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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So Cap is Now Drug-Free…Or Is He?

Every week, 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 a short-lived storyline where Captain America had the Super Soldier Serum removed from his system as an anti-drug statement.

Streets of Poison was a seven-part story that ran from Captain America #373-378 in 1990, written by Mark Gruenwald and drawn by Ron Lim and Danny Bulanadi (who managed to draw all seven bi-weekly issues. Damn, Ron Lim was fast).

Streets of Poison was an odd little story, and I will be featuring the series as a whole in an upcoming edition of I Love Ya But You’re Strange, so please refrain from commenting on the storyline as a whole in the comments section until I feature it it in I Love Ya But You’re Strange.

The basic gist of the story, though, is that Captain America is accidentally exposed to a new crack-like drug called Ice. The drug has a strange reaction with the Super Soldier Serum in Cap’s blood, with the result being that Cap goes insane.

Hank Pym realizes that the only way to save Cap’s sanity is to do a massive blood transfusion…

Throughout the story, Cap had been wondering if the Super Soldier Serum was really anything different than an especially effective steroid and whether he was just another typical drug user. So now that he is without the drug, Cap wonders if he can still BE Cap…

So to prove himself, he tracks down Crossbones and fights him…

Hank lets him know that they can give him the Super Soldier Serum back…

So that was the status quo – Cap no longer had the Super Soldier Serum in his blood, but he was still a peak athlete. We see as much the next issue…

However, reaction to Streets of Poison was mixed, to say the least. You have to give it up to Gruenwald, though, he was willing to change if he thought he made a mistake, and just six issues after Cap gave up the Serum in #378, Cap #384 shows us that the Serum was never actually gone.

Thus, we have a rare Abandoned an’ Forsaked when it is a writer abandoning and forsaking his own story. I especially love how Gruenwald essentially admits in the last thought balloon of Cap that, yeah, the Super Soldier Serum/drug comparison was not a particularly good one.

90 Comments

Oh boy. The super-soldier serum will always be a tricky concept to handle, but that Gruenwald wasn’t too fortunate with the next-to-last panel speech in that page where he “just says no”.

“I needed it once to give me what nature did not” is a very, very unfortunate thing for someone to say. Frankly, it is also very drug-use friendly.

Ron Lim was my favorite Captain America’s artist. Too bad his run was short-lived and then he went to do all those awful “Infinite-something” events (plus Spider-Man Unlimited).

If I were in Crimson Tide and had to break up the fight of who was the better Silver Surfer artist, Moebius or Kirby, i’d have to rule that Ron Lim’s Surfer was the one true Surfer.

ha, Jeff, I completely agree…I loved that Silver Surfer run…

I don’t understand why the Super Soldier serum is such a tricky concept in context of the origin of Captain America…because of him being frozen in ice, it can always be traced back to his WWII origin and left at that, unlike origins like Tony Starks, which has to be retrofitted every war…
in context to today’s military industrial complex, the Cap origin would seem a lot more sinister and be more difficult to deal with…

The tricky part was that Marvel didn’t want to be seen as endorsing steroid use in a comic book. The short answer shouldn’t have beem ‘drugs are bad, m’mkay.”. The short answer should’ve been ‘medication under a doctor’s supervision (erskine) isn’t the same thing.”

Judging from that first page of issue 379, quitting the super soldier serum apparently turns you into a hairless gorilla with seizures.

I like that the colorist on the 2nd page posted ignored the penciller’s wrist lines of Cap’s uniform and colored it as if his sleeves couldn’t possible go beyond the gloves. Besides the “hairless gorilla with seizures,” that art struck me as 2nd most odd here.

I’ll be damned if Gruenwald isn’t a horrible writer who gets WAY too much credit.

The characters all loudly announce every move they make during the fight scene. Both Captain America and Crossbones are quipping back and forth which completely removes all tension. The intimidating villain calls him “Cappy” while Cap actually uses “flagging” as some sort of patriotic profanity. Oh and the entire dramatic story is forgotten a few months later when the writer changes his mind.

Also: Capwolf.

I never read the few issues after Streets of Poison, so:

1. Marrinan, YIKES

2. I’m glad Gru actually came up with a quick forsake, because as he clearly knew nothing about steroids, that whole thing was terrible

Someone rehire Ron Lim. His artwork was always great

VDM, it’s not Eisner winning stuff, but that’s how a lot of comics were written. It’s a page right out of Stan’s book, having the dialogue attempt what the art of a master like Romita did with ease. Claremont was selling a zillion copies of X books with some of the same stuff at the time. The thing there is that Crossbones was a particularly chatty thug, so Cap having to think all that while keeping up the banter was supposed to show how much effort he needed without the serum.

Of course, there is no problem that can’t be solved by pulling someone’s head back and chopping them in the throat.

I thought my eyes were going to explode when I scrolled down to that Marinnan page. I agree with the rest, though, Ron Lim’s stuff back then was hugely underrated. His style has changed a bit these days but I still like it. Also, @VDM, Capwolf was awesome!

The word “flagging” wasn’t being used as a substitute for profanity. Flagging in this context is a synonym for waning or diminishing. He could feel himself starting to get weaker from all the exertion, so he mustered all of his flagging strength to deliver the final blow.

Definitely not one of Gruenwald’s finer hours:

1. Bad Science: The idea that the super-soldier serum would still be active in Cap’s body is pretty damn absurd. The forsaking in 384 (Cap’s body actually reproduces the serum) is a welcome bit of sanity.

2. Drugs are bad (except when they are not): See, kids, enhancing your abilities with drugs is wrong….unless we are talking about drugs that give you the ability to change size at will (Wasp, Yellowjacket), those are cool. It’s also cool to graft insect wings onto your back. And, modifying your body via radiation (Daredevil, F.F., Spider-Man) is superduper cool.

Gruenwald has admitted that he got the idea from a fan. Unfortunately, not all fan ideas are good ones.
I’ve never understood people who argue that ALL drugs are bad. They just come across as Luddites. In real life, steroids are bad because (a) of the side effects and (b) when used by professional sports-players, they give their users an unfair advantage. Neither of these applies to Cap and the Super Soldier Serum.

The Crazed Spruce

September 30, 2012 at 10:28 am

I read most of the “Streets of Poison” storyline when it came out (and it was awesomely goofy), but wound up missing the last issue, not to mention the issues that followed it. Looks like I dodged a bullet.

(And BTW, I’m about 99% sure that “ice” was an early street name for “crystal meth”. I remember seeing a story about it on “Inside Edition” a few months before the issue came out, and that’s apparently what the Hawaiian police called it when it began hitting the streets there. Hell, Chin Ho even referred to meth as “ice” on the latest episode of the “Hawaii Five-O” remake.)

I’m a Gruenwald partisan, but one of the things I always liked about his Cap was that he seemed like generally a thoughtful hero, perhaps accentuated by the fact that he didn’t have excessive superpowers. This could sometimes be taken to ludicrous extremes, but I enjoyed how his Cap would think during action scenes to ponder his next move. The fact that Crossbones quips a lot doesn’t bother me because that was his personality; he would always be joking (there are some really neat letters after his debut in which letter writers insist Crossbones is some existing character because of his “speech patterns”).

