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Abandoned Love: Bucky Was Shot and Replaced as Captain America’s Partner?

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 a little-known dramatic shift in Captain America’s status quo…

It’s funny, people often think of dramatic shifts in the status quo as being a somewhat modern invention, a post Silver Age idea, but as we will see from this week’s column, even back in the Golden Age, comic book writers were trying “shocking” changes to the status quo.

A few months back, I detailed how Stan Lee eventually dealt with the end of World War II in Captain America’s comic. Steve Rogers came back to the United States and began teaching at a local public school. Former government operative Betsy Ross (who appeared in Captain America Comics #1) showed up here and there.

This only lasted for only seven issues before Marvel (they were not yet actually called Marvel, of course) decided to try a new approach for the comic, which was in a sales slump due to the general late 1940s superhero sales slump and likely a more specific lack of interest in Captain America outside of the context of World War II.

So in 1948’s Captain America #66, Bill Woolfolk, Syd Shores and Ken Bald gave us a shocking change to Captain America’s status quo.

First, Bucky is shot in battle!

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Then Cap, oddly enough, decides he really can’t work without a partner, leading to quite a change…

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This was almost certainly part of Marvel’s big push for female superheroes in 1948, which I discussed in an old Comic Book Legends Revealed here.

Golden Girl was Cap’s partner for the rest of Cap’s series, which wasn’t that long, as the book ended as a superhero title with #74.

#71 had Bucky show up to confirm he was okay and then officially shuffle him out of the book…

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The series ended for good in 1949. Five years later, Marvel decided to revive Captain America as an anti-Communist hero and in this story (drawn by John Romita) in #76, see how Betsy Ross’ tenure and Bucky’s absence have been completely abandoned…

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Later Marvel writers established that it was the Patriot who was the Captain America whose Bucky was shot and replaced by Golden Girl. That version of Cap ended up marrying Golden Girl (there is a great Patriot mini-series by Karl Kesel and the Breitweisers that is well worth reading).

That’s it for this installment, if you have a suggestion for a future edition of Abandoned Love, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

38 Comments

“Then Bucky is…” “Bucky Barnes!”

Ah, comics.

So was the redhead Betsy Ross in that last story retconned to be a different character from the blonde who was Golden Girl? Or has it just been left as an unexplained continuity error?

Anyway, it’s impressive that a 1940s comic was okay with giving Cap a female sidekick who didn’t seem to stint in the action department. Although the female costumes back then weren’t much more practical than they are today.

Ever since I learned about them I have been interested in Marvel’s late Golden Age heroins, Golden Girl, Sun Girl and Namorita. I hope the Masterworks series continue through those stories. Namorita at least made it to the Atlas era, and shows up in the Atlas Era Heroes series.

If you’re into those gals, check out Agents of Atlas for more Namora and Venus,
Avengers 1950 for more Blonde Phantom, and the current volume of
New Warriors for a new iteration of Sun Girl! And Brian’s right–the Patriot mini series is excellent!

I read an interesting fan theory, many years ago, that suggested that the Betsy Ross who was Golden Girl was actually Sersi. They used some comments she made during Gru’s run as support.

Yes absolutely recommend the Patriot mini too

Patriot was good stuff. I suppose, in many ways, Betsy Ross set up Cap’s later work with Sharon Carter. As for the costume? Well, at least she doesn’t appear to be teetering on high heels. Liberty Belle and the Timely Miss America seemed to get about the only practical costumes, of the Golden Age ladies. Maybe Miss Fury. Bullet Girl. Let’s see, who else?

Regarding Bucky, I’ve always wondered if there was any concern over stating that he fought alongside Cap in WW2 when they did the short-lived ’50s revival.Cap’s postwar comeback occurred in 1953. Hence, even if Bucky was only ten years old in 1941, he would still be around 22 in 1953, which seems a tad long in the tooth for a kid sidekick.

