By Kevin Mahadeo
With star-spangled shields raised high, Marvel.com celebrates Captain America Week in preparation of the coming double dose of super-soldier serum found in May's CAPTAIN AMERICA #50 and June's extra-sized CAPTAIN AMERICA #600, the latter of which not only returns the title to its original numbering, but also reunites a number of legendary creators with the Sentinel of Liberty once again. Excited for the coming explosion of excellence, Marvel.com tapped prodigal Cap writer Mark Waid and Roger Stern to talk about returning to active duty and take a look back at their time spent with America's first freedom fighter.
"It tasted of cinnamon, with just a hint of sassafras," jokes writer Stern of his first taste of the super-soldier serum back in 1980. "To tell you the truth, I felt a combination of nervousness and excitement. I'd been the editor of CAPTAIN AMERICA for the two previous years. In that time, the series had gone through something like 10 writers and over a dozen artists—creative folks, all of them—but I never thought that we'd found just the right mix of talent."
Ironically, as soon as Stern left his editor position to write comics full-time, Marvel decided to hand him CAPTAIN AMERICA as his first assignment.
"Yeah, no pressure there," laughs Stern. "It was a case of 'Okay, smart guy, put up or shut up.'"
Thankfully, Stern wielded his words as effectively as Steve Rogers slung his renowned vibranium shield. His run with artist John Byrne received esteemed praise and became a regaled run for its creative concepts, which included a story of Captain America running for President, and for depicting the definitive origin of Steve Rogers for years to come.
"I was fortunate in that I'd been reading Cap's series, and all of his related adventures, for about 14 years," says Stern. "And being a bit of a history buff, I had a fair working knowledge of the world in which he'd come of age. So I refreshed my memories with a little research, organized my thoughts and sat down at the typewriter. That's right; this was before computers were readily available. As I started writing that first plot, I got into this sort of Zen state. I don't want this to sound too mystical, but I could see
Cap running toward me across the Brooklyn Bridge. And when I received the first batch of art pages from John Byrne there was Cap, just as I'd imagined him. That's when I knew it was going to work."
Captain America's adventures under Stern's leadership sent the Star-Spangled Avenger much further than just the Brooklyn Bridge, including all the way across the Atlantic to England in the now classic two-part story that delved into and expanded Cap's rich history as well as first introduced the current Union Jack, Joey Chapman. Stern returns to the world of Captain America in June with a story focusing on the friends of Steve Rogers remembering what made the hero great in the first place.
"Steve Rogers isn't just a heroic figure, he's also a decent, compassionate man," explains Stern. "Steve is an idealist, but not an ideologue. And there's not a naïve bone in his body. He's seen the worst of humanity, and the best. Cap always stands up to the worst the world has to offer. He inspires us to reach for the best and he never gives up."
Waid, another man very familiar with the stars and stripes, also returns to CAPTAIN AMERICA with issue #600. His initial run with artist Ron Garney proved a childhood dream for the writer—literally, as the prolific penman readily admits to creating his own Cap props while growing up.
"I was never more excited about an assignment," enthuses Waid. "Cap had been my favorite Marvel character all my life. I loved his 'can-do' optimism and his ability to think himself out of every situation. And I loved that shield. As a kid, I must have made a dozen replicas over the years out of trash can lids, plastic sleds, anything."
Waid's first arc brought Steve Rogers back from the edge of death to fight alongside the Red Skull against Adolf Hitler and also returned to life S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Sharon Carter, a character that plays a major role in current continuity and that unwilling executed Rogers in Ed Brubaker's infamous "Death of Captain America" storyline. Waid left the title after the heroes disappeared following Marvel's "Onslaught" storyline, but returned to re-launch CAPTAIN AMERICA for "Heroes Return."
"I came to the original assignment thinking of Cap as a super hero," says Waid. "As I wrote him, it became clear to me that he was more of a super-spy operative than another Thor or Spider-Man—and, even later, after 'Heroes Return,' I began thinking of him as a political figure who was genuinely motivated to look for answers as to how to make our country a better place to live.
"I still feel as if I have quite a bit to say about his political point of view and his progressiveness," adds Waid. "Hopefully, some of that will come out in my short story in [CAPTAIN AMERICA #600]."
Tomorrow, Captain America Week concludes as we ask: "Where were you when Captain America died?" In the mean time, head to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited for more Cap comics!
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