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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So the U.S. Government Actually Secretly Froze Captain America All Those Years?

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We see that Namor showed up at a U.S. base where U.S. scientists were excavating Atlantean ruins, and they discover a mysterious alien hand attached to one of the buried bodies there. However, one of the scientists betrayed the others (apparently on behalf of the U.S. government somehow) and planned to kill them all and steal the research discovered in the excavation. Namor shows up, pissed off at the soldiers for desecrating Atlantean burial grounds. Once he gets there, he learns that this is the base where the frozen Cap was held, but they tossed him outside…

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The now revived Cap fights off Namor (Cap doesn’t know exactly who he is defending, as his brain is kind of mushy, but he sees a U.S. operative being attacked and he defends him instinctively) and then the self-destruct explosion goes off (set by the evil scientist) and the evil scientist (who got his hand chopped off by Namor) bonds with the alien hand as Cap is sent off into the icy water to meet the Avengers for the first time…

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This guy, now calling himself the Interrogator, ends up living with the Lemurians since then. He shows up now in an attempt to menace Captain America, first by revealing the truth about what the U.S. Government did to him, which, apparently was because Cap would have stopped them from dropping the nukes on Japan (say whaaaa?)…

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(The woman with Cap, by the way, is not Sharon Carter but a short-lived Atlantean love interest)

It is so weird how throughout the story, Cap is all “Man, I don’t know if I believe these new memories or not” but then we see the flashback to the past so we know that the new memories ARE real. It was like they wanted their retcon but wanted to hedge their bets.

In the end, the Interrogator uses his powers to try to invade Cap’s mind and creates a virtual reality in an attempt to get Cap to kill, which was the Interrogator’s entire goal this whole time, to mess with Cap’s head, all, as it turns out, on a mission from Dell Rusk, the U.S. Secretary of Defense (who turned out to be the Red Skull in disguise). This seemed to be Austen trying to resolve this whole thing (which, to be fair, he inherited from Ney Reiber) by tying it into the Dell Rusk plotline that was going on at the time in Avengers.

At the end of the story, Cap cuts the alien hand off of the Interrgoator, but doesn’t realize that the hand was the only thing keeping the host body alive. So Cap DOES end up killing. Bummer ending. And that is it for Ice. Austen left the book with that issue and the next storyline was an alternate reality story by Dave Gibbons and Lee Weeks (that was awesome). And then Robert Morales took over the book and made no mention to this new information. Basically, no one ever addressed it again.

Soon Ed Brubaker relaunched the book, and while I won’t show you (as it ties into another notable retcon we’ll feature some day), suffice it to say that Brubaker made it plainly clear that Cap did, indeed, get caught up in that explosion and fell into the waters below and was frozen. And it was not the United States government doing it. Which is good, as that was a weeeeeeeird idea.

Seriously, how cuckoo balls was the plot for Ice? So some secret U.S. operative sneaks into a base where U.S. scientists are dissecting buried Atlanteans and Lemurians. He kills them because they discovered an alien hand (an alien hand!) and he wants it for his boss. Namor find out, tries to stop him and in the process revives Cap, who happened to be held at that base. Namor cuts the operative’s hand off and he bonds with the alien hand and then goes to live with the Lemurians, the people he was helping to dissect. He then stays down there, only to surface to be hired by Dell Rusk (who is secretly the Red Skull) to make Captain America kill. To do so, he sends him evidence that the U.S. Government froze him. Do note, though, that Cap already had sort of learned this from an unrelated plot in the previous story arc. So was that just a really weird coincidence? The other bad guy freed Cap’s memories and now the Interrogator did so, as well? And it was all in an attempt to make Cap kill someone just because the Red Skull thinks it would be devastating for Cap to kill? Oh man, I can’t believe I just wrote all that. It is so bizarre. Ans not fun bizarre like I Love Ya But You’re Strange.

Anyhow, thanks to Edward H. for the suggestion (should I really be THANKING you for reminding me of this story, though?)! If YOU have a suggestion for a future installment of Abandoned an’ Forsaked, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

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98 Comments

One wonders if Captain America would be capable of stopping the nuclear bombings, but he would certainly try – he is supposed to be a hero, after all.

A slightly better justification would be that they wanted to avoid having him further the PR backlash after the bombings.

I agree. Really weird story.

I have these and remember liking Ice for the art, the follow up I do not remember. I did not recall that the ‘government froze Cap’ story had been confirmed as being ‘true’; I was left with the impression that there was some ambiguity, for the reader and the Captain, over what was ‘true.’ Perhaps I just blocked the second story from my memory.

As soon as I saw the headline, I said “I bet John Ney Rieber’s involved”, and sure enough, there he is. That run fell apart so quickly. It’s probably up there with JMS’ Superman as the biggest, overhyped creative flop in comics history. The Cassidy art at the start was nice, though.