I love that scene in Betsy’s kitchen while Cap is trying to see if Betsy would make a suitable partner for him. “Say, Betsy, ever go in for athletics back in school?”
“Why, yes — I won the women’s hundred meter dash, was a champion weight-lifter, and also did boxing and wrestling. Just typical girl stuff. Why do you ask?”

This story reminds me a bit of Max Allan Collins’ post-Crisis explanation for Dick Grayson retiring as Robin — he was shot by the Joker and replaced by Jason Todd.

Regarding Bucky, I’ve always wondered if there was any concern over stating that he fought alongside Cap in WW2 when they did the short-lived ’50s revival.Cap’s postwar comeback occurred in 1953. Hence, even if Bucky was only ten years old in 1941, he would still be around 22 in 1953, which seems a tad long in the tooth for a kid sidekick.

Readers rarely stuck around for more than a few years back in those days. It’s doubtful that many of the kids reading in 1953 were even alive back in 1941, and hardly anybody would’ve been clamoring for the characters to age in real time. You don’t see people asking that of Charlie Brown, do you?

It’s still funny how then they could just casually wipe out an entire run of stories like that in Captain America.

I didn’t mean to hit publish that soon….

The funniest thing beyond just ignoring those issues is that the “new” Betsy Ross is a reporter who likes the superhero but thinks little of his secret identity. No comic has ever done THAT before! It’s too bad because the Golden Girl storyline was actually an interesting new direction.

John Trumbull:”Readers rarely stuck around for more than a few years back in those days. It’s doubtful that many of the kids reading in 1953 were even alive back in 1941, and hardly anybody would’ve been clamoring for the characters to age in real time. You don’t see people asking that of Charlie Brown, do you?”

Yeah, but 1973 Charlie Brown stories didn’t make in-panel references to what Charlie Brown was doing during the Cuban Missile Crisis.Charlie Brown always exists in a timeless now. In the ’50s Cap stories, we are repeatedly told that this is the same Cap and Bucky who fought in WW2. Heck, in YOUNG MEN # 24, there is even a scene where Bucky’s classmates (i.e., the kids who are his chronological peers) talk about how their fathers used to mention Captain America.

It’s quite strange.

Regarding Bucky’s age,

Interestingly, they did retcon Toro. In the ’53 revival we are told that Toro did not fight alongside the Human Torch during WW2. Toro did not team-up with the Torch until 1949.

Readers rarely stuck around for more than a few years back in those days. It’s doubtful that many of the kids reading in 1953 were even alive back in 1941, and hardly anybody would’ve been clamoring for the characters to age in real time. You don’t see people asking that of Charlie Brown, do you?

True, but while I agree with you in general, I think that this instance is SLIGHTLY different because they’re so specifically tied to the events of the war. But yeah, I think as a whole no one worried about stuff like that at the time.

Interesting how sensibilities change. As recently as in the 1980s in real life there was considerable resistance to having women in the military as combatants. Wonder Woman joined the Justice Society early, but literally as a glorified secretary. And Golden Girl needs silly references to Captain America’s costume and must be trained for days before seeing action against common thugs despite being freakingly well qualified beforehand.

I don’t know what’s better, the smoking doctor, or the “few days” of training.

I’ve always thought it was funny that no one realized that Bucky Barnes, one of a small group of people closely associated with Captain America, was, in reality, Captain America’s sidekick, Bucky! I mean, not only did that costume not hide his identity very well, he actually used his real name as his “code name”. Some of the dialogue from the Golden Girl story above makes me think that the writer was well aware of this problem, too.

And remember, as unlikely as Golden Girl’s origin story was, it was still a lot more reasonable than Bucky’s origin story had been…

I wish Golden Girl had a bit more in the way of a skirt or pants. That costume almost looks like something from the 1990s.

Sun Girl had a decent costume, if you can overlook the heels.

