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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So HOW Did Captain America End Up in Suspended Animation?

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, based on a suggestion by commenter Bob, we take a look at how an error by Stan Lee in Captain America’s Silver Age debut led to a storyline that revealed that Captain America had a whole other adventure AFTER the flying bomb he and Bucky were on top of exploded over the English Channel!

In Avengers #4, we see a now-revived Captain America explain to the Avengers how he came to be frozen in the North Atlantic…

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Notice anything odd on that page? Roy Thomas did. Cap says that he fell into the water off the coast of Newfoundland. That was pretty clearly just a mistake on Stan Lee’s part, as clearly Cap is in Europe when the bomb plane took off and it clearly didn’t travel the more than 2,000 mile distance from England to Newfoundland.

Thomas decided to address Lee’s mistake as well as explain just how Cap went into suspended animation just from falling into cold water.

Thomas took over the writing duties on Captain America with #215. He quickly wrote Falcon out of the book and was clearly intent on spotlighting Cap’s origins. The problem was that Thomas was extremely overextended at the time at Marvel due to some other creators leaving the company. His second issue was a reprint issue! So rather than constantly fight deadlines on the book, Thomas gave it up to Don Glut, who continued Thomas’ first storyline, which based around Cap investigating how the Avengers discovered him and he came across the Newfoundland conundrum, as well, in #218…

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So Cap goes to Newfoundland and discovers the lair of the villainous General Dekker…

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The next issue shows how Cap met Dekker during World War II when Dekker was a spy working on the Captain America serial of the time.

Then #220 explains how Newfoundland figures into Cap’s suspended animation…

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So that’s the real story of how Cap went into suspended animation. What’s funny is that I don’t know if you can truly say that this abandoned and forsaked the earlier stories, in that I don’t know if any story specifically said that this COULDN’T have happened. Along those same lines, I don’t know if any current Cap stories have said that this definitely did NOT happen, so it might very well still be part of Cap’s official history (Chuck Austen’s Ice storyline, which revealed that the United States government froze Cap themselves because he might have opposed using nuclear weapons on Japan, would conflict with this story, of course, but Austen’s story itself has been retconned, so this story might still be part of Cap’s official timeline).

Steve Gerber soon took over the book to continue Thomas’ examination into Cap’s origins. Gerber retconned Cap’s history, which I detailed in an old Abandoned an’ Forsaked and was himself then retconned when Roger Stern and John Byrne took over Cap.

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

25 Comments

Travis Pelkie

July 5, 2014 at 3:40 am

Jesus Christ, only Roy Thomas could make an entirely new and entirely stupid fucking story out of some stupid misstatement on Cap’s part when he woke up. Because this whole story was completely necessary and elegant versus Stan’s original. (/ eyeroll)

What about the fact that Cap woke up in that Avengers issue as if he’d only been asleep for a little while, but kept referring to 20 years (or so) passing as if HE ACTUALLY LIVED 20 YEARS! You were out, Cap, and last you knew you fell off the plane with Bucky, so 1944 was just yesterday for you, not 20 years past. Dumbass.

I always thought of Roger Stern and John Byrne’s Captain America #255 as a “soft retcon” of this, since its otherwise thorough, even expanded origin story quietly leaves out the whole Newfoundland thing while incorporating everything else (aside from the Gerber bits they explicitly threw out back in #247). Of course, about seven issues later J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck brought Dekker/Ameridroid back and killed him, off, which stuck until Ed Brubaker and Steve McNiven very belatedly and briefly revived him.

More generally, Dekker’s kind of a weird blip that could be left out of most retellings of the origin, the same way that, say, post-Crisis Superman origin stories didn’t spend much time recapping the increasingly convoluted reasons Krypton exploded or how the movie the Waynes leave before the mugging and the reason they’ve gone to see it have gotten elaborated backstories from t me to time. This version of Cap’s 1945 tragedy doesn’t change the key moments enough to be referenced or noticed, and it only ever becomes vaguely relevant on the two later occasions when someone really, really wanted to have Cap fight Giant Robot Cap.

Roy Thomas really loves stories that take on little inconsistencies he detected in Avengers (1963 series) #4. He devoted a whole issue of The Avengers to clearing up another minor “bug” back in the 60s, was instrumental in explaining away the post-1945 Cap appearances, and wrote the final pre-Heroes Reborn Cap annual to expand on the Red Skull’s 1945 trip into suspended animation.

I think that Captain America 384 could also be considered a retcon of this. In it, Cap discusses how he went into suspended animation with Keith Kincaid and the nerve gas isn’t mentioned. In fact, they’re trying to figure out why Cap went into suspended animation after the Bucky incident but not during a later incident when Cap went swimming underwater in the Arctic trying to rescue D-Man at one point, so you’d think Cap would say “Must’ve been Dekker’s nerve gas”. And later on, after a battle involving Jack Frost and an ice worm, Cap concludes that he’ll go into suspended animation if ice water gets in his lungs.

I always thought it was weird that the missile took off over the English Channel and somehow he landed off the coast of Newfoundland. Even when I was a kid it seemed weird that he could fall across the ocean.

But been a Newfoundlander, I thought it was cool to see our island mentioned…even if Stan messed it up. And the story “One Night in Newfoundland” makes our city our to be like some New England city from a century ago. Too bad Sal didn’t research it before drawing it.

Iron Man Unit 007

July 5, 2014 at 10:39 am

Wouldn’t it simply have been easier to correct the Newfoundland error by stating that Cap was a bit disoriented after being thawed out and wasn’t remembering some things as clearly as he should have?