The whole “Cap loosing it because he killed someone”, incidentally, was already covered by Mark Gruenwald, when Cap is forced to shoot an Ultimatum terrorist who has opened fire on a crowd of hostages. Cap knew there was no choice, but still carried the guilt that he couldn’t find another way. If only these guys would do some research before they take over a character….

Ken Raining’s comment reminded me; in Rieber’s fist issue (or fist arc) Captain America killed a terrorist on purpose, right? He kills the terrorist and then unmasks on live TV?

Because Dell Rusk is totally a real name.

A confusing, bad storyline from the early ’00s, how am I not surprised Chuck Austen is somehow involved with it

you nailed it, matt. and does is seem the whole implanted false memory deal is reminisent to another project austen worked on albiet an equally short lived tenure, only as artist, something called miracleman if anyones heard of that

the red king syndrome is the arc in which that concept was introduced and i have no doubt austen pilfered the theme fourteen years later, which is abslotute speculative conjecture but i hate austen so shit i don t mind adding rumor to his many times proven hack potential

So, the government froze Cap so he wouldn’t oppose the use of the atomic bombs? Correct me if I’m wrong (and I’m not about to dig up the issues to find out), but wasn’t that part of the premise of Heroes Reborn? (When you’re cribbing your story ideas from Rob Liefeld, I think you’ve made some bad decisions in your life…)

I hope every Original Sin tie-in just grabs up the stupidest abortive retcon in the character’s history and drags it into the sun.

I remember thoses stories.; and remember I didnt like them..and stopped reading around mid “Ice” … (John Cassiday’s and Jae Lee’s great art didnt save the series … )

Looks like MODOK’s been hitting the weights hard in this story.

I’m pretty sure Chuck Austin is a holographic memory implanted in all of our heads. When will reality retcon that this dude ever worked in comic books?

I was back and forth on the other stories, but “Ice” totally broke me. Just horrible. I’m so glad Marvel had the decency to never mention it again, while Austen’s other contributions run wild.

Was Ice imagined under some kind of drug induced haze? Good Lord, that was HORRIBLE! Thank God for Ed Brubaker.

Chuck Austen. Of course.
I realize that “I fell into cold water and iced over” doesn’t make a lot of sense scientifically, but dramatically it works. Much better to roll with it than try to get clever.
I do love the Avengers story. Cap watching Bucky die again and being unable to prevent it is a really intense sequence.

joe the poor speller

April 5, 2014 at 11:29 am

what a train wreck of a story. but man, that jae lee art almost save it

So what was the explanation of what happened to bucky in this retcon?

Boy, I need an aspirin or two for this one!

Dell Rusk, the least subtle anagram ever?

I could see Cap opposing Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Or at least being filled with tortured angst after the bombing, once he realized how horrible it was.

The retcon could’ve worked without the whole “alien hand” thing. Just give the US some innocuous reason for having an underwater research base. Namor comes to investigate, finds Cap, and…voilà.

Not that Cap’s origin needs retconning. His noble sacrifice while trying to stop Zemo’s drone plane still works just fine.

I don’t see the point of this retcon really; it seems to create more questions than answers. Like, what did they do with Bucky? Why not kill Cap when he was frozen? Why bother giving him false memories to begin with when they froze him?

My favorite part is the bit where genetic analysis is a distant fantasy in WWII, but virtual reality brainwashing is just a thing they have.

Austen has a really bizarre tendency to come up with these sweeping concepts that make no sense on closer examination; the ones he floated in X-Men are the best-remembered, since for some ungodly reason many of them have stucl. But who now remembers his version of Captain Britain who causes parts of that country to explode if she gets hurt….then promptly moves to America, where she can get beaten up and destroy Britain without even the excuse that she’s trying to save it. And of course this means she stays near her “orphaned” children she’s magically forbidden from revealing her identity to (for some reason), who have of course been taken there by the Avengers, since taking British orphans to America is what they do, all for some cheap angst….ugh.

The man creates the most contrived situations for character angst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve read my share of latter-day Chris Claremont comics.

and once again marvel took what has almost been part of captain america cannon and decided to make it bogged down with craziness for after all implanted memories and the u.s treating captain america like he does not matter having to have namor help put him on the path to being an avenger while in ice. talk about craziness of marvel playing fast and lose with their history.

Judging from Cap’s lines about “I’m a failed prototype” as the reason for Hiroshima, I presume he was intended to go in and end the war himself, and when that wasn’t an option they used the bomb. Only in what way is he a failure? Was he supposed to have super-powers? Or was he supposed to become a killer? Only that makes no sense because it’s hard to see how that would have ended the war faster (was he going to assassinate Hirohito or Tojo or something?)?
And again, I notice, we get Cap Doesn’t Kill.
I wonder, when was the first Everything You Know Is Wrong retcon, where the writer completely redoes everything (excluding Crisis and similar continuity reboots)? I remember Keith Giffen turning Amethyst into a Lord of Order in the 1980s (soooo bad) and the retcon of Cap’s origin from the late 1970s where he’s in suspended animation from nerve gas. Anything earlier than that?

