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Abandoned Love: Remember That Time That Captain America Died For a Whole Issue?

Every installment of Abandoned Love we will be examining comic book stories, plots and ideas that were abandoned by a later writer while still acknowledging that the abandoned story DID still happen. Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of Abandoned Love. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

This time around, we look at Captain America’s extremely short-lived death from 2001…

In December 2001, Marvel ended their then-current volume of Captain America with one of the strangest issues you ever will see.

The extra-sized issue had a whole bunch of stories, led by a Dan Jurgens written and drawn dialogue-less story that was part of Marvel’s “Nuff’ Said” month where all of their comics went sans dialogue. The story was also a Christmas tale.

There then was a story by Kathryn and Stuart Immonen (before she was officially “Kathryn Immonen”) and another story by Dan Jurgens that wrapped up his Captain America run.

Then the weirdness truly began!

“Relics,” by Brian David-Marshall and Igor Kordey, has Cap drawn to an abandoned town in New Jersey where he discovers a splinter cell of Red Skull worshipers have gotten their hands on a nuclear bomb!

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Now if that’s the end, then okay, you figure – weird ending, but not necessarily anything intended to be the actual death of Captain America. No body, after all.

But then it is followed by “A Moment of Silence” by Jen Van Meter, Brian Hurtt and Jim Mahfood about how Captain America’s death leads to difficulties for a young immigrant boy…

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Who, of course, as we see at the end of the story, is the biggest Captain America fan that there is.

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Touching story. Depressing as all heck, but touching!

But okay, again, that story doesn’t say Cap is dead, just that these kids THINK he is dead.

But then Evan Dorkin and Kevin Maguire have a whole story, “Stars and Stripes Forever,” where people reflect on Cap’s death!

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And they have a FUNERAL for Cap, with the Falcon giving this awesome speech. A FUNERAL, people!!!

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However, in the issue itself it even has a freakin’ NEXT ISSUE BOX!

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The next issue is a three-issue mini-series by Darko Macan and Danijel Zezelj called Captain America: Dead Men Running about Cap getting caught up in a dicey situation in South America where some soldiers and some refuges are on the run, but the soldiers are not exactly innocents themselves.

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Then, of course, four months later we saw the debut of John Ney Reiber and John Cassaday’s awful (but gorgeous) Captain America run…

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Cap, meanwhile, NEVER stopped appearing in the Avengers during all of this (this would be at the end of Kurt Busiek’s run and the beginning of Geoff Johns’ run).

Therefore, the story was clearly abandoned, as Cap didn’t actually die, so his story, in effect, never went anywhere past this one single issue of Captain America. I imagine that it was a matter of Cap just showing up one day after the funeral and saying, “Oh, you thought I was dead? No, I’m alive. I just went hiking for a little bit and didn’t tell anyone.” “Oh, oh cool.” But we never actually got to see that. The three stories from Captain America #50 just were never referenced again. Some crazy crap right there.

If YOU have a suggestion for an abandoned storyline that you’d like to see featured here, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com.

70 Comments

Do you have any idea if maybe they were planning on killing him off and they backed out on it, but already had the issue partially done and decided to go ahead and print it as written in lieu of delaying? And then of course since they weren’t going to keep him dead they just decided to ignore it?

This is a weird one! There was no follow-up? At all?

Maybe it can explained away by Cap taking advantage of his alleged “death” and dropping into civilian life. He clearly has those desires, as we see in that Cassady-drawn Cap run that he fantasizes about retiring and living a normal life with Sharon. Bendis also acknowledges the “I’m done” mentality during Civil War.

And then maybe 9/11 inspires Cap to get back out there. That first issue of Captain America opens up with Cap cleaning up at Ground Zero.

Just a theory.

Yeah, they supposedly killed Cap off in the C-story of an anniversary issue. It was the weirdest thing. Didn’t know what to make of it then. Still don’t today.

It’s very strange, though I do like the idea of a volume getting an actual end instead of holding out for another book to continue the never ending story. The mention of that mini series works because yeah, there was no way that they would really end the character right there.