It always surprises me to see Ron Lim’s name pop up in the credits of cape books since I’m mostly familiar with his work on Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog, where he was pretty much the worst regular artist in the history of the series.

With the steroid analogy, do history books in the Marvel universe have an asterisk next to the results of World War II because Cap cheated?

I’ve got a page of original art from issue #379. Granted, I picked it up mainly because it was less than $40, but it’s actually a pretty cool page. The Nefaria wanna-be catching Cap’s shield in his teeth and then throwing Quasar at Cap like a weapon. The first page pictured above might not be good, but I like the page I got.

Cattleprod:

“With the steroid analogy, do history books in the Marvel universe have an asterisk next to the results of World War II because Cap cheated?”

The Allies had to vacate the win.

Cattleprod:

“With the steroid analogy, do history books in the Marvel universe have an asterisk next to the results of World War II because Cap cheated?”

colloid:”The Allies had to vacate the win.”

Since the Axis powers had their own “enhanced” players (Master Man, Warrior Woman: both recipients of versions of the super-soldier serum) , both the Allies and the Axis had to vacate the win, leaving the war without an official victor.

I think that there is really no way around this – Cap’s use of the SS serum is exactly like using any other performance-enhancing drug, except this one works better than any conventional drug. I think that Marvel should simply accept this reality. Using performance-enhancing drugs to make a good man into a superhuman who fights evil may simply be more acceptable than using such drugs to turn men and women into athletes who win medals under false pretenses and then get rich off of it.

Moreover, so many comics stories are based on external forces “improving” upon nature that this is not an issue that comics can really dodge. The bottom line is the intention – if you do the right thing with your artificially enhanced body/powers, then that is acceptable.

“Judging from that first page of issue 379, quitting the super soldier serum apparently turns you into a hairless gorilla with seizures.”

That page also looks like something from the 1940s. Probably a combination of the coloring and the way the faces are drawn. But yeah… it’s pretty odd.

Also, seeing Keith Kincaid working alongside Hank Pym and trying to save Cap’s life kind of makes me sad that JMS threw him on a bus when he took over Thor to free up Jane Foster as a love interest.

Have a good day.
G Morrow

TDSAComic.com

Considering how many super-heroes have factored into their origins such ethically questionable concepts as exposure to nuclear radiation, genetic engineering, eugenics, and even neo-colonialism, Cap’s one time only drug use really seems forgivable, with as as I can tell from the above examples, only Gruenwald seemed to think this was a problem.

Yep, Lim was pretty great. Always produced clean dynamic anf fun pages.
Kind of like Byrne without the arrogance.

If I remember correctly Diamondback later would have blood injected into her while being captured. Actually gave some extra strength but that seems to be long abandoned.

G Morrow, I thought that actually made Jane look like a jerk. She leaves her husband and kid for her old boyfriend, gets angry when he turns her down initially and we’re supposed to feel sorry for her.

always found it amazed that not only did gruenwald decided to change his story after streets of posion got mixed reactions but then to learn that the super solider serum instead of a drug given to steve to turn him into cap that got removed to save him from the drug. turns out the serum replicates like a virus that now no matter if cap winds up having to ever have the serum taken out of his body it will return like his own version of a healing factor only being the serum that created cap in the first place

“Using performance-enhancing drugs to make a good man into a superhuman who fights evil may simply be more acceptable than using such drugs to turn men and women into athletes who win medals under false pretenses and then get rich off of it. ”

This is part of the misconception. PEDs don’t turn people into athletes, and they don’t make them win, they HELP them win. Unfairly, because not everyone takes them, as they can generally be quite harmful.

The top of every Cap splash page had the words “endowed with a superhuman physique”.

If it’s superhuman, then it is BEYOND the peak of human perfection. Which contradicts what Cap is supposed to represent.

If Marvel can’t keep track of its own spiel, how can anyone else?

“Claremont was selling a zillion copies of X books with some of the same stuff at the time”.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TalkingIsAFreeAction

Pointedly averted by Max Allan Collins in Wild Dog and elsewhere, since Collins never had people talk during fight scenes. In an interview in Amazing Heroes #119, Collins noted that he found this an annoying cliche, and DC editors would describe his scripts as lean since he never had people talk during fight scenes.

Shang-Chi also did not quip or banter.

Using a drug is an intentional act. It can’t really compare with the origins of the Hulk, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four or Firestorm, which were all accidents to some degree. Cap’s origin is far more ethically questionable than any of them.

I could perhaps make an exception for Hank and Janet, but then again, they never presented themselves as role models.

Luis Dantes:”Using a drug is an intentional act. It can’t really compare with the origins of the Hulk, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four or Firestorm, which were all accidents to some degree. Cap’s origin is far more ethically questionable than any of them.”

Let me get this straight:A drug has been developed that will, if successful, end a host of physical illnesses. A physically infirm man volunteers to be the guinea pig for this dangerous drug (we are explicitly told in TALES OF SUSPENSE 63 that if “We [Erskine and his staff] have erred, Rogers will be dead within seconds!”). This strikes you as “ethically questionable?”

“I could perhaps make an exception for Hank and Janet, but then again, they never presented themselves as role models.”

Again, what is ethically questionable about Steve’s actions? Steve heroically offered to be a test subject for a drug that held greater promise for world health than, say, the polio vaccine.

Luis Dantas:”Using a drug is an intentional act. It can’t really compare with the origins of the Hulk, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four or Firestorm, which were all accidents to some degree. Cap’s origin is far more ethically questionable than any of them.

I could perhaps make an exception for Hank and Janet, but then again, they never presented themselves as role models.”

MMM. Guess that the Black Panther (with his enhanced abilities coming from the ingestion of Wakandan heart-shaped herbs) must also stand as “ethically questionable.” After all, his consumption of them was an “intentional act.”

Ditto for the Silver Surfer. I mean, he did volunteer for the power cosmic treatment from Galactus. Sure, he did it in order to save Zenn-La, but he could have just let his planet die…Unless the Surfer gets a free pass, since the power cosmic isn’t a drug, just an artificially induced, body-wide transformation…

Gruenwald did some great things thematically. To a 12-year-old in the mid-to-late-80’s, his Cap was a noble, thinking hero. The replacement-Cap storyline was a fine demonstration of what makes Captain America the hero he is, and it was more compact and readable than its successor, Knightfall, at the Distinguished Competition.

That said, I definitely remember thinking that worrying about Cap’s Super-Soldier serum in comparison to steroids was a bit much, and the dialogue didn’t always hold up. I also remember why Perez leaving Wonder Woman to be replaced by Marinnan was enough to get me to drop the book.

(I do seem to recall that Marinnan has improved by leaps and bounds since then. I remember Jan Duursema’s early work being very weak, too, and look at how good she became by the time she was penciling Star Wars for Dark Horse.)

@trajan23: the Silver Surfer was transformed by a cosmic entity. I’m not sure how that could be seen as comparable to the heart-herb or the super-soldier serum even if the situation did not involve saving a whole planet.