I love Sun Girl’s costume- it’s got that retro Sci-Fi look (okay, it wasn’t retro at the time). I was very disappointed by the origin Roy Thomas retroactively gave her in 1990 (or whenever that was), and I’m usually a big Roy Thomas fan. Just based on her appearance, she should have had a more interesting background.

To be fair, there were probably a lot of kids called Bucky back then… Same with “Robin.” It was picked because it was more or less just a typical boy’s name at the time.

What bugged me was in the later episodes of the Green Hornet TV series, where the villains were aware that the Hornet’s valet was named Kato. Given that that’s the name of Britt Reid’s valet who’s also Asian, that would be kind of a giveaway. In earlier episodes, people just called him “the Green Hornet’s man,” but later on, the writers got sloppy.

interstesting that marvel even with a character as old as cap could just decide to later after establishing cap had another partner while bucky was recovering from injuries with golden girl suddenly decide as part of their reboot make it so the adventures never existed and instead golden girl was some one differant with patriot as her partner and future husband instead .at least they kept golden girl and not had her vanish to limbo and like she did not exists at all just not as caps fill in for bucky

Skipping to the earlier Captain America column, I notice the reference to Steve being a teacher before he was drafted. It seems to me most later accounts of the origin show him as a teenager, so wouldn’t that be another Abandoned detail?

And one more question, how is the retcon actually acknowledging the stories? It seems to ignore them completely.

we can talk while i finish these dishes. neat.

So when did the stripes on Cap’s costume stop going all the way around his torso? I thought that that was a ’50’s thing but we see here it started earlier.

Did she have anything to do with the later Golden Girl character from the Invaders or is this just a case like Miss America and America Chavez where there’s really no connection?

That Golden Girl costume is pretty darn cool. And the artwork on that first story is really good for late 1940s comic books.

In the early 1970’s Captain America & The Falcon #’s 153-156, they addressed the ‘inconsistency’ of Cap & Bucky disappearing at the end of WWII as told in Avengers #4 when Cap reappeared after being “frozen in ice for 20 years”. They did this by having the Cap & Bucky of the 1950’s reappear in modern times with the belief that modern day Cap was a fake, not knowing that he was in fact the original. The Cap & Bucky of the 50’s were the one’s ‘fighting Communists’ as above but were both apparently put in deep freeze by the then government, because they ‘went insane attacking anyone remotely un-american’ but subsequently freed by a disenchanted government employee in 1973. The whole thing was explained in issue #155 & finished in #156 with a confrontation in Miami Florida which real the Cap, with Falcon & Sharon Carter won.
They’ve embellished this further retconning it by having both Spirit Of ’76 and then the Patriot takeover with a new Bucky after Cap’s disappearance. They even explained in Cap & Falcon issue # 217 (from memory ..correct me if I’m wrong) that Cap was investigating his roots as Steve Roger and in discussion with Iron man happened upon the old Avengers submarine. Playing an audio tape of the time Cap was found by the Avengers, he heard himself mentioning “falling into the water off Newfoundland” after the drone plane explosion killed Bucky (paraphrasing here). No one at the time picked up on this strange inconsistency. Further investigation by Cap leads him to a much older Lyle Dekker a ‘Nazi spy’ he had faced before, who revealed that Cap had had a further adventure after the drone plane exploded. After he fell into the English Channel Cap was retrieved from the water by some scuba divers who worked for Dekker, taking him to Dekker’s hideout in Newfoundland. After revealing a plot about “nerve gas to be sprayed over New York (or somewhere)” Cap escapes in the plane with the gas cannisters, but is shot down over the water by Dekker’s heat ray gun. The drums ruptured spreading the gas inside the plane which crashed into the water below. The gas somehow had the effect of “preserving” Cap, maybe due to the super soldier formula inside his bloodstream. He eventually floated, got frozen in ice and was found by the Avengers 20 years later. The rest is history.