And I liked the Cassaday issues of that Cap story. The story itself was pretty much all you could expect for an immediately post 9/11 of the most patriotic superhero ever. The issues after he left were some of the worst comics I’ve ever bought, though.

Who is the man under the Thor panel?

Cameron Kivari

April 12, 2014 at 8:24 am

@ David Fullam: I’m not absolutely positive, but I think that’s USAgent (John Walker). I could be wrong…

Dum Dum Dugan?

Sorry, I read “under Thor”.

Yeah, it’s Walker channelling Judge Dredd.

Maybe it was just meant to be a “The End” type thing?

I remember this vividly! I suppose it was under the Jemas dogma that continuity was no longer relevant or imporetant. The “Dead Men Running” mini was great but didn’t fit anywhere but, well, it’s a mini series. Truth be told, between Mark Waid and Brubaker, Cap had a lot of stinkers. The worst thing is, this forsaken plots/endings have become more common in the recent years.
Also, since Cap’s death wasn’t ever mentioned, shouldn’t this fit better in the Abandoned and Forsaken column???

To me, the Strangest aspect of this story was that it was written by Evan Dorkin of “milk and cheese” fame!!! The idea that marvel hired him to write cap is strange in an of itself – its stranger still that marvel was ok with Evan killing cap as editors had to sign off on these issues!!!

I remember reading this when it came out. I was young and a confused by the whole thing but when Cap kept showing up in future issues i just figured it was all a “WHAT IF…” issue and not actually canon. There was another story in Captain America vol. 4 called “Captain America Lives Again” where Steve wakes up in a post-apocalyptic world where the Nazis won WWII and NYC is called New Berlin. I never figured that one out either, but I was young.

Wow, never saw that costume of Walker’s before.

Convoluting!

The Arnim Zola panel is awesome.

Wasn’t the Reiber/Cassady Captain America Series technically part of the Marvel Knights line? I think I remember hearing something about it being outside the usual Marvel Universe when it came out. Maybe there was the plan at one time that Cap would be dead in the regular continuity but alive in the alternate Marvel Knights series. Maybe?

Technically, Brian David Marshal killed Cap, not Dorkin. I would assume these three creative teams were commissioned to fill an editorial edict. Nobody just pitches “Captain America dies” for a back-up story.

I don’t doubt that Marvel saw this as a deck clearing exercise to make way for the Marvel Knights Captain America relaunch that was just around the corner. They probably didn’t realize it wasn’t working until it was too late to hit the breaks.

Also, Cassady/Reiber issues that followed were terrible. Beautiful art of course, but oh man those are painful to read. The Paul O’Brien X-axis reviews of those are must reads, if you can google them up.

How did Brian Hurtt get hired by Marvel? His skills are far bellow Marvel standards.

The Reiber/Cassady series was damn good storytelling for adults. It eschewed the simplistic good/bad approach that superhero comics had nearly always employed and managed to piss off both the left and right through its frank admission of the U.S.A.’s culpability in creating anti-American sentiment. And the Paul O’Brien reviews of them are anything but must-reads. Rather, they are (if I may redirect one of O’Brien’s own phrases) “vomitously awful,” full of willful pretension and condescension.

Hey Namor. If you’re going to a funeral, could you maybe put a shirt on?

I also just noticed that the story “A Moment of Silence” was published in the Silent Month issue, but wasn’t the silent story. Just to make it a little more weird.

Nah, the Reiber/Cassady Cap was very pretty but the writing was terrible. Not the concept mind you, but the writing. Like Chuck Austin bad, and for many of the same reasons.

That isn’t Walker. I think that is ‘American Cop’, one of those discarded characters from an era when Marvel was churning them out like mad…

“The Reiber/Cassady series was damn good storytelling for adults. It eschewed the simplistic good/bad approach that superhero comics had nearly always employed and managed to piss off both the left and right through its frank admission of the U.S.A.’s culpability in creating anti-American sentiment.” Amen. I thought it was excellent, and very daring at the time given the terrifying situation in the US during the Bush/Cheney years.

