With the release of "Thor" on May 6, 2011 and "Captain America: The First Avenger" on July 22, 2011, Marvel.com presents the Essentials, a series of articles showcasing each character's expansive history and mythology in the Marvel comics.
From character retrospectives to a look at memorable storylines and interviews with key creators, the Essentials will act as the perfect guide for fans both old and new! Look for new Cap Essentials every Monday and Thor Essentials every Thursday as we head toward the release of each film!
By Jim Beard
|Captain America #153|
The early 1970s--a challenging time for America, when many questioned the need for war and fought for racial equality. Writer Steve Englehart’s run on CAPTAIN AMERICA during this important era in the country’s history recognized that atmosphere and asked some tough questions in return: Who is Captain America? What does he stand for? Can one white and one black super hero work together for the betterment of all?
Underlying Englehart’s massive 33-issue tenure, the relationship between Captain America and the Falcon stands as one of the greatest partnerships in all of comics. The writer challenged both character’s beliefs and goals, and the dangers they faced together (and apart) in these stories set the standard for Captain America tales for years to come.
Cold War, Cold Warrior
|Captain America #156|
Englehart kicked off his run with a four-part story that cracked the mystery of the 1950s Captain America. While the original Cap slumbered in a bed of ice after the end of World War II, a new “Steve Rogers” set himself up as a replacement Cap, along with a new Bucky. Together, they fought the Red Skull and other baddies through the fabulous Fifties.
Unfortunately, the Super-Soldier Serum drove them both mad and they ran amuck in modern times until taken down by the one, the only, original Captain America. The '50s Cap and his sidekick wound up on ice themselves, courtesy of the FBI.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #153-156 details all the action of Cap vs Cap, and you can find the story collected in ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 3!
Snakes in the Grass
|Captain America reunited with Peggy Carter|
Cap receives no rest when Englehart threw him straight into a battle with the Viper and the entire Serpent Squad. The sneaky snakes found their calling through the mysterious Cowled Commander, whose identity turned out to be quite a shocker for Steve Rogers.
During this time, Cap also wrestled with the heat of Solarr, the mental manipulations of Doctor Faustus and the return of his wartime love, Peggy Carter. If that wasn’t enough, the Falcon began to feel inferior next to Cap’s new-found super-strength…
Look no further than CAPTAIN AMERICA #157-163 for these terrifying tales, True Believers! And here’s a hint: you can scrounge them up for a song in ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 4!
To Trim the Yellow Claw
|Captain America #165|
You remember the Yellow Claw, right? Steve Englehart sure did, and set him once again on the path to world domination--by way of werewolves, giant spiders, lurking mummies and the resurrection of his evil grandniece, Suwan. Cap not only had to contend with all that, but also problems with his love life, his partnership with the Falcon…and that nagging little misunderstanding when he killed Nick Fury!
We know you don’t believe us, so check out CAPTAIN AMERICA #164-167 for all the gory details! Those too can be found in ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 4!
The Secret Empire
|Captain America #176|
At the core of Englehart’s long run on the book lies the scorching saga of the Secret Empire. Never before this had Cap faced so many hurdles to see himself through to the story’s end--and when he reached it, he wished he hadn’t. Set up for murder by the confounding Committee, the star-spangled Avenger fled for his life and along the way ran afoul of the murderous Moonstone, S.H.I.E.L.D., the X-Men and yes, the sinister Secret Empire themselves!
One of the coolest things in this story comes when the high-flying Falcon gains his wings and becomes a true bird of prey not only in name but in actions. Sadly, Steve Rogers cannot dwell too long on his friend’s good fortune for when the identity of the Secret Empire’s Number 1 stands revealed, Cap’s entire world lies shattered at his feet.
Oh, this one you must read, Marvelite! It ran originally in CAPTAIN AMERICA #169-176 but you can find it in both ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 4 and CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON: SECRET EMPIRE!
Cap No More
|Captain America #180|
When’s Captain America not Captain America? When Steve Englehart turned him into Nomad! That’s right, after the fall of the Secret Empire, Steve Rogers laid down his shield and costume and took up the mantle of Nomad, the man without a country. Falcon, bummed and bothered, struck out on his own while others tried their hand at being Captain America--but to no avail. The country needed its hero and it took the appearance of the Serpent Crown and the Red Skull to convince Steve that Cap should be back!
A sad time, to be sure, but an era that must be studied by Cap scholars everywhere. Please take out CAPTAIN AMERICA #177-183 for more information. If you cannot acquire these issues, please refer again to ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 4.
Red Skull Reveals All
|Captain America #184|
To wrap up his historic run, Englehart wrote of the return of the Red Skull and the fiend’s latest vicious attack on American democracy. When it all seemed to go to heck and the Skull kidnapped Cap’s friends Gabe Jones and Peggy Carter, from his bag of tricks the mastermind of mayhem pulled out one of his most devilish surprises of all: the true origin of the Falcon.
Could it be true? Falcon a product of the Skull’s manipulations? One must pore through CAPTAIN AMERICA #184-186 for clues, chums – and yes, let’s say it all together now: ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 4!