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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So Captain America’s Shield Works Through Magnets?!

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In this feature we examine 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 take a look at the strange history of Captain America’s shield, from being “just” a cool metal shield to being indestructible (with a stop-off at “able to be controlled through magnets” in between)…

Here’s a crazy fact that is kind of hard to believe. The idea of Captain America having an indestructible shield was NOT something that was around during the Golden Age and even upon Captain America’s return during the Silver Age. It was certainly a strong shield, but nothing more than a strong shield.

So that was likely why in the spring of 1964, soon after Cap returned to the Marvel Universe, Stan Lee figured it would be a good idea to try to make Cap’s shield something a bit more special. His first idea was to do what Stan Lee liked to do with most things, throw some transistors into it!

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Of course, as you can see later in the issue, Cap’s magnetic attachments were never going to be visible unless they felt like making them visible…

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The next issue referred to the current status quo…

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But that was it for the rest of the year. No mention in the Avengers or anywhere until late in 1964, when Lee and Kirby addressed the situation in Tales of Suspense #62, where Cap is taken prisoner at a prison as the prisoners intend to use the gizmos in his shield to help escape…

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Okay, so fair enough. Nicely written out, Stan!

However, Lee obviously thought that he should still do SOMEthing with Cap’s shield, so in 1967′s Tales of Suspense #93, we got that idea – Cap’s shield was now retconned to be indestructible!

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Obviously it could not have been the same shield that Iron Man opened up to put gizmos in, hence the retcon. When you think about it, it’s pretty much one of the best retcons of all-time, since EVERYone digs Cap’s indestructible shield, right?

If you have a suggestion for a future edition of Abandoned an’ Forsaked, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

52 Comments

Fuckin’ Cap’s shield – how does it work?

Tony Stark everywhere in this bitch!

Stan Lee really did believe transistors could do anything, didn’t he? I’m amazed the Fantastic Four’s origin wasn’t ‘Reed Richards gives each member a transistor’ (Sue’s would have been in her compact, of course).

And prior to the “indestructible” story we have the Living Laser melting it down and the Red Guardian cracking it.
The bit with Paste-Pot Pete’s adhesive dissolver reminds me of one of Stan’s goof-ups from those days: Zemo is desperate to get his hands on the stuff so he can take off his mask, but after failing to swipe some (due to Cap’s trick here), he never tries again.
Trivia note: The Master Plotter or Planner a number of issues of TOS later still thought Cap had magnets on his shield, which he was therefore intending to steal.

I do wonder, as AIM is so definite it’s an ET artifact, if Stan actually intended that as the origin at the time.

It is an odd visual imagining Iron Man cutting open the shield, lifting it like a can top, an pd then adding magnets to the inside of it.

TALES OF SUSPENSE 62: There was a really goofy bit in that one where we found out that the prison door had a verbal trigger. Say the words “Captain America,” and the door will open. A cool bit, but also really stupid, as the phrase “Captain America” is hardly terribly unusual on MARVEL Earth. In CAPTAIN AMERICA 260 this problem was addressed when it was revealed that come prisoners nearly escaped when the doors opened after one of them said that he was captured by Captain America. Needless to say, the verbal code idea was scrapped.

Cap’s shield being damaged: Roger Stern somewhere provided the most elegant solution. When guys in the Silver Age damaged/destroyed Cap’s shield, they were actually destroying inferior duplicates that were provided to Cap by Tony Stark when he would borrow it for research purposes.

I make the mental compromise that Iron Man installed a back face or lining to the shield with the electronics sandwiched between it and the real shield. The shield itself isn’t hollow. That doesn’t help explain it being melted or cracked in other stories, but lets this one work!

Stark could have put the magnets (and other gadgets) on the indestructible shield and then put a non-indestructible backing on it to cover them. Notice that his shield, which is normally a hollow curved disk, is solid in the Avengers panels, but back to being hollow in TOS #62 (look how the guy in the green suit is carrying it in the first panel.)

Do I get a No-Prize? ;)

Yeah the “Captain America” as verbal code is kind of ridiculous when you consider they’re all standing at the door holding Captain America’s shield. All one of them has to do is use the full name.

The magnetic shield is definitely referenced in Cap’s first appearance (and maybe his second) in Tales of Suspense by the way, so it’s not like a gigantic jump from Avengers 5 to ToS 62.

In the Marvel Super-Heroes TV cartoon of the sixties, I remember a very short insert during the program that illustrated the making of his shield as being made out from a meteor. Otherwise, I don’t recall reading a clear origin of his shield; I think it has been stated later on that it was made of vibranium. Anyone has a clue about this?

stan lee really had a desire for transitors back in his marvel days surprised he did not decided that spider mans webbing and wolverines claws had to have some too or even thors hammer.