“Ok Captain America is in the crapper with sales how do we save it.”

“Lets do what we always do just ripoff Wolverine.”

Really sounds terrible thank god none of that hit the movies.

Man, this sounds like such a terrible story. I’m glad I’ve stayed away from that volume of Captain America. None of it sounds appealing to me.

Although I am curious, what did they do with Bucky in this scenario? Was this an early attempt to have him still be alive?

Punchmaster General

April 5, 2014 at 2:44 pm

@ GreenLuthor: yes, this was a plot point in the Heroes Reborn version of Cap as well. I think there was an additional element that he was periodically unfrozen to be put into service in Vietnam and other American conflicts, and that his memory was wiped and replaced with artificial ones. It was weird but acceptable in HR, since it was an alternate reality, but trying to implement it in the mainstream universe is up there with various Spider-Man decisions as some of the worst in comics history.

I think Fraser’s question ‘when was the first Everything You Know Is Wrong retcon?’ would make an interesting Brian Cronin column.

Chuck Austen wrote Captain America? Dammit Marvel, was there an A-list title you DIDN’T give him the reins for?!

I think Fraser’s question ‘when was the first Everything You Know Is Wrong retcon?’ would make an interesting Brian Cronin column.

Batman’s history with guns was retconned in Batman #4, so that’s pretty early on in the world of superheroes.

To be fair to Austen, while the story he came up with clearly ridiculous, he was sort of stuck with the “Cap regains memories that the U.S. Government froze him” plot from Ney Reiber, and you can sort of tell that New Reiber likely had planned on the revelation only tying in with the bad guy from the previous arc (the one Austen finished for Ney Reiber) while Austen abruptly introduced a new villain behind the revelation.

I honestly wonder if Austen had some sort of blackmail on someone at Marvel and/or DC. I can’t think of a writer that seems to be as universally disliked as he is, and yet he got top level gig after top level gig, mainly for Marvel, but for DC too. It’s mind boggling to me.

I wasn’t talking so much about retcons that overturn/rewrite established facts as the kind where the character–like Cap in this article–discovers what he thinks is his established history is false. For example, Amethyst was introduced as a princess taken to Earth as an infant to save her when her parents are killed by Dark Opal. In Giffen’s retcon, it turns out her real father is a Lord of Order using Lord Amethyst’s body to have an affair with her mother. And the sorceress who took her to Earth actually stole her from her mother without permission, causing Mom to die of grief (Doctor Fate loftily dismisses the original origin as a fairy tale suitable for children).

And Jazzbo yes. He’s far from the only writer whose success has me scratching my head, but he’s a blazing example of it.

Travis Pelkie

April 5, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Um, I haven’t read through the whole piece yet, but do they explain why they got the date of the Hiroshima bombing wrong in those last couple pages? They say June 11, 1945, but it happened August 6, iirc. Is this some stupid “things happened different in the Marvel U” or just a dumb typo?

And Jazzbo, I said almost that exact same thing about Austen not long ago here. On the Flippin’ where Burgas was talking about his art on Miracleman, maybe?

What a horrible story.

This seems to be a first. Usually, a terrible terrible story that’s getting roasted by fans will be defended by at least one guy coming in and saying “Oh, everybody trashes this, but it’s not that bad.” (Or, alternatively, if the story in question was written by Grant Morrison, they come in and say it was the greatest story ever written and the fans who don’t like it just don’t get Morrison because he’s so deep and subtle.)*

In this case, there have been no defenders! It must be bad!

* Feel free to substitute Snyder or Loeb for Morrison.

Among other problems, Austen’s retcon doesn’t explain why the Zemos thought Papa Zemo killed Bucky.

@Brian Cronin
I was more interested on the ‘Every Thing You Know Is Wrong’ part, where one version is explained as being false, like Fraser’s Amethyst example or Martian Manhunter’s origin being in part false memories, revealed in his first min.

At least the art is good. Might be worth hunting down just for that.

majestic pecan

April 5, 2014 at 7:45 pm

At the time I read these stories, I remember thinking, “These are the worst Captain America stories ever written” (including some of the weird stuff from the late 40s). I haven’t changed my mind.
I can’t stand Jae Lee’s art either. It belongs in a modern art museum, not a comic book.

I had wondered whether Marvel’s “Miracleman” reprints would use Chuck Austen’s current name in the credits, or whether they’d use the Chuck Beckum name he used at the time (either to be consistent with the original publishing, or to avoid the stigma that his name has acquired). But it looks like they’re going to credit him as Chuck Austen in the reprints after all.

What can you say about a writer whose only decent work was his pornography?

