buskupan

“…It’s not for free and it doesn’t come easy. It’s AMERICA!” Comics? I’m still reading ‘em!

John Kane

For pretty obvious reasons we don’t celebrate Independence Day over here but you guys sure seem to. Just to show you that there are no hard feelings I read some nationalistic comics and wrote some words about them for y’all.

Be nice if you picked up the phone sometime, America. I know you moved out but we still worry about you.
Anyway it’s into the fray while the walls ran red, white and blue around me in a patriotic spray:

CAPTAIN AMERICA 70th ANNIVERSARY MAGAZINE: This is a magazine sized doohickey that’s big and floppy like my English teeth, the contents of which provoked the following responses which I am going to share with you despite your flagrant disinterest but it’s either this or I go spend some time with my family. And they don’t like it when I do that. So…

CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1 (1941).

“Meet Captain America” by Joe Simon/JACK KIRBY(w) and (a)

America may be praying for peace but she’s also preparing for war! In dark days like these every man and woman will be called upon to do their bit and Steve Rogers is about to find out he’s going to be able to do more than most! It all starts here, Effendi!

Yes, this is the savage and mental solid Gold classic that started it all! Like most Golden Age comics reading it is like having your mind hijacked by the hallucinatory visions of an angry man who has drunk too much cough syrup. It’s rough and tumble stuff, obviously taking most of its storytelling cues from the still novel phenomenon of the cinema. If we take the birth of super comics to be June 1938 (Action Comics#1) this places Simon & Kirby’s creation at roughly the third year of the genre’s existence and so it’s unsurprising that this is pretty much like any other comic of the period but there’s clearly something special going on here as 70 years later someone’s spent the GDP of Ireland bringing the character to the very silver screen which so obviously inspired his creators: Joe Simon & JACK KIRBY. Oh, yeah, it’s: EXCELLENT!

“Captain America’s Tales of Suspense”: Being one of those text pieces I can’t actually wade through that are all like: “…But in issue 160 Cap almost met his match in the form of Terry “Eggs” Benedict who, when subjected to a concerted burst of ennui, became The Unsteady Hand Dangler. Jack Kirby left the day after. Pay no attention to that last sentence. There is no deeper meaning. There never was a Jack Kirby. We certainly don’t owe him or his heirs any money. We have lawyers. People disappear all the time. With issue 161 Cap found romance in the form of a peach from another dimension…” Some people like that sort of thing.

AVENGERS (Vol.1) #4 (1964)

“Captain America Joins The Avengers!” by Stan Lee/JACK KIRBY(w), JACK KIRBY/George Roussos(a) and Artie Simek(l)

Freshly thrust from his frozen tomb Captain America is bucking for a ruckus! The strange and swinging new world into which he has been chucked is only too happy to provide! Bonus: Namor’s oddly sexual noggin!

Sure, everyone remembers the tale of Cap’s astonishingly unbelievable resurrection but few people remember the same tale’s revelation that the gorgon of myth and legend was in fact a dressing gown sporting sentient stick of celery from beyond the stars. Funny that. It’s a pretty rocky ride from the modern perspective but on the plus side more happens in its pages than 96 years of NEW AVENGERS and the characters don’t all talk like secure unit patients.

My favourite panel this time through, for I and this tale are friends of old, was on page 10 on the top right. Steve Rogers sits on his hotel bed removing his boots while staring raptly at the TV and uttering: “I wonder if the youngsters of today, who’ve grown up with it, realise what a truly wonderful thing television is…” Judging by the state of the Marvel Architects output I think you can rest assured, Cap, that that is entirely the case. If TVs were made of meat it’s hard not to believe certain people wouldn’t be humping theirs as we speak. Let your mind rest easy on that score, Cap.

At this point JACK KIRBY is pretty much the master of every comic technique existent. He has been at it so long he is growing staples in his midriff but he isn’t about to rest though, no, he’s about to start pushing the form into whole new areas of hyperbolic bombast. That’s later though, so this is just (just!) another fine JACK KIRBY comic of the period which makes it VERY GOOD!

CAPTAIN AMERICA (Vol.1) #250 (1980)

“Cap For President!” by Roger Stern(w), John Byrne/Josef Rubinstein(a), George Roussos(c) and Jim Novak(l)

Will Cap give up being the Star Spangled Avenger in order to become the first kickboxing President of America?