@trajan and cohen: why, of course it is ethically questionable, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. If for no other reason, because it is a textbook case of use of human guinea pigs.

But the true problem with Cap’s serum isn’t its supposed original purpose but rather what it ended up canonically being in actual fact: a wonder steroid with no apparent undesirable side-effects.

Cap is a very problematic character for many reasons, most of them relating to his core concept, but it must also be recognized that the serum is a very archetypical, idealized representation of drug use fantasies.

Black Panther does indeed present the same issues, but to a far lesser degree. For one thing, his character concept treats the heart-shaped herb as a nearly insignificant detail, an afterthought even. He is depicted as an exceptionally capable individual before even finding the herb, after all, and very few stories even mention its existence. Perhaps most significantly of all, he is not necessarily to be taken as a role model of any sort.

Funny thing is that I have always seen the super soldier serum as something that corrected and repaired Caps illness ravaged body. This is a guy not well enough to fight in world war 2 who volunteered for what was pretty much a medical restorative treatment.
Caps serum…was gene therapy….before they even knew of what it would be called.

luis dantas;”@trajan23: the Silver Surfer was transformed by a cosmic entity. I’m not sure how that could be seen as comparable to the heart-herb or the super-soldier serum even if the situation did not involve saving a whole planet.”

It is comparable in that all three scenarios involve someone volunteering to be “enhanced.” The only difference is that the Surfer’s “enhancement” occurs via cosmic energy and not a serum.

“@trajan and cohen: why, of course it is ethically questionable, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. If for no other reason, because it is a textbook case of use of human guinea pigs.”

Without human guinea pigs, no drug treatments would exist; every drug intended for human consumption requires, at some point in the testing process, a human subject.

“But the true problem with Cap’s serum isn’t its supposed original purpose but rather what it ended up canonically being in actual fact: a wonder steroid with no apparent undesirable side-effects.”

And you regard its perfect efficacy as a problem? The problem with steroids stems from the fact that they have side effects, not that they enhance human performance. If steroids worked perfectly, they would be legal and everyone would use them.

“Cap is a very problematic character for many reasons, most of them relating to his core concept,”

The core concept concerns a man who witnesses the rise of fascism and wants to do what he can to stop it. Physically unfit for military service, he offers the only assistance that he can offer, and allows a potentially dangerous drug to be tested on himself.

” but it must also be recognized that the serum is a very archetypical, idealized representation of drug use fantasies.”

And superheroes are idealized representations of power fantasies.

“Black Panther does indeed present the same issues, but to a far lesser degree. For one thing, his character concept treats the heart-shaped herb as a nearly insignificant detail, an afterthought even. ”

Every depiction of the Panther’s origin has included some reference to the herbs.

“He is depicted as an exceptionally capable individual before even finding the herb, after all, and very few stories even mention its existence.”

To my mind, the Panther’s native abilities can be seen as making his “drug use” even more egregious; isn’t he like a star athlete who takes steroids for an extra edge? Doesn’t that make the Panther even more of a real world parallel, following your logic, for steroid use?Steroids, after all, could do very little for someone like Steve Rogers in the real world; for someone like T’Challa, in contrast, they would be very effective indeed.

“Perhaps most significantly of all, he is not necessarily to be taken as a role model of any sort.”

Many Black children of my acquaintance do see the Panther as a role model; indeed, he is quite possibly the most significant Black male superhero.White children have many superheroes to look up to; Black children have very few.

The Panther has traditionally been a hero. He didn’t really become an antihero until Priest got ahold of him.

For people looking for some recent Ron Lim comics, he and Fred Van Lente did a couple of comics set in the Marvel Films continuity: Avengers: The Avenger’s Initiative and Captain America and Thor: Avengers.

You folks don’t see the problem with picturing a perfect drug as the key to the very existence of an inspiring symbol?

Really?

Ok… I guess it is not too late to try and read Marshall Law. It had more of a point than I guessed at the time.

“Hank Pym realizes that the only way to save Cap’s sanity”…

Wow, Hank, maybe YOU should try it sometime.

Gah! Cap told Crossbones “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”!!! And we thought that Nick Fury pining the other day was a one time thing….

I really hope Cap yanked Crossbones by those long fluttery ribbons on the back of his head. (and honestly, I DID type that before I scrolled to that part of the page)

One problem, I’d guess, with that Marinnan page is the “inker”. If “D. Hedd” isn’t one of those “M. Hands”/”Crusty Bunkers” type gang ink jobs, I’d be surprised. Marinnan later worked with Larsen on some of his stuff, right?

I’m surprised Cap didn’t cry after realizing he could still cause a lot of harm “without” the serum. Imagine if he’d killed Crossbones with that throat chop!

Hmm…Luis brings up an interesting point, although I’d like to ask — how much emphasis was there at this time on how Cap got his powers? I know from other posts in this series (I think), Cap’s origin (specifically the way he got his powers) was different over the years, so was it the “serum plus Vita-Rays” at this point? (I ask because…how likely was it that kids would connect Cap’s origin with smoking pot, or dropping acid, or shooting heroin? Yeah, it was “drug use”, but not really the kind Nancy Reagan was talking about)

I think after the fact, Cap being the only person to benefit from the Serum mitigates the drug use aspect to a degree. No one else can benefit from this part of the origin (let alone the fact that there’s no Serum in real life), so no one else can use/abuse it.

We’re probably talking ethically “ends justify the means” vs “an act in and of itself being ethical or not”. Ends justify the means, sure, Cap getting the Serum works. I think in the context of later origin tellings, like the Nicieza/Maguire mini, there are implications that there was psychological testing involved with showing that Cap was capable of doing good with the powers he’d receive. Also, I think that the origin implies that even without Erskine’s death, there weren’t any others immediately lined up to become a Super Soldier (based on the telling, of course), so if Steve’s trial run hadn’t worked, back to the drawing board.

In and of itself, is using a perfect drug to create a super soldier ethically unsound? Hmm.

One thing that I think also helps Cap be different from steroid users is that Cap had a one time thing where he got the serum and Vita Rays and so on. He doesn’t have to keep taking something to become Cap (unlike, say, Hourman, who is SUCH a junkie!). Again, a little “ends justify the means” — if Cap did need a “booster”, would that be a bad thing?

It’s fun to ponder these things. I think Luis definitely has a point, but I think there are degrees here and Cap’s case isn’t as egregious as some. Maybe.

I don’t think the Super Soldier Serum is equivalent to steroids (or a virus), because it completely rebuilt Steve Rodgers. Rather than enhancing natural abilities it transformed him into someone else, and then hung around permanently in his body keeping him continually fit and young. If anything, it seems more like a kind of nanotechnology – albeit an organic one. Little machines manufactured by his own cells that maintain his superhuman physique. So not really equivalent to any real world substance at the moment.

Re talking during fights, Jack Kirby recalled that in World War 2 the American and German troops shouted insults at one another while in battle.

And I’ve read that before they fought, Japanese Shogun warriors would tell each other their names, where they came from, what battles they’d been in etc. Basically, it was very bad form to kill someone without being properly introduced.