Yeah, but 1973 Charlie Brown stories didn’t make in-panel references to what Charlie Brown was doing during the Cuban Missile Crisis.Charlie Brown always exists in a timeless now.

^^ Exactly my point. If more superhero comics operated like this, they wouldn’t be the “need” for today’s near-constant retcons, reboots & replacements. Batman doesn’t need a half-dozen different Robins if you just let Dick Grayson stay a kid.

And one more question, how is the retcon actually acknowledging the stories? It seems to ignore them completely.

By acknowledge that they did happen, I just mean that no story specifically said that they DIDN’T happen (which is what Abandoned an’ Forsaked is). Of course, in this instance, later stories explained that the Golden Girl stuff DID happen, just with a different Cap.

“Exactly my point. If more superhero comics operated like this, they wouldn’t be the “need” for today’s near-constant retcons, reboots & replacements. Batman doesn’t need a half-dozen different Robins if you just let Dick Grayson stay a kid.”

But a funny animal strip can get away with this more easily than an adventure story. Batman was never really timeless. His comics initially were pretty much set in post-Depression gangster land, just like James Bond was initially set in the Cold War 1950s.

A certain level of retcon is inevitable, if you don’t want to either age the characters or stuck them forever in a specific decade.

John Trumbull:” Exactly my point. If more superhero comics operated like this, they wouldn’t be the “need” for today’s near-constant retcons, reboots & replacements. Batman doesn’t need a half-dozen different Robins if you just let Dick Grayson stay a kid.”

Sure, but that still makes the decision during Cap’s ’50s revival to make Bucky a WW2 veteran rather odd.

In What If? Vol. 1, No. 44, a world is imagined in which the original Cap remains frozen and the ’50s cap is released in the 1950s, somehow managing to transform the U.S. into a fascist nation. The ’50s Cap sports a supporting team that includes his Bucky and a model who goes by Golden Girl. When the real Cap finally returns and confronts the ’50s Cap (with Spider-Man and “Snap” Wilson by his side), Golden Girl runs away in panic.

“Then Bucky is…”

“Bucky Barnes, Right!”

I made a comment about that idea before. That Bucky’s code name/secret identity is “Bucky”. Especially when they were in the Army and sneaking off to do their super heroics. The “Gee Clark just missed being here when Superman showed up” was bad enough, but “Where did Steve Rogers and Bucky disappear to, while Captain America and Bucky….. Hey wait a minute….”.

I love that scene in Betsy’s kitchen while Cap is trying to see if Betsy would make a suitable partner for him. “Say, Betsy, ever go in for athletics back in school?”

“Say, Betsy, do you like movies about gladiators?”

I get the impression that people in the Timely Universe weren’t all that bright. I don’t believe there were really that many perpetual 10 year year olds named Bucky and that old spirit mask isn’t really that much of a disguise. I’d also bet there were at least a few readers in the ’50s who shook their head at apparently 10 year old Bucky in 1954 being described as a “veteran” of a war that ended nearly 9 years before. Uh, so Cap brought a toddler into a warzone as his “partner”? Maybe just part of the reason the revived Cap didn’t catch on.

Logan: “That Bucky’s code name/secret identity is “Bucky”. Especially when they were in the Army and sneaking off to do their super heroics. The “Gee Clark just missed being here when Superman showed up” was bad enough, but “Where did Steve Rogers and Bucky disappear to, while Captain America and Bucky….. Hey wait a minute….”.”

What If? Vol 1 #44 was one of the first comics I read and I think the story is still great today. I know it was redone in What If vol 2 but the original is still the best.

Some of my favorite moments: J Jonah Jameson is portrayed as using his newspaper to secretly assist the underground resistance and as having helped hide Spider-Man from the government. My battered copy also has the blue parts of Spidey’s costume in black, a possibly accidentally change that was pretty cool. And of course, Cap’s speech at the end of the story as the Second American Revolution erupts in the ghettos outside. Find this comic if you can.

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