Monday, 4 July 2016


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Seeing as it's the 4th of July, let's help our American cousins
celebrate the occasion by looking back (and joining) three separate
posts featuring the comicbook character who probably best sym-
bolizes what America aspires to - CAPTAIN AMERICA!


If, like me, you're of a certain age, you probably still think of
barcodes on comic covers as a fairly recent intrusion.  Fact is 'though,
that they've now been adorning the fronts (and, occasionally, the backs)
of our favourite four-colour comicbooks for a total of 40 years.  The
little striped box appeared for the first time on issues dated May/June
1976, although (in America at least) they went on sale in February/
March of that year as they appeared on newsstands a few months
ahead of the actual date on the cover and in the indicia.

So, to my eyes, a comic still doesn't look right if it's been de-
faced with that oblong zebra pattern in the bottom lefthand corner.
No, for me, comics were purer and less compromised when they were
free of that ugly little intruder that defaced the art which called to me
from the spinner-racks, even if I've now known it for a far longer period
of time throughout my life than I have without.  Curious how our ideas of
how things should be done are established from such an early age, isn't
it?  I still consider Lsd (pounds, shillings and pence) as 'real' money
and decimal currency as a relatively recent usurper, although it's
now been around for more than four fifths of my life.

So what's that got to do with CAPTAIN AMERICA?  Not
much - except it may've been the sixth issue of JACK KIRBY's
Cap where I  first noticed (and resented) the barcode box.  (It was
  either that, or SUPERMAN #296.)  I was glad to see Jack back at
MARVEL, even if  his output at this time didn't quite live up to
his first tour of duty at the much-lauded 'House of Ideas'.

Diehard Kirby fanatics were ecstatic to see Jack resume the
reins of the character he'd helped co-create back in the '40s, but
readers used to the more sophisticated and ambitious tales of writers
like STEVE ENGLEHART were less than enchanted by the King's
more direct action-adventure orientated stories.  However, Jack pro-
duced 22 issues of the shield-slinging AVENGER (and two Annuals)
- which was, I believe, the longest-lasting title of his return term -
before leaving Marvel for the second and final time.

Anyway, without any further ado, let's look at the first 11 covers
of Jack's Cap.  The remainder will feature in an upcoming post.


(I should point out for American readers that, to differentiate
U.S. Marvel comics on sale in Britain from their black and white
U.K. editions, the 'Marvel Comics Group' banner was replaced with
'Marvel All-Colour Comics' when the plates were altered from cents
to pence.  They were still printed in the States 'though.)

Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

JACK KIRBY did his best with CAPTAIN AMERICA (& The
FALCON) when he returned to the title in the mid-'70s, but rumours
persist that he was sabotaged from within.  Kirby reportedly felt that a
disproportionate amount of negative letters were published in the mag,
something to which he objected and complained about, 'though, as editor,
one would think he had the power to prevent.  Obviously not, as he was
based out in California, and the letter columns were put together in
New York as a simple matter of expediency.

It's also rumoured that some of the new young turks openly
scoffed at Jack's pages when they arrived in the MARVEL offices,
being less than impressed with them in comparison to the work of other
artists in the fabled BULLPEN.  As I said, he did his best, but the odds
seemed stacked against him from the start.  His art was less fluid and
graceful than it had been in his heyday, and his style of scripting
appeared out of sync with then-modern sensibilities.

STAN LEE apparently interceded on his behalf, requesting that
more positive letters were chosen over less-flattering ones, but by then
it was too late.  Jack was demoralised, and when his contract ended, he
presumably chose not to renew it, and to seek employment elsewhere.
A once mighty giant was at the end of his run, and never again created
anything that resonated to the same degree in the comicbook
field as his collaborations with 'Stan the Man'.

Jack returned to DC COMICS for a spell and completed his
FOURTH WORLD 'epic', but it was an unsatisfying anti-climax
that didn't really bear scrutiny.  It's sad to see how age and illness took
its toll on the man who was once the 'King' of comics, but he belonged
to a vanished era, the likes of which neither he nor we would ever
see again.  Such is life.

However, let's not end on a downbeat note.  There's still much
to admire in the second set of 11 covers from his '70s run on Cap,
so admire away! 

Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

The time:  A dark and rainy Saturday early-evening in 1973.  The
place:  The Norfolk Restaurant in the main shopping centre of my
home town.  I'd just purchased the KING-SIZE SPECIAL CAPTAIN
AMERICA #1 (among others), and borrowed the first edition of The
PENGUIN BOOK Of COMICS from my local library.  As I sat across
from one of my pals, each of us nursing a cup of Coke, I perused the
contents of my recent acquisitions on the table in front of me.

I don't know for how long I owned that Cap comic, but back in the
early or mid-'80s, I obtained a replacement for it, which I've had ever
since.  Around 12 to 14 years ago (several months to a year or so apart)
I happened to acquire Cap Annuals #3 & 4, leaving only #2 to fill
the space in the first four issues.

It's a curious thing, but MARVEL never seemed to be consistent
in naming their bumper extravaganzas;  sometimes they were called
'Specials', sometimes 'Annuals'.  (And to confuse readers further, THOR
not only had a series of King-Size 'Specials/Annuals' devoted to him, but
also a run of four SPECIAL MARVEL EDITIONS.)  Some King-Size
mags began as 'Specials', then morphed into 'Annuals', and I wouldn't
be at all surprised to find that it likewise happened in reverse.

Today, I finally got my grubby mitts on the second issue of the
title, thereby completing my quartet of Cap's Special editions.  As you
can see, the cover has what looks like the spine on view, as if the comic
hasn't been bound properly, but the issue is actually a normal stapled
comic (with 52 pages), as opposed to the glued and thick-stapled
format of #1, 3 & 4.

So, it may have taken me 40 years to obtain the next comic in
sequence after the one I first bought back in '73, but I got there in
the end.  And here's something else to consider - back in the early '90s,
my local library had a book sale, from which I purchased the actual,
self-same copy of The Penguin Book of Comics I'd first borrowed
on that rainy Saturday evening so very long ago.

If you have any personal reminiscences associated with the
comic covers on display, feel free to share them in the comments
section.  With any luck, I can then delude myself into believing that
I'm not the only soppy sentimentalist and nutty nostalgist who
haunts the bloggersphere.  Any takers?  Step right up!

UPDATE:  Originally, I owned issues #134 & 6, so when
I acquired #2 I was well pleased.  However, a nagging voice then
assailed my ears - "Why not get #5 and have the first six Specials/
Annuals?"  Well, sure sounded like a good idea to me, so I promptly
tracked down a copy and added it to my collection.  (For a magazine
which was meant to be published yearly, it's interesting to note that
only five issues were released over a ten year period.) 

So, here's issues #5 & 6 to round of the first half dozen Cap
'Special Annuals'.  Don't ever say I'm not good to you.

And here's the cover of Kirby's 1976 BICENTENNIAL
BATTLES Treasury Edition for good measure.


Dunsade Dave said...

Annual no.5 has a nice twisted little story with some nice Gene Colan art. I bought it in a second hand bookshop in the late 80s along with Hulk 300.

I think I'm fairly well-up on my Marvel lore, but I genuinely had no idea until now that the Marvel All Colour Comics masthead was for copies intended for sale in the UK. Although, going from the spelling of'colour', it should have been obvious!

Kid said...

Believe it or not, DD, Marvel's explanation for the banner change was so that buyers wouldn't confuse them with the weeklies. As if that were ever likely to happen, given the difference in size and the way they were usually sold. (Weeklies on shop counter, monthlies in spinner-rack.)

Phil S said...

Happy 4th Kid. I'm pleased to say Dr Strange made a return to the comic book store parade float. Alas his Wonder Woman wasn't there this year.
But we did have a Captain America.

Kid said...

No Valerie? Aw, shucks!

Phil S said...

Valerie is in Australia at Supanova con as a cosplay guest. She's probably on vacation there.

John Pitt said...

This is a very strange coincidence, but, whilst down the town centre yesterday, I was baffled to see a framed cover of that first comic, along with 5 others in the window of a wedding, etc. cake maker's shop! No idea why they are there?

Kid said...

I think I love her, Phil. Is she married?


Perhaps it was because it was July 4th, JP, and the cake maker had the same idea as me?

Phil S said...

Val is single but she has her own comic character and mini movie character called Paula Peril which you can look up.
You can also look up Valerie Perez as Dejah Thoris after which you can get up from the floor after you faint from her beauty.

Kid said...

I'll be looking taking a look very soon, Phil. I just hope I've got the strength to get up off the floor.

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