@Luis Dantas I have been arguing this point for years. But rabid Cap fans defend this point to the death. They refuse to see the SSS as steroids and how it’s ironic that a man wearing our nations colors got his powers from a drug.

For discussions such as this is that I like “streets of Poison” basically this is the question that Gruenwald is asking: can the Super soldier serum be considered a drug? there is panel with one of the Avengers staffers asking Captain America “O.K. I am on drugs, but what do you think the super soldier serum is, Kool-Aid?”

I am no expert in steroids, but don’t you need to use them on a continuous basis? While the super soldier serum was a one-time take. I think that difference is important: a drug creates a consumer-dependency. The super soldier serum does not.

Is there anyone who doesn’t see the usage of PEDs and Steroids as such a terrible thing?
It’s stupid, but it’s also a personal choice. When it violates the rules and policies in place, I see it as being a problem, especially when it’s unsupervised and foolishly used. But it’s hard to take the moral high ground on this issue.

I’m looking at this from a baseball perspective. How much can I vilify Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire, without doing the same to Mark Mike Schmidt, Tom House or Pudd Galvin who all admitted to drug usage prior to 1991 for performance purposes?

What is ethically wrong about Steve Rogers using a drug or serum willingly under a doctor’s supervision? What is the problem?

To me is more unethical the Clark Kent of the Byrne era, since all his news articles were obtained thanks to his alter ego: he actually beats Lois Lane to the Superman Interview for the mere purpose of getting a job at the Planet. Talk about using your enhanced attributes for personal gain!

There was an extra Mark in there. Whoops.

“Gruenwald did some great things thematically. To a 12-year-old in the mid-to-late-80?s, his Cap was a noble, thinking hero. ”

Ditto here. That, combined with Roger Stern’s Cap run (that grounded him as a real person in a real New York City with a real life), defined Captain America for me, and also is the reason I’m soured when people like B.M. Bendis (whose work on other characters I enjoy) get his dialog and personality “wrong.” A lot of writers these days think of Captain America as a jingoistic, militaristic, cold super-soldier, with a lot of emphasis on the “soldier” part.

As a teenager, I was buying “Streets of Poison” as it came out.

I probably thought to myself something like “Zing!” when Fabian asked Cap if his Super-Soldier Serum qualified as becoming better through the use of a strong drug . . . and I understood the point Gruenwald was trying to make when he had Cap go back out into the field without the serum in his bloodstream . . . but the way I remember it, I always took it for granted that Cap would, in fact, get the Serum back again! On one pretext or another!

In other words, it never occurred to me (when the Serum was explicitly stated to be back, good as new, in Cap’s bloodstream) that Gruenwald had “chickened out” or “changed his mind” in any way. I merely assumed: “Yep, he’s finally used the escape hatch he must have had in mind all along — because he knew he would need to Inevitably Restore The Sacred Status Quo after he made Cap go through the obligatory learning experience about ‘a true hero can still function without the constant use of any given drug as a crutch.'”

For what it is worth, so did I, Lorendiac.

Come to think of it, Superman and Spider-Man went through similar storylines in the 1970s. losing their powers and proving their mettle without them only to try and recover them shortly after.

In fact, so did Cap himself in the late 1970s, during the Corporation storyline, in issue 227 (having lost his powers in 226). Only that it was handled better back then – and, incidentally, his physical shape regressed without much of an explanation back then as well. It was implied, but not really proven, that the SSS simply wore off, perhaps due to the trauma of recovering his “true” set of memories. He went through a trial by fire of sorts in 227 and fully recovered.

Myself, I wish the Englehart accidental enhancement of his strength were allowed to stick. All the more so because Gruenwald himself then had Cap dealing with the Power Broker…

Willie Everstop

October 1, 2012 at 2:19 pm

A wonder steroid with no apparent undesirable side-effects prescribed by a doctor in a laboratory setting is usually just called medication.

Leslie Fontenelle

October 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Freyes2011, the Clark Kent of the Byrne era was also unethical because he used his blossoming superpowers (that he was fully aware of) to participate and be successful in football. Any way you look at it, Clark was cheating. What a great role model.

And I’m constantly amused by the recurring claim that Cap is “peak human”, expressly contradicted by Marvel’s own “Official Handbook” – that spelled out pretty clearly that Cap has superhuman stamina (as in, he can fight for hours and hours without getting tired) and speed… and that speed was demonstrated during Brubaker’s celebrated run, in a WW2 flashback where Cap ran at superhuman speed (not as fast as the Flash but way faster than any human could ever run) to deliver a message to allies. It’s OFFICIAL, both in the handbook and in canon: Captain America is clearly more than “peak human”, he’s superhuman.

In retrospect, the fact that the serum was called “SUPERsoldier serum” should’ve been a hint – and it makes an enormous amount of sense, as a “peak human” wouldn’t have been a gamechanger in war (because we already HAVE “peak humans”, we call them “Olympians” and many nations have them). Cap was a gamechanger because his superhuman speed and stamina allowed him to take on entire battalions by himself, as Kirby showed him doing many many times.

What “peak human” has always meant is that any one thing that Captain America does should be conceivably possible for another human to accomplish. Any punch, any kick, any flip, etc. that he does could also be done by Daredevil or Iron Fist or Hawkeye, even though the combined total for all his feats clearly requires something beyond what we believe a human being to be capable of.

But Captain America has also always been an “ideal” human in that he rolls all those capabilities into one person, and he’s always at his best. At least with Cap there’s the SSS, as opposed to Batman, where he’s just too cool for school.

As far as I’m concerned, any time Captain America does anything super for too long (the running thing in Bru’s run), he pulls too far away from what I see as the core of his character. Cap should serve to inspire us to strive to be better, not to remind us of our limits.

Leslie: Hasn’t Clark Kent ALWAYS been a cheat? Personally, I’ve always forgiven the guy because a) no one ever loses their job because of him, b) he’s also out saving the world when other people are sleeping or eating or working on their own careers. Add to that the fact that the whole football thing was clearly not cool with Pa Kent and Clark quit the instant he realized that he wasn’t human and therefore not using “natural” abilities.

I’ve always found the Byrne Clark more relatable than pre-Crisis or movie Clark. I certainly wasn’t mature enough at 17 to have hidden my talents, had they been so excellent. And I doubt most of us would have “waited” for Lana Lang, either. In that respect, Byrne-Clark was still of a higher moral fiber than the average Joe, IMO.

@Eric Quel-Droma: the guy has lifting heavy machinery by the age of six, of course he knew he wasn’t human.

Leslie Fontenelle

October 1, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Taking about Clark Kent’s professional double-life, I’m reminded of a SNL sketch where everyone or most everyone at the Daily Planet knows his secret, but they humor him – because if the most powerful being on Earth wants to play at being a normal guy between world-saving missions, then LET him! Y’know, a variation of the “where on a bus does a 300-pound gorilla sit?” joke… with the added bonus of the Daily Planet’s office being one of the safest places in the world while he’s there.