Now say what you like about John Byrne (I’ll wait…okay? Feel better now?) but the guy can draw a perfectly entertaining comic. This is the one where someone suggests that Cap stand for President but he says (**SPOILER!**) “No”. It’s very ’80s because the characters spend a lot of time flapping their gums (so much so that one may be forgiven for wondering if they haven’t been rubbing an illegal substance into them). I like the Stern/Rubinstein run on Cap (what was it #247-255?) a great deal but this is hardly representative of it. It’s only a brief run but it’s littered with Very Special Cap Moments like the one in #253 where an armed robber is cowed into handing over his gun to Cap solely via a stern talking to and a hard stare. It’s Cap-tatstic! Where as this one is just GOOD!

“Red, White and BRU” I REALLY like the title to this interview with Ed Brubaker. (Hey, if he wrote Iron Man we could have “Iron Bru!” That joke probably doesn’t travel well.) He claims to write the current Cap series. I’ve never heard of him but he sounds like the type who wears his hat indoors. I just glossed his interview but it seems like he lived on an army base like Bucky (Do you SEE! It was his DESTINY! He NEVER HAD A CHOICE!), enjoys TV shows, working for Marvel and is really looking forward to the movie. However, if little Ed Brubaker ever burst into the tent of a half-naked GI with life changing results he declines to say.  It’s good to be Ed Brubaker, I guess.

MARVEL FANFARE #18 (1985)

“Home Fires.” by Roger Stern/Frank Miller(w), Frank Miller/Josef Rubinstein(a), Glynis Wein(c) and Jim Novak(l)

No, you can’t say what you like about The Tank. My house, my rules. Love it or leave it, pal! Do you remember “Home Fires”? It’s the one where Cap discovers the hidden Evil in the heart of America: independent retailers. I kid you not. It can totally be read as Captain America versus a deranged Mr. Brian Hibbs.

It’s hilarious of course. But in the weird way of being totally hokey yet oddly persuasive that only The Tank can pull off. It left me laughing and yet profoundly moved by its strange message. Y’know If this guy ever does a propaganda comic the earth will shake and the Heavens will quail. It has to be noted that The Tank delivers a master class in narrative storytelling with page design and visual iconography that fair makes the pages hum with life and emotion. It is a beautiful and wondrous performance. In fact the final page is possibly my favourite Cap moment ever. Cap has entered a burning building to retrieve “her”. “LOOK!” cries a man with a pointing arm directing the readers’ eye to a panel which appears to be a pregnant woman carrying a burning piano. This is then revealed, via the magic of being able to effectively convey information to another human mind via the mechanism of marks on paper, to be the form of Cap himself bursting out of the panel borders triumphantly bearing Old Glory herself.

Every time I read this I find myself halfway to the recruiting office before I realise that due to my myopia I’m more of a danger to myself than any enemy, I am not that keen on killing, even less keen on being killed and I am also in fact not American before returning humbled but entertained to my life of sedentary nitpicking. It is a truly incredible comic by a truly incredible talent. He’s The Tank, deal with it, babycakes! Although later developments within the mind of The Tank lend this tale of Cap vs. libertarians a decidedly ironic cast the issue in and of itself can truly be said to be EXCELLENT!

“Flagbearers” is an illustrated text parade of those who have taken the role of Cap through the ages. It is by Sean T Collins, a living colossus who will be familiar to anyone whose brain has not been so sponged by alcohol and soft drugs that they can look at the list of Savage Critics contributors and recognise the letters of the alphabet when they are used to form names. It is therefore the best thing here not by JACK KIRBY or The Tank. I was particularly taken by the puntastic “Patriot Names”. The piece also contains a rare Frank Robbins picture of a man not sweating.

CAPTAIN AMERICA (Vol.3) #22 (1999)

“Sacrifice Play” by Mark Waid(w),Andy Kubert/Jesse Delperdang(a), Gregory Wright(c) and Todd Klein(l)

Captain America is the only thing standing between the utter destruction of Wakanda’s adamantium! Can he stop touching his shattered shield long enough to save the day?

