By Kiel Phegley
Marvel's 70th anniversary celebration kicks off in earnest with the CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS 70TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL #1 on April 1. The first of many projects highlighting the heroic legacy of the Golden Age Timely heroes whose legends built the backbone of the Marvel Universe, the one-shot welcomes a familiar face back to both the hallowed halls of Marveldom and to Cap himself: writer James Robinson.
While the acclaimed scribe's previous tours of duty at the House of Ideas on titles like CABLE and GENERATION X remain fan favorites, Robinson's most high profile Marvel gig to date may have been his 1997 run with Captain America and other characters involved in the "Heroes Reborn" initiative.
To celebrate his return to Cap along with highly touted artist Marcos Martin, Robinson talks all things Steve Rogers with us from his earliest comic adventures to why it's the man that makes the mask and not the other way around.
Marvel.com: James, throughout your career, you've done Marvel work here and there, but it seems that one of the constants that brings you back to the Marvel U is Captain America. Do you have a certain amount of affection for the character that keeps you interested in telling stories with him?
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I really do dig the character. He's not my favorite Marvel character, but he's my favorite Marvel character that I feel like I could actually write. When this project came along it was perfect in several ways. It was a one issue commitment. It was a chance to work with Marcos Martin. It's set in the 40's. It's the first book in this fantastic year-long event [Marvel has] planned. And as opposed to the Web or some other Golden Age character of which I would have to think hard to come up with a story, this story presented itself to me, and it was a story that's never been told before that makes sense and fits in the world. It was exciting to add a little bit to the history of Captain America in that way that I think adds to it but at no point does it disrespect or malign anything that's gone before.
Marvel.com: Even though several Marvel characters have their roots in the 40's and the war era, I don't think there's been so much modern exploration of that time period that would run the character into the ground, so to speak. Does it feel like that ground is still a little fresh to tell a Captain America story set in the 40's?
Yeah, absolutely. There hasn't been as much done, and there's been even less done, so to speak, with Captain America before he was Captain America or around his origin. It was easy and fun to come up with the story that I came up with.
Marvel.com: The cover includes Captain America smashing Nazis and you've gone back to the original title in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS, but how do you pull a lot of the classic elements into one story?
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Well, it basically begins with a typical moment from a war time Captain America story: Captain America leading young Americans into battle. The brave champion leading by example and being the first in, you know? But that is the bookend for a story that takes place before Steve Rogers has taken the serum when we see the heroism of Steve Rogers as much as the heroism of Captain America. And it allows Marcos to do some wonderful period artwork set in and around the street life of Brooklyn, which you just have to see to believe.
Marvel.com: The last time you got to write Cap was when you took over the latter half of the "Heroes Reborn" re-launch, and there were a certain amount of ideas you had to deal with in the alternate reality setting. Did it feel then that you weren't quite writing the Steve Rogers that you knew and had read for so many years?
It did. It was fun to do because it was sort of liberating, and I wrote all four parts of the final "pocket Marvel Universe" books—each last episode of FANTASTIC FOUR, CAPTAIN AMERICA, AVENGERS and IRON MAN. It tied the whole thing together and ended [that] universe, and I knew that was coming a little ways into my Cap run. So it never really felt like the real Captain America. Even the little things I did like trying to make Nick Fury into the Nick Fury I remembered and putting the "A" back on his helmet as opposed to the wings that Rob Liefeld put on. They were small things, but it still didn't feel like the real McCoy. And even destroying that universe didn't really have the epic feel as if I was doing anything particularly earth-shattering. This feels very
much more like I'm in the real world of Captain America, and I'm very much loving it. The last time I felt this way was when I did that painted TALES OF SUSPENSE graphic novel with Captain America and Iron Man, which was a long, long time ago.
Marvel.com: Ed Brubaker has often said that in his view of Steve Rogers, even if Rogers had never taken the super soldier serum he would have still been a real patriot and have been versed in the ideals of the founding fathers. Do you get a similar sense of Steve as a man?
As a patriot? I suppose I see him as that. I see him as though Steve Rogers would still be a hero. I'm kind of giving away the whole point of the comic book here, but it isn't the costume—it isn't the powers that make Captain America. That I have always believed. In his own way, he can outthink any problem and he always does the right thing not because he's an angel but because he inherently knows what the right thing is. If the end of the world was happening, he would find a way off the world and get as many human beings out as he could with him. He's perfection, and it's the man. It's not the formula. It's not the costume. It's not the ability to throw his shield accurately.
Marvel.com: You're a huge fan of the Golden Age of comics. When preparing for this story, did you go back and look at the Joe Simon and Jack Kirby Cap comics for inspiration?
Absolutely. You can't see the work of Simon and Kirby and not be inspired by it. So yes, I went back to the well and read all of that stuff and tried to give it that dynamic feel. Marcos did an amazing job of giving it that dynamic, fluid feel that those early Kirbys had, and we wanted a fun feeling of being in that time while also being a modern comic. For example, I found I was using thought balloons as opposed to thought captions as it felt more apropos to the time.
Marvel.com: To wrap, are there any Marvel characters you'd consider coming back and doing something with down the road?
Never say never. I've always had very happy dealings with the people at Marvel, and there are certainly characters I like, especially the Inhumans and Werewolf By Night for some reason. Those characters appeal to me.
Join the celebration with the CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS 70TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL on April 1! And while you wait, check out more from James Robinson on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!
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