There’s also a joke where Metallo tells Luthor that he figured out Superman’s secret identity and Luthor goes “we know, but we keep it quiet because any time he’s playing journalist is a time he’s not interfering with our plans”; to which Metallo says “why don’t you attack him while he’s at home or something?” and Luthor answers “what, you think he’s less bulletproof when he’s on his pajamas?”

I like those jokes because even if we ignore the ethical repercussions of reporting on himself, it doesn’t reflect well on an entire newsroom full of supposedly-competent journalists to work alongside Clark and never figure it out.

Yes, I remember the old Weisinger-era explanation of “unconscious super-mass hypnotism” – where even looking at a photograph of Kent would put anyone on a super-hypnotic trance so they’d see Clark as a weakling… but to be honest, even when I was a child that explanation inspired nothing more than derisive laughter. There’s just no way nobody would figure it out, it snaps the ol’ suspension of disbelief like a twig for me. Of course, your mileage may vary, but I’ve always liked the idea that most of his co-workers know and let him have his secret because he’s more than earned it.

Lius Dantas:”You folks don’t see the problem with picturing a perfect drug as the key to the very existence of an inspiring symbol?”

Wow. You are really hung up on the word “drug,” aren’t you? Would you find the super-soldier serum more palatable if it were a radiation treatment (i.e., just “vita-rays”). Or, how about this, Cap gets his powers from the goddess Colombia (hey, it worked for Captain Britain and Merlyn and his daughter Roma).See, Colombia appears to Steve one night in 1941 and promises to grant him the physical might to fight for freedom. The only drawback is that the magic might kill him. Steve, being pure guts, accepts. The “spell” works, and Captain America is born.

Luis Dantas:”You folks don’t see the problem with picturing a perfect drug as the key to the very existence of an inspiring symbol?”

The super-soldier serum does not make Steve Rogers an inspiring symbol; what Steve Rogers does with the serum is what makes Steve Rogers an inspiring symbol.It is his dedication to fighting injustice that makes him a hero; the serum is merely a tool. If just using the super-soldier serum makes someone an inspiring symbol, than Master Man (a 90 pound weakling Nazi Bundist turned Nazi Super-soldier thanks to a variant of the super-soldier serum) would be an even greater inspiration than Cap. He is, after all, much stronger. Instead, his dedication to fascism makes him a symbol of evil and tyranny.

Lorendiac:”As a teenager, I was buying “Streets of Poison” as it came out.

I probably thought to myself something like “Zing!” when Fabian asked Cap if his Super-Soldier Serum qualified as becoming better through the use of a strong drug ”

I’m sorry, but this is the Luddite’s position; steroids are problematical because they have serious side effects. If they worked perfectly, there would be no rational argument against their use.

Luis Dantas:”You folks don’t see the problem with picturing a perfect drug as the key to the very existence of an inspiring symbol?

Really?

Ok… I guess it is not too late to try and read Marshall Law. It had more of a point than I guessed at the time.”

I have read MARSHAL LAW; You might want to compare Steve Rogers’ career to what was depicted in ML. That might help you understand the difference between a hero and a psychopath.

Ozzy:”Funny thing is that I have always seen the super soldier serum as something that corrected and repaired Caps illness ravaged body. This is a guy not well enough to fight in world war 2 who volunteered for what was pretty much a medical restorative treatment.
Caps serum…was gene therapy….before they even knew of what it would be called.”

This is essentially correct. The super-soldier serum completely restructured Steve’s body and is better understood as a kind of gene therapy than as steroids.

@trajan23: vita rays are marginally more acceptable, yes, if only because they are supposedly less of an intervention, less of a gamble on how his body would react.

Then again, Steve Roger’s transformation was more like Captain Marvel’s lightning far as actual effects go. I’m not really aware of how gene therapy works, but I’m fairly certain it doesn’t create muscular mass (and height) in a few seconds. Of course, neither do stheroids, or even fantasy rays; such a dramatic and rapid change simply can’t be safe without some sort of supernatural intervention.

Captain America’s origin isn’t at all realistic, and I don’t think it was ever meant to be. But it does raise some very interesting ethical questions. He would indeed work better if presented as the all-out fantasy character in the Captain Marvel mold that he actually is deep down; he has far more in common with Quality’s Uncle Sam than with Daredevil or Spider-Man, both in concept and in role.

As for comparisons with Marshall Law, I don’t think they aleviate the problem. Marshall Law, as well as Frank Miller’s “Daredevil: Born Again” by way of his character Nuke, actually point out how dangerous it is to rely on the mirage of a “perfect drug without undesirable consequences”.

That is not a reasonable thing to aim for, not outside of a fantasy world anyway. Even aspirin has undesirable consequences, and whatever changed Steve Rogers could very easily deform or seriously imbalance him if his origin was treated with any kind of seriousness. That people fail to see that speaks volumes of how casual and abusive drug use and self-medication (pretty much the same thing going by two different names) have become these days.

The reversal came about because a fan pointed out to Gruenwald that there was no way that the organic molecules of the Super Soldier Formula would have persisted in Cap’s blood for the 12-15 years that had elapsed since his treatment at the start of WWI. The formula had to be self-replicating in some way, and the most parsimonious explanation was that something in Rogers’s cells was producing more. Gruenwald liked the logic of that and worked it into the followup storylines.

I said (in part):

As a teenager, I was buying “Streets of Poison” as it came out.

I probably thought to myself something like “Zing!” when Fabian asked Cap if his Super-Soldier Serum qualified as becoming better through the use of a strong drug . . .

I’m sorry, but this is the Luddite’s position; steroids are problematical because they have serious side effects. If they worked perfectly, there would be no rational argument against their use.

Trajan23 quoted me and then responded:

I’m sorry, but this is the Luddite’s position; steroids are problematical because they have serious side effects. If they worked perfectly, there would be no rational argument against their use.

LOL. Nobody ever called me a Luddite before! :)

Seriously, Trajan23, I think you’re reading way too much into my brief, flip comment about how the single word “Zing!” may well have passed through my head when I first saw that little exchange between Fabian and Steve. “Zing!” is not the same thing as “I am a diehard Luddite!”

Let me see if I can clear up a few things. I’m positive that my thoughts (as a teenager who had just bought that comic) did not include any of the following assumptions:

1. “Fabian is absolutely right to suggest his nasty, unhealthy drug habit may be morally equivalent with the fact that several decades ago Steve Rogers was injected with an experimental serum as a one-time thing.”

2. “Back in the early 1940s, Steve never had any business volunteering to be used as a human guinea pig in the first place. Nobody should ever do that!”

3. “Since the serum is a performance-enhancing drug, it is by defition a Bad Thing, and therefore Steve really ought to get rid of it somehow and never even think about using it again.”

4. “All ‘modern drugs’ are evil. Even if a doctor prescribes one for you! Best to avoid them all, just to be on the safe side!”

Now, it’s been a long time since I last reread “Streets of Poison,” but as I recall, Fabian’s question came hard on the heels of a little lecture Steve had just given him about fundamental problems with the idea of using drugs as a constant crutch to cope with the problems of your daily life . . . or some such thing?

