Captain America #34
cover by Alex Ross
By Ryan Penagos
Steve Rogers, the Sentinel of Liberty, was cut down in a hail of gunfire in March's CAPTAIN AMERICA #25. And whether or not you agree with the decision, he's still dead. But a character as iconic and important as Cap can never truly die. Who better to reimagine Cap for a new age, a new character, a new costume
, than Alex Ross? Working closely with Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting and Tom Brevoort, Captain America makes his return—or debut, if you prefer—in January's CAPTAIN AMERICA #34.
So why did it take nine months to reinstate Captain America? Rest assured, it was all in the cards. "This was always the plan, to have—with issue #34, halfway through the whole big, 'Death of Captain America' epic story—[a new Cap]," explains Brubaker. "So, you know, it's all very, very planned out, believe it or not. [Laughs
] I have an extensive notebook that I sometimes lose. [Laughs
] Which is kind of traumatic."
Luckily, Brubaker never lost sight of working with Ross, an idea that'd been percolating for a while. "Well it was my suggestion to Tom [Brevoort], like months and months ago, knowing that we were going to have a new Cap starting in January," admits Brubaker. "You know, just an off-handed suggestion, let's see if we can get Alex Ross to help design the costume, thinking there was no possible way. I think this is when I found out that they were doing [AVENGERS/INVADERS]. Tom was like, 'You know that's not exactly outside the realm of possibility,' and I was like, 'What?!' [Laughs
] So as it got closer to needing something, Tom actually broached the subject and asked Alex about it. I didn't know him at all, but yeah, it was great."
America design by
Ross may be one of comics' artistic visionaries, but it worked out that the big man behind EARTH X, MARVELS and the upcoming AVENGERS/INVADERS series simply lined himself up with an already winning team. "Well, it's all a collaborative effort, so it's not just purely my coming in and saying this is how it's going to get done," says Ross, whose recent return to the House of Ideas is in large part due to the tireless efforts of Marvel Comics publisher Dan Buckley and Dynamite Entertainment publisher Nick Barrucci. "Steve [Epting] did some drawings as well, bouncing off of things I was throwing at them. From the first time I had got the call, I did some drawings within about a day or two. I had an idea in my head immediately of what I would want to try and it largely incorporated this influence of a dark costume that had, say, a focal element of a shield on his chest—his old 1940s shield as if it was put on his chest plate."
Cap's classic shield isn't the only old school element Ross & Co. looked to when designing Cap's new appearance. "I always try and look back in the character's history to something that maybe was a forgotten costume element from a bygone age, maybe one of the earlier costume elements, to see if you could bring that part back," Ross adds, explaining that comic book Cap hasn't been their only resource. "Well, funny enough, there's this awful movie serial made in the '40s with Cap where he had no shield, no wings on his mask, no white sleeves, little tiny gloves, and he carried a gun."
A gun?! Indeed! "In talking to Alex, I immediately hit it off with him," says Brubaker. "We were referencing the same eras of Captain America and I immediately saw that his initial design was referencing the '40s movie serial costume design. That was kinda like, 'Oh, this is totally cool.' [Laughs
] Before we even had the first conference call, [Alex] had sent over his initial ideas as a coming-off point and so we kind of circled around those and gave input, but Alex that had most of the vision there. My comments were sort of like, 'Can we give him a gun?' [Laughs
#34 cover by
"Alex came up with a couple of ideas and we had a conference call to discuss the character and what we wanted to bring to the costume design using his sketches as a starting point," explains Epting. "Alex did some more variations throughout the next week and we all gave our input, trying to come to a consensus. The problem for me was that all of Alex's designs were very well thought out and had great visual impact. Honestly, I would [have] loved drawing any of them."
With so many strong creative voices working together on the design, it's pretty spectacular how smooth the process has been. "Well, it all looks easy from the outside," says Brevoort. "There was the typical back-and-forth that there often is when redesigning a character, especially one as classic as Captain America. There were maybe a few more people involved than on average. But it helped that Ed, Steve and Alex all first started reading the books at around the same time, so there was a very basic commonality of perspective and experience when it came to the character.
"We were very fortunate to have Alex's involvement," Brevoort continues, "as his sense of costume design is so strong, and he's so dedicated to maintaining the classic elements of the characters he works on while not being afraid to change things up where necessary. But it did mean that there was another strong voice in the mix beyond the people we'd typically be dealing with for a design for a Captain America character."
America design by
So not only will someone other
than Steve Rogers step into the Cap costume come January, they'll be armed with both a gun and a knife to go along with Cap's classic shield. There's no doubt fan reaction will be loud and varied.
"Well I think in many ways we want people to react with whatever emotions that come to mind," says Ross. "The idea that Captain America would have an offensive weapon like a gun…if it's an upset feeling, we want it to be so. We want it to feel like, 'Oh, he's got a gun now. Captain America with a gun?!' You know, it should stick in your mind that that's something. This is not your father's Captain America, so to speak. It's a more brutish interpretation, at this point, for the modern age."
"I'm not worried about it that much because the costume design looks so cool I figure everybody [will] love it, but I'm sure that there'll be people who are furious about it," notes Brubaker. "You know, nobody's really complained about it, but after nine months I think people will be glad to have at least somebody running around in a Captain America costume in the book. [Laughs
America design by
"As is typical when you change a classic character around," explains Brevoort, "there are going to be some who'll love it and some who'll loathe it. But it does have the advantage that this isn't Steve Rogers, so what might seem right or wrong for his Captain America won't necessarily hold true in the same way for our new guy."
Epting lays it down very simply: "After 30-plus issues, I don't think anyone should doubt that Ed can make this story great."
Who's in the new Cap outfit? How'd they get to that point? What's different? What stays the same? Read CAPTAIN AMERICA #34, on sale in January.