Wednesday, September 21, 2016


This year marks the 75th anniversary of one of the greatest characters in the history of comics, Captain America.  In Cap's honor—and in honor of his creators, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby—here's an essay that originally appeared here back in 2011 (and that first appeared in Robert G. Weiner's book Captain America and the Struggle of the Superhero).  Enjoy!


The first time I ever laid eyes on Captain America was on the cover of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #13.  It’s a tribute to the character, and the man who drew that cover, Cap's co-creator Jack Kirby, that the image has remained lodged in my memory and imagination ever since.  The Marvel covers of the era were—in contrast to their streamlined and sedate DC counterparts—gaudy and garish, crammed full of copy:  simultaneously cheap, raw and incredibly vital.  Cap’s costume—the stars and stripes, the fat A on his forehead—was equally garish, even by super hero standards; and the look in his eyes...well, the guy seemed a little crazy.

I had no idea who Captain America was.  Despite the fact that the cover copy proclaimed Cap and his young partner, Bucky, “the overwhelming stars of the Golden Age of Comics,” I’d never heard of them.  Even the phrase “Golden Age” was new to me.  To my ten year old mind, any comics that existed before I was born were as ancient and unfathomable as an Egyptian tomb.  Which, of course, made the character seem bizarre and appealing.  Add in that dynamic Kirby artwork, with Cap—in an impossible, but somehow believable, pose—dominating the scene, and I just had to read that story.  Read it?  I devoured it.

Flash forward fifteen or so years.  I’m brand new to the comic book business, having written a number of stories for the DC anthology titles, and just getting my foot in the door at Marvel Comics—where editor-in-chief Jim Shooter hands me an assignment.  “There’s a new Captain America TV movie coming out,” he says, “and we want to do a tie in.  Come up with a story.”  I’d seen the first Cap TV movie—let’s just say it was disappointing and leave it at that—but I dutifully set to work, weaving Cap, his long-time enemy, the Red Skull, and real life actor Reb Brown into a story that, I hoped, was more than just a cheesy TV cash-in.  By the time I’d finished the plot outline, someone at Marvel came to his senses and Reb Brown was removed from the story, along with all references to the movie.  I was told to rework the story as a three-parter for the monthly Cap comic, which I did:  it finally saw print in Captain America #s  261—263.

The story wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination—in fact, the opening sequence, which featured Steve Rogers getting a little drunk with his buddies, was a major blunder—but it did get me a regular gig writing Cap’s adventures.  (You can read this early effort, warts and all, in the Captain America vs. The Red Skull collection.)  Working primarily with Mike Zeck—the starting point of a fruitful collaboration that would reach its peak seven years later with our Spider-Man saga Kraven’s Last Hunt—and British superstar Paul Neary (with some terrific fill-in work from the amazing Sal Buscema), I got to spend the next three years exploring the life, times and psyche of one of the great American icons. 

I’d been a loyal Captain America reader, of course—with a special fondness for the Lee-Kirby, Englehart, Gerber and Stern-Byrne eras—but I can’t say that Cap was a major god in my comic book pantheon:  I enjoyed the stories immensely, but, to my mind, Cap was no Silver Surfer, Superman or Doctor Strange.  Of course reading about a character and writing that character are two very different experiences—and the deeper I submerged myself in Steve Rogers’ world, the more I appreciated Captain America:  not so much the icon as the man.  In costume, Rogers was larger-than-life:  “the whole country—squeezed into one pair of pants.”  (That line, spoken about theater legend George M. Cohan, is from Yankee Doodle Dandy—one of the great movie musicals—and it describes Cap The Icon better than I ever could.)  I was more intrigued by the person behind the mask.  Rogers—to dip into movie lore once more—was the George Bailey of super heroes:  a simple, honest man of inherent decency, who always struggled to do the right thing—no matter how difficult it was.  He wasn’t concerned with ideologies or the politics of the moment.  He was concerned with the American  Dream.  He believed, to the core of his being, in what America could be.  Rogers was certainly well aware of the many times the United States had failed to live up to its own ideals—and those failures disheartened him—but he never gave up believing because his faith and hope weren’t invested in any elected official or political party.  They were invested in the spiritual core of America:  something deep and true and unchanging that lay beneath world affairs and shifting political currents.

To my mind, Captain America’s greatest power wasn’t the strength he gained from the super-soldier formula:  it was the depth of his compassion, his caring.  His belief in the revolutionary power of simple human decency. 

The nature of the character dictated that the stories I wrote explored issues larger than the latest hero-villain slugfest.  The canvas had to be huge—encompassing action, psychology and broader political, spiritual and philosophical issues.  Some of my attempts failed spectacularly, some succeeded—but I thought I’d finally hit my stride during my last year on the book:  an ongoing saga involving Captain America’s final battle with the Red Skull that was to reach its turning point with a double-sized Captain America #300 in which the Skull dies and Cap, after (at the time) forty-plus years of solving problems with his fists, begins to wonder if there’s another way to live his ideals and change the world.  (Despite my love of the super hero genre, the inherent—and often mindless—violence in super hero comics has always disturbed me.  This story was my way of attacking the issue head on.)  In the proposal I presented to my editor—the late, great Mark Gruenwald—Cap was, ultimately, going to disavow violence as a tool for change—essentially rejecting the fundamental super hero mindset—and start working for world peace.  (Keep in mind that this was at the height of the Reagan “evil empire”/cold war period, so it was a pretty radical idea for its day.)  There was much more to the story—including Steve Rogers’ apparent assassination by his then-partner, Nomad, and the emergence of a new Captain America, a Native American named Jesse Black Crow—and I was eager to spend the next year exploring these challenging issues.

Gruenwald approved my proposal, I wrote the double-sized Cap #300 then went ahead and plotted the next two or three stories in the arc; but Jim Shooter, hearing what we were planning, shot the idea down.  Jim thought my idea violated Cap’s character, that Steve Rogers would never do the things I was suggesting.  Captain America #300 was then cut down to a normal-sized issue and substantially rewritten, I think by Jim himself—or perhaps Gruenwald under Jim’s direction. (Which is why I used a fake name in the credits and immediately quit the book.)  At the time I was angry but, in retrospect, I totally understand Shooter’s POV.  Jim—a brilliant editor who really helped me along in the early days of my career—was the custodian of the Marvel Universe:  he had to protect the characters as he understood them.  Me?  I think my Cap saga would have been an emotional and thought-provoking piece of pop fiction.   

(This idea—a long-time super hero finally realizing that violence is a dead end—obsessed me, in various forms, from the moment I conceived it in l983.  The concept evolved considerably over the years and finally saw print in 2009 as The Life and Times of Savior 28:  for my money the best superhero story I've ever written.)

My journey with Captain America ended then—but the character remains as fascinating as he seemed when I first glimpsed him on that Sgt. Fury cover more than forty years ago.  Some people view Cap as an anachronism, a throwback to another era.  Worse, some see him as a symbol of American Imperialism.  They miss the point.  Captain America, the costumed hero, is the embodiment of all that’s best and brightest in the concept of America:  a concept that transcends the nation that birthed it.  Steve Rogers, the man, represents everyone who seeks a better world for himself and his neighbors; who strives to live a decent, compassionate life.  That makes him one of us—all of us, no matter our country of origin—and insures that the character will still be with us, in all his gaudy, vibrant glory, for decades to come.

©copyright 2016 J.M. DeMatteis


  1. A beautiful tribute to a man who is a hero and who also happens to be a super-hero (and, I will totally agree with your estimation of Savior 28. That story still keeps giving!)

    1. Thanks, Mike. You got here fast from Twitter! : ) SAVIOR 28 is near and dear to my heart, so those kind words mean the world to me.

  2. One look and I remembered it. I did get you to re-post it though. It would seem my sphere of influence ids growing. That's unsettling.

    I love Cap, but for a quick thought...

    Cap's greatest weakness is one of the real world. Politics. Now Everyone from Lee, to simon and Kiby, to Englehart, Brubaker, Dematteis, Waid and Gruenwald have done a great job of it.

    Every once in a while though, a writer forgets about the fascinating character beneath the cowl, and use Cap as a prop to make a statement about America.

    The of course there is teh timing issue, like when Cap was shown digging through the rubble of the World Trade Center, and giving an eternal monologue about why all middle easterners shouldn't be blamed as he stops a hate crime.

    All this some what undercut by the fact that the book was released 7-8 months later, when most Americans kind of wanted a less in your face look at it. What with 7 months of talking about it under their belt already.

    Really a shame. It really was a pair of touching scenes, that probably would have got more play if they had come out when the Spidey 9-11 issue was. AS much as I enjoy Straczynski's run, that issue is not a favorite of mine... and was not as well done as the Cap one.


    1. Wouldn't have posted it without your reminder, Jack, so thanks!

      No problem talking about the broader points of what does, and doesn't, make for a great Cap story, but let's back away from criticizing specific storylines, because that becomes a critique of specific creators. That's fine for a review site, but not here.

      Now I've really got to get to work on those Star Trek and Silver Surfer posts!

    2. I wasn't criticizing any specific story lines. I think the post-9/11 story was very well done.

      Its just that the nature of the beast has it coming out at a bad time.

      It wasn't anyone's direct fault. Jurgens was wrapping up his run, so those issues had to come out first. Then there was the time it takes to produce a comic.

      I think 2001-2002 was when they still took usually 6 months to put a comic out.

      Again, it was a very well done issue, and of course you would have Captain America comment on 9/11.

      It was more a comment on the problematic nature of the medium, and how difficult it is to be TRULY timely(pun unintended).

      In think that is why for specific events writers usually go for allegory.

      The scene where Steve is digging in rubble trying to get to someone living, only to find that they have died, the part where he blocks a knife with his shield while people try to cut a middle western shop owner, or when Cap tells Nick Fury to back off because the hands on work at the WTC is where he needed to be... great moments. Sad... but great.

      And I read that back in 2002, and was plenty weary myself of 9/11 dominating the conversation all the time, I'm not a monster I just wanted to move on to dealing with the next stage of dealing with it.

      Little did I know it wouldn't truly stop until 2008, but that is a very different conversation.

      If you ever do feel a need to go back to that time period, for whatever reason, that first issue is a good and respectful look at it.

      And how it fits in with my other point? While it was a bit...focused... that first issue has moments that are are pure Steve Rogers. The three I mentioned already stand out as pretty Steve in nature.


    3. Steve Englehart said something similar, Jack. When he first began writing Captain America, he wanted to make it politically relevant, but he soon realized that by the time the comics were published the current events he was trying to address were no longer topical.

      I'm agreed that it's hard to strike the balance between Captain America the symbol and Steve Rogers the man, at least it often appears that way from the outside. I don't envy anyone who's had to strike that balance, but on the whole, I think Marvel's done a remarkable job. Cap has some of the most consistently good writing on any Marvel book.

      And it really does come down to the simple fact that Steve Rogers is inherently decent.


    4. And Englehart said that a good decade and a half before the advent of 24 hour news.

      It really was a shame, in a perfect world it would probably have surpassed the infamous SPider-Man black issue. It just wasn't out in time.

      Lee got lucky that the hippies, protestors, and racial tensions he wrote about in the 60s were long lasting. Well, not lucky per see, I mean come on having a reason to protest implies something is wrong and I shouldn't have to explain the problem with racial tensions. But, you feel me.

      Cap has that problem I mentioned, and I could name a few writers who used him solely as a political prop, but I don't want to spread hate.

      However, he also has an inherent strength, and it is actually kind of depressing. I have been hearing that it is a different world since I was a kid. But its not, and it never has been, and probably never will be.

      Terrorism began in the advent of mass media in the 19th century, and a willingness to hurt or kill mass numbers of innocent people isn't new... it's just how effective it is.

      However the opposite is true. For all the derision of the "Greatest Generation for being racist, the civil rights movement would not have been possible unless a lot of white men of that generation had seen the inherent problem.

      The NAACP was started int eh early early 20th century by three do-gooding white people.

      There is a desire to believe that lack of change is in essence that the better angels of our nature win out, and that it is in the common man.

      And of course the US is no stranger to some... less then admirable moments. But I think the idea of being Captain AMERICA, is that with Steve being both fascinating, but common, that the right for the people to help steer the ship is a better action despite the past. That we don't need to be good, we just need to accept our goodness over our bad.

      What makes Steve different form his contemporaries of the Golden age is an every-man quality, that in its way is even purer than Spider-Man's

      Steve has something that every person needs, and especially anyone connected to an ideology, but no one seems to have... doubt. He is a believer in teh dream and his ideals above all else, but how do you achieve that? Well, he has enough doubt to consider multiple possibilities and be open to new ideas.

      Stan Lee put that in, as show in these panels from one of my favorite Cap moments ever:

      I don't think it is that hard top walk he line with Steve though. HE is the WASPiest character of all. HE wants a life of his own. Unfortunately he wasn't the first super soldier, he was the only one. So he can never walk away, and good isn't good enough. HE has to tap that inner potential I talked about... otherwise Project REBIRTH: was all a waste.

      He is both an elderly man, and fairly young one. Both play out in him. I think that was why he was the most popular Avenger in the comics from the 60s, and then longer. Stan Lee was a WWII vet, who was writing for teenagers and college students. It made it seem authentic as he laid that post GA framework

      There is something for everyone in the Character. Ed Brubaker had a great run, and it saved the character. Sales were falling as he stepped in, and Quesada by his own admission never cared for the character. It may have been canceeled.

      Brubaker chose Cap as his first choice, because he was Bru's favorite character. Which may shock some, since he is known for creating characters that are anything but pure-hearted.

      He isn't who we wish to be, he's who we hope we are.


    5. If I could just add one more thing.

      People talk about how put upon Peter Parker is, but Cap has it worse in some regards.

      All he wants is a simple life. A home on a safe street, the love of a good woman a job he can deal with, and barring it being in the art industry some time to sketch. Maybe some kids...maybe.

      The very life that the people he saves routinely take for granted and possibly hate.

      What's more no deserves it more. In universe he saved the world from the Nazis. Not to mention every other would be conqueror and evil organization he has stood against.

      No one could blame him if he retired. He did his time and more. But he can't get that just reward, and its all his own doing.

      That is part of why I think Bernie makes more sense than Agent 13 (you knew it was coming). Bernie wants some form of that life Steve does, Sharon is almost like a Le Carre character. Espionage is her life. It is almost like some way he has to trick himself into being okay with his situation. Like he is saying it isn't so bad.

      One thing that bugged me when I saw Avenges 2 on TV, is that it implied Cap now only ever wanted to be a soldier. Like any other life was meaningless to him. That a soldier is all he ever could or wanted to be now.

      I think to get Steve, you have to imagine the best simple evening of your life. You know, the simple kind that are just serene.

      Then imagine you are in a horrible situation with other people and what you like to think that you would do.

      Combine them and you have a rough look at what it is to be Captain America.


    6. Beautifully said, Jack.

      That's a great sequence you highlighted—and Pure Stan. One thing I have to say, though, is I never thought of Cap as a defender of the establishment. He's the embodiment of the American Dream, not the American Reality. But who am I to argue with Stan Lee?

    7. That is really well put, Jack. I feel you've like tapped into something I've felt about the character but could never articulate. So thanks for finding the words.


    8. I think it is odd that in the same time with the same writer Cap was shown to support protestors on college campuses, and blacks speaking up, that he would mention the establishment as out right good.

      There are two things to keep in mind from that segment, though. Steve says, "perhaps I should have battled less, and questioned more." Which shows he doesn't love the American reality all the time.

      He also mentioned Martin Luther King as part of the establishment, and you know his whole deal was going against certain parts of the establishment.

      Remember, Stan Lee was in his 40s, and almost 50, when he wrote those words. My guess is that his idea of what "the establishment" is or was would be different than you or I would classify it.

      My guess, and that is all that it is, is that Le was talking more about not throwing out all that came before as you change things. Perhaps even as the American dream as a whole.

      In some ways, Captain America was a precursor/sister book, to the Silver Surfer. IN the Colan/Romita eras of the book Lee took plenty of chances to comment on the nature of the world, and what he believed needed to be changed.

      And tackled some ideas in ways that modern writers may not be able, or at least comfortable with.


    9. You're right, calling Martin Luther King part of the establishment is peculiar, to say the least. Clearly, Stan had a different view of it. Maybe he thought the establishment was anyone over thirty.

      I think Stan may have read that particular speech aloud at the infamous Marvel At Carnegie Hall event in the early 70's. And, yes, I was there!

    10. Why MLK is considered part of the establishment could be as complicated as the overarching nature was to reform the establishment and not tear it down and of course the fact that a fair share of civic leaders had shown empathy; or as simple as the fact that Lee considered himself the establishment and agreed.

      Of course, considering the next line in the panel, you are probably right about it being an age issue.

      One think I think the films did was clear up some misconceptions. I think the average person thought Cap was either just some incredibly naive easily manipulated good ol' boy, or some jingoistic, piece of propaganda.

      Okay, yes technically he did start out as propaganda, but that propaganda was fighting Nazis. So...

      Point is, every comic reader knew he was more than that... except maybe some who never bothered to check ... now that popular misconception has had the bubble burst.

      I also think that the influence of Stan Lee's take on Cap has ripple effects people don't realize. Everytime a company wants to keep that Golden Age idea, but modernized, they use that model. DC's JSA and All-Star Squadron may be the best example of that.

      What's more, I think that whether consciously or not, when they tried to modernize Superman post-CRISIS that idea of how to make Captain America was present.

      Its funny, but by embracing the dated nature, and then making it only a part of him, it gave him an incredible longevity.

      There was the classic Stern story, where Cap is asked to run for president. And he was careful not to giveaway what wing it was. Still... cap couldn't stand for anyone group.

      There was also a Mark Waid story, when they were just about to reveal that Cap was still alive, where his personal effects were auctioned off. They included a peace flag he carried in a parade (bought by two aged hippies), his badge from when he was a cop, some pages of his artwork (which were actually going to be used against him), a photo of him storming beaches (bought by a vet), his Nomad costume, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

      It all fits, why? Because Steve is the type of guy who can mingle with everyone, because he wants to get to know them first.

      Two things we desperately need these days.


    11. Never read the Waid story, but it sounds like a good one. Stern and Byrne were one of the classic Cap teams. A short run, but definitive.
      Stern laid the groundwork for a lot of what I did when I took over the book. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Roger was the unsung hero of 80's Marvel. His work, across the board (on Hulk, Cap, Avengers, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man) was fantastic. He understood how to bow to tradition yet forge ahead into new waters.
      A great talent.

    12. Stern is without a doubt a versatile writer. He wrote a really cool Dr. Strange story with Doc helping find an American Buddha. It was far more interesting than it sounds, and in the book made some interesting points about enlightenment when Doc crossed paths with the beyonder.

      You know with the movie coming out in a few months that is another post for you to do, right?

      As for Cap, in 8 or so issue, he gave us a definitive back story to a pre-serum Steve, a story of Cap and the possibility of being president, and had Cap fight a vampire. Something that would take half a decade to tell now. And of course, he introduced Bernie Rosenthal, that alone would put him in the big leagues.

      That being said, one of his finest Cap moments was outside of the main book, in the pages of... The Avengers.

      There is a moment, when the Avenger mansion was destroyed, and Cap looks at the destroyed items of what was left of his before he was frozen. A signed baseball card, newspaper clippings, photos of his mother... all the stupid minor things that would mean nothing to anyone else.

      In the moment of battle, he is determined to win, afterwords, he has a chance to soak up his lost of past.

      IN only those 2-3 pages we see cap , morn and then feel bad for mourning this lost past because of the heavier problems others faced.

      He is that good. Yes the ability to respect the past and add new things, but what about that ability to pack so much into so little of space?


    13. That's the mark of a man who knows his craft.

    14. That's why his name is Stern, because his writing is so strong. Or because he is very strict. Or I guess, maybe, maybe its because Stern is a somewhat common surname in the Jewish community. That seems a tad far fetched , don't you think?

      I think there should be a test to work at Marvel and DC to see if you can do what Stern did, and have a good, strong character moment in just 2 pages. It shouldn't be forced iwhen in practice, but if you can do that in 2 pages... you probably will be able to make 20 pages work just Fine.


    15. So a heads up to Creation Pointers, my first comic is now available at comixology:

      Huge thanks to JMD and everyone here for the great discussions. Creation Point is a source of strength, encouragement, and joy for me.

      And Jack, if you get a chance to read the comic, I'd love to know what you think!



    16. HUGE congratulations to you, David! I know how much time and work you've put into this and I hope it's a success. You deserve it!

    17. Thanks for the kind words, JMD! It's deeply appreciated.


  3. One last thing about Captain America...

    I have said to people before that Watchmen didn't add as much new as people say, most of it happened at Marvel in the 60s and 70s, Moore just removed the show. Okay, and added the more overt sexuality.

    The fact is all of the Marvel age was deconstruction, perhaps more so than Moore or Miller could ever dreamed of. Coming from a standard of icons, what is more of a deconstruction than making them human?

    ION the 60s you had believable characters, but you then also had two heroes who were monsters (one of which was on a incredibly dysfunctional family), a god with a bum leg, a nerdy hate filled teenager whose powers were all crappier versions of Superman, a blind swashbuckler, a formerly jackass mystic master, an alien of pure soul who has a very uncooperative relationship with humanity, and the most deconstructionist of all... Captain America in his glorious return.

    Why is Cap the most, because he WAS one of those icons.

    Let me clarify what I mean by deconstruction, I have already covered the iconoclast nature of Marvel, but in Superheroes there are two ways to reconstruct. First, to show them as a falsehood (the Watchmen school), or to strip them down to a no frills version to exemplify that they are unneeded for the character to be the hero (the Daredevil Born Again school).

    Cap is a little bit of both. Lee accepts the fact Cap is pure and good. That he is every bit the hero he always claimed to be.

    What he did was was show us what the price of being that good was. He was reached by survivors guilt, and melancholy over a changing he could not fit into because he couldn't grow into.

    There was a burden of always having to be the leader and morale booster. The yearning for a life beyond the mask he could never have. And as I previously showed, a conflict between the are he is from and modern points that may make a bit more sense to him.

    And most importantly, how to stay that good and how to make it fit into the world.

    Stan basically took the best person in the Marvel universe and said, you want to be the world's greatest hero? This is the price you pay.

    Suddenly, those stupid little funny books with a giany headed genius made by scientists in bee-keepers solely to kill, and a giant Nazi robot seem more sophisticated than half of Vertigo.

    What's more all the best writers of the character have followed that idea ever sense... even if they were unaware. Englehart, Gerber, McKenzie (don't deny the GRand Director story was good), Stern, Dematteis, Gruenwald, Waid, Brubaker... the shades were there for all of them.

    There is a common view that an idea of morality like that is a naive and childish one, but I disagree. IN teh past decade the most popular pop culture characters have been in the vein of Walter White, Don Draper, and Rick Grimes. All men who embrace an at best morally ambiguous nature.

    This is viewed as a more adult view of the world. And, yes the accepting of a grey nature of the world is an important part of growing up, it is reality. But embracing it as all grey and perhaps reading it as a justification as for ones own poor decisions (which I don't think is the plan, but perhaps the mass appeal), is painfully adolescent. Like... doodles and babbling in an Algebra notebook adolescent.

    The acceptance of a grey nature, but where black and white do firmly exist, is about the most adult concept you can hold. Yes, leeway for decisions and the reality of what needs to be done, but while still keeping an eye on a moral or ethical truth.

    The fact is adult struggle with morality everyday, sometimes big, but mostly small. And there isn't as much understanding for your decisions as when you are young. There is more respect for the nature of characters like Captain America (and Superman). Some people just have to grow into it.

    continued... (by Jack)

  4. Morality is not a weakness, or a sign of naivete.
    Any more or less than accepting the bitter truths of it are.

    Lastly, I saw a video today of people in a political argument on the street, based around the current election. There behavior made me feel just disgusted.

    It was both sides, so obviously one side made points I agreed with, but the conduct was gross.

    There was a song I put a link to here once called, "no one likes superman anymore." There is a lyric in it the goes, No one wants to know the man who stands for things we outgrew"

    When you look at the nature of conversations, and tribal nature, which goes far beyond just politics, I don't think we outgrew the Captain America and Superman model. I think they outgrew us.

    The point of the Marvel Age Cap may have been that he is an anachronism, a relic, but I think he matters more than many know, and has a more special need than what he had in his home era .


    1. Beautifully said, Jack.

      I, for one, have never outgrown either character: I love them both as much as, maybe more than, I did as a kid.

      Question: Have Superman and Cap every met in the Marvel-DC crossover universe?

    2. I can't recall if they ever met in MARVEL vs. DC, but there was an AVENGERS/JLA crossover.


    3. A full-out Cap/Superman crossover would be a thing of wonder.

    4. Would love to see that. If Marvel and DC had kept on with the crossovers, I'm sure there would have been one eventually. Hopefully they'll get back around to those eventually.

      There was an Amalgam character, Super-Soldier, who was a combination of the two characters.


    5. When Cap and Supes met they did not get along very well. Because of Mark Gruenwald, oddly enough given his love for both universes, Cap thought the JLA were fascists, and even called Superman one to his face.

      Superman in turn didn't have a very favorable view of Cap of the Avengers due to the poor shape (read more realistic) that the MU was in. He even flat out said that teh Avengers didn't fight hard enough, after Aquaman pointed out the Marvel Universe had to fight harder than the JLA. All this was seen by Cap

      In the end Busiek (the writer) revealed that the two were in part talking out of fears they had already had about whether they do too much or not enough.

      The final battle was Superman fighting the villain, but with Cap and his tactical mind helping guide him. The series gets a lot of flack, but I don't think it was that bad.

      A meeting of CAp and Superman could be really interesting. Especially if you had it across time in a mini series. They meet in the Golden age. Cap is time displaced at one point and finds himself in a Superman Silver Age type story. Then he is unfrozen, but while he was unfrozen, Crisis happens. Cap and the Modern era Superman meet. hen you can even through in the New 52 Superman in a story, before the two finally meet up again post -COnvergence, now completely aware of the whole past.

      Of course what I would REALLY love is a JSA Invaders team up, and I already know what the best way to do it would be.

      Then again, I alo thought at one point how coll it would be for a story where the DC heroes confront a pod people like alien in the 50s, and face heavy casualties, and then the Marvel heroes show up to clean it up, before the two work together to finally end the problem.

      And if you remember I pointed out you couldn't outgrow them, rather hey would out grow you.

      Its funny, I always liked Captain America, since I knew who he was anyway.

      Superman on the other hand, I remember really liking as a small child. Then I almost hated him for a while. Then became passive, and then when I read Gerard Jones' "Men Of Tomorrow... geeks, Gangsters, and the rise of the American Comic Book" I gave the character another look and found something I really like. Not more or even as much as CAp, but I do like him.

      I couldn't tell you why one and not the other for so long, or even why Cap's style fits better with me.

      It isn't just comics though, High Noon, was a story of a good and honorable man facing a moral dilemma and holding on to hat he believes in. And that who an Oscar for Gary Cooper's performance.

      There is something odd going on in our society, it is almost like we used to want to be told that if we stumble we can still be good and decent, and now it sometimes like society wants to be told, its okay you faltered because you had to or that is the right way to be.


    6. Don't forget, Cap is also one of the biggest fores for redemption in comics.

      Danny Fingeroth wrote a book called, "Superman on the couch." IN it he makes the point that there are a certain recurring team themes. Say that, its fun.

      There's the JLA type where you have to be asked in a sort of fraternal order, the Fantastic Four type which is based around a family, the X-Mwn type which is a sort of freaks like us idea, and Avengers type, which he compares to idealistic D>D. The Avengers type is described this way because they take in many odd characters, but also reformed criminals. That is all CAp.

      Cap's kooky Quartet was Captain America and 3 reformed villians... 2 of them terrorists. Then there was Jack Monroe who once attacked him, Bucky who was a Soviet mercenary, a message to the 50s CAp that he believed that he could change, Diamondback, the retcon of Falcon didn't phase CAp back when Englehart made him Snap, and endorsing Spider-MAn (who is considered by most to me a menace if not villain).

      And, can we all admit that Stan Lee is to Captain America as Chris Claremont? Yeah the creators can never be replaced and are the top of the pantheon, but these two are what made the character really have staying power. Or at least has a more unique relationship to the character than just a tlaneted and important successor.

      Finally, I don't hate flawed and impure heroes, in fact I love them. I just don't think that pretending that they are more mature than their counterparts is true, and that there should be room for both.


      PS, I think the MCU is very smart to push Dr. Strange back to November. He is a nitch character, you have to give him more space to breathe.

    7. Speaking of SUPERMAN ON THE COUCH, my buddy Danny Fingeroth also wrote a terrific book about Jews and comics called DISGUISED AS CLARK KENT. Highly recommend!

    8. I don't know. Superman on the Couch was pretty good. However, I have heard a bit about DISGUISED AS CLARK KENT, and I don't think I will look into it.

      From what I've gathered, and keep in mind I haven't read it, it is based around the idea that Judaism was the basis for the industry, or at least eh superhero part of it. This is something I have heard many times before, and that I quite frankly flat out disagree with.

      Two examples are a fighting of Nazis before WWII, despite the fact that from what I've gathered the first open to do this was Namor... who was created by an old money WASP. And a parallel between Superman and Moses. Of course that lat one is completely ridiculous, given that the two do the complete opposite. And I really don't understand how anyone can make that connection past a very... not important.

      The fact is I think that it takes away from the personal experiences and visions of the individual. Specifically in an attempt to claim an American art form as primarily responsible for one subsection.

      Men of Tomorrow, which I highly recommend, shows a picture of(with the exception of maybe Will Eisner) a group of people who considered them selves Jewish, but were not intensely connected... at least not at that time.

      Jerry Siegel for instance was far more interested in pulp and science fiction, which explains why Superman was originally supposed to be from the future, before it was revised.

      For that matter, Superman was mostly inspired by Doc Savage and the powers of Hugo Danner, and Batman was originally a straight up rip off of the Shadow. All of which created by gentiles.

      In fact there is a deeper possible explanation for all of this. New forms of Judaism were actually formed in the late 19th century, because younger Jews felt a pull toward the emerging American culture, and away from many of the traditions. That is why many of the tenants became more loose.

      I admitted may be a bit sensitive to this, given that I have had Jews tell me (including a Rabbi once) that a mixed heritage makes me not really a member of teh tribe.

      However, I would argue, that a mixed heritage gives me a unique perspective, and an ability to see it neither from the outside and having to take people' word for it, nor as someone who very much wants it to be something they can claim.

      Of course, it is not uncommon for people to make such connections, and fell more connected to a passion. And yes, every part of a person helps for their voice. But to say anything other than the individual is a driving force seems in accurate and a bit unrealistic.

      I think the name gives mot of my view away "Disguised as Clark Kent." I have heard people imply that this was an intentional symbol for Jews having to change thing in public to live among gentiles without persecution.

      However, Siegel lived lived in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. Which doesn't take away form that, but certainly muddies the water a bit. More importantly though, on record is that he was a shy nerd who wrote a lot, like say... Clark Kent. I think that is a more likely basis.

      Interesting side note though, Clark Kent comes from the names Doc Clark Savage and Kent "The Shadow" Allard.

      Whatever happened to it just being a product of good old American boys. Which is actually another issue I have with the idea, pushing that narrative implies that Jews are more different than other ethnic groups in America.


    9. Didn't know that about Clark Kent!

      I'd give Danny's book a read before passing judgement. I think you'll find it fascinating, even if you don't agree with everything in it.

    10. I'm sure it is well written, and I do enjoy reading/hearing/watching different views than mine. So, maybe... one day.

      I don't think this conversation is over though.

      However, I will give you a theory I have about early comic creators, and how it has formed a common troupe.

      Superman's Parents' death were originally what pushed Clark to be Superman. A little while later, Batman used this idea too. Why.

      Many people think it starts with Jerry Siegel's father dying when Jerry was about 13.

      I say, wrong. One thing Siegel and Kane shared something. An over bearing mother. Upon his father's death, all of Jerry's siblings had to get jobs just to survive. Jerry was the only exception. His mother would not allow him to get work... even as he entered early adult hood.

      Kane's mother walked him to school every day until he was in high school. There were also rumors of bed wetting in high school.

      I say, this common thread caused teh common origin.

      Not in a hatred or desire for the death of their mothers. Rather, it was simply the felt that it kept them from truly becoming themselves, on some level. And an absence of them in their lives... though not in the same way as their creations... would allow them to flourish.


  5. Its sort of funny, Marvel has torn away secret identities from a good many of their characters. This was allegedly done in the name of realism. But we find our selves in a world where everyone has something on their desk or in their pocket that can essentially act as a mask to the entire rest of the world.

    You see the same extremes comics have shown for years, in the form of anonymous, or code mane messages every day.

    Buy seeking realism, a certain truth comics were early on the scene to show, was lost to some characters.

    Masks and anonymity are and always have been powerful, and a role of the dice depending on who wears them. Everyone sees that almost every day now.

    Just something weird.


    1. That's a great, and very insightful, point, Jack. We live in a world where almost everyone has some kind of secret identity now. How weird and Philip K Dickian!

    2. Very true.

      I feel like the secret identity will always be relevant because it's about the difference between the people we think we are and the person we want to be.


    3. You two guys are so smart and insightful. How about a Jack and David weekly podcast?

    4. Speaking of Philip K. Dick, did either of you watch the first episode of Westworld?

      Their attempt to deepen the nature of the robots seems pretty PKD inspired to me. Like really inspired, to the point I wondered if maybe he came back to life as a consultant... on a TV show... based on a book... by Michael Crichton. it was interesting.


    5. Haven't seen it yet, but I hear very good things about it. And, from what I've read, it has the PKD stamp all over it.

    6. A Jack and David podcast would be fun, but I come across much better in writing than when I speak!

      I haven't seen WESTWORLD yet. I think it's produced by Jonathan Nolan, who does great work with artificial intelligence.

      I highly recommend PERSON OF INTEREST, which starts off as a grounded procedural show but quickly evolves into sci-fi. It's available on NETFLIX.


    7. You really do love PERSON OF INTEREST, don't you, David? Didn't realize it evolved into science fiction. Do you recommend starting at the beginning or is there a better jumping-on point?

    8. I'd recommend starting from the beginning. That's when you get to know the main characters, Harold Finch and John Reese.

      But if you really don't care and you just want to get to the machine stuff, S3 is where things kick into high gear on that front.

      But they seed a lot of things early on that pay off much later, so it's definitely a show that's best watched from the very beginning.


  6. Well, since I do love PKD I might have to check out WESTWORLD. For a bizarre, quirky SF series I would recommend one I recently discovered. STITCHERS. I won;t say what it's about it's something that should be discovered by each person watching it.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Douglas: I'll check it out!

  7. So, you have said that writing Cap opened up a wider world to you. Great, we all get how that happens. But what were those wider avenues?

    Writing him may have given you a new perspective, but what was it? What did you find in those deeper pools?

    What are the odds you would write cap again? A short run? A long one? A mini series? A backup feature? A few back up features?

    Now I believe you have a Silver Surfer appreciation to write before the end of the year, and a DR. Strange one before the movie comes out... you don't want to seem the Johnny-come-lately. Chip-chop, I'm not not-paying you toold brick.


    1. Not so much a "wider world," Jack, but a wider view of Steve Rogers. When I write these characters—the right ones, anyway—I get to know them the way I'd know a good friend. You see facets of their personalities, depths of their hearts, that you wouldn't normally see. As I got to know Steve—his inherent decent, his struggles, his idealism, his vulnerability—he became a very good friend.

      Yes, I DID say I'd write those tributes. Don't know if I'll have time in the next week or two, but let's see what the Vishanti have in mind. Or is that HAS in mind?

  8. I have mixed feelings about replacing Steve Rogers, even temporarily.

    On the one hand, I really like the guy and would miss him if he weren't still making appearances in the book as he did under Mark Gruenwald later. Here, if I had been reading this in real time then it'd probably take a while for Jesse Black Crow to grow on me as much as Steve had.

    On the other hand, part of the reason I like Steve so much is that he's exactly the kind of guy who *would* question whether or not he should change his approach.

    He's also the kind of guy who'd have it in him to pity even the Red Skull, not to the point where he'd give Shmidt a pass on everything he'd done, but where he'd think "Damn, if I'd been born into conditions like that, I might have turned out exactly like him. It's no wonder that he did. I've still got to stop him, but I understand why he's the way he is."

    If Shooter's position was that some guys are just plain evil (especially the Red Skull) and just have to be beaten to a pulp or killed instead of understood or talked down, I don't agree with that. I don't think that the Steve Rogers we saw written by you, Englehart, Gerber, and Gruenwald would agree with it either. To me, the best version of Cap is the one who's willing to consider that maybe he's doing things wrong, and who usually doesn't want to fight anyone if he can help it. That's why he gave up being Captain America twice, why he talked Dekker as the Ameridroid out of being a supervillain instead of simply taking him down, etc.

    I think it's also a shame that Zemo went from "Wow, I hate Captain America, but the Skull is way worse and I don't want to be anything like him after all. I've hurt innocents to get my revenge just like the Skull did, and I'm ashamed of that," to "Ow, that hurt, but I'm still alive. Now where was I? Oh yeah, I want to get revenge on Captain America, and I'll sic Mr. Hyde on poor innocent Jarvis just because it will upset him." One reviewer wrote that Zemo was still saying racist things in this arc and that it interfered with trying to redeem him; he was still a racist and therefore bad. But is it really that simple? Nomad was still something of a bigot too, which Sam Wilson called him on, but that didn't mean he wasn't able to learn better, or that he wasn't starting to learn. Zemo could start to change bit by bit as well, and it would've been nice if that had happened instead of him just reverting to 100% villain. Don't get me wrong, Under Siege is still a great story, but IMHO it would have been better if Stern hadn't just ignored Zemo's character development here, and if maybe we had gotten either a heroic Helmut Zemo or a morally grey Zemo much sooner than we did...

    1. A LOT to ponder in what you say, Rob. And I think you hit on Steve's greatest power: It's not the super soldier formula, it's his common decency. His compassion. The ability to feel for an enemy even as he opposes them.

      I'm also profoundly grateful that, decades after these stories were written, they can still stimulate analyses as insightful as yours.

      And, finally, you mention Roger Stern and I have to say, as I often do, that he's one of the best writers to ever pen a Marvel comic. Everything he touchced at Marvel in the 80s turned to gold.