In context, Fabian’s follow-up question about the serum may have come across as a reasonable response that illustrated that Steve’s phrasing had been excessively sweeping. (But I don’t remember for sure, because I’m unclear on exactly what he said and how he chose his words at the time!)

But at any rate, I believe I felt some surprise and some amusement at having the Super-Soldier Serum suddenly get dragged into a conversation about the dangers of getting addicted to recreational drugs that are simply used to make yourself “feel good” — and also some amusement at Cap’s failure to come up with a great comeback on the spur of the moment! (I think he just said “That’s . . . uh . . . different,” or words to that effect, which was not wildly convincing.)

So I may have thought “Zing!” or something similar — but that doesn’t mean I thought there was no possible answer which could have been a valid line of defense for Cap to use!

(One key difference in my mind would probably have been that Steve didn’t feel the obsessive craving for a “fresh shot” of serum every day, year after year, in order to give him a frequent feeling of euphoria!)

I got my powers from aspirin.

Reverend Meteor

October 2, 2012 at 10:51 am

I find it more unethical that Peter Parker profits from the pictures he takes of himself.

I also find it odd that his pictures do not make him have to routinely testify (and perjure himself) in court cases.

Leslie Fontenelle

October 2, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Of course Peter Parker is also unethical! And so is Matt Murdock, for interfering with investigations that he’s involved in as a lawyer. And so is Reed Richards, who stole a NASA spaceship because he thought he knew better than everyone and endangered three civilians’ lives in the process (Reed really should’ve been thrown in jail immediately upon arrival on Earth). And so is Bruce Wayne, who uses Wayne Enterprises’ funds and resources for his own personal ends, committing God only knows how many corporate crimes (and let’s not even talk about child endangerment because we’d never end). And the Hulk has destroyed countless lives, businesses and homes, even if one buys the hilarious explanation that his frequent rampages somehow never killed ANYone (I personally don’t buy it).

The truth is that if we actually pay attention to what they DO and not only to what the narrator says, most of these heroes are reprehensible people or criminals in one way or another. Hell, even “paragon of morality” Captain America broke prisoners out of a federal prison during the ‘Civil War’ (the fact that those prisoners called themselves “heroes” is irrelevant from a legal standpoint, they had been imprisoned for breaking actual laws passed by congress, a law that even Cap eventually admitted that he was wrong to oppose, but he got away with it because… uh, I guess laws simply don’t apply to masked vigilantes in the MU, which come to think of it was Cap’s position since the start of “Civil War”).

Commander Benson

October 2, 2012 at 12:52 pm

“Yes, I remember the old Weisinger-era explanation of ‘unconscious super-mass hypnotism’—where even looking at a photograph of Kent would put anyone on a super-hypnotic trance so they’d see Clark as a weakling . . . .”

Mort Weisinger had nothing to do with that explanation; it didn’t happen on his watch as Superman editor.

That came from Julius Schwartz’s tenure, in “The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis”, from Superman # 330 (Dec., 1978). Not surprisingly, that story became a Mopee, jettisoned from canon without further reference.

And here I thought the only drug-like craving Cap ever had was for Nick Fury’s approval…

I bought and read a copy of “Superman #330″ maybe a decade ago. I was very surprised by the “big reveal” about why everybody who watched Clark on the TV news each night didn’t realize “Superman with glasses would look just like Clark Kent!” I believe I was also amused in a sad sort of way by the folly of this retcon — in part because if Supes had already been doing this for ages, then Lois Lane never should have felt such strong suspicions about the possibility of Clark and Supes being the same guy!

And, as Commander Benson suggested, I found myself feeling no surprise that I could not recall ever seeing that plot point get mentioned again, in any way, shape, or form, in any of the later “Pre-Crisis” Superman stories which I had previously collected and read!

On a similar note . . . several years later, I learned about a Superboy story from around 1969 (I think) in which teenaged Kal-El suddenly learned that his Kryptonian parents, Jor-El and Lara, were still alive in “suspended animation,” drifting in space — but he didn’t dare revive them because they would quickly die from radiation poisoning once their metabolisms started running full speed ahead again! As I understand it, that one too became a Mopee which no other DC writer ever acknowledged, implicitly or explicitly, in any later reference to the fate of Kal-El’s parents! They had been blown to smithereens when Krypton exploded — plain and simple!

Leslie Fontenelle

October 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I stand corrected on Weisinger, Commander. Thanks for setting me straight, and it’s always good to see you!

(I was HammerHeart at the sadly-discontinued Captain Comics forum)

Yeah, the hypnosis thing is funny because it doesn’t even work for abandoned and forsaked, as they never even bothered to forsake it, they just abandoned it.

luis dantas:”@trajan23: vita rays are marginally more acceptable, yes, if only because they are supposedly less of an intervention, less of a gamble on how his body would react.”

How are vita rays less of an intervention?The difference between vita rays and the super-soldier serum is that the vita rays are shiny rays of light; both processes radically transform the human body.

“Then again, Steve Roger’s transformation was more like Captain Marvel’s lightning far as actual effects go. I’m not really aware of how gene therapy works, but I’m fairly certain it doesn’t create muscular mass (and height) in a few seconds. Of course, neither do stheroids, or even fantasy rays; such a dramatic and rapid change simply can’t be safe without some sort of supernatural intervention.”

It isn’t a matter of not being “safe.” The super soldier process is completely unrealistic , pure comic book science. Hence, it is as “safe” as the writers wish it to be.

“Captain America’s origin isn’t at all realistic, and I don’t think it was ever meant to be.”

Of course it’s not realistic; nearly all comic book superheroes have origins that defy science.

“But it does raise some very interesting ethical questions. He would indeed work better if presented as the all-out fantasy character in the Captain Marvel mold that he actually is deep down; he has far more in common with Quality’s Uncle Sam than with Daredevil or Spider-Man, both in concept and in role.”

Of course, all comic book characters, when closely examined, are fantastical in nature. Spider-Man and Daredevil are just as magical as Dr Strange or Thor.

“As for comparisons with Marshall Law, I don’t think they aleviate the problem. Marshall Law, as well as Frank Miller’s “Daredevil: Born Again” by way of his character Nuke, actually point out how dangerous it is to rely on the mirage of a “perfect drug without undesirable consequences”.”

Since superheroes are themselves a complete “mirage,” with no foundation in reality , I fail to see how relying on a perfect drug is any different than relying on, say, a magical ring . If the writers wished, they could write stories in which the radiation from Green Lantern’s power ring drives him insane. Perhaps someone could write a tale in which Thor becomes dependent on the rush he feels when he wields his hammer.

“That is not a reasonable thing to aim for, not outside of a fantasy world anyway. Even aspirin has undesirable consequences, and whatever changed Steve Rogers could very easily deform or seriously imbalance him if his origin was treated with any kind of seriousness. ”

Comic book super powers are seldom “treated with any kind of seriousness.” If they were, we would see no time travel stories, no faster than light travel, no lifting of buildings, etc. For that matter, imagine what comics would be like if concussions were treated realistically (nearly every character, given the frequency with which they get bopped on the head, would be a drooling idiot).

