By Ben Morse
Given Steve Rogers' unmatchable fighting spirit as well as his lengthy tenure fighting for what he believes in, it takes a lot to truly affect change on Captain America, and the list of those who have done so remains short.
The Red Skull has tormented Cap for years and even "killed" him at one point. Both men to take on the moniker of Baron Zemo have caused the Sentinel of Liberty tremendous personal loss. Most recently, Arnim Zola banished our hero to another world and then ripped his family away from him.
Very soon, another name will join the short list of figures to truly torment Captain America as the Iron Nail finally emerges from the shadows.
"One of the things I wrote down for myself as a goal when I took over CAPTAIN AMERICA was to establish a giant new villain who was identifiable yet terrifying, and to come up with an evil plot very wide and terrifying in its scope," says writer Rick Remender. "The Iron Nail is going to accomplish something in terms of his war on America and S.H.I.E.L.D. and Cap that is pretty big, so we wanted to spend a lot of time on this and make sure we really properly developed it."
CAPTAIN AMERICA #15 by Remender and artist Carlos Pacheco, available on January 22. Glimpses of his past as Ran Shen, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., have been shown, and his back story will be expanded in WINTER SOLDIER: THE BITTER MARCH by Remender and Roland Boschi this February.
"I wanted to put Cap against somebody who was opposed to him in almost all aspects and then show how that person went from being one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s top agents and somebody who used to believe in the American dream [to being] disenfranchised and in love with Mao's manifesto but amplified and seeing it as not even far enough," Remender explains. "I wanted to write him in a way that his Communism [is] turned up to 11, but still in some way relatable.
"The more I wrote down his motives and his thinking and how he sees the world, how he wants to change the world, it became more apparent to me that he is perfectly, inversely opposed to Captain America in most ways and really is a perfect villain for him."
"The Iron Nail is someone that I've been writing notes on going back to THE PUNISHER [in 2009 and] the Shaolin Scientist Squad," he notes. "I had written down notes and started to come up with who their leader was. It never worked in that story, but over the next couple of years, I started writing down notes on the Iron Nail. So this character became very fleshed out in my mind that existed in the wings of the Marvel Universe but had yet to be seen. I would pepper the Shaolin Scientist Squad in various comics here and there to keep building that up."
With the Iron Nail in his back pocket, once Remender began sketching out his initial 25 issues on CAPTAIN AMERICA he knew he had the right threat to challenge Steve Rogers like never before.
The Iron Nail's story has already begun, but before it concludes, Steve Rogers and everyone he cares about will be irrevocably altered. Even Captain America's greatest foes, for decades an extremely exclusive club, will feel the seismic shift.
"You want someone in Cap's rogues gallery who is diametrically opposed to him in a huge way, politically and on an ideological level," Remender concludes. "That's why the Red Skull works so well, and Zemo and Zola on an ethical level. Though [Captain America and the Iron Nail] don't know each other, because they're on such opposite sides of the spectrum, there would be immediate context because of their belief systems.
"The Iron Nail [is] the guy to drive the nail in the heart of [Captain America.]"
Follow the Iron Nail into CAPTAIN AMERICA #15 on January 22