That’s is Walker. This is his brief Maximum Security makeover.

I just assumed this was a tale set in the near future that explained how Cap might have eventually met his end. Not tied into continuity, but one of those “The End” storylines. The fact his body wasn’t found was to highlight that whole “the American dream can never die,” rubbish that’s always associated with the character.

I always go into anniversary issues hoping for something like Justice League of America 200, Batman 400, Captain America 350 or Avengers 300, but all to often I find something like this instead. A regular sized lead followed by some low grade pointless filler.

Wow, this was a much better death than that embarrassing one after Civil War. This is how an American icon dies, going on showing fascist cowards what’s what, not being gunned down by his brainwashed girlfriend.

I remember hearing about this storyline back then. It seems strangely sloppy of Marvel not to come out with an explanation of why Cap is not really dead. Incidentally, how many times has Cap been thought of being dead? I can count at least five times at the top of my head (before the Silver Age started, that Steranko arc, Onslaught, this storyline, and Brubaker).

Was Cap ever said to be dead in-story before his Silver Age reintroduction? Wasn’t Avengers #4 the first we ever heard of his supposed “death,” at the same time he was rediscovered?

The Snappy Sneezer

April 12, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Wasn’t there a story where some crazy woman was about to give Cap a sex change? Did anything ever come of that?

And then, immediately after that funeral panel, they all look up at the reader and say, “Wanna make something of it?”

…What is going on with Iron Man in that art?

And yeah, that has to be one of the weirdest “deaths” I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine it was meant to be real, but there doesn’t seem to be any indication within the story that it’s not either.

@buttler: No, the WWII “death” of Cap was introduced in Avengers #4. I don’t know how either the original or 50s Cap series ended off the top of my head, but it certainly wasn’t with killing him off.

Cap was a real mess for quite a while there, and in a lot of ways, Marvel got very VERY lucky when Brubaker came onto the book, since you can pretty much ignore everything 2001 – then…

The Neiber/Cassady Captain America was good in concept but not in execution. I prefer Cap stories where the concept of America, fame, honor, patriotism etc. are interrogated rather than puffed up. But Neiber’s run was a fairly good example of how badly decompression can be used. Each issue felt like a pin-up book with occasional text. The story was so drawn out that narrative momentum was lost. It wasn’t vomitously awful, just boring.

Think this was meant to be a “The End” type thing too but given how messy Marvel was at the time under Jemas basically saying “I don’t care about past continuity, just give fun stories,” it could have been meant to be serious, who knows?

Yeah I particularly remember scratching my head over this comic though I did like the Evan Dorkin and Kevin Maguire story, particularly the panel where Batroc was drinking a toast to his fallen foe. And yeah U.S. Agent’s short-lived Judge Dredd period could be covered.

Anyway speaking of abandoned love does anyone remember when Impulse was given the power to make glowy-duplicates of himself? Was there ever an explanation as to why he stopped using that power? Around the same time I also remember Superboy getting a pair of goofy looking shades that gave him heat-vision powers that were dropped after two issues.

They were ALL smuggled in because they had information on Hitler’s nuclear program? How many of them would the government have needed? It looks like there’s several dozen of them.

“Hey Namor. If you’re going to a funeral, could you maybe put a shirt on?”

Nothing can stop the chest of Namor. Imperious Pecs!

Cap was blown back in time and made his way to the present in a mini-series featuring his ancestors named Rogers who looked just like him. Marvel mercifully decided not to publish the series because it was boring and unoriginal.

I just assumed this was a tale set in the near future that explained how Cap might have eventually met his end. Not tied into continuity, but one of those “The End” storylines. The fact his body wasn’t found was to highlight that whole “the American dream can never die,” rubbish that’s always associated with the character.

The story, though, continues directly from the story before it is in the issue (Jurgens’ wrap-up story), so it sure doesn’t seem to be intended to be a “The End” story.

