May 1, 2020
3 insane Captain America moments Marvel won't put in the movies
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought us a new golden age of superhero films not seen since the Christopher Reeves Superman movies (a golden age which lasted roughly until Joel Schumacher decided that Batman desperately needed to look like he got his costume at a discount fetish gear shop). Unlike DC, which hasn’t had the best success with any of its recent films that don’t revolve around Christian Bale speaking like he’s smoked unfiltered cigarettes mixed with ground glass, Marvel has managed to get people to ignore their less-than-stellar attempts at movie magic from a decade ago.
However, as much as Marvel tries to use massive special effects budgets and bleak social commentary to make us forget, these are still comic book characters, and even the most iconic character has gone through periods the publisher never wants the general public to see again. Today, I’ll be talking about shameful moments in the history of Captain America, arguably one of the three cornerstones of Marvel’s movie universe (alongside a drunk and a teenage boy in spandex). And no, surprisingly, none of these moments have anything to do with the fact that he was basically created to whip readers into a jingoistic fervor.
1. Cap Gets Impersonated by a D-List Supervillain
Those of you who mainly know about Marvel from the movies (or haven’t obsessively spent the past 30 years engrossed in comic book trivia) may not know that Captain America wasn’t actually a founding member of the original Avengers back in Marvel’s early days. In fact, he wasn’t there at all. Marvel as we know it began life in 1961, but Cap actually predated the company, having originally been created for Timely Comics in 1939. By 1954, the character was cancelled for good after a vaguely desperate attempt at rebranding him as “Captain America: Commie Smasher”.
With Marvel’s uncanny ability to turn pretty much any Stan Lee sci-fi nonsense into gold, by 1963, the publisher made plans to possibly revive the character again, this time in a less clumsy fashion. However, they apparently weren’t sure if readers were interested, because rather than actually bring the character back, what they did was run a story where the Human Torch (the Fantastic Four version, not the pre-war version) seemingly encounters Cap, only to discover him to be a criminal impostor, specifically a bargain-bin supervillain that the Fantastic Four had fought a few issues earlier named the Acrobat.
The story ended with Johnny Storm looking over his old Captain America comics (yeah, for some weird reason, in early Marvel stories, characters co-exist with their own comic books; it’s really bizarre), with a note from the editor telling the reader that Fake-Cap was a test to see if there was any reader interest in seeing Actual Cap again. Since being lied to by comic book covers was standard for the time, readers weren’t too outraged, and Cap was brought back from whatever hellish limbo that cancelled comic book characters end up in.
2. Genocidal Nazi Cap
The problem with characters like Captain America is that they’re tied to specific events in history, and there’s a limit to how old a superhero can believably be. Cap has it easier than most, since he was turned into a war-flavored popsicle in 1945 and can be thawed out in pretty much whatever year we’re in right now. The problem is that wasn’t how his original comic ended; it just sort of fizzled out, since no one wanted to read about Cap punching Chinese commies. So since our modern Cap was put on ice in 1945 and brought back in 1963/2010/Whatever Fucking Year It’ll be When They Reboot the Damn Thing, then who the hell was the guy running around dressed in flag pajamas in the ’50s?
Thanks to the old Comic Book Magic of “If You Didn’t See It, You Don’t Know It Didn’t Happen This Way,” in 1972, readers found out that the commie-smashing Cap was actually William Burnside, originally an obsessive Captain America fanboy whom the government had undergo plastic surgery to make him look like the real Cap, to use him as a symbol during the Korean War. But this being a government project, the big wigs changed their minds and abandoned the project halfway through. Not one to be deterred by things like presidential orders, Burnside and his sidekick, a teenager who was obsessed with Cap’s sidekick Bucky, injected themselves with a flawed version of the Super Soldier serum. You can probably guess this wasn’t the best idea.
Having injected themselves with an unstable mutation serum, Burnside and Friend became violently paranoid and psychotic (a fairly apt metaphor for the U.S. in the ’50s, to be fair) and had to be put into suspended animation until they were revived decades later. Being confronted with the real Cap just made things worse, and Burnside eventually became a neo-Nazi leader calling himself the Grand Director, until he killed himself via self-immolation. And you thought Captain America: Civil War was too depressing. At least that movie didn’t have a scene with Nazi-Cap beating the Falcon like the wi-fi was down at Gitmo.
3. Cap Was a Werewolf (More Than Once)
When you’ve been around as long as Cap, you go through most of the comic cliches. He’s stopped being Cap at least three times (not counting all the times he was dead), been turned into a cyborg, sent back in time, sent forward in time, fought Hitler god knows how many times, but even for all that, what’s the one type of story you can’t possibly imagine that Marvel would try to put Cap through (not counting any of the pornographic ones; the internet takes care of that)? How about… wolfman? Yeah, turns out they did do that.
I know, it sounds like they just picked an idea out of a hat or something, but here it is: Capwolf, the story of Captain America’s werewolf phase. And this isn’t one of those LSD-induced “imaginary stories” DC loved to do, where Jimmy Olsen turned into a giant eggplant or whatever the fuck either; this is still part of Cap’s history. To make a ridiculous story short, Cap stumbles across a supervillain plot revolving around a werewolf serum, and alongside the mutant Wolfsbane, who’s not really a werewolf but looks like one, and Wolverine, who’s just a hairy jerk with claws, kicks ass. There’s a lot more to it, but I have a limit to how much nonsense I can recap.
Decades later, Steve Rogers retired as Captain America and turned over the role to Sam Wilson, AKA the Falcon. Apparently, alongside inheriting the