Thursday, May 17, 2012

Comic School Review: Captain America #1 (1941!)

It's a slow news day, so why don't we slide all the way back to the heady year of 1941 when a war-torn world was given new hope by the patriotic fists of self-appointed policeman/pugilist Captain America! USA! USA!

Written by Joe Simon and drawn by the always fantastic (except for the forties) Jack Kirby, Captain America #1 was a sixty plus page monster packed with FOUR Cap stories, a tale of Thor's son Hurricane, and Tuk the idiot Cave Boy. I'm only going to cover two of the Cap stories, but if you want to read the rest then you need to go no further than Comixology, where they can be had for a mere $1.99.

We'll discover that Cap's origin is actually surprisingly close to the one shown in the recent film, and that the Red Skull's ridiculous real origin couldn't be further away! All this and more (or less) after the jump!

I've been worried that Chris Evans kind of looks like a goofy douche in costume, in the otherwise slick Avengers movie. Then I read Captain America #1 and realised that he's pretty much right on target:

And if that's how things are in the comics then it MUST be OK!

But let's not skip too far ahead. As our first story opens a highly suspicious America could be headed for the shitter because foreign devils (Germans) are joining the army in disguise and causing malicious sabotage. That might seem a little far-fetched, but not as much as when America is described as "peace-loving". Guess that's why they call them "funnybooks", huh? 

"Spotted with spies" the army is "useless" so it's natural that Washington decides to put their faith in the complete opposite of an army, i.e. "one guy". The F.B.I. has a plan, and it may just involve one of those comic book heroes that everyone is talking about.

Now, this is where the comic actually veers pretty close to the movie. We get no back story on the puny Steve Rogers, but the army men do enter a curio shop, just like in the film, (the women who "runs" it even has a gun in a drawer under the counter) and they head through a secret passage to a laboratory below. They then watch through a viewing window as Dr. Reinstein (Erskine in the film) administer a serum to a hideously deformed Steve. Note that Jack Kirby has also used computer imagery to replace Steve's buff physique with this malnourished weakling. Good one, Jack!

Although he's not contained in a machine, Steve bulks up immediately and Reinstein stares shocked at Steve's hypnotizing nipples. Reinstein gives him the name Captain America and immediately tasks Steve with "safeguarding our shores". All the shores? Unless he's Santa Claus or Jesus, this is going to be a problem.

Not that it matters, because just like in the movie a hidden spy in the audience whips out a gun and blasts the shit out of Reinstein, who drops the remaining serum thereby destroying it's pectorial pumping secrets forever. But he doesn't run like that pussy in the film. Instead he starts shooting the other observers until Steve burst through the glass and starts practising his patriotic punches. Steve effectively murders him by knocking him into some electrical equipment where he fries like a pig. Does Steve feel guilty?

Now there's the America I know and love!

So the whole world is pretty thrilled that they know have a muscular man to protect them from tanks and the like, and pipsqueak Bucky Barnes - the army "mascot" - is the most thrilled of all. He quickly becomes infatuated with the Cap and gets the shock of his strange little life when:

I hoped that Steve would be a man and tan Bucky's hide, and perhaps worse,  but this was the naive forties when young America still had a conscience about killing kids. So he has a far more cunning plan, immediately forcing Bucky to be his partner and taking him out on dangerous missions where I guess he's hoping he'll get shot. Then no one will ever find out that saucy Steve is really the Cap. Unless they recognise the entire bottom half of his face. Or the fact that he's 50% taller than the average man.

The story is then cut short and we're told to send 10 cents to the Cap to get a badge and membership card. It sounds like a good deal, but in 1940 10 cents could buy a family car.

But do not fret! We still have one more story to go. I promised to tell you the origin of the villainous Red Skull!

In his civvies, Steve is reluctant to leave the side of the Major who has received an ominous card from the Red Skull. But the Major will no abide such poppy cock, no doubt believing that a red skull is about as likely as a blue cat or a purple pineapple, so he bids Steve farewell and settles down for an intense night of reading and pipe smoking.

But holy shit, you should have listened, Major! Now everyone pretend we're at a pantomime and at the count of three yell out: "HE'S BEHIND YOU!" Ready? 1... 2... 3!

Okay, so in the movie the Red Skull was a dapper guy, with cunning schemes, limitless resources, dangerous weapons, and a sharp jacket. In the comic Red Skull wears an old bathrobe, featuring a not-so-subtle embroidered swastika, and climbs in your window - alone - and chokes the shit out of you. 

"Look at death! Look at death!" chants the Skull as he crushes the Major's smoke-filled windpipe. It's an interesting M.O., in fact I don't even think this Red Skull has a home. He just hangs out on the windowsill, even when the cops arrive:

So Cap decides to go Skull huntin' and ditches a churlish Bucky who foolishly decides to do some hunting of his own. Trouble magnet that he is, he winds up captured by some of Red Skull's tough-talking thugs and is used for bait to lure the Cap. Cap turns up but almost takes a crap when the Red Skull escapes yet again, this time through a hidden passage. 

The next day at army camp, Steve watches as a sabotaged plane blows up. This seems like a bizarre diversion which has nothing to do with the Red Skull... or does it? Regardless, Mr. Maxon of the aircraft corporation is mighty sad. This also seems unimportant... or is it? Time will tell. 

Now it's the General's turn to go home and receive a card from the Red Skull at he also gets choked like a bitch. It turns out that the Red Skull may not have a fancy car, weapons, or coat, but he does have a handy notepad:

He then turns the page and writes: "Bread. Milk. Eggs. Peanut butter." The page after that is a list of girls that he'd kiss if he had any lips.

This time though the Cap arrives on the scene (a little too late to save the General mind you) and Cap and Skull get in a fight. Astoundingly super soldier Steve is downed when the Skull cracks him World Wrestling Federation style with a handy chair. They then have a really awkward moment:

Bucky shows up just before things get really dark, and literally kicks Red Skull in the ass. This provides the opportunity Steve needs and he pops Skull in the jaw, only to discover...

WTF!? You got your Scooby Doo in my Captain America! And Scooby Doo hadn't even been born yet!

So it was sad old Maxon all along? And he was stabbing his victims with a hypodermic needle to scare them to death? And he destroyed his own plane to try and "lick this country"? Wait... how did sad old man Maxon beat super soldier Steve in a physical fight! That's embarrassing! He might be on his way to prison but wait until he tells all the guys what a pussy Captain America is! Unless...

Cap ain't saying shit. And then he jumps out the window.

And that is the beginning AND the end of the first Red Skull! Anti-climactic, huh? Cap goes back to his tent and smokes a pipe. 


1 comment:

  1. Good comics!!! And that is the beginning AND the end of the first Red Skull! Anti-climactic, huh? Cap goes back to his tent and smokes a pipe.

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