It would be very interesting to find out what the creative team was actually trying to do. Plus what was going on behind the scenes?

What’s weirder yet is that in the relatively recent trades of the Jurgens run on Cap, these stories are included. No explanation or anything. Just weird.

Wow, a pre-Sixth Gun Hurtt Marvel story. With Mahfood inks. Damn. Forgot about that.

I’m not really sure you can call that Reiber run awful when this thing happened just beforehand. ;)

Also, since Cap’s death wasn’t ever mentioned, shouldn’t this fit better in the Abandoned and Forsaken column???

Abandoned an’ Forsaked is for stuff that was not only abandoned but also specifically retconned. This is for stuff that was just plain ol’ abandoned.

“Every installment of Abandoned Love we will be examining comic book stories, plots and ideas that were abandoned by a later writer while still acknowledging that the abandoned story DID still happen”

Did later stories acknowledge that this story DID still happen?

I remember this. I gave up on Cap soon after because the Reiber stuff really was that terrible.

Cassaday art with illegible writing masquerading as intelligent political commentary.

Amen. I thought it was excellent, and very daring at the time given the terrifying situation in the US during the Bush/Cheney years.

This reminds me of all the bizarre praise heaped on Colbert for insulting George W. Bush. There’s nothing “daring” about criticizing the Bush 2 era. At the time Bush-bashing was very, very in vogue in entertainment media. Whenever mass entertainment media DID venture into political commentary back then, it was far more common for the commentary to be anti-Bush than pro.

I’m not saying being anti-Bush is right or wrong, there were many valid critiques to be made of his era. I’m just not a believer that it was an especially “daring” stance to take. If anything I think it was actually the safer career move for a writer at the time.

its stranger still that marvel was ok with Evan killing cap as editors had to sign off on these issues!!!

I think it may have actually COME from editorial, since there were multiple stories in the book dedicated to that Cap is dead theme. I doubt Dorkin came up with the idea himself, unless at some point he was slated to become the new regular Cap writer.

I hold any Cap story written between Waid and Brubaker to be on the same class as Golden Age stories: non-canon unless a later author decides to introduce elements of them in a canonical story. Otherwise, you’ll get a headache trying to reconcile them with what comes before and after.
Also, didn’t Cap die at the end of Gruenwald’s run (443)? Or was that a “death”?

I know I’ve seen this one but I didn’t register that the death was ignored. I probably assumed it had been resolved in some issue I missed, as I only browsed copies in the store.

@T- I think the argument WRT Rieber is that it was daring to criticize Bush after 9/11 and before the invasion of Iraq. I agree, though, Colbert doesn’t deserve much praise- by 2006, EVERYBODY was criticizing Bush.

While I do agree with T’s point about Bush bashing not exactly being outre by ’06, I will point out that a lot of the praise was that Colbert did it with Bush in the room, essentially to his face. How actually “daring” that was, YMMV, expecially since Colbert muffed his delivery on several of the jokes, but I think that’s why commenters’ panties got moist over it. And given that the media generally gave the Bush administration a pass, and the comments were at the big journalist shindig, that certainly played a role in the praise.

To make a crude crude analogy, Colbert was essentially a big dog sitting on the dais, licking his testicles, while the neutered newsmedia looked down and had a vague memory of when they had balls.

I think..think…some of this was supposed to be set up for the Marvel Knightification of Captain America and then the Marvel U Cap being in the Priest/Sears Captain America and the Falcon series. I remember Priest saying he’d been told he’d be writing THE MU cap series, but then things got disassembled….

Given the big to-do when the Gruenwald era ended (and Cap got a funeral), this bit (where Cap got a funeral), and the Bru run where, you guessed it, Cap got a funeral, the guys in the MU are going to be a LOT more careful about planning these things next time.

“Fer chrissakes, Rogers, you better actually be #$#$^ing dead this time, or we’re going to MAKE SURE you’re dead next time. We mean it this time. You can only fake these things so many times to find out what your friends really think of you before they start to get suspicious, dammit!”