“That people fail to see that speaks volumes of how casual and abusive drug use and self-medication (pretty much the same thing going by two different names) have become these days.”

I think that many people are quite aware of the dangers that even the safest pharmaceuticals pose. Any substance, even sunlight (cf skin cancer) , is potentially injurious. However, in the real world, one must weigh the positives against the negatives. However, we are talking about the world of comic books, being dosed with gamma rays has the potential to give you superpowers and not just a nasty case of cancer.

Whoops, that last paragraph was a tad garbled. It should read:

I think that many people are quite aware of the dangers that even the safest pharmaceuticals pose. Any substance, even sunlight (cf skin cancer) , is potentially injurious. In the real world, one must weigh the positives against the negatives. However, we are talking about the world of comic books, where being dosed with gamma rays has the potential to give you superpowers and not just a nasty case of cancer.

Lorendiac:”Seriously, Trajan23, I think you’re reading way too much into my brief, flip comment about how the single word “Zing!” may well have passed through my head when I first saw that little exchange between Fabian and Steve. “Zing!” is not the same thing as “I am a diehard Luddite!””

Sorry, Lorendiac. I over-interpreted your “zing” comment as an endorsement for a kind of irrational, Nancy Reagan style anti-drug attitude. My apologies.

Commander Benson

October 2, 2012 at 6:37 pm

“I was HammerHeart at the sadly-discontinued Captain Comics forum.”

The old forum is gone for good now, even in its “read-only” mode, but the one that took its place is still going strong at http://captaincomics.ning.com. Feel free to drop by, anytime.

Trajan, I don’t know how to make my point any clearer than this: the idea of a “safe drug” is in itself dangerous.

By presenting the SSS as a magical and perfect drug, Cap’s origin is doomed to be an eternal embarassment – until and unless it is eventually retconned into being in fact a mystical origin of some sort.

Which would in fact improve the character, since it isn’t really allowed to be a true human being when Steve Englehart isn’t writing him.

The Supersoldier Serum is only a “drug” in the sense that any substance that has an affect on someone’s body is a “drug.” If you have a problem with it, you also have to have a problem with a diabetic hero injecting insulin into himself (injected insulin is as much a drug as the SSS) or an asthmatic hero using an inhaler (the stuff in most asthma inhalers actually IS a steroid!). Heck, Firestar technically “used drugs” when she got chemo-therapy for her cancer (and chemo drugs have a lot worse side-effects than the SSS). The idea that ALL drugs are bad is just something people tell little kids that they don’t think can distinguish between “drugs” meaning “narcotics” and “drugs” meaning “medicine.”

The important thing is that the Supersoldier Serum is NOT a narcotic. Is it not mind altering, it is not addictive, it does not have negative side effects, and it not a controlled substance (except in the practical sense that there was only ever one dose of it and the government had it, but even if you want to split that hair, Rogers took it under completely legal circumstances).

Rogers taking it was demonstratively not illegal; it wasn’t immoral in that it didn’t hurt Steve, it didn’t hurt other people (with the exception of criminals which is okay) and it didn’t put money in the hands of criminals, and, if you want to extend “moral” to a religious sense, it didn’t hurt his relationship with God and there’s nothing in the Bible against it (I’m pretty sure Cap’s a Christian); and it wasn’t unethical in that Cap’s not an ahtlete and is under absolutely no professional or societal obligation whatsoever to meet Nazis or criminals on a level playing field.

To say it was unethical of Cap to use the serum because someday it might encourage kids to use steroids is like saying Iron Fist shouldn’t have fought the dragon to get his powers because it might someday encourage kids to fight large, dangerous animals in the hope of getting powers or that Dr. Stange should have learned magic because it might encourage kids to join cults (which can be very real and very dangerous in the Marvel Universe).

Furthermore, steroids weren’t illegal in the 40s – in fact, I’m no medical historian but I’m pretty sure use of steroids in the 40s wasn’t considered any more questionable than use of estrogen therapy for women is considered today – so even if you think Cap should have considered the sort of example his top secret military program might be setting for people who were never supposed to know about it, you’d also be expecting him to refuse to do something that was vaguely analogous to something that wasn’t considered wrong because it might someday come to be considered wrong. It would be like saying diabetic heroes can’t use insulin because it’s possible that someday something vaguely analogous to insulin might be illegal.

Leslie Fontenelle said:

Of course Peter Parker is also unethical! And so is Matt Murdock, for interfering with investigations that he’s involved in as a lawyer.

I’m just curious about the Matt Murdock bit of what you said.

I have never made an intense study of whatever “standard legal ethics” are supposed to be in the USA, but I have the impression that defense attorneys, like prosecutors, often have someone “investigating” this, that, and the other thing, in connection with the criminal case that will be coming up for trial. Or they may do some of the “investigating” themselves — asking people “what can you swear to about the events of that night, if you are put on the witness stand?” certainly qualifies as investigating the subject of what happened that night!

So my question is: Can you specify what, exactly, he has done wrong in certain cases? For instance, telling us about a particular story arc in which Matt’s behavior in his two lives, as a lawyer and then as a superhero, violated a specific ethical principle as he “interfered with an investigation” in a way that goes far beyond the legitimate efforts of a man who is representing the defendant and also is trying to learn the truth about who did what?

In other words: Just what does “interfering” mean in this context?

Let me make something clear, though — I am not setting myself up as an apologist for the ethics of anything and everything that attorney Matt Murdock has ever done in his professional capacity! I’ve been known to criticize himself — but on somewhat different grounds! :)

For instance! Years ago, I was in a discussion thread where someone asked if we could provide examples of a “bad” story which was nonetheless “well-written.” I came up with one right away! Some great dialogue; good sense of humor; but with a horrible plot premise!

There was a six-part Daredevil arc, written by Bob Gale, in which the firm of Murdock & Nelson accepted a retainer from a millionaire with the understanding that they would represent him in filing a lawsuit against “Daredevil” for some serious property damage to his big greenhouse and its contents. Since, at this point, Foggy knew about Matt’s double life, both partners were equally aware that in effect, Matt was accepting money to “sue himself” under a different name! (The client, of course, had no clue about that, or he wouldn’t have come to them.)

As I said, I was not an expert on legal ethics, but I was positive that taking money to sue yourself in another identity must have “massive conflict of interest” inherent in the situation! When the chips are down, where’s your real loyalty — to your own best interests, or to what the client sees as his own best interests? I believe Matt rationalized it by saying, “I know for a fact I’ve never even been to his greenhouse — somebody impersonated me or otherwise is running a deception, so I’m not the one who should be paying him for the damage!” While that turned out to be absolutely true as far as it went, it was still dishonest for him to turn around and take the man’s money under false pretences.

However, I don’t think that qualifies as “improperly interfering with an investigation.” For one thing, no criminal charges had been filed in the matter at all, so the police didn’t really care!

