Captain America: First Vengeance

Captain America: Van Lente's First Vengeance

Check in with writer Fred Van Lente as he gives Cap his marching orders on First Vengeance!

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By Jim Beard

When Marvel Studios called on writer Fred Van Lente to write an official digital comics tie-in to their upcoming film “Captain America: The First Avenger,” he realized it represented a chance to strap on the famous shield and come out swinging. And so he has.

With four issues currently available on the Marvel Comics App, CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST VENGEANCE introduces fans to the characters from the film for the first time as we learn of their backgrounds and much of what makes them the people we’ll see on the screen.

Captain America: First Vengeance #5 black and white preview art by Luke Ross

“We meet Steve Rogers--the once and future Cap--Bucky Barnes, Johann Schmidt--aka The Red Skull--HYDRA, the Howling Commandoes, as well as some true surprises, and see what makes them tick and what they were doing up until the point where the film begins," explains Van Lente.

FIRST VENGEANCE balances the early days of the cast with exciting scenes of Rogers in action as Cap, a situation Van Lente feels offers both challenges and rewards to him as a writer and to his audience as well.

“I enjoyed it because doing the backstory of the characters allowed me to weave in as many real-life World War II events as possible--we touch on the Night of the Long Knives, the bombing of Guernica, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the passage of the Nuremberg Laws, and more,” he notes. “That's some heavy stuff for a super hero comic, but one that I think will enhance the experience of Cap's world before folks check out the flick. 

“Historical fiction is pretty much my first love, and it was great to exercise those muscles on such a broad stage here. I'm kind of a research junkie. The trick, really, is to not get drunk on it, and cram everything you've ever read about a subject into a story. First and foremost, Captain America--the comic and the movie--is a high-octane action thriller, and your research has to enhance that, not overwhelm it.”

A portion of those challenges resides in crafting the comic as a digital edition, as opposed to a traditional hardcopy one. Though FIRST VENGEANCE will ultimately be released to comic shops, some thought to its online construction became necessary.

Captain America: First Vengeance #5 black and white preview art by Luke Ross

“Ironically, the double-page splash was basically invented by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS in the 1940s, but those kinds of burst-y, look-at-this moments that work so well when you're flipping the pages of a paper comic don't work so well on mobile devices, where the image has to be compressed to fit the dimensions of the screen,” Van Lente explains. “Particularly when you have ‘smart panels’ that move from story moment to story moment, the manipulation of the page layout for dramatic effect pioneered by Joe and Jack becomes largely a moot point. Sorry guys!”

The writer also took a moment to reflect not only on a favorite moment from the existing issues, but on a hint of things yet to come in the series.

“I like drama, of course, and not to sound too ghoulish, but Schmidt's confrontation with Abraham Erskine, inventor of the Super Soldier Serum, genuinely chilled me as I wrote it,” he says. “Hopefully readers felt the same way. 

“[Issue] #5 begins to demonstrate how ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ is the most integrated of the Marvel films with the rest of the cinematic universe. It introduces a major character from ‘Iron Man 2’ into Cap's world, and things will never be the same again. After that, we meet Agent 13, the Howling Commandoes and--perhaps--[see some] hints from another major Marvel summer blockbuster this year...”

In all, the experience of writing CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST VENGEANCE clocks in as a great one for Van Lente, including his interaction with the gang at Marvel Studios and looking forward to readers’ reactions to the series.

“It's been a terrific back and forth with the studio and Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada,” he reports. “I got the [film] script--which was terrific--and hundreds of beautiful production stills from the film. The producers of the film read each one of my scripts and provide feedback to make sure our comic fits the feel and vision of the movie.

“If [fans] read FIRST VENGEANCE before they see the film, I hope it gets them über-pumped for what will be a real classic in the super hero genre, I have no doubt. If they read it afterwards, I hope it shows all the backstory for the characters they just saw and [shows] how all their experiences link together. I can't wait to see it, myself!”

Read CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST VENGEANCE #1 for FREE right now, and download issues #1-4 on the Marvel Comics App.

Check out the official "Captain America: The First Avenger" teaser site as well as its hub page right here on Marvel.com for the latest on Cap's big screen adventure hitting theaters July 22!

In addition to "Captain America: The First Avenger," Marvel Studios will release a slate of films based on the Marvel characters including "Thor" on May 6; "Marvel Studios' The Avengers" on May 4, 2012; and "Iron Man 3" on May 3, 2013.

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