Jeez, Cap dies so many times, maybe HE should have gotten the power of the Phoenix in AvX.

I remember that whole sad mess.
Marvel was all over the place.
If you thought the Dead Man Running interior art was bad, you should look up the covers.
All time worst comic covers.

@Travis- but the media WASN’T giving Bush a pass post-Katrina.

While I do agree with T’s point about Bush bashing not exactly being outre by ’06, I will point out that a lot of the praise was that Colbert did it with Bush in the room, essentially to his face.

Was it really that daring? The boldness of the move was great publicity that was very predictable. He was playing to his fanbase with that move. It had everything to gain and nothing to lose. The people it would offend would never watch his show to begin with, while the type of viewers who were already watching his show or weren’t watching but were potential fans of the show would predictably eat it up, which they did.

He already had a model for how well such a move would work from seeing Jon Stewart do the same in your face rudeness to the hosts of Crossfire. That stunt basically catapulted Stewart to new heights. So he already had a precedent for how well such a brash stunt would work.

And as far as the media giving Bush a pass, I don’t feel they ever really gave him a pass. They had to hold back a little right after 9/11 but it didn’t last long. A lot of liberals who were rabid Bush haters love to keep repeating that meme because they hated Bush so much that anything short of heckling Bush or punching him in the face was going easy on him. But the media always went as hard against Bush as they could while still trying to keep an appearance of objectivity and neutrality.

The way you can tell is that when Colbert called them out for going easy on Bush, the media he was supposedly criticizing is exactly who praised Colbert the most! They were falling all over each other to praise him for “bashing” them. I don’t recall a single mainstream media personality taking issue with Colbert’s characterization or sticking up for Bush. Why would they do that? Because the idea that were going easy on Bush was an impression they WANTED out there and that they loved. First it gave them a pass for being so biased and attacking of him, and second by spreading the meme that they were too easy on him, it gave them a greenlight and public reason to step up the anti-Bush rhetoric even further. That’s why the media couldn’t get enough of Colbert’s attack on them. They loved him more than ever. And Colbert is savvy enough to know that that criticism would make him more of a darling to the media.

Compare how the media treated him to how they treated other critics of the media who accused them of either being anti-Bush or extremely liberally biased. Or how they treat people who accuse them of treating Obama with kid gloves, much like how Colbert accused the media of treating Bush with kid gloves. Such people get characterized as crackpots or ignored outright or are the targets of strident counterarguments in columns. But never do they get lionized for speaking truth to power, being bold, or putting the media in their place. Because those are criticicisms that ACTUALLY sting the media.

It cracks me up how badly Marvel wanted to get rid of Captain America once upon a time. It really speaks to the divide between comic shop culture (where Cap is a historically mid-lister) and the broader culture (where he can open a HUGE movie).

“At the time Bush-bashing was very, very in vogue in entertainment media. Whenever mass entertainment media DID venture into political commentary back then, it was far more common for the commentary to be anti-Bush than pro.”

T. –

Actually, the American media was pretty much pro-Bush in his first term. The New York Times, widely considered a “liberal” newspaper, was very much favorable to the Iraq War in Bush’s first term. Bush-bashing only became more in vogue, to the point of being almost mandatory, during his second term.

this won t garner me any fans but here goes, cassady started to lose me around this point and his funny faces just screamed lazy to me which sucks because with his work is so much potentail, to see if stagnate so near the top technique-wise, is disappointing.

The American media was MORE supportive than it eventually was later on, but it was never strongly in support of the war overall. Take this article from The Nation which is pretty libera for example, which talks about this myth:

http://www.thenation.com/blog/173317/surprise-ten-years-ago-many-top-newspapers-did-oppose-us-war-against-iraq#

T. –

I think the article you link to supports my point more than it does yours. Despite the title, the article shows that 1/3 of newspapers supported the war, 1/3 was against, and 1/3 was more or less in the fence. That is hardly a Bush-bashing party, when only 33% of newspapers are clearly against the Iraq War.