OMG thank you for this one. I always wondered when Cap’s shield went from being filled with transistors to what we know today. I feared it was just one of those things that happened without explination.

Boomtuber:”In the Marvel Super-Heroes TV cartoon of the sixties, I remember a very short insert during the program that illustrated the making of his shield as being made out from a meteor. Otherwise, I don’t recall reading a clear origin of his shield; I think it has been stated later on that it was made of vibranium. Anyone has a clue about this?”

We got a detailed account in CAPTAIN AMERICA 303 of the shield’s creation. Basically, the shield is a combination of vibranium and an unknown metal developed by Myron MacLain. MacLain’s later attempts to duplicate the mystery metal resulted in the creation of adamantium*.

*People sometimes refer to Cap’s shield as being a mixture of adamantium and vibranium. That’s technically incorrect.

Someday, we’ll learn that at the very end of his career, Captain America was transformed by the Cosmic Cube and sent back in time so that his spirit could mingle with the shield’s metal at the time of its creation, so it could be infused with THE POWER OF AMERICA FOREVER AND EVER,

“I wish… (gasp) I wish… (cough) I wish… this wasn’t the end. But it’s time for this (cough) old soldier to finally rest. God bless America. (choke)”

“Rest easy Captain.” And then the Watcher, who’s known all along what must happen, completes the time loop. In the past, a red white and blue cloud of sparkles streams into the vat where the metal mixture is waiting. It glows once, and is gone…

But Cap’s spirit remains. In our hearts.

IronMan added a second layer to the shield full of transistors which is what was opened and also caused the balance to be off.

MIchael, I honestly in my deepest recesses hope that this is how Original Sin ends

It was explained in response to a query after the Living Laser issue that Cap had doubts Tony Stark’s anti-laser coating would be effective, so he used it on a duplicate shield.

Yes, I always thought Tony placed the gear in the hollow of the shield and covered it over, rather than pried the shield open.

In terms of the Cap’s shield being made from a meteor, isn’t that still the case? I was under the impression that the big Vibranium mound in Wakanda was a meteorite?

My impression was similar to Mike Blake’s, that Tony Stark created the equivalent of a false bottom on the back of the shield.

Hang on, does Cap yoink that vial of paste dissolver from Zemo just to be a dick?

Alex H:”In terms of the Cap’s shield being made from a meteor, isn’t that still the case? I was under the impression that the big Vibranium mound in Wakanda was a meteorite?”

Yeah, vibranium is meteoric in origin, but the mystery metal component is not. So, the shield is half meteorite vibranium and half mystery metal

Pretty much, Michael.
One odd thing about Cap’s early solo issues is that he’d frequently refer to himself as having a lifetime of acrobatic or combat training, when he’d really only had four or five years (which even starting at 17 or 18 doesn’t make for a lifetime). I remember during Mark Gruenwald’s run, one of the villains laughed that he had more than double Cap’s combat experience and training.

Of course, given Zemo got Bucky killed (or so we thought) I think Cap being a dick to him is not unreasonable.

Duff McWhalen

June 2, 2014 at 9:57 am

So all along, it was Stan who ushered in the speculator movement!

I like the idea of Cap’s shield using technology, I think it opens up opportunities to do cool things with it and also explain why no one has ever just thrown it away in defense.

Willie Everstop

June 2, 2014 at 10:29 am

I think flying magnetic shield replicas would make an excellent addition to the Avengers’ home security system.

TALES OF SUSPENSE 62: There was a really goofy bit in that one where we found out that the prison door had a verbal trigger. Say the words “Captain America,” and the door will open. A cool bit, but also really stupid, as the phrase “Captain America” is hardly terribly unusual on MARVEL Earth. In CAPTAIN AMERICA 260 this problem was addressed when it was revealed that come prisoners nearly escaped when the doors opened after one of them said that he was captured by Captain America. Needless to say, the verbal code idea was scrapped.

Ah great. I read that Tales of Suspense recently and almost fell out of my chair at the sheer stupidity of it. It’s ironic, considering the lengths that Stan went to have the characters explain away mild inconsistencies in the art, how often he would add bits of dialogue that would render a scene completely nonsensical. Stan had a lot of affection for certain characters and sometimes he carried it too far, as here with Captain America.

I’ve been reading the Kirby/Lee FF in dribs and drabs, and Stan does this a ton with Reed Richards. He hates the idea of Reed being caught off guard in any way, so when an enemy ambushes the Fantastic Four, Reed will have some dialogue along the lines of “Doom! I knew when my electron-powered transistors activated, you had to be nearby!” while the art shows the FF totally unprepared for an attack. If you read the text and art together literally, they give the impression that Reed is very smart but also an egomaniac who wants people to believe him omniscient.