Gruenwald is the only writer to have used the “Cap never killed, even in the war” idea, and other writers choosing not to stick with that rest on doesnt mean they didn’t know about it. I spoke to several other Cap writers, and we all agreed that was a ridiculous retcon for a guy who’s meant to be a super-soldier in a world war. Just like Ice was better left forgotten.

At least the art is good. Might be worth hunting down just for that.

Jae Lee’s version of the Avengers first meeting with Cap is breathtaking.

Gruenwald is the only writer to have used the “Cap never killed, even in the war” idea, and other writers choosing not to stick with that rest on doesnt mean they didn’t know about it. I spoke to several other Cap writers, and we all agreed that was a ridiculous retcon for a guy who’s meant to be a super-soldier in a world war. Just like Ice was better left forgotten.

Actually, Ed, I did a story on that very notion (that Gruenwald retconned Cap’s killing in World War II) a couple of weeks ago here (http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2014/03/22/the-abandoned-an-forsaked-so-did-captain-america-kill-people-during-world-war-ii-or-what/) and I was surprised to learn from some commenters that that retcon actually predated Gruenwald. Marv Wolfman, for instance, wrote an issue of the Avengers where Cap says he never killed, even during World War II. Weird, right? Gruenwald was one thing, but it was surprising to learn that he wasn’t alone.

But yeah, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon and Stan Lee all were fine with him killing in World War II, so come on, that’s gotta be good enough for anyone else.

I do not know how these issues came about, but they were a mess. An absolute total mess. As a long-time Captain America fan when I read these I was appalled. Truthfully, this entire volume of the series, with Marvel attempting to inject real world post 9/11 themes, was just so ineptly executed. What made it all the worse is that you had John Cassaday and Jae Lee drawing the series. So the book had absolutely incredible art, but the stories were atrocious.

I remember when I reached the end of Chuck Austen’s final issue, and it was revealed that the Interrogator was working for Dell Rusk, I put the comic book down and said to myself, “Okay, I’m just going to consider that all the weird %@#& that happened in the past ten issues was all just part of a plan by the Red Skull to screw with Cap’s head.”

Yeah, it really was a breath of fresh air when Ed Brubaker came onboard to write the series a year or so later. Except of that one fantastic story by Dave Gibbons & Lee Weeks, this was a painful period to be a Cap fan, almost as bad as Heroes Reborn.

The Kirkman issues were pretty good, as well. But yeah, the Gibbons/Weeks issues were the only really standout issues in that series.

While comics are filled with all manner of absurdities, for any scribe of Captain America tales to insist that someone who attempted to join the U.S. Army to fight Nazis and after being rejected due to being too physically frail volunteers to become a “super soldier”, would not have killed enemy soldiers in the course of fighting in World War II is supremely idiotic. Such a “soldier” would have to stayed very far behind enemy lines and would rightly have been regarded as a joke rather than an awe-inspiring hero. Sure, insist that Cap never killed unless he felt he absolutely had to in order to ensure the success of a vital mission or to protect another human life. But it defies even comic book sense to claim that the “Living Legend of World War II” never ever killed anyone in the heat of combat; such a character would have more rightly called the “Laughingstock of World War II”.

It’s interesting that the first pages of the more recent Cap issues have a “remember what the government did to you” thing to them, that Brubaker later used much better with the way Cap had Winter Soldier remember who he was.

Hey Bru, bring back Detour! Or do an issue of Ultimate Cerebus! ;)

The more recent Cap issues SHOWN HERE, of course.

majestic pecan

April 5, 2014 at 11:10 pm

I did want to point out in fairness to Chuck Austen that he did write a pretty good arc for JLA 2004 called “Pain of the Gods.” It’s not an earth-shattering revamp of the status quo, just an exploration of how super-heroes deal with loss and grief.
Although this run is the worst, really about 90% of Captain America stories material published between Waid and Brubaker is not much better. Not to let Austen (and the other writers) off the hook, but the fact that the stories were so bad for so long could suggest problems at the editorial level.

jazzbo, i ve wondered that since those horrible u.s. war machine and that elektra fiasco filled with the most ill refined computer generated crap for interior “art”. i found out he was paid not only for it but to do it ib the first place, intitially the excitement of marvel new low standard got me to fill my portfolio with terrible unstyled shit but wouldnt you know i never got the marvel gig, not as talented as chuck. oh well

““I fell into cold water and iced over” doesn’t make a lot of sense scientifically”
They even solved that in another issue where it was discovered that when his body reaches a certain temperature of cold, the super soldier serum puts him into suspended animation. So it was ‘it wouldn’t happen to a regular person, but only happened because of the SSS.

And yes it was the same premise as the Heroes Reborn origin, except there they just gave him false memories and a fake life every so often (whenever he started to remember I think). I don’t remember why they didn’t kill him then, but I think they said that they knew they may need him again some day, so basically put him on ice figuratively. And I agree it works for an alternate universe origin, but not the classic cap. Even if they did something like that for Ultimates or something.