Also, considering that newspaper media is somewhat more left-leaning than TV or radio news, I think that yes, the American media was pro-Bush, in his first term. Or, at least, they showed much more confidence in him than he deserved.

“clearly against the Iraq War.”

Keep in mind, also, that this is only 1/3 (which sounds inflated) despite massive evidence that the administration was openly lying about why to go to war. 2/3 (or more) of the media saying nothing about that is hardly evidence of “Bush-bashing”.

True, Sean.

Only 1/3 of papers taking a clear stand against the Iraq War shows, at best, a very gutless American media.

My own take on it all is that most of the media isn’t left-wing or right-wing. Most of the media is in favor of anyone big, of anyone who is in power.

They only feel it’s safe to oppose the powerful when the powerful are about to lose their power, when it’s the case of officials in the end of their last term.

I think the article you link to supports my point more than it does yours. Despite the title, the article shows that 1/3 of newspapers supported the war, 1/3 was against, and 1/3 was more or less in the fence. That is hardly a Bush-bashing party, when only 33% of newspapers are clearly against the Iraq War.

I guess it’s all in how you look at it. To me only 1/3 in support of the war is not the media being overwhelmingly pro-Bush. 1/3 being against and 1/3 being ambivalent, that’s still 2/3s who don’t support Bush and his war on terror. So even though it wasn’t as rabidly anti-Bush as the later political climate, I still don’t think it was especially BRAVE to openly criticize the war at that time. I would say maybe for the Dixie Chicks it was brave because they have a very red state and middle america fanbase as country music artists.

Keep in mind, also, that this is only 1/3 (which sounds inflated) despite massive evidence that the administration was openly lying about why to go to war. 2/3 (or more) of the media saying nothing about that is hardly evidence of “Bush-bashing”.

Again, I think it depends on how you view things. Beforehand I think it was far more arguable whether the invasion had merit. I do think reasonable minds could differ, and many did. There was definitely evidence presented against Bush and evidence in favor of, and the anti-war side was definitely vindicated in the end, but at the time in 2001 or so, I wouldn’t say there was massively one-sided evidence of open lying by the Bush administration.

I think it also depends on how you decide to view that “ambivalent” 1/3 of media outlets. You guys obviously choose to lump them in with the “pro” Bush camp and say that 2/3 of the media was on Bush’s side. But to me, ambivalent isn’t the same as pro, just like agnostic can’t be lumped in with pro-religious. I don’t think it’s quite accurate to lump ambivalent in with pro.

IIRC, I think Reiber’s initial version of “The New Deal” was going to be very, very different from what resulted- the book was delayed a few months when Reiber and Cassady decided to adjust their story after 9/11. I remember Marvel saying the death storyline was originally going to be answered in Reiber’s run.

I’m not going to get into the whole argument of when and how much Bush-bashing was en vogue in his first term, but we all seem agreed that by the second term it was pretty common. Whenever I think of that whole situation, it always reminds me of the comedian Patton Oswalt’s summary of the whole thing. My brothers and I saw him live in San Francisco right at the tail end of the Bush administration, and when he got to the part of his act where he would usually do his Bush jokes (which were, at one time, a HUGE part of his act), he basically just stopped and said that at that point Bush-bashing was just the easiest, laziest thing for a comedian to do.

And it’s true. By then, making fun of that particular president was the equivalent of a knock-knock joke. Even people who were really stringently anti-Bush realized by then that it was just beating a dead horse.

Speaking of beating a dead horse….the whole idea that the media gave Bush a pass seems to come from a strange place…he was probably the most criticized president in American history. But there is never enough for some people. To wit, pointing out that 2/3 of people weren’t actively supporting a war at the same time that you could probably poll the general populace and find 2/3’s in favor seems to indicate that the media was more critical of Bush than the general public. Whether it was justified or not isn’t really the point.

M-Wolverine,

He was generally given a pass in the media.

If you look at the level of neutral or positive articles to total articles he does better than a lot of democrats. He and his policies were not criticized nearly enough during most of his term.

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