Wow. When I first opened this article (I’m behind on updates because I was sick for a week), I was surprised to se that there were 82 comments. Now, I see why. I have to say, while I disagree with some of you and agree with others, this whole thread is a fascinating discussion. Really interesting to see how different people feel about drugs/medicine/performance enhancement. A few things:

1. For those who seem to be taking a “drugs are always bad, especially if used on a regular basis” stance, consider this. When I was twelve, I was pushed down on the schoolyard (not maliciously, just kids playing around) and something popped in my hip. After three days of the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life, the doctors finally found the right angle to x-ray and discovered that a “growth disc” in my growing hip had been dislodged, due to what was apparently a congenital defect.

Flash forward almost two decades and I am approaching thirty. Even after multiple surgeries, strength training, and rehabilitation, I cannot function as a human being without prescription painkillers. I can’t work, I can’t run, some days I can barely walk unless I’m on them. Regardless of whether or not they were prescribed (remember Cap’s procedure was performed by a doctor, and that he was sickly and weak prior to it), and regardless of the fact that I’m really just trying to be like everyone else (not trying to be “better than human”), when it comes down to it I’m basically a junkie. I wake up and I take a pill, and throughout the day I take them as needed. It doesn’t matter what other people’s functionality is, my reality is a choice between drug use or being basically an invalid. Likewise for people who need psychological drugs to avoid depression or other psychoses, people who need chemo to keep cancer at bay, and any other person who relies upon any treatment.

I mean, I don’t technically HAVE to take them, I could choose to just deal with the pain. It’s not like I’m going to die if I don’t pop a Vicodin. I choose to take them to improve my quality of life. This colors my perception of issues like this. This isn’t really a counter-argument to anyone in particular, just something to consider.

2. Talking about this makes me wonder about what characters there are that are unapologetic “junkies”. Someone above mentioned Hourman, and I suppose you could throw Plastic Man and his Gingold in there, along with Popeye and his spinach. Are there are any other heroes (or villains, or in-between) who just take performance enhancers by choice because they want powers? I’d be interested in reading those stories. Do the ends justify the means there, even if the character is having the time of his life while saving that schoolbus full of children?

1. I’m sorry for your experience, TJ; people that don’t live with chronic pain can never fully realize what it is like to be in that debilitating a position. And I have a hard time equating a one-time process — however risky — with the pattern of a habitual drug use. It’s always a good suggestion to consider something like that.

2. Hourman — at least Rex or Rick Tyler — is pretty much defined by this these days, isn’t he? At one point, he even had a Miraclo pump, like an insulin pump, I believe. They did retcon Ralph Dibny — the Elongated Man — so that Gingold merely activated his metagene. IIRC, they even went so far as to say that if anyone else had taken the concentrated Gingold he did, they would have been poisoned, which is something of sledgehammering the point home.

Making healthy eating a drug is stretching it a little far though. Even if spinach isn’t quite the source of iron promoted through its association with Popeye, it’s better than gobbling down fried chicken. And, yes, I know that THAT Popeye’s has nothing to do with the comic, although they did license the characters for a long time, due to the public conflation of the two.

Though I think the specific way in which spinach affects Popeye is very similar to a performance-enhancer, I see where you’re coming from. Point taken.

The complete blood transfusion thing reminds me of the old urban legend about Keith Richards getting them. Who’d have thought Captain America and Keith had ANYTHING in common?

An angle that hasn’t been taken to make it worth having this thread start late (I’m behind, sue me). Wasn’t Mark Gruenwald regularly good fixing his mistakes when pointed out to him? Say what you will, but the man had no ego, and could admit when he was wrong. I think the whole Bucky to Battlestar thing has already been covered on this site. But there were others. When he did Flag Smasher and people complained that an internationalist villain was unfair, he came up with Super Patriot. There was the whole “Cap’s never killed anyone” thing when he shot those Ultimatum agents, which he then amended to “in peacetime”, because too many people complained how ridiculous it was that he never killed anyone in the war. And a lot of the loopholes people pointed out when he was the Captain he wrapped up at the conclusion of that storyline. It’s probably not always good to listen to the fans, but in some ways when the points are legitimate it’s better than some current day writers who make huge characterization mistakes and just tell the fans to deal with it.

To the comments, I think what makes Cap “peak human” is that he’s peak in all categories. And no Olympian is. If Cap competed, he could win all the gold medals. He’d win the 100 meter dash, and the marathon (fast and endurance). He’d win the weightlifting competition, as well as the gymnastics. And then he’d outswim Michael Phelps for good measure, all while setting the world record in each category. (And since records only seem to go up, he gets more impressive as time goes on). He doesn’t need all the different body types and training that other athletes do, a Decathlete x100. That’s the fantasy of his power.

And for the idea that “all drugs are bad, mmhhmmkay?”….well, I hope going to that witch doctor works out for all of you next time you get sick.

Hoo-BOY! I just happened to stumble across this and I just can’t help thinking Gruenwald wrote some of the WORST Cap stories I’ve ever seen.

The Super Soldier Serum is a drug? Yes. But is it a harmful drug like Cocaine or LSD? One designed to take you out of the world into altered states of consciousness? Or like steroids which build up the body too fast but leads to its eventual disintergration? Not quite.

The Serum, although imaginary, is more akin to Aspirin or Penicilin which use the body’s own defenses or resources and makes them perform to their utmost. It isn’t like Hourman’s “Miraclo” which like the above mentioned Cocaine, will wear off (after an hour). Cap STILL has to train and hone his reflexes himself otherwise what he got from that serum will only do so much, like slow his aging process. I realize it’s splitting hairs but that’s the difference between good and bad storytelling: THINKING THROUGH THE STORY and it’s ramifications

I picked up Gruenwald’s CAP books from time to time after DeMatteis left and I never read one I enjoyed. I didn’t think his stories were clever or interesting but he just seemed to enjoy messing around with Cap’s history too much. And that USAgent nonsense was the worst of ‘em! No,actually, that stupid suit of armor was the worst!

That’s why I embraced the Waid\Garney issues with with reckless abandon–and was well-pleased!

I also stumbled upon this post late in the discussion.

Cap and drugs? You should read the 1968 paperback novel “The Great Gold Steal (Captain America)” by Ted White in which the writer says that Steve Rogers became a superhero through the use of “mind-controlling” LSD 25. Apparently Dr. Erskine rubbed shoulders with Albert Hofmann.

I noticed this Ted White origin story was an item in Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #93 but I didn’t see any mention of LSD which to me is more notable than Steve’s bones being reinforced with stainless steel tubing.

To me is more unethical the Clark Kent of the Byrne era, since all his news articles were obtained thanks to his alter ego

Freyes2011, the Clark Kent of the Byrne era was also unethical because he used his blossoming superpowers (that he was fully aware of) to participate and be successful in football. Any way you look at it, Clark was cheating. What a great role model.

I fail to see the damn problem. Football players are supposed to use their physical prowess to win, and news reporters are expected to do nearly all they can (within the law) to get the news first. If one of them just happens to be more physically capable for the job than the rest, why on Earth should he held back? Not to mention that it’s not like he only uses his powers for personal gain, so it more than balances out.

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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.

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