Worst fake name for the red skull possible. It’s such an odd name and as soon as I read it I realized it was an anagram for Red Skull. Now if I can figure that out at first sight……..

And if that’s been established as true, doesn’t it ruin the current Bucky/Winter Soldier story?

And if that’s been established as true, doesn’t it ruin the current Bucky/Winter Soldier story?

Well, that’s why the Bucky/Winter Soldier story retconned the retcon, as Ed Brubaker noted above.

Slight correction, Brian. The inker on AVENGERS #4 was George Roussos, not Dick Ayers.

Oh, and if you click on my website link you’ll find some photos that might be of interest.

Off topic, but I just saw CAPTAIN AMERICA:THE WINTER SOLDIER. I t was great , right up there with the first IRON MAN movie and AVENGERS. Highly recommended.

This is actually the second retcon for the “Cap frozen in ice” story, although the first one just filled in a few gaps and explained how he got to where the Avengers found him. It also had him exposed to nerve gas during the adventure he had in between, both robbing his memory of the event and enabling him to enter suspended animation (so it wasn’t simply being submerged in the water and eventually frozen that did it).

The storyline was in Cap #219-221 with #220 containing the relevant flashbacks. That three-issue arc was also the origin of the Ameridroid.

@Jazzbo
Comic book companies sometimes just seem to latch onto bad writers. Same as Hollywood latches onto bad directors, corporations latch onto bad bosses, etc… It could be a combination of any of several factors, like name recognition, the right friends, being associated with other groups, not actually caring about results (such as picking a writer or artist for a “It would sell even if it was done by a five year old kid” project), ignorance, and others.

Take film director Uwe Boll, who was at least once considered Hollywood’s “go to” guy for videogame licensed movies. It was simply that he’d done some videogame licensed films, so he became considered “the guy” for such projects, despite those films (and pretty much all his other previous work) being garbage.

For comics… While not on Austin’s level, Frank Tieri seemed to continue to get work beyond his capability, and despite a rather poor track record.

In the “Remember when he was good” camp, Jeff Loeb is perhaps the poster boy. He did some acclaimed work in the past, but his writing ability pretty much vanished over night. Despite churning out bad story after bad story, management and Hollywood both continued to see him as a great writer.

While not universally loathed, Brian Michael Bendis is still Marvel’s big success story and go to guy, despite being unsuited for much of work he gets.

In the “Remember when he was good” camp, Jeff Loeb is perhaps the poster boy. He did some acclaimed work in the past, but his writing ability pretty much vanished over night. Despite churning out bad story after bad story, management and Hollywood both continued to see him as a great writer.

Loeb was never good. His “good” stuff was as bad as his worst stuff. He just got worse at covering it up. Loeb wasn’t ever the man for having once been good, he was always terrible. He was the man for (1) having a great Rolodex of artists to collaborate with and (2) writing lowest common denominator formulaic stuff. And the reason he has the great Rolodex to begin with is because drawing a Loeb story is an easy paycheck for an artist. His shtick is that he will never, ever, EVER draw anything that will challenge an artist. He has basically admitted that he just finds out what every artist wants to draw, then tries to craft a story around that. If Artist A says he wants to draw these six villains, a bunch of aboriginal midgets, a 1960s NASA rocket and the cast of Dobie Gillis, Loeb will seriously write a twelve issue miniseries slapping those things together, even if it makes no sense. Most writers won’t want to attach their names to some dreck like that, or they have their own strong ideas that they want to explore. Loeb has no original ideas and no deep themes that interest him or any core values to express in his writing outside of writing lowest common denominator formula, so for him its absolutely no problem to just pander to an artist’s whims. You’ll never hear Loeb having creative differences with an artist because he doesn’t have any ideas or creative urges to conflict with.

I highly doubt anyone in comics or Hollywood truly sees Loeb as a great writer. They like his connections and his willingness to stick to uncontroversial lowest common denominator formulas. It’s much like I doubt anyone in Hollywood actually believes Michael Bay is a great auteur. They just have a low estimation of the general public and believe most of the public to be undiscerning idiots, and who better to tap into all that idiot money than someone who speaks their language and produces shlock? Same for Loeb.

While comics are filled with all manner of absurdities, for any scribe of Captain America tales to insist that someone who attempted to join the U.S. Army to fight Nazis and after being rejected due to being too physically frail volunteers to become a “super soldier”, would not have killed enemy soldiers in the course of fighting in World War II is supremely idiotic. Such a “soldier” would have to stayed very far behind enemy lines and would rightly have been regarded as a joke rather than an awe-inspiring hero. Sure, insist that Cap never killed unless he felt he absolutely had to in order to ensure the success of a vital mission or to protect another human life. But it defies even comic book sense to claim that the “Living Legend of World War II” never ever killed anyone in the heat of combat; such a character would have more rightly called the “Laughingstock of World War II”.

Yet we can have superheroes who have been fighting decades-long one-man battles on ultraviolent street crime without ever having taken a life, which makes just as little sense. It’s superhero comics. Part of the genre is the idea that these are people who can squash violence without killing in situations where regular people would have little chance of surviving without resorting to killing. It makes no sense but it’s in the DNA of the genre.

It’s funny how many of these Abandoned and Forsaked came about from poorly conceived “EVERYTHIING YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW WAS WRONG!!!!” retcons that were meant to shake things up and give things more of a dark, editorial edge. So many of these things end up getting quietly forgotten or retconned away. The Ice story, Sins Past, the Clone Sage, etc, etc. And yet people never learn. Based on what I’m reading about Original Sin, it looks like there are about a half dozen to a dozen of these “EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW WAS WRONG!!” retcons coming up for Marvel in 2014, and I’d be very shocked if they don’t all turn out badly and get retconned or forgotten in short order.

Off topic, but I just saw CAPTAIN AMERICA:THE WINTER SOLDIER. I t was great , right up there with the first IRON MAN movie and AVENGERS. Highly recommended.

I’d go as far as to say it’s better than Avengers even. And I LOVE Avengers. Whedon better watch out and really deliver the goods on Avengers 2 or the Russo brothers may end up taking his spot for Avengers 3. They really raised the bar.

Travis Pelkie

April 6, 2014 at 5:08 pm

The only good “Everything you know is wrong” is the Weird Al song….

Oops, I meant “dark, conspiratorial edge” not “dark editorial edge.” Although the typo may have been better than what I intended.

When you team up Neiber AND Austen, you are in for a world of comic book crap.

Let’s not forget a lot of the garbage of Marvel at this time can be blamed on then-President Jemas, the man who forced Cap, Iron Man and Daredevil to have no secret identities and fired Waid off a great Fantastic Four to let a playwright redo the book as a whacky sitcom of them in the suburbs that was so badly received they had to hire Wait back.

Billy, good point.
I remember an article some years back that looked at some of the top-grossing actors–the performers who supposedly get the biggest bucks because they never fail to have big, successful movies–and pointed out that none of them were that reliable. Eddie Murphy, for instance, was big money but he’d had a whole string of flops by then.

Thanks for taking my other suggestion. I just thought it would be interesting for you to talk about something that other writers would try to bury because of how embarrassing it was.

T., you got me to glance over the Original Sin coming attractions–yeah, looks like you’re right.

“Take film director Uwe Boll, who was at least once considered Hollywood’s “go to” guy for videogame licensed movies. It was simply that he’d done some videogame licensed films, so he became considered “the guy” for such projects, despite those films (and pretty much all his other previous work) being garbage.”

Uwe Boll isn’t a great example, he was able to continue making movies because of a bizarre loophole in German tax law. He wasn’t Hollywood’s go to guy, but he could raise European money to buy the properties. Now that the loophole has been closed, he has had a much harder time raising any money.

The One and Only

April 7, 2014 at 9:24 am

Cap was supposed to be the first in a new generation of super-soldier, created from the serum developed by Professor Erskine. With the Professor’s death, and no complete copy of the formula, Cap was it. So in the Marvel Universe I guess that made the Manhattan Project the more feasible without Project Rebirth’s promise brigade of super-soldiers. Also, Cap was pretty familiar with the Manhattan Project, as revealed in a storyline featuring him ,and the other Invaders in the short lived MARVEL UNIVERSE anthology series. Where the Invaders were trying to stop Baron Strucker and HYDRA from getting ahold of the a-bomb. He didn’t seem to have much reservation about it being used. Although, most people, even on the project itself, didn’t have much idea what exactly it was capable of. And Cap I think ended up frozen before the first one was tested in the New Mexico desert.

Both of the Alan Moore EYKIW stories (The Anatomy Lesson and The Red King Syndrome) worked well.

I am also interested in finding earlier examples, not of just of character-changing major retcons like Batman and guns, but stories in which the character in question believed the old origin and is then made aware of the new, “real” one. Ones where the original origin is an outright deception, that is, not merely incomplete [I wouldn't count the Mopee Flash origin here]

“Black Canary is actually her own daughter” would count but for the fact that the relevant Miracleman story had been published in Warrior a few months before

Both of the Alan Moore EYKIW stories (The Anatomy Lesson and The Red King Syndrome) worked well.

Yes, I think it’s the few that work well that encourage the huge amount of terrible ones that don’t work. I think a major part of whether it works well is that it has to be a character prominent enough for people to notice and car, but not so popular that a major retcon is considered sacrilege. Daredevil when Miller took over is a good example.

Those Gibbons/Weeks issues really are incredible. One of my favorite Cap stories. It’s beautiful and quite stirring emotionally. That story doesn’t get half the renown it deserves!

Cap Lives by Gibbons and Weeks is the reason I can’t hate on Nieber/Austen’s run too much… If they didn’t miss so bad, then I wouldn’t of gotten one of the best alternate history yet somewhat in continuity stories of the last 30 years. I have it right up there with Future Imperfect, Golden Age, and Kingdom Come as a personal favorite…

A good example of one that doesn’t work is “100 years lost strayed or stolen,” a late sixties Action story (#370). In it, he discovers evidence his ship was traveling across space for a century before it hit Earth. It turns out (though he never learns it) that it entered a parallel world where he lived an entire life before getting de-aged and returning to our universe to crash on Earth. I think it got abandoned and ignored almost immediately–while it doesn’t actually rewrite the origin, it’s such a clunky add-on everyone realized it was a bad idea.

Part of the “appeal” of guys like Chuck Austen (I refuse to use only “Austen”, because it seems like I’m talking about the great Jane Austen) is that it gets fans talking. When you have these long-running franchises and insular hardcore fanbase, publishers like to stir things up occasionaly, and bad publicity is almost the same as good publicity.

I’ve noticed a level of self-awareness in certain writers and editors, of doing stuff to purposefully stir nerd rage. It’s part of the schtick of many guys, from Bendis to Quesada to Didio, but Chuck Austen is one of the few that I can think of that “stiring nerd rage” seems to be the only thing he ever does.

Fraser – wow that one is terrible. I never heard of that one. There was a lot of needless expandings and tweaking of the Superman origin in the 60s but that is by far the worst I ever heard.

Rene – I agree that there is a lot of self-awareness of nerdrage with many of the people you mention, but I don’t think that’s always the case. I used to read a Chuck Austen-moderated message board over at Xfan back when people didn’t realize he was terrible yet. He was being touted as the next big thing, was writing X-Men and his first few issues were well-received, and most of the posts were supportive. People liked him a lot, and many of his weirder storytelling and dialogue choices were ignored. However as mounting evidence appeared that he was a really bad writer and the bad choices outweighed the good ones, the tone of the message board became more critical, although still friendly. The criticism was constructive. However Austen got more and more needlessly defensive, which actually caused more backlash by fans, which causes more defensiveness. Then around the time it really started getting terrible with the Azazel, Holy War and Trial of the Juggernaut arcs he really flew off the handle and quit his own creator message board in a huff.

All this is to say, surprising as it seems Austen really did seem blindsided by his backlash and expected it to be loved by the fans. He sincerely expected his shakeups to be loved and celebrated for the most part.

Cap Lives by Gibbons and Weeks is the reason I can’t hate on Nieber/Austen’s run too much… If they didn’t miss so bad, then I wouldn’t of gotten one of the best alternate history yet somewhat in continuity stories of the last 30 years.

This is a little like the old joke about the guy who keeps hitting his own hand with a hammer. ‘
His friend asks him, “Why do you keep doing that?”
Guy replies, “Because it feels so good when I *stop*.”

Man with No Face

April 8, 2014 at 12:37 pm

The storyline was cut short, but Austen was going to reveal that the REAL reason the government froze Cap was that he’d opposed the US government’s plan to poison all the Lemurians’ communion wafers. (This was during the period when Llyra had brainwashed Cap into studying to become a Lemurian priest.) And that would’ve fouled up the Red Skull’s plan to use the alien hand to turn the Lemurians against the Atlantean mutants…

T. –

Chuck Austen was a sincere hack, you say. But that doesn’t mean the editors were not cynically using him. A guy above asked how Chuck Austen kept getting gigs at Marvel and DC to write high-profile characters. I can imagine some editor saying “The fans keep saying they hate this guy, but they won’t shut up about him, they all buy his books to see what he will do next and every other site on the Internet seems to about him. Let’s hire him for Superman, and our books will get a lot of press!”

The willingness of companies to keep going back to the EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG well really is kind of interesting, since it seems like taking a risk that is very unlikely to pay off is exactly the opposite of how big companies normally operate. Yet given the success/failure rate of previous EYKIW stories for decades now, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Mr. Speck –

It’s not taking a risk. It’s not taking a risk AT ALL. Because, if it doesn’t pay off, they can always put things back the way they were or they can just ignore the retcon. It’s the same non-risk of comic book deaths.

It might seem paradoxical, but constant, chaotic change in a fictional universe is very similar to no change. When every single creative team has the permission (even encouragement) to change everything, then all those changes start to blur and become alike.

It was different when Marvel and DC were genuinely interesting in crafting shared universes that made sense and could be followed for years. Changes were considered more carefully, because those changes would have to be followed thru by successive writers.

Now “change” seems to work like a quota or something. “Hey, it’s summer crossover time, we have to kill X characters and change Y origins, but don’t worry, we also gotta bring back X+2 characters that were killed in the last crossovers and undo Y-2 origin changes.”

I wish I was less cynical about it all.

