that was never followed up on or mentioned again at least as far as I know. At the end the mid 90′s Heroes For Hire series, Iron Fist ends up making a deal that saved the day, but meant that Kun’ Lun’ was to take Earth’s place in the year 2000. I always wondered what the payoff to that was going to be, but it seems like it was ignored or forgotten about.

I love that the government went to great lengths to brainwash Captain America and provide him with a false past, and he immediately wrote it all down in his journal. Great cover there, Steve.

I’m just here to say: great comments thread! A pleasure to read. I’ve never been to the US, I despise with all my heart most of your government’s international interventions from the last 50 years (including the ones in my country, Argentina), and I still find Captain America (when well written) an inspiring character. Like a commenter said, it’s not about the US, but about what he believes the US represents, which is an ideal concept that you can easily transport to humanity as a whole.

Luis: believe it or not but idealism often means punching someone in the face

” idealism often means punching someone in the face”

Especially if it’s Hitler!

Since Nick Fury, Captain Storm, and the Unknown Soldier had all lost confidants, friends, colleagues, and so forth due to State Shinto Militarist actions, adding Captain America to the list may have seemed

Allied critics tended to describe the European Axis events as “Nazi” crimes. In the Asian theater enemy brutality almost always recounts as presented as being simply “Japanese.” While the latter group neglected to coin a code name for themselves, I will attempt to discourage bigotry.

“Mike Rogers, Thomas Wayne…never give a superhero a long-forgotten sibling. It probably won’t stick.”

Except Thomas Wayne (Jnr.) has stuck, Being referenced as recently as Court of Owls and being merged with Owlman as of Morrisons JLA: Earth One.

Hardly comparable… is it?

“At least until Mike Rogers is revealed as one of the other Winter Soldiers!”

Ha!! Yes!! With the way Marvel runs things, that will probably be a real storyline within 10 years.

“At least until Mike Rogers is revealed as one of the other Winter Soldiers!”
Hopefully none of the creators at the Marvel Editorial retreats reads this!

majestic pecan

April 17, 2014 at 7:55 pm

I rather liked Gerber’s idea of giving Cap a family background (no one had done that before), even though it wasn’t executed very well. Until very recently, I have to confess my hope that someone would bring this story back into continuity. But Remender has done such a good job of establishing Cap’s past that I’d like to see his version developed further.

Am I reading an inspired-Captain America-to-Wolverine story here, particularly the WEAPON X theme? Did Grant Morrison and other X/Wolvie writers there took that Cap story and justified Logan’s then misguided/false memories until Bendis’ M-Day?

Good thing JB was there to set things right.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives