Captain America has had a tough past five years. He led the losing side of a civil war, was murdered (well, not really, but everyone thought he was dead), and when he finally returned, he found out that Chris Evans is set to portray him in a movie next year.
But that's the thing about Cap: He takes it all in stride and perseveres. His idealistic nature, his integrity and his genuine patriotism have kept him going strong since the 1940s.
So why doesn't his Boy Scout attitude grate on people more? Why is it that we're accepting of a man who's older than our great-grandpa telling us about right or wrong, but we're dismissive when we hear it coming from a guy like Superman? My opinion: It's because Cap knows how to pull off great Fuck Yeah moments!
In honor of the Fourth of July–and also because the new issues of his series and Secret Avengers, which he stars in, hit stores this week–I've compiled the 10 Cap moments that make Americans ecstatic he belongs to the U.S. of A.
1. Captain America (vol. 1) #109
Background After enduring the process that transforms him into a peak human physical specimen, Steve Rogers, the man who would become Captain America, witnesses a Nazi assassin strike down Dr. Abraham Erskine, the inventor of the Super-Soldier Serum responsible for Rogers' change. Rogers watches Erskine die in his arms, then performs his first heroic act in his new body: He kicks the crap out of the killer.
Why it makes the list In this retelling of his origin, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby use one panel to encapsulate Cap's character as a passionate, principled man of action.
2. Captain America (vol. 5) #25
Background Being on the losing side of the super-hero civil war, Cap has been arrested and is being escorted to court. That's when he notices a sniper rifle in a nearby window and takes the bullet meant for his guard. Then he's unknowingly shot by his lover, Sharon Carter (technically, he's displaced through time and space a la Desmond from Lost or Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five).
Why it makes the list Shot and dying, Cap still takes charge to try and protect people. Those would be the best last words ever. Y'know, if he had actually died.
3. Captain America (vol. 1) #200
Background Cap leads a two-prong attack against an organization bent on detonating a “mad bomb” that would enslave humanity in, um, madness. While a strike team disables the bomb, Cap faces the leader of the group, who just happens to be the ancestor of a colonial traitor who was slain in a duel by Cap's ancestor. What? That hasn't happened in your life?
Why it makes the list A World War II veteran himself, Jack Kirby knew how to handle Cap's badassery perfectly. Here's what I can't determine when I read this scene: Does Cap's confidence come from the fact that he knows the guy will wuss out (spoiler alert: he does)? Or is he confident because he knows he can disarm the guy before he could pull the trigger? Or maybe he just knows he's Captain Freakin' America and no traitor descendant in a powdered wig is going to take him down?
4. Captain America (vol. 3) #8
Background A group of alien Kree are kidnapping and genetically experimenting on humans on Earth. Cap is called in by fellow Avenger Ms. Marvel (going by Warbird here) to help stop them. Fisticuffs ensue, and Cap loses his temper after discovering a warehouse packed to the rafters with dead bodies.
Why it makes the list Cap is at his best when he professes his ideals while pummeling a monstrous opponent. It adds some genuine nobility to a good ass-kicking.
5. Amazing Spider-Man #537
Background Spider-Man has switched sides in the super-hero civil war, and public opinion has turned on him like a rabid zombie dog. Now on the same side in the conflict, Cap seeks out the Web-Slinger and gives him a pep talk that put Knute Rockne and Bluto from Animal House to shame.
Why it makes the list Captain America's only documented superpower is his ability to speechify. (His only undocumented power is to continually apologize for all his speechifying.) And in the hands of a good writer, it's a power that can give a grown man goosebumps. So? What of it?
6. Marvel Fanfare #18
Background A group of friends discouraged with the government's treatment of the working man (FYI: this story was published in 1984) blackmail New York City through a series of arsons that turn deadly. Cap tracks down the perpetrators, but the ringleader decides to go out in a blaze of deluded glory instead of face the shame of being apprehended. Cap can't save him, but he does save the flag.
Why it makes the list Cap lived through the Great Depression. Cap fought on the frontlines of World War II. Cap saw his partner killed. Cap was frozen for decades. Cap got on with his life. You can imagine that he doesn't have a stomach for whiners. Especially whiners who try to burn the flag.
7. Avengers (vol. 3) #63
Background A religion based on worshiping Thor creates instability in Eastern Europe, pushing countries to the brink of war. It also pushes Iron Man and Cap to confront their fellow Avenger. As tensions rise, Cap tries to convince a U.S. military detachment to go against presidential orders and stand down from the conflict.
Why it makes the list Don't let your brain tie itself into knots over the implausibility of all these soldiers breaking military law and flagrantly disobeying their commanding officer. What makes this scene great is that it seems entirely plausible that these fighting men would possess and display this kind of respect for a living legend.
8. Avengers-JLA #4
Background I'm going to radically simplify this cross-company team-up: The heroes from the DC Universe team up with the heroes of the Marvel Universe to defeat a Big Bad of cosmic proportions that threatens to destroy the fabric of existence. The heroes strategize before their final battle, and a leader is chosen to lead the attack.
Why it makes the list Superman picking Cap to lead the heroes is like Michael Jordan telling Kobe Bryant to take the game-winning shot. Forever after, your view of the world is changed.
9. The Infinity Gauntlet #4
Background Thanos, the mad Titan obsessed with death, comes into possession of the Infinity Gauntlet, an artifact that bestows godlike power on its wearer. And like any mad Titan obsessed with death, Thanos decides to destroy everything. A band of heroes desperately–and unsuccessfully–tries to stop him. Guess who steps up to confront Thanos?
Why it makes the list Remember Alec Baldwin's scene from Glengarry Glen Ross? Those brass balls he pulls out of his briefcase were molded on Cap's.
10. Captain America (vol. 1) #332
Background A government commission decides it wants to exert tighter control on Captain America, claiming he's a government employee. The commission gives him an ultimatum: Fall in line or quit.
Why it makes the list The entries on this list have shown Cap's passion and ferocity. But it's when he's calm, introspective and righteous that he is at his most patriotic. The only marks left by the verbal beat down he delivers to the government are everlasting shame and disappointment
This was a tough list to compile. I had 10 more that easily could've been added. Tell me: What are your favorite Captain America moments that should've been considered? Besides the cover of Captain America Comics #1 and “You think this letter on my head stands for France?“
Other comics to check out this week
- Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 This release is notable for two reasons: 1) Matt Fraction is writing one of the most entertaining runs on the character in some time; and 2) this issue is being digitally released on the iPad the same day as its print release.
- Northlanders #29 If vikings are the new pirates are the new ninjas are the new robots are the new monkeys, then Brian Wood's Vertigo series is that trend's bible.
- Unknown Soldier #21 This series has been canceled with issue #25, but that's no reason not to pick it up. It's a gripping look at the violence and politics of Uganda. Pick up the trades, then pick up this issue.
- Wonder Woman #600 People sure are talking about Wonder Woman, but they're not talking about this issue. This could be your last chance to see the classic swimsuit costume.