It’s not taking a risk. It’s not taking a risk AT ALL. Because, if it doesn’t pay off, they can always put things back the way they were or they can just ignore the retcon. It’s the same non-risk of comic book deaths.

Well, it’s a risk as far as for the individuals involved. A lot of people involved in the clone saga seemed to have been immediately exiled from comics, maybe self-imposed and maybe imposed from the outside, but either way, I stopped seeing them almost immediately after it was deemed a fiasco.

There used to be a risk for individuals, and some could be burned if their names became too much of a turnoff for fans, like Chuck Austen, but in the last 10 years there have been so many retcons, crises, and new directions, that the risk is very small now even at an individual level.

The guys that gave us Sins Past, Cry for Justice, Identity Crisis, and One More Day are all still getting jobs, aren’t they?

GREAT point, Rene. I defer to your examples. :)

I actually agree that it’s not really much of a risk. But the amount of EYKIW stories that have actually succeeded is *so low* that I’m not sure why it’s still so frequent. Most of the time it would seem to be nothing but a waste of time.

Well, the writer of Cry For Justice wrote some really great things before that. The guy that wrote Sins Past wrote some good stuff before that. I liked Identity Crisis, but has that writer done anything since Justice League of America?

Thanks, T.!

Kdu – James Robinson and JMS were both like gods to me once upon a time, and I can’t believe how much I distrust any new work by them nowadays. But regardless, writing EYKIW stories or stories with popular characters dying is so much like standard operating procedure at Marvel and DC right now that if you stopped reading a writer because he did one of those, you’d read precious little.

Speaking of which, I do read precious little of the current Marvel and DC stuff.

Mr. Speck – I think it’s sort of simple. In every profession, true excellence is a rarity, and writers are no exception. Some are great, most are fair to mediocre. The mediocre ones are most likely to just do what everyone is doing. In the 1960s to the 1980s, those guys would’ve been writing the kinds of boring, bland superhero runs that no one remembers today. There was a lot of that in the 1970s, particularly.

But things have changed so that in the last decade the bland and boring standard of superhero comics is EYKIW stories or death stories, so that’s what every mediocre guy is doing.

Interesting point, Rene.

What’s really annoying to me is that the Big Two still try to promote EYKIW or Hero Dies as if we actually still think any of it’s going to take. I knew I was going to hate Final Crisis when the opening PR made such a big thing out of Look, We’ve Killed Martian Manhunter! For Real! This is Serious! Because if that’s the best you can offer, please, give up before you start.

Bill Williamson

April 10, 2014 at 9:17 am

@ Fraser: I think it’s just a feeble attempt by the Big Two to replicate other forms of media, i.e. film. Death of Superman and KnightSaga did so well for DC that they’ve basically destroyed all other forms of Comic Books. Now what the Big Two like to do is do those kinds of stories to drum up (usually negative) publicity in a feeble attempt to get the news media talking and get people kind of on the fringes of Comic Book fandom reading again in what is an obvious attempt at ramping up otherwise lackluster sales.

Die hard fans know it’s not going to take. What Marvel and DC think will ultimately gain them readers really just loses them. I basically stopped following modern comics because it seems that every other story is a big event where the hero dies or everything you know is wrong. Look at what Marvel have been doing with Spider-Man for practically the past decade.

I stopped following Green Lantern for exactly that reason, Bill: Endless big events and shocking revelations that the Guardians are even worse than the previous shocking revelation revealed.
Good point about the media. People at DC have said more than once that they never intended to make Death of Superman as big as it got because they knew fans wouldn’t take it seriously. But once it hit the media, they didn’t want to blow the attention from non-readers by saying “Ah, he’ll get better.”

Man, took awhile to find time to get through all the comments. But curse you for making me remember this story. It was trash the moment it hit the shelves. And just seemed like an over-reactive course correction after they had Cap basically hunting Bin Laden. No, instead of a tool for the right, he was really put away because he was too anti-war and objected to ending it with the bomb(s). (And I find it hilarious that the first post in the thread has basically been ignored).

Though really, am I the only one who didn’t see right through Dell Rusk? I don’t remember anyone spoiling that at the time. If there was more of the Internet back then it might not have been so secret, I guess.

And boy, Fraser, that Action Comics story is something. So Superman did that for a hundred years, then later (next incarnation?) fought a war for 1000 years with Wonder Woman. He must be really old. No wonder he had the experience to beat Thor….. ;-)

American Hawkman

April 21, 2014 at 6:44 pm

I’ll note that we’re skipping a chapter of this retcon… that Cap was revived at one point before his Avengers #4 revival and then RE-Frozen by some people tied into the Nazis. The point of that arc was to explain how Cap made it from slightly off the coast of England to the Arctic Circle. (The whole Lyle Dekker/Ameridroid thing. It’s at some point in the early 200s of the title, if I recall correctly.)

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