Saturday, July 23, 2011

Captain America 101: Intro to Captain America

To commemorate the release of the movie, "Captain America: The First Avenger," what follows is a tale of homosexuality, drug abuse, gender reassignment, and alcoholism.

1. Captain America has been a werewolf.
Captain America #402-408

Oh, Capwolf. Such a terrible creation you were. You could usually expect much better from Mark Gruenwald; he must have lost a bet.

You would think that turning Cap into a werewolf would be intriguing, but lord have mercy, it's so poorly handled and has a gratuitous guest shot not only from Wolverine, but also Cable. Shoulda thrown in Punisher and Ghost Rider, and goddamn you'd have the best of the 1990s speculation plotting in one storyline.

Another unfortunate aspect to this story - designated as a six-part story - is that it needed a seventh chapter to wrap up. Considering the talent involved, this poor plotting is surprising.

Capwolf would return (sort of) in an alternate universe that appeared in the end of the mini "Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness." Apparently an alternate universe spawned from the idea, "What if Captain America remained a werewolf?" What if I didn't buy another issue of Captain America again, if that were the case?

2. Captain America has a gay best friend, and he's totally cool with it.
Captain America #270

Arnold Roth has a "roommate" named Michael who is kidnapped, and he needs Captain America's help to investigate. Apparently, whoever the mastermind is (it's either Zemo or the Red Skull ... during this time, the mastermind villains were rarely anyone but), utilizes the help of some purple monster made of spaghetti. Troma Studios' "Monster in the Closet" was less subtle.

3. Captain America is a drug addict.
Captain America #272-278

In the "Streets of Poison" storyline, Captain America is in a meth lab explosion, and amazingly the meth vapor attaches to his super soldier serum at the metabolic level. He still continues to investigate a drug-smuggling ring under the direction of the Kingpin, doped out of his mind. His solution, then, is to purge his system by way of blood transfusion of his super soldier serum; this leads to a philosophical discussion about whether or not the serum qualifies as a performance enhancing drug, much like anabolic steroids. With the serum out of his system, he spends the next few issues after the "Streets of Poison" storyline second guessing his abilities in the field.

This led to two interesting ret-cons:
First, it's discovered later that the reason why Cap didn't revert to a 4-F weakling like he was before Project: Rebirth is because the serum in his system is self-replicating. It doesn't deplete from his system, but rather it continues to replicate on a cellular level, meaning that despite even the most massive blood loss, his blood will always have the serum. Also, the serum wouldn't metabolize out of his system, as a regular drug would.

Second, the reason it works this way is because the serum isn't a "serum" at all but rather a virus. Yep, a virus. Like HIV.

So, now Captain America isn't a drug addict. He has Super-HIV.

Also, "Streets of Poison" was also originally slated as a six part mini, but it had to have a seventh "wrap-up" chapter.  This was before the "Man & Wolf" storyline that I mentioned before, but even at two misplotted storylines, someone's ass was on the line.  And this coming from someone who LOVED Mark Gruenwald's Cap run.

4. Captain America had a laser shield.
Captain America vol. 3, #6-22

More accurately, it was a "photonic" shield, whatever the fuck that means.

Cap loses his shield to the bottom of the ocean.  After a brief return of the triangular shield, SHIELD provides Cap with a "photonic light" shield, the science of which would probably give me a headache on par with trying to explain why a lightsaber stops at yay-high.

This shield, while obviously not ideal for ricocheting off the heads of multiple Nazis or supervillains in rapid succession, could be "fired" from a photonic light generating gauntlet.  Also, the photonic shield could be formed into the shape of multiple objects that would be ideal for combat, like a bo staff, or ... well, that's pretty much the only thing it was changed into, that I recall.

The shield was ill-received, and really, doesn't that make sense?  Besides, the old cartoon theme doesn't stand up ... "When Captain America SHOOTS his mighty shield ...?"  No.

5. Steve Rogers was replaced as Captain America by a dude named Jack Daniels ...
Captain America #332-350

Well, he wasn't immediately known as Jack Daniels.

There's this dude named "Super Patriot," who was basically an augmented pro wrestling persona of all-American boy John Walker.  When Captain America refused to accept that the "Captain America" persona was owned & trademarked by the US Government, who could then use Captain America for their own political needs, Steve Rogers quit to become "The Captain," who dressed the same, carried a Frisbee shield, and was dressed in the alternate colors of the Captain America outfit.

Walker, then, was supplanted in the Captain America uniform, making him the Glen Jacobs version of Diesel.  After Walker saw his family killed, he went crazy and made a play to kill as many people as he saw responsible.  This included his old tag team partners from the old wrestling federation he originally worked for, and then the members of the Commission on Superhuman Activities.  This put him in conflict with the Red Skull and ... you guessed it, the Captain, Steve Rogers.

