The wait to finally lay eyes on Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’ is finally over because you could go out right now and watch it. Or, as I’m sure is the case with most of you, watch it again. Unfortunately, the release of ‘The Avengers’ also means the last ScienceFiction.com Avengers Spotlight series. That is, until ‘Avengers 2’ comes out. So before you head off to see the film for a second, third, or fourth time, check out this Spotlight that takes a look at the shield-weilding First Avenger, Steve Rogers AKA Captain America.
Created in 1940 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby under the banner of Marvel predecessor Timely Comics, Captain America first appeared in ‘Captain America Comics’ #1. He was created to raise homeland morale during World War II and was often depicted fighting with the Axis Powers. After the war, Cap’s popularity waned and he disappeared from the Marvel Universe until 1964 when The Avengers revived him from suspended animation. Since then, the Star-Spangled Avenger has become the poster boy for Marvel Comics, starred in his very own critically acclaimed series, and led the super team who saved him into battle on numerous occasions by shouting, “Avengers assemble!”
Steve Rogers was born on July 4, 1920 in the Lower East Side of Manhattan to Irish immigrants Sarah and Joseph Rogers. By the time he was a teenager, Steve’s father had died and his mother had passed away a few years later of pneumonia. By 1940, before America entered the fray of World War II, the tall, scrawny Rogers became a fine arts student specializing in illustration so he could be a comic book writer and artist.
Once the war started, Steve was unsatisfied with just sitting around doing nothing while his country was at war, so he enlisted into the US army, but was denied due to his extremely frail body. He tried again many times, despite being rejected each time. Finally, his determination was recognized by General Chester Phillips and recruited to “Project: Rebirth”. As a part of the project, Steve becomes a test subject for the experimental Super-Soldier serum created by scientist Abraham Erskine. Combined with vita-rays, the serum turns plain old Steve Rogers into the perfect soldier with heightened strength, agility, stamina, and intelligence, and thus, Captain America is born.
After the experiment is a success, the serum’s creator, Erskine, is assassinated by a Nazi spy named Heinz Kruger. In his first act as Captain America, Steve avenges the scientist’s death by chasing down the spy and kills him by punching him into some machinery. While avenged, Erskine’s work died along with him, so the Super-Soldier serum and the method to make more Super Soldiers was lost.
After that day, Captain Rogers was cast as a patriotic superhero by the US Government to help end the war and stop villains such as The Red Skull. During his time at Camp Lehigh in Virginia, Steve forms a friendship with the teenage mascot of the camp, James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes and takes Bucky on as a sidekick in his missions to fight the Nazi menace. And when the battles got too tough for Cap and Bucky, they were joined by The Invaders, which was made up of the original android Human Torch, Toro, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Union Jack, and Spitfire.
In the closing days of World War II, Captain America and Bucky tried to stop Baron Zemo from destroying an experimental drone plane. After Zemo packs the plane with explosives and launches it, Cap and Bucky hop aboard and try to defuse the bomb, but are unsuccessful. It appears that Barnes is killed in the blast, while Rogers is hurled into the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. After a search for the heroes, they are assumed dead, until many years later when they both eventually make their return to the Marvel Universe. For Cap, his return comes as a result of The Avengers and Namor find him frozen in the ice beneath where he was thought to have perished. As for Bucky, he returns as The Winter Soldier, but that’s to be saved for another Avengers Spotlight at another time (hopefully).
Shining Moment on the Page
As Captain America, Steve Rogers has fought many foes over the years like The Red Skull, Baron Zemo, Doctor Doom, Kang the Conqueror, and even Adolf Hitler. He’s been a part of most of the biggest events in Marvel Comics’ history, so I could easily pick any event and it would be a shining moment for Cap. But seeing as it is me writing this article, this will be my last chance to talk about ‘Civil War’ in the series, so naturally I’ll jump at the opportunity.
‘Civil War’ saw Captain America oppose the mandatory registration of super-powered beings. After a long, grueling battle where both the anti-registration forces and the pro-registration movement suffered casualties, Captain America saw that their fight was putting the public that they had sworn to protect in danger, so he voluntarily surrenders to stop the fighting. As Rogers is walking up the steps of a federal courthouse to face the criminal charges for his anti-registration actions, he is assassinated by Crossbones and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter, who was under the control of The Red Skull.
I know what you’re thinking: Why did I pick another super downer moment for this section again? Well, not only was this the climax of the ‘Civil War’ story arc, but it was the beginning of the ‘Death of Captain America’ story arc. These two arcs had some great character work within them. Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting really outdid themselves with this one. We saw the death of an icon, the rise of a sidekick to hero status, and, in the ‘Fallen Son’ mini-series, we really got to explore just how important Captain America is to everyone in the world of Marvel. During this period of time, I read not only some of the best Captain America stories that I’ve ever read, but some of the greatest stories that I’ve ever read in any comic ever. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Ed Brubaker works wonders with Captain America. Some days I dig out my ‘Captain America’ #25 and the following issues and just look back fondly on the days of “Bucky Cap” and hating Tony Stark because of the role that he played in the death of Steve Rogers. (Yes, I’m still sort of holding that grudge against Tony for this and for ‘World War Hulk’.)
I just cannot say enough good things about these story arcs. I could get into the politics of it all and the irony of Captain America opposing the American government, which Tony Stark was a part of at the time, and all that jazz, but instead, I’ll just say this: ‘Civil War’ brought me back to reading comics, but ‘The Death of Captain America’ and Ed Brubaker kept me coming back for more.
Shining Moment on the Screen
At first, I was going to make this section about the 1990 film ‘Captain America’ that was shot in Yugoslavia and never officially released in the US. The film, which starred Matt Salinger and featured an Italian fascist Red Skull rather than a German Nazi, depicted the creation of Captain America, his time in World War II, and revitalization after being frozen in the North Atlantic years after his last days in the war. However, I couldn’t track the movie down in time, so since I haven’t seen it yet, I won’t talk about it. Instead, I’ll just talk about ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’.
Just as I was with ‘Thor’, I was skeptical about this new Captain America film, mostly because of the casting of Chris Evans. Previously, he played The Human Torch, Johnny Storm, in the ‘Fantastic Four’ movies for Fox. While those movies weren’t particularly good, he was a great Johnny Storm and I didn’t see him fitting the role of Steve Rogers.
After watching the movie, Chris Evans was a nonissue. He exceeded my expectations greatly and managed not to besmirch the legacy of my favorite superhero. He really grabbed me during the “final moments” of Cap’s life when he was piloting the plane into the ocean. The conversation between Steve and Peggy Carter was so heartbreaking!
Though some may say that ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ wasn’t that great, I thought that it did a great job capturing the spirit of the character, just as all the other Marvel movies have done with their respective heroes (minus the Hulk’s stand alone movies). Not only was Chris Evans a great Cap and Hayley Atwell a great Peggy Carter, but the film had Hugo Weaving! That man is a spectacular actor and he did a frighteningly great job bringing the villainous Red Skull to life. I can’t wait to see how they further explore Steve Rogers’ world in ‘Captain America 2’.
That’s it, folks. The final curtain on this Avengers Spotlight has fallen. Thanks for following along and I hope that it aided you in better understanding the heroes that can be seen in theaters everywhere in Joss Whedon’s ‘The Avengers’.
In case you forgot who else was spotlighted, here’s a handy collection of all the previous spotlights:
- The Avengers
- Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Maria Hill and Phil Coulson
- The Black Widow
- The Incredible Hulk
- Iron Man
Finally, after you’ve seen the movie, be sure to check out my review of ‘The Avengers’ and sound off in the comment section with your thoughts on it.