Captain America Comics #1
November 28, 2011
The star spangled man with a plan! That plan? Punch every Nazi in the face. Twice.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. And welcome to the final episode in this year's Secret Origins Month!
("Secret Origins Month" title is shown)
Linkara: (pointing finger at screen) CAPTAIN... FREAKIN'... AMERICA, BABY!
(A shot of Captain America posing proudly with the American flag in the background is displayed)
Linkara (v/o): My friends, I am proud to be an American. And while America is not without its flaws and problems, if you ever wanted a character who exemplified all that is great about America, you look to the Captain!
(Cut to a shot of the cover of a Captain America comic, showing Cap's origin story)
Linkara (v/o): There's not a lot of tribute to be said about the creation of Cap, but certainly just a lot of stuff revolving around the character and the comics. Joe Simon has said that what initially got him on the path to Captain America was Adolf Hitler.
(Cut to a shot of the following text, which Linkara reads...)
Linkara (v/o): "With Captain America, the villain came first. Jack [Kirby] and I read the newspapers, and knew what was going on in Europe. And there he was – Adolf Hitler, with his ridiculous moustache [sic]..."
Linkara: (mock sadness) Aw, Joe Simon, you're making Charlie Chaplin cry!
(Cut to a clip of The Great Dictator, showing Hynkel (Chaplin) looking sad, then cut back to the text)
Linkara (v/o): "...high-pitched ranting and goose-stepping followers. He was the perfect bad guy, much better than anything we could have made up, so what we needed was to create his ultimate counterpart."
Linkara: (dramatically) Captain America! (points to camera) Negative Hitler!
(Cut to a shot of an early version of Captain America)
Linkara (v/o): Joe Simon came up with the original sketch of Captain America, though originally conceived his name as "Super American", but changed it because he felt that there were too many characters around with "super" in their name, and instead going with "Captain America" because there weren't a lot of captains.
(Cut to a shot of the first Captain America comic, showing Cap battling Hitler and a bunch of Nazis)
Linkara (v/o); Simon was a longtime partner of Jack Kirby, and the two conceived up a lot of the details of the character in the first issue. When they brought the character to Martin Goodman, who, at the time, was the publisher of Timely Comics, one of the companies that would eventually become Marvel, he decided that Captain America would actually have his own solo title, which, given all the anthology books we've seen during the last two Secret Origins Months, was a pretty damn big deal at the time. Jack Kirby, king of awesome that he was, actually managed to pencil the entire book himself on time, despite everyone believing it would be too big a workload. And of course, since the character was created to be the polar opposite of Hitler, what do they do? First issue: CAPTAIN AMERICA PUNCHING HITLER IN THE FACE!!
(Linkara is seen looking at a picture of Hitler)
Linkara: (holding his fists up) I AM AMERICA! (punches the picture away)
Linkara (v/o): And bear in mind, this was a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Captain America was kicking Nazi ass before America entered the war! This book was so popular that it actually sold a million copies per month. As I've stated before, we're lucky these days if a book breaks over 100,000 sales. Maybe if we had more heroes punching Hitler on their covers, we'd still see these kinds of numbers. Hell, Stan Lee got his first comics-related assignment with Captain America. He wrote a prose story in "Captain America Comics #3", the same issue that also introduced his iconic shield.
(Cut to a shot of another patriotic superhero, The Shield)
Linkara (v/o): The original shield was more triangular in the shape, and the reason why it was changed was because of another patriotic hero at the time called... uh, The Shield. Martin Goodman was friends with the publisher of "The Shield", who asked them to change it. And so, he agreed to change it.
(Cut back to Captain America again)
Linkara (v/o): But that just introduced the aweseomeness of a shield that he could throw and bounce back to him. However, not everyone was happy with the Captain. This may surprise some people, but before America entered World War II, there was actually a strong pro-Nazi sentiment in the United States.
(Cut to a shot of Joe Simon)
Linkara (v/o): So much so that Simon and Kirby received death threats and mail disparaging them in their creation, not helped by the fact that the two were also Jewish. In fact, a pro-Nazi group called the German-American Bund once marched in front of Timely's offices. The two called in the police for protection, and they sure as hell got it.
(Cut to a shot of Fiorello H. La Guardia)
Linkara (v/o): As it turned out, then-Mayor of New York Fiorello La Guardia was a fan of Captain America and actually called them up to tell them, "You boys over there are doing a good job. The city of New York will see that no harm will come to you."
Linkara: It's nice to have friends in high places. And with all that out of the way, let's dig into "Captain America Comics #1" and see how many Nazis get beat up.
(AT4W title sequence plays; title card has "The Star Spangled Man" (from Captain America: The First Avenger) playing in the background; cut back to the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Do I even need to say anything about this cover? Look at it! It's a friggin' classic and a thing of beauty! Hell, it's not just that he's punching Hitler, but that we have four Nazis all shooting at him, but he doesn't give a crap! He's going right for Hitler and knocking him on his ass!
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open on a recruiting station in the U.S. of A.
Narrator: As the ruthless war-mongers of Europe focus their eyes on peace-loving America...
Linkara: (firing a machine gun in the air wildly) WHOO! PEACE! WHOO!
Narrator: ...the youth of our country heed the call to arm for defense...
Linkara: (as narrator) Some of them even start (makes "finger quotes") "fit to win" clubs... that are quickly shut down because no one is that much of a loser.
Narrator: The dreaded fifth column...
Linkara: (as narrator) The greatest enemy in Tetris: (pointing to camera) the dreaded fifth column.
Fifth columnist: It was easy joining the army with the forged papers--now to carry out the Fuehrer's plans!
Linkara (v/o): And then Steve Trevor shows up to stop the Nazis' plan– Sorry, wrong comic. No, instead, the Nazis launch an undercover campaign of sabotage across the nation, destroying vital factories and industrial centers. In Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is being briefed on the situation.
Army General: But I tell you Mister President-- there is no stopping these vermin... They're so firmly entrenched in our ranks in our ranks that I hesitate to give a confidential report to even my most trusted aide...
Linkara: (as the general, holding up a piece of paper) I can't trust this report on what regulation-sized paper the different Army divisions should use to just anybody!
Roosevelt: What would you suggest, gentlemen? A character out of the comic books? Perhaps the Human Torch in the Army would solve our problem!
Linkara: But he hasn't been born yet! And he's more worried about the Commies than the Nazis!
(Cut to a shot of a different Human Torch than the Fantastic Four version)
Linkara (v/o): Actually, they're referring to the other Human Torch. Yeah, Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four was not the first character to have the name "Human Torch". In fact, you could argue that this Human Torch, Jim Hammond...
(Cut to a shot of the cover of a comic featuring this Human Torch)
Linkara (v/o): ...was the first superhero in the Marvel Universe. Hell, he debuted in "Marvel #1" in 1939. Although, what's funnier is that Jim Hammond is actually an android, but "Robot Torch" doesn't really have the same ring to it.
(Cut to a group shot of the Human Torch and Captain America, with Namor the Sub-Mariner)
Linkara (v/o): And before anyone asks, yes, Namor the Sub-Mariner technically predated him, but Namor was more of an antihero in his early appearances. What's even more amusing is that FDR is talking like the Human Torch is just a comic book character when later on he would actually join forces with Captain America, Namor, and a few other characters in fighting the Nazis. Retcons: we love 'em!
(Cut back to the Captain America comic)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, FDR explains that they are in the process of doing something about all the sabotage attempts. He brings in J. Arthur Grover, head of the FBI, who brings them to an old curios shop, which I guess is what an antique shop was called back in those days.
Narrator: The door slowly opens, and a gnarled, bony hand reaches for a waiting automatic...then recognizing the visitors--replaces the fire-arm!
Linkara: (as an old lady, holding up a gun) If you boys had been Nazis (pronounces it "Nazzies"), Granny would've busted a cap in your ass!
Linkara (v/o): Actually, we couldn't have anything as cool as that, so it turns out that the old lady is actually just a beautiful woman wearing a disguise. She leads them into a laboratory and places them inside an observation room, where they see a frail young Steve Rogers along with a scientist.
Scientist: Don't be afraid, son... You are about to become one of America's saviors!
Linkara: (as scientist) Now turn around and bend over, savior. This is gonna hurt like hell.
Linkara (v/o): The scientist injects Steve with a "seething liquid"... which causes him to start glowing pink.
(Cut to a clip of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Zordon: Too much pink energy is dangerous!
(Back to the comic again)
Scientist: Observe this young man closely... Today he volunteered for Army service, and was refused because of his unfit condition! His chance to serve his country seemed gone! Little does he realize that the serum coursing through his blood is rapidly building his body and brain tissues, until his stature and intelligence increase to an amazing degree!
Linkara: Yes, the human body is like Play-Doh: just inject it with something science-y, and it'll twist and mutate however the hell you want it to in mere minutes.
Linkara (v/o): Steve's glow changes into a hot pink before he finally settles into his new muscular form. By the way, in case you're wondering, we're five pages in, and our title character hasn't said a single word.
Scientist: Behold! The crowning achievement of all my years of hard work! The first of a corps of super-agents whose mental and physical ability will make them a terror to spies and saboteurs!
Linkara: (pointing to camera) Yes, because a strong guy is all we need to stop people from spying on us! (beat) Wait, how does this stop spying?
Scientist: We shall call you Captain America, son! Because, like you-- America shall gain the strength and will to safeguard our shores!
Linkara (v/o): I love Steve's expression as he says this. That is the look of a man who's still hung over from the night before. Anyway, it turns out that one of the high-ranking observes is in fact a Nazi spy!
(Cut to a clip of the first Captain America movie, showing Mr. Erlich addressing Dr. Vaselli)
Mr. Erlich (Gary Epper): Congratulations. (suddenly retracts his hand to make an upward salute) Heil Hitler! (shoots Dr. Vaselli with other hand)
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): He pulls out a gun and shoots through the glass, killing the scientist. He shoots the other observer, save for the woman, named Agent X-13, as well as taking out the vials containing the rest of the super-soldier serum. And naturally, this being a fictional story, there are no notes or documentation about the creation of the serum. However, Steve Rogers is pissed and pulls the Nazi right through the broken glass.
Steve: Come on out, you skunk!
Linkara: (as Steve) Unless that gun causes asthma, it's time to open up a can of American whoop-ass!
Linkara (v/o): And he does so, knocking the guy around like a rag doll. The spy stumbles into more lab equipment, which, of course, is so sensitive that it immediately fries the guy into ashes. We then proceed along quickly in a montage since we don't need to see him getting his costume or the consequences of all this stuff. We just need to see Cap's newspaper headlines: "CAPTAIN AMERICA NABS SPY!" "CAPTAIN AMERICA PREVENTS DAM EXPLOSION!"
Linkara: "CAPTAIN AMERICA PUTS OUT BUILDING CODE UNDER FIRE!" "CAPTAIN AMERICA RIPS UP NEW PETITION AGAINST TAX!"
Narrator: Although the wonder serum has been destroyed--its first creation...Captain America, becomes a powerful force in the battle against spies and saboteurs!
Background singers (from Team America: World Police): America, fuck yeah!
Linkara (v/o): We cut to Camp Lehigh, where apparently Steve has been stationed.
Narrator: At Camp Lehigh of the United States Army Bucky Barnes, mascot of the regiment, approaches Private Steve Rogers.
Linkara: Wait, in World War II, we had mascots for Army regiments? What, did they stand on the sidelines of the battlefield to raise morale when mortar shells fired? Did Patton have a little kid nearby cheering, "You sure did real Rommel's book, sir! You read the hell out of it!"
Linkara (v/o): The young Bucky Barnes says he'd love to meet a guy like Captain America.
Steve: Maybe you can, Bucky... Maybe you can!
Linkara: (as Steve) Yep, it's certainly not like I'm Captain America. No siree.
Linkara (v/o): And coincidence of coincidences, Bucky happens to walk in Steve's tent that night while he's getting dressed in the Captain America outfit, learning his secret.
Steve: I guess you got me dead to rights---I am Captain America!
Bucky: Gosh... Gee whiz... Golly!!
Linkara: All of those are things children never actually say.
Steve: From now on we must both share this secret together... That means you're my partner, Bucky!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, yes, by "partner", he means "have Bucky dress up in his own red and blue costume and become his sidekick, despite lacking any kind of superpowered strength or ability." Hell, he doesn't even have his own name. His superhero name is "Bucky"!
Narrator: And... so Bucky's dream is fulfilled as as he fights side by side with Captain America against the vicious elements who seek to overthrow the U.S. government!
Linkara: (as narrator) See this brave ten-year-old get killed horribly as Nazis shoot him down! (smiles smugly)
(Cut to the beginning of a new story, ending the old one)
Linkara (v/o): Unlike a lot of the anthology books at the time, "Captain America" comics is [sic] all about Captain America, so all the additional stories in the book are about Captain America. However, the first story is the only one having to deal with his origin story, so we're just gonna skim through the rest. The next one is about a big-headed, bald, green guy with an equally giant crystal ball and... uh, Nick Fury?
(The new story proper begins)
Narrator: What connection was there between the wave of sabotage that swept the U.S. defense industries, and...
Linkara (v/o): "And" ellipses?
Narrator: ...the strange little man who predicted it would happen? No one but Captain America could solve the riddle!
Linkara: (waving dismissively) Oh, please, Film Brain already solved the riddle: Charles Dickens is an immortal hobo.
Linkara (v/o): Actually, the riddle revolves around Sando and Omar, who can predict the future. Sando uses laser vision or something to inspire what Omar sees.
Sando: Think, Omar...think hard!
Linkara (v/o): And without a comma between "think" and "Omar", it looks like he's saying that Omar should be thinking about himself. Also, what the hell is with the floating eyeballs? Did this suddenly become Killers From Space?
(Cut to a clip of Killers From Space, showing a pair of eyes floating in midair, as watched by the title characters on The Film Crew)
Mike Nelson: (singing) It's time to face your maker on The Muppet Show tonight...
(Cut back to the comic again)
Sando: Very good, Omar-- now tell us what you see!
(Cut to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching a movie involving a seance with a crystal ball)
Mike Nelson: You've got mail!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): With the crystal ball, they see acts of sabotage, like a military base where everything is blown up. Bucky and Steve, who's rocking the huge hat and pipe, decide to go investigate Sando and Omar at one of their performances. Hey, check it out: giant bald head looking into a crystal ball. (as Zordon) Now, Power Rangers, observe the viewing globe! After Omar predicts a bridge will collapse, Cap and Bucky arrive, too late to help anyone at the bridge. They storm back to the theater and rush the stage, wanting to know how they knew about the disaster, even decking Sando. This is several different kinds of illegal, but it's okay, because it turns out that Nazis are behind them. They planned the disasters, and Omar and Sando "predict" them. However, they're not alone. There's a woman who's been captured by the Nazis, too.
Woman: Betty Ross is the name, Captain!
Linkara: (confused) Betty Ross? The Hulk's girlfriend?
Linkara (v/o): And for the record, the Hulk wouldn't be invented for another twenty years. I guess Marvel just liked the name. In this, Betty Ross is a reporter who is supposed to be familiar, according to the caption box, though it's only familiar to me because of the Hulk connection, so I don't know what the hell they're talking about. And Sando comes in.
Sando: You'll pay for that blow...Herr Captain America... with slow torture!
(Cut to a clip of the MST3K gang watching another movie)
Mike and the Bots: Torture!
Man on screen: Torture for this!
(Cut back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Betty reveals the Nazi plans, and the two heroes kick some ass. Next is a prose story that we're going to skip. One thing I will say about it relates to the question I asked back in "All-Star Comics #8": why the prose stories in the middle of a comic book? Well, it was likely a money-saving maneuver, not to save the cost of an artist, but rather the cost of shipping and distributing, since, with prose stories, a comic book could be considered a different kind of magazine, with different rates for sale and shipping. Next up is a weird-ass story that features this bespectacled troll person and a rather dapper-looking skeleton playing chess. Or, considering they have pieces that look like Captain America and other soldiers...
(Cut to a shot of a game of Rassilon from Doctor Who)
Linkara (v/o): ...maybe they're actually playing the game of Rassilon.
(Back to the comic again)
Narrator: Weird horror struck at Army officers--whose wooden images were jumped on the Nazi chessboard--but Captain America made an unexpected move!
Linkara: Hey, no kibitzing!
Linkara (v/o): The story is about some weird guy in a robe named Rathcone, who is actually a Nazi that commands his agents over a shortwave radio to kill certain Army officers. They kill an admiral before he was to give a lecture, but fortunately, Captain America and Bucky are nearby to hunt down the killer.
Captain America: Think you can handle a man's job...Bucky, m'lad?
Bucky: Sure I can-- What do you think I am-- a baby?
Linkara: (as Captain America, holding his shield) Good. Here are the keys; go bring the car around and wait for me while I go punch some Nazis.
Linkara (v/o): Actually, Captain America, being the wise mentor that he is, sends in Bucky alone to deal with the murderer while watches from above. Naturally, the kid gets smacked around before Cap has to come in and save him. He demands that the man speak, but of course, he refuses.
Captain America: Now isn't that just too bad! This calls for a little tightening of the windpipe!
Linkara: (as Captain America, reaching out his hand) Does Captain America need to choke a bitch?
Linkara (v/o): Other Nazis were nearby, however, and shoot the man dead before he can talk. Rathcone deems another general to die, and succeeds, as we get a montage of individuals getting slaughtered in the papers.
Rathcone: The time is ripe for invasion! I'll have the American public begging for mercy on its knees before I'm through!
Linkara: (confused) Uh, Rathcone, you do know how a military command structure works, right? It means someone else is just going to get promoted in that person's place. I don't think your little squad is going to be able to murder every single soldier in the U.S.A.
Linkara (v/o): As if we needed further proof of Rathcone's stupidity, he orders that Captain America and Bucky be brought to their headquarters, alive, so they can witness the downfall of the United States. Even if they could find them, Captain America literally, almost singlehandedly choked a Nazi to death. One hand! I don't think your goons are gonna pull this off. Actually, they do send a big, strong guy to get Bucky, because, of course, he advertises who the hell he is with his superhero name. Then again, Bucky doesn't exactly wow us with his own intellect, since the big guy just comes up to him in his tent, tells him that he should come alone to an abandoned building, and there, he will reveal who's been killing the officers. AND HE DOES IT!
Bucky: I wonder if that big lug was spoofing me?
Linkara: Kid, you're coming across like you're spoofing yourself.
Linkara (v/o): And yeah, he gets locked in the building.
Bucky: In moving pictures, these stairways always lead to something exciting! Think I'll stroll down and see what's what!
(Linkara stares, utterly dumbfounded; cut to a clip of Spaceballs)
Dark Helmet: Now you see that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Bucky stumbles Rathcone's lair and once again gets beat up. I love how kids were supposed to identify with sidekicks back in the day. See, kids? You can get your ass handed to you over and over! Rathcone points out that he could kill Bucky now, but he'll just wait for Cap. Cap find a note left for him, purportedly from Bucky, and he goes to the abandoned house. He finds the big guy and knocks him out, then kicks the crap out of Rathcone and the other Nazis, and the story ends happily. And it seems not even Cap's direct superior knows that Steve Rogers is Captain America. Given the patriotism and whatnot, I'm kind of surprised he wouldn't volunteer his identity right away. The final story is (reads title dramatically) "The Riddle of the Red Skull"! Yes, the first story to feature Captain America's arch nemesis! Well, sort of. You see, the first Red Skull is actually not the one most people are familiar with, though he looks exactly the same. Our first look at him shows him sneak into an Army Major's house and strangle him to death.
Linkara: Geez, with as many Nazi sabotages and assassinations that take place in this thing, it's a wonder the entire United States military didn't completely fall apart by the second issue.
Linkara (v/o): The police investigate the major's death after Steve Rogers finds the body.
Steve: It's funny, you can't tell just what killed him!
Linkara: (as Steve) I mean, aside from the heavy bruises around his neck indicating he was strangled. Nope, no way to tell what killed him.
Linkara (v/o): Actually, they're just more surprised by the horrified look on his face. Outside, the Red Skull, master of camouflage in his bright green outfit, bright red skull, and huge yellow swastika, sits outside the window and listens in.
Red Skull: Ha! The stupid police are baffled! Killing the others will be much easier!
Linkara: Uh... why will this make it easier?
Linkara (v/o): Cap and Bucky get ready to go hunting for the Red Skull. They mentioned him earlier before the major was killed and that nobody knows what he looks like. Cap, probably remembering how the little moron almost got himself killed in the last story, changes his mind and tells Bucky to stay put. Bucky goes out of his own while the Red Skull talks with his henchmen about how to take down the U.S. government.
Red Skull: Of course you realize the main item in overthrowing a government is money!
Linkara: (as Red Skull) Which is why I've been going out on my own to strangle Army officials! (beat) Wait...
Red Skull: And while I attend to military officials...I want you boys to loot the First National Bank! Death is the penalty if you fail!
Linkara: (exaggeratedly) My God! He plans to rob A SINGLE BANK! AMERICA IS DOOMED!!
Linkara (v/o): Bucky stumbles onto their hideout and does slightly better than he has before, but still ends up captured. At that moment, there's a knock at the door before...
(Suddenly, Captain America bursts in, to the sound of the Kool-Aid Man smashing through a wall and yelling, "OH, YEAH!")
Linkara (v/o): Cap beats up the goons, but the Red Skull escapes. The next day, the soldiers watch a new experimental aircraft from the Maxon Corporation, and Mr. Maxon himself to see the show. When the plane suddenly crashes, he expresses regret about the plane going down, but has no regard for the men inside who died. That night, the Red Skull shows up at a general's home and kills him, even going to the trouble of beating up his wife, who is smart enough to pick up a gun... but proceeded to also drop it when she saw her dead husband.
General's wife: You red devil! You'll pay for this!
Linkara: (as general's wife) That other granny may have been fake, but I know Gran Fu, and I'll make you truly red!
Linkara (v/o): Unfortunately, she gets knocked away, too, but luckily, Captain America shows up to tackle the Red Skull. Unlike the other villains, though, the Red Skull actually manages to knock Cap out, and Bucky has to save him. Cap gets up and punches the skull so hard it shatters the mask, revealing... MR. MAXON!
(A dramatic sting plays as Linkara looks up in shock, but it stops abruptly as he realizes something...)
Linkara: Oh, wait, this joke doesn't work if I'm not holding a comic book. (looks around and wiggles his fingers nervously)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, yeah, there was this kinda subplot where apparently the Skull was supposed to be killing them with his "death stare". Kind of a stupid thing since we clearly saw him strangle the first guy, but whatever. But it turns out it was just a hypodermic poison he was injecting into people. The Red Skull rolls over onto his hypodermic needle and kills himself. I really don't think you can do that unless the needle was pointed straight up, but whatever.
Bucky: But you saw it all--why didn't you stop him from killing himself?
Captain America: I'm not talking, Bucky!
Linkara: (as Captain America, holding his shield) That is a really stupid question, Bucky. Shut your gob.
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with the revelation that Hitler himself promised Maxon control over the U.S.A. when he won the war, explaining his treasonous motives.
Linkara: This comic is ten different levels of awesome!
Linkara (v/o): If I have one complaint, it's that we never have a story actually featuring Captain America beating up Hitler, but the cover itself is enough. This is 48 pages of Nazis getting punched, kicked and foiled at every turn. Sure, there are plot holes, a lot of the story points are repeated, but hey, you can't go wrong with this level of awesome. A lot of the artwork actually holds up pretty well for the 1940s, and that can probably be thanks to Jack Kirby himself for his glorious artwork.
Linkara: And so ends another Secret Origins Month. But don't worry, it'll be back next year. In the meantime, though, I leave you with one of the most awesome sequences ever made for a movie. (gets up and leaves)
(Cut to... just a short message: "Unfortunately, this ending credits sequence had to be cut due to copyright issues." It was claimed that said scene was the USO scene from the Captain America movie)
Nimue: You are an intruder. Identify yourself immediately or I shall be forced to take defensive measures. (Pollo's red eye lights up) You are attempting to engage Comicron 1 teleportation system. This cannot be allowed. (Pollo's red eye remains lit) Warning: Overrides initiating. Intruder teleporting to Comicron 1. (Pollo disappears) Intruder teleporting to Comicron 1.