After all, the above mentioned story is pretty much ignored and they go with the idea that Cap was frozen after seeing the explosion that took Bucky down.

Or that Steve was just confused in the heat of battle- he was trapped on a runaway plane with his best friend, it’s not like he had time to check his GPS.

akkadiannumen

July 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm

“Wouldn’t it simply have been easier to correct the Newfoundland error by stating that Cap was a bit disoriented after being thawed out and wasn’t remembering some things as clearly as he should have?”

Easier, yeah, but it also would have been a waste of an opportunity to milk another story from Cap’s past. :p

David Spofforth

July 5, 2014 at 12:10 pm

I still don’t think they’ve ever really said the “Newfoundland interlude” never happened. Nor do they really need to. It’s one of those little plot contrivances that once told can be ignored in all future retellings. No need to re-retcon.

Just as long as they don’t retcon away the Ameridroid itself. Because we’ll always need a 20-foot-tall Captain America robot with a Nazi brain.

Of course, none of this addresses the most ludicrous part of Cap’s story to the Avengers, which he continues in the first panel on the next page: “As for the rest, by some fantastic stroke of fate, I must have been frozen in an ice floe, and then found by some Eskimos who thought I was a supernatural object!” We know that is what happened–before he was “freed” by Sub-Mariner in a fit of pique–but how would he know, being unconscious the entire time?

This reminds me of TV writer and novelist Doris Egan’s comment that fans have a tendency to take statements literally: If a character says “i’ve been doing this for 20 years!” some people assume it’s canon he’s been doing this for 20 years, not a rough approximation or a tossed off remark without thinking it.

So if we can retcon stuff and just say “that didn’t happen, this did” as we can retcon that Tony Stark wasn’t in Viet Nam, then why not just do a simple retcon and just Not have Cap say Newfoundland?

Did the Ameridroid ever show up again? In the story he just wanders off in the woods like the Russian from the Sopranos.

Did the Ameridroid ever show up again? In the story he just wanders off in the woods like the Russian from the Sopranos.

Yes. Twice. He returned in Captain America (1968 series) #261-3 as a pawn of the Red Skull, and seemingly perished trying to take the Skull with him after breaking the villain’s control. Much, much later, he turned up in Captain America (2011 series) #2-3 as a pawn of a bizarre HYDRA offshoot based in the Land of Nowhere, a dream world linked to obscure 1940s hero Jimmy Jupiter.

Hurling Captain America into a portal to the Land of Nowhere, Dekker was overjoyed to discover that in that dimension he regained his youthful, human body as the HYDRA Queen had promised. But no sooner had Dekker declared that he was accepting this “second chance” at life than he was killled with a single bullet to the brain by Agent Bravo, a World War II hero who had joined HYDRA’s cause following the disastrous wartime mission that had left Bravo and others stranded in the Land of Nowhere for decades.

In the aftermath, Bravo escaped the infuriated Captain America (#4-6), and with the HYDRA QUeen and Baron Helmut Zemo he continued waging a campaign against Captain America and his allies. In their final confrontation, however, Bravo was killed when the utterly insane HYDRA Queen’s gunfire ricocheted off the Captain’s shield (#18). Lyle Dekker was avenged at last.

Cronin, the page for voting on the fave Batman stories is down so I can’t vote. Did you happen to get my vote a few minutes ago (under this name)? If not can I just e-mail it to you? The deadline is in less than two hours so please respond ASAP.

I got the vote. I pushed the deadline to tomorrow night anyways (as I made a mistake back when I did the voting – I thought the 5th was a Sunday, but it’s the 6th).

Cool, thanks.

Travis Stephens

July 6, 2014 at 5:30 am

Is Newfoundland far enough south for Captain America to be stuck in an ice floe year around? I could by Greenland maybe. Perhaps global warming isn’t as big a deal in the Marvel Universe.

Travis Pelkie

July 7, 2014 at 12:09 am

Well, that’s Cap’s Original Sin. Until global warming really heated up, he was going to be frozen forever, but once the ozone layer started going, Cap melted faster than a popsicle on a summer day. MMM, Capsicle.

This is precisely the sort of thing that makes me really sympathetic to Roy Thomas haters.

Wouldn’t the easiest thing be to just say that he meant (or said) he fell into the ocean after leaving England, but his frozen self washed ashore on Newfoundland?

I was curious to read this one. Now that I’ve read it, I honestly wish there was more comedy surrounding it or more relevance. It sounded as though somebody had a really good idea a long time ago without being able to flesh it out in an interesting manner.

That said, I still love these blogs overall.

Roger Stern’s “Captain America Corps” alternate-future/timey-wimey mini-series of a few years ago brought back a version of the Ameridroid. Excellent story for long-time Cap fans.

Travis Stephens

July 10, 2014 at 4:24 am

The original story referenced in Avengers #4 clearly took place in April and in a latitude far too south for Cap to end up in an ice floe. So I understand the need for a story to explain how Cap ended up in a chunk of ice an ocean away. Of course no one thought people would be analyzing this story 40 years later when they wrote it. still it’s incongruous and Cap has bad luck with airplanes.

It really doesn’t make sense that Cap falls from an exploding plane off the coast of England and winds up in a block of ice off of Newfoundland. But then Don Glut’s story is just too ridiculous and his flashback Cap certainly doesn’t talk like someone who just saw his best buddy get killed. So it seems Marvel’s stuck with this until someone comes up with another retcon to fill in the blanks Lee & Kirby left. Maybe Marvel should hold a contest for who can come up with the best scenario for how Cap wound up in that block of ice. Maybe that Golden Age character Jack Frost was somehow involved.

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