Of course the untold story here is Stan Lee as front man for the Japanese transistor industry where all of Stark Tech’s real innovations were designed and made. No way this came out of an American factory. It would have been too expensive. Stan Lee once again riffing off of a New York Post article without a clue as to the real science behind it. After all he grew up reading comics.

Bendis addressed the enhancements to Captain America’s shield in his “Oral History of the Avengers” back-ups from a few years ago. Recognizing that Stark was really excited about all the new gimmicks he was adding to the shield, and not wanting to hurt his feelings, Cap comments that he decided to go ahead and try it out for a brief time

Jay-W: One of the few times I can agree with a Bendis retcon, Cap knew he didn’t need them but we’ve seen how annoying Tony can be pushing his stuff so agreed to go just to shut him up. Ten to one, Tony still thought Cap was using them when he actually dropped it as hard to imagine those shield moves just Cap’s skill.

Speaking of adamantium being developed as an attempt by Myron MacLain to duplicate the mystery metal of Cap’s shield, that resulted in another series of contonuity complications. When adamantium was first introduced in Avengers #66, it’s very obvious that writer Roy Thomas intended it to be a brand new creation that Myron MacLain had devised just a short while before.

And then several years later Wolverine came along with his adamantium claws. Which wasn’t, at first, a problem, because the original backstory was that Wolverine was a teenager (or maybe an actual evolved wolverine, but that’s another matter entirely) and the claws were part of his gloves, which were invented by Department X, presumably a short time before the events of Incredible Hulk #180.

But then Chris Claremont revealed that the adamantium claws were actually a part of Wolverine’s body, and that his entire skeleton was coated with it, as well. Plus he wasn’t a teenager, but much older. And he’d acquired the adamantium claws & skeleton through mysterious circumstances many years ago.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, we then were introduced to Lord Dark Wind (father of Lady Deathstrike), who many years before had devised a method of bonding adamantium to human bone. His notes on the process were stolen and, it is strongly implied, were later used by the Weapon X project to give Wolverine his adamanium bones.

And, of course, all of this meant that suddenly there was a whole bunch of adamantium floating around DECADES before Myron MacLain invented it in Avengers #66.

I forget, has anyone ever attempted to explain this particular inconsistency?

There was eventually a story that suggested that McClain had developed Adamantium independently, years after Lord Dark Wind’s notes were stolen. I think it might’ve been the 1 “Flashback” issue of Wolverine back in the 90s.

Omar Karindu:”There was eventually a story that suggested that McClain had developed Adamantium independently, years after Lord Dark Wind’s notes were stolen. I think it might’ve been the 1 “Flashback” issue of Wolverine back in the 90s.”

As retcons go, that would be a refreshingly realistic one. Two guys independently inventing the same thing happens a lot. Cf, for example, the telegraph. Cooke and Wheatstone (in the UK) and Morse and Vail (in the USA) both independently developed the commercial electrical telegraph in the 1830s.

There was eventually a story that suggested that McClain had developed Adamantium independently, years after Lord Dark Wind’s notes were stolen. I think it might’ve been the 1 “Flashback” issue of Wolverine back in the 90s.

Okay, that actually seems like a reasonable answer. Considering the numerous convoluted backstories and retcons that have been grafted onto Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men over the years, that is a refreshingly simple explanation. I’m grateful that Marvel resisted the urge to retcon Lord Dark Wind and Myron MacLain into, I dunno, servants of Apocalypse, or some such nonsense.

I’d give Matthew Johnson the no-prize. There were lots of reasons (examples already given here) to show that Cap’s shield wasn’t meant to be indestructible right away, but I always figured “within the center” meant the center underside of it, as you can see in the pictures. The only thing that’s bothered me about the Captain America movies, which I love for the most part, is they haven’t emphasized enough how tough the shield really is. It comes off as really strong steal. (If anything, the Avengers does a better job with it when the big three all fight).

I do love that Tales to Suspense story, as taking that stuff out really shows how skilled Cap really is. In fact, that was a great run of stories at that time. And early on he may have had a short “lifetime” of training, but when you’re a soldier in a war where you don’t get to sit around and wait for a battle but go looking for them like a super-soldier would, and spend the rest of your time training, you have an accelerated learning curve. ;-)

And as for Wolverine, if anything has been retconned it’s how long ago he got the adamantium. Before it was right before he met up with the Hudsons and formed Alpha Flight. He escaped the project and ran into them. But now a million things has happened between then, and they made them much older. That’s what needs to be fixed, not when admantium was developed.

That is some awesome Kirby art. The gang tackle of Cap and the Kirby press on the shield are fantastic.

Wasn’t there a storyline at one point that the Asguardians infused Cap’s “Vibranium” shield with “Uru” (the metal Thor’s hammer is made of) after one of the many times it was broken as a thank you for his aid? It seems to me I remember even after it was made “indestructible” it was still either destroyed, broken, or deatomized (via molecule man) that it was always remade only stronger through some addition or special circumstances.