Steve Rogers soundly defeated the former Super-Patriot in hand-to-hand combat and reclaimed the mantle of Captain America.  John Walker was arrested; he ultimately would turn up missing and presumed dead.  However, over at the west coast chapter of the Avengers, a guy looking for all the world like Steve Rogers' "Captain" persona - calling himself USAgent - shows up to join, claiming that he's a government liaison.  He gives his name as ... Jack Daniels.

So, yes, Jack Daniels was ultimately chosen over Johnny Walker by the editors & creative team of "Captain America."  What, was calling dude "Jim Beam" too blatant?

6. ... who was trained by the Taskmaster.
Captain America #334

Supervillain the Taskmaster - a villain with the surprisingly useful mutant ability of being able to mimic exactly any physical feat that he witnesses even once - is brought up from the Vault (Marvel's superhuman prison) to train Captain Newbie.  Seeing as how he's been able to witness Captain America's fighting style so much during his criminal escapades, he's fine-tuned Cap's fighting style into its own quasi-martial art form.

Granted, leave it to the dude who would go on to have not one but two names based on alcoholic refreshment to question whether or not the Taskmaster's attempts to train him included some way in which Taskmaster would train him improperly and make him vulnerable to the villains at large.  This apparently didn't occur to the government heads responsible for bringing Cap II up to speed.  That's your government at work.

7. Captain America has a German analogue.
Captain America #393

This would probably come as no surprise, as Marvel had a tendency to make sure a lot of other countries had their own national superhero symbol: Captain Britain (for jolly ol' England), Vanguard (of Canada), the Guardian (of Mother Russia).

Hauptmann Deutschland is an interesting case, however.  He is unquestionably patterned, in look and symbolism, after Captain America, an interesting decision since Cap was a major player in a war against Germany.  Incidentally, Hauptmann Deutschland would be renamed Vormund (German for "protector") by Marvel's German distributors, as they thought that Hauptmann Deutschland (who projected no Nazi connections whatsoever) was too reminiscent of Germany's less-than-illustrious past.

But most surprisingly, this character was not in some way linked to a plot by the Red Skull.  The Red Skull, a former high ranking Nazi officer, and presently and forever a Nazi sympathizer, who Marvel's German distributor must have very little problem with.

8. Captain America is as good an archaeologist as Indiana Jones.
Captain America #357-362

"The Bloodstone Hunt;" only, in my opinion, one of the best fucking Captain America stories of all time.

Grief-stricken child of trauma, Helmut Zemo wants to resurrect his father Heinrich, believing that it's destiny that he and his father are destined to rule the world side-by-side.  Foregoing the usual means of resurrection available in the Marvel Universe - magic, the Cosmic Cube, Scarlet Witchery, deep-freezing in arctic waters, etc. - Zemo the Junior tries to track down the jewel that was once embedded in the chest of Ulysses Bloodstone, an immortal superhuman who had survived centuries.  Cap gets wind of this, and he naturally tries to stop Zemo from fulfilling his plan.

This storyline has a lot of just great stuff going for it: the pairing of Diamondback and Cap, which would lead to Batman/ Catwoman levels of potential romantic trappings; the appearance of Batroc the Leaper, as well as some of his cronies; an appearance by Marvel standby The Living Mummy(!); and, the first appearance of Cap's greatest contemporary badass villain, Crossbones.

Plus, it's a six-part storyline that wraps up in six parts.  How novel!

9. Captain America's middle name is Grant.

No, not "Captain Grant America," I'm talking about alter ego Steven Grant Rogers.

Captain Grant America; is that like Jesus H. Christ?

10. Captain America is Weapon I.

The Project: Rebirth program that Steve Rogers, 4-F Army reject that volunteered for the super soldier experiment in WWII, was developed within the confines of a greater subsidary, the Weapons Plus program.  Weapons Plus was a super soldier R&D operation that resulted out of a collaboration between American, British, and German scientists, with the aims to create soldiers that would fight the wars of the future.

The Weapons Plus program renumbered with each different project approach, so there's been a Weapon II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, and X.  Yep, Wolverine (and Sabretooth & Deadpool) are linked to Captain America due to their involvement in the Weapons Plus program.

Which also means that what we are allowed to believe, even today, is pronounced "Weapon EX" should more accurately be acknowledged as "Weapon TEN."  But, then, they are the "X-Men," not the "10-Men," and lord knows that if Marvel could brand every-damn-thing with an "X" they would.

11. Captain America has had a lot of girlfriends ... none hotter than Bernie Rosenthal ...

'Cause let's face it: Bernie was one hot Jew.

12. ... even though he was getting it on the regular from Diamondback, former member of the villainous Serpent Society.

Purple hair notwithstanding, Diamondback was a goer, eh?  Eh?  Say no more!

She practically threw buckets of pussy at Cap, for issue after issue, but his chaste and pure character wouldn't allow him to nail her criminal booty ass-first to the Avengers bedpost.  Unfortunately, she just sorta faded away from Cap's life in favor of boring ass Sharon Carter, agent of SHIELD and daughter of some lady capped bagged & tagged in the 30's.  Which is waaay creepier than fucking a chick that hangs around dudes who name themselves after snakes.

13. Speaking of women, Captain America was almost turned into a woman.
Captain America #387-392

Featuring more supervillainesses in six issues than probably deserve to be in 200 issues of any random comic book ever, the "Superia Strategem" was alternately the worst storyline I'd ever read (for all the right reasons) or the best storyline (for all the wrong reasons).

As I'm trying to do this entire entry off the memories I have of the storylines and facts involved with Captain America, I'm trying not to just hit up Wikipedia to present these things to you.  So, that said, I can only sum up the "Strategem" storyline thusly: A chick named Superia gathers a bunch of female supervillains on a boat for some reason that I totally forget, and Captain America and Paladin sneak onto the boat to thwart this nebulous plan, only to be captured and placed in stasis to prepare them to be turned into women.

To be turned into women.


And, now remember, this was shortly after they turned Cap into a fucking werewolf; when I got this story issue by issue, I thought, "Surely they won't," but when you've been Capwolf, I figured the door was open for almost anything.

Thank god Paladin & Cap escaped.  However, the problem then became, you can't have Captain fucking America running around in his quite distinctive uniform, and Paladin would stand out pretty easily as well.  The solution:  They steal a couple of costumes from two of the villainesses and parade around the boat unrecognized, the philosophy being that their manly physiques wouldn't necessarily stand out amongst some of the decidedly more bulked up ladies on that boat, like Anaconda, Titania and Poundcakes ("Poundcakes?").

14. After Captain America was shot and killed, they dumped his ass back into the Arctic Ocean.
Captain America: Fallen Son #5

Two things to remember:
1) Captain America was found by the Avengers frozen in a block of ice, floating in the Arctic Ocean.
2) Captain America, for a time, was shot and killed and remained dead for a while, following the events of the "Civil War" storyline.

The original plan was to bury Cap in Arlington Cemetery.  Fucking A, right?

Not for Namor and Tony Stark, the latter of whom started the "Civil War" bullshit in the first place.  So Iron Man, Wasp, and Ant-Man, along with Namor (who really should have known better), take the body of Steve Rogers (being that the body in Arlington Cemetery is a decoy) to the Arctic Circle and dump the casket into the water where he was found in suspended animation, with the idea that he was "at peace" when he was frozen.

First off, how would he be any more at peace in the Arctic Ocean than he would be in Arlington?

Second, given that he was in suspended animation and not dead, his mind was still functioning quite well, seeing as how, when he was picked up by the Avengers and thawed out, he bolted upright and screamed in anguish for his dead partner Bucky, who's death he witnessed and was presumably constantly dreaming about while he was frozen.

At peace, my ass.  Why not just cremate him, then dump the ashes in the trash?

15. Captain America was a wrestler.
Captain America #271

And it wasn't for Marvel's upscale Universal Class Wrestling Federation, either.

Captain America is investigating a steroid distribution scheme, and his trail has led to this seedy wrestling organization with over-the-top characters (which, in a universe with Dr. Doom and Wolverine, is saying something) and beefed-up athletes.  He's prepared to assist a witness in testifying about the steroid ring, when a character named "Mister X" kills him in the middle of the ring.

I actually loved this comic when I was a kid, mainly because it had pro wrestling in it, but two things stand out from this story:
First, there's an interesting bit where Cap lectures that professional wrestlers are role models and their morality tales project codes to live by.  (That this storyline was going on near the time of the WWF steroid scandal perhaps invalidates Cap's point ... and I wonder if Chris Benoit read this issue??)

Second, "Mister X" uses this move that, even as a kid, I knew was not a practical finisher by any means.  Basically, X springboards onto the top rope on one side of the ring, then leaps to the adjacent top rope, then the next, then the next - "gaining incredible momentum," to paraphrase the announcer - then delivers a double-stomp to the spine of his opponent.  It's not that the move is impossible to do; it's that I can't believe that a move that exposes the BIZNESS~! in such a blatant fashion would be allowed main event exposure.  (To concede this argument, I point the reader in the direction of Petey Williams, former multi-time TNA X-Division champion and originator of the Canadian Destroyer ... the goddamn Canadian Destroyer ... sigh ...)

16. There was once a letters page called "Let's Rap with Cap."

Words cannot express ...

Up next: Captain America 102: Advanced Captain America!

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