Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Guide to Recognizing Your Caps

Wednesday marks the debut of All-New Captain America #1, which sees Sam Wilson, formerly The Falcon, wield the shield as the new Cap, with original-recipe Cap Steve Rogers’ son, Ian, tagging along as sidekick Nomad. Rick Remender (Uncanny X-Force, Uncanny Avengers) continues writing what he started in the last volume of Captain America, while Stuart Immomen (Nextwave: Agents of HATE) picks up the art. FalCap also gets top billing in the new Captain America and the Mighty Avengers, also bowing Wednesday and written by Al Ewing with art by Luke Ross.

This isn’t the first time Rogers has stepped aside and let someone else wear his clothes. In fact, he does it every few years, for reasons varying from dissatisfaction with the government to death to, in this most recent case, his age finally catching up with him.

Below is a lineup of all the men who have filled Steve Rogers’ stars and stripes since he first got doused with Super Soldier Serum and Vita-Rays in 1941.

Sam “The Falcon” Wilson (2014-present): The Falcon was created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan and first appeared in 1969’s Captain America #117, not that long into the run of Cap’s first Marvel Age solo title (which started at 100, having taken over an anthology series). The character became so important to Cap that the book was renamed Captain America and The Falcon from issues 134 to 222, a period that featured top-shelf Jack Kirby art. Sam’s new costume is a hybrid of the Falcon and Cap duds, keeping the red, white and blue but adding wings and goggles.

James Buchanan “Bucky” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” Barnes (2008-11): Cap’s original sidekick was thought dead for years, but it turns out he was just on ice until Ed Brubaker could think of something cool to do with him. Rogers uses the Cosmic Cube to snap Bucky out of his brainwashed state, turning him from Russian assassin to Nick Fury’s errand boy with a word. After Rogers is killed (well, displaced in time) at the end of Civil War, he gets his own Captain America costume, complete with deep-V black leather pants and a gun. Bucky keeps the costume until the whole world realizes, “Wait, this guy was a Russian assassin for 60 years, and also Steve Rogers is alive.” Barnes has since returned to his Winter Soldier duds and recently played a major part in the Original Sin crossover. 

CapWolf (1992): This one was Steve Rogers. I just like reminding people there was a time when Captain America was a werewolf. For a whole seven-issue Mark Gruenwald storyline that included fellow lycanthropic characters Wolverine, Wolfsbane, Feral, Werewolf by Night and John Jameson.

John “USAgent” Walker (1987-88): Speaking of Gruenwald, he created his own replacement Cap, Walker, in 1986. Walker started out as the Super Patriot, a flag-waving opposite number to Rogers, then was put in Cap’s place by the government, then, after Rogers returned to his old job, took up the USAgent persona and ended up on the West Coast Avengers and later Force Works. During his time as Cap, he even had his own Bucky, a character named Lemar Hoskins who took the codename Battlestar and has since faded into obscurity. After Civil War, Walker made the next logical move for a patriotic superhero and went to Canada, which at the time was short on do-gooders due to Brian Michael Bendis killing off Alpha Flight in New Avengers. For more on the Gruenwald/Walker era, read this book report.

Isaiah Bradley (1942-43; created in 2003): In the retcon miniseries Truth by Mark Morales and Kyle Baker, Project: Rebirth is revealed to have essentially turned into the Tuskegee experiments after turning sickly Steve Rogers into studly Chris Evans. Its lone survivor is Bradley, who for his trouble is captured by the Germans, imprisoned by the Americans and left severely brain-damaged and largely forgotten except by other African-American superheroes. Bradley, however, spawned a line of star-spangled fighters: His son went by the name Josiah X, and his grandson, Elijah, became the Young Avengers’ Patriot.

William “The Crazy One” Burnside (1953-1964; created 1972): One of Marvel’s first and best retcons was deciding Captain America was frozen in ice and Bucky killed after one last battle with Baron Zemo in the closing days of World War II. Essentially, the story became that Captain America was at the bottom of the ocean from 1945 to Avengers #4 in 1964. Soooooo who were the Captain America and Bucky running around in Young Men comics in the 1950s? IMPOSTORS! CHARLATANS! Meet William Burnside, a psycho hopped on Super Solider Serum who had himself surgically altered to look like Steve Rogers, and his sidekick, Jack Monroe, the man who went on to be called Nomad. Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema created the character to explain away/further convolute the plotholes created by Stan Lee, who wrote Cap’s discovery in the ice but also wrote his 1950s adventures. Burnside went on to become a white supremacist called the Grand Director and was resurrected for Brubaker’s run, culminating in a fight between the faux ’50s Cap and the faux early 21st century Cap in which Bucky, dressed in his old Bucky costume, shoots Burnside, dressed in an old Steve Rogers costume, off the Hoover Dam.

The other ones (1945-49, written into the costume in 1977): While Burnside was used to explain Cap’s appearance in comics from 1953 to 1964, two other fake Caps – William Naslund, aka Spirit of ’76, and Jeff Mace, aka Patriot – were ascribed to Cap’s appearances from 1945 to 1949. Those men were parachuted into the uniform in What If #4, which, despite being an alternate-reality title, is considered canon. Both are dead, according to Brubaker in 2005’s Captain America #4.

Dan Grote has been a Matt Signal contributor since 2014 and friends with Matt since there were four Supermen and two Psylockes. His two novels, My Evil Twin and I and Of Robots, God and Government, are available on Amazon.

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