M-Wolverine, no question Cap’s got the moves, but it still seems like an odd way to describe them.

HA! I’ve been reading a LOT of back issues of Cap that I got awhile back and that was the first I saw it! I think in Giant-Size Captain America from 1976. Glad I wasn’t the only one who knew about that.

I always considered that story to be apocryphal –not the first one, the second one. That is to say, the only way I can enjoy Captain America stories (and this certainly includes the movies) is to assume that he does indeed have magnets in his gloves to this day, BECAUSE OTHERWISE THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL THAT SHIELD WOULD MAGICALLY BOUNCE BACK TOWARD HIM.

I feel strongly about this. There ARE magnets in the gloves. It’s a perfectly reasonable explanation, and it sure as hell makes more sense than the idea that Cap always angles his throws in such a way as to make sure that the shield, in addition to whatever offensive strike he had intended, ALSO manages to ALWAYS bounce right back toward him.

Cap just lies about the magnets to create an aura of cool.

The above clearly was dropped because it made no sense ! Opening caps shield when it was a shaped solid piece of vibrainuam and to continually remind in the readers in a few panels how it comes back to him wow !! And If you look at those older cap books when he first got his round shield he was slinging it and it was coming back to to create this even after that made no sense maybe now I they could run with something like this but it be to easy just to have someone come along and disrupt the signal between his shield and glove

I think Lee & Kirby intended to try to come up with a way to “realistically” explain how Cap’s mighty shield always returns to him, but then later figured, ah the hell with it, and left Cap without any of Tony Stark’s transistorized gimmicks (in the shield at least). Of course, it’s absurd that his shield routinely returns to him in the midst of battle or even that he can easily and quickly put his arms through its straps to wear it on his back and then put his civilan clothes on over it and without it being at all noticeable. But, hey, it’s superhero comics. It’s the same sort of magic by which Batman & Daredevil, among so many others, can travel quickly through a city by swinging on their ropes with hooks that can always find something to hang on to and quickly come loose to grab onto the next building top (at least Spidey has webshooters on both hands and he’s swinging around on webs that can stick to anyting. And admittedly Batman usually got around by car. But DD? His ability to get around with that wire in his cane was more magical than his super-enhanced senses.

“Stan Lee really did believe transistors could do anything, didn’t he?”
It was kind of the same catch all for him as Radiation.

If the magnets are usually hidden in his glove why can we see them now?

Given this is the same universe Bullseye exists in, I don’t find Cap’s infallible accuracy in shield bouncing implausible.

transistors, magnets neither lasted long…. a few issues later Cap decided he did not like then because they threw off the balance of the shield…. making this a moot point.

LouReedRichards

June 3, 2014 at 11:28 am

That is to say, the only way I can enjoy Captain America stories (and this certainly includes the movies) is to assume that he does indeed have magnets in his gloves to this day, BECAUSE OTHERWISE THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL THAT SHIELD WOULD MAGICALLY BOUNCE BACK TOWARD HIM

In a universe where the Beyonder, Molecule Man, the Celestials, the Cosmic Cube and any number of other crazy concepts exist, the thing you have a problem with is the fact that Cap can have his shield ricochet back to him?

It’s never bothered me, because y’know comics…

Would it be more thrilling to see him throw it and then have to go scamper over and pick it up again like it was a big frisbee?

“Damn, Cap, you threw it in the bushes again! I’m not getting it this time, YOU go get it!!!”

“Jarvis says he’s not going after it if it ends up on the roof again.”

It’s perfectly obvious that the shield always returns to him because Odin enchanted it to do so. He just doesn’t like to make a big deal about every little thing.

The guy who got injected with a magic drug that makes him twice as big, borderline indestructible, and able to survive being frozen in ice for more than a half century, you are saying that the unrealistic part is that he knows how to throw his specially designed shield to come back to him?

Even the magnetics and transistors aren’t a good enough excuse/solution. Sure they would explain why the shield would come back to him without needing any special ability on his part to bounce the shield right, BUT he’s also able to bounce the shield around to hit several opponents. The transistor/magnets wouldn’t be able to do that, so he has to have the ability to bounce his shield with geometric accuracy to get it to hit multiple targets and go where he wants it to go. And if he can do that then he would have the ability to make it bounce back to him too.

In a universe where the Beyonder, Molecule Man, the Celestials, the Cosmic Cube and any number of other crazy concepts exist, the thing you have a problem with is the fact that Cap can have his shield ricochet back to him?

Nice try, but those are superhuman characters. They might not be realistic, but they make sense within context because they’re superhumans. Despite the serum, Cap has no superpowers, and certainly doesn’t have psychic powers that allow him to control his shield’s trajectory, so he shouldn’t be able to throw it like he does.

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