Being the culmination of Mark Waid’s nigh interminable exploration of Cap’s surely unhealthy obsession with his shield. After several pages of Andy Kubert’s very nice but also very big pictures the two are reunited at last. It is very ’90s in a ’90s comic way but since Waid and Kubert are dependable chaps it still ends up being OKAY!

Both I, having read this magazine, and you, having read my insightful and coherent thoughts concerning said magazine, have, I think it would be fair to say reached some very definite conclusions about the nature of America,  the psycho geographical landscape of its people and the importance of The Dream to both. Thus there seems little need to make them explicit as this would serve only to cheapen the profundity of the conclusions we have reached.

Throughout the contents of this magazine though creators change and decades pass two things remain constant: Captain America and his devotion to The Dream. The Dream changes over time but always at its heart is Decency, the kind of decency perhaps embodied by fairly rewarding an old man for fashioning the dream life of millions and enriching the bank balance of all who followed in his footsteps. Yeah, well if nations can dream so can I, right?

Note: JACK KIRBY (Jacob Kurtzberg) was Comics made Flesh. He entered the world on August 28, 1917 and joined The Infinite on February 6, 1994. We dream his dreams still.

6 Responses to “ “…It’s not for free and it doesn’t come easy. It’s AMERICA!” Comics? I’m still reading ‘em! ”

  1. Very nice. Loved the wrapup, laughed at the Miller section. With such fine work delivered to my shores as a holiday gift, it pains me to get all pedantic and correct your minor (and understandable, benighted foreigner) errors:

    America’s first kickboxing president was actually William Howard Taft.

  2. Just as an aside, but is there a Captain America issue where he time travels and beats up historical figures with Kirby art? The Funnybook Babylon guys mentioned it a while back on their podcast, but I have yet to find out where it is from.

  3. @gary a: There is, and it is awesome. Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles, released as a Marvel Treasury Edition back in 1976. It’s been reprinted in this:

    http://www.amazon.com/Captain-America-Jack-Kirby-Vol/dp/0785117261/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1309745184&sr=8-1

    Which also includes Cap 201-205 by Kirby, or you can get the wondrous Kirby Cap Omnibus:

    http://www.amazon.com/Captain-America-Kirby-Omnibus-Marvel/dp/0785149600/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1309745333&sr=1-1

    For approximately three times the price and four times the content!

    Or you can pick up the original used for not very much these days. It’s terrific stuff!

    @John K (UK): Speaking of terrific stuff, thanks for this set of Cap-related reviews. I’m so tempted to hunt up a cheapish copy of Giant-Size Cap #1 and send it your way. It would round things out nicely…

  4. @BrianMc:Thanking you, sir. Apologies for the blunder but we are little more than savages over here.

    @garya: I think that is probably CAPTAIN AMERICA’s BICENTENNIAL BATTLES – originally released as a Treasury Edition in 1976 and currently collected in CAPTAIN AMERICA BY JACK KIRBY VOL.2: BICENTENNIAL BATTLES and also the CAPTAIN AMERICA BY JACK KIRBY OMNIBUS. Marvel sure have a way with titles, don’t they? Anyway, it’s better than the human mind can cope with and well worth getting!

    Hope the 4th was good to you all!

  5. John:

    A little hurt that July 1, aka Canada Day (neé Dominon Day) passed by without a review of Captain Canuck, Alpha Flight or – wait for it – Candian Ninja (“The first of six limited issues!” Truer words have never been spoken).

    Sure America thought it was all growed up and moved out. And looking back, it has done pretty well for itself. But Canada hung aroung while all its other friends moved away, bumming rides to the mall, hoping Dad might ask us to the pub with his mates, and relying on you to do our laundry for another hundred years. We still keep coming round on Sundays for dinner, and to make sure you’re really as proud of us as you tell everyone else.

    We never got a Kirby comic, which I have to confess, is pretty understandable.

    Canada! We are, are YOU!?

  6. @Jeff – Sorry I trod on your toes there, Mr. Jeff Lester, your informative comment wasn’t there earlier! I swear! Thanks for the heads up, I’ll have a go at cheaply sourcing a copy of Giant-Size Cap!

    @Corey(Ottawa): You lot only moved the last of your stuff out in, what, 1982? Historically speaking we’re still airing your room out! Anyway, we sent some Royals over didn’t we? Sheeesh.

    Cheers!

Leave a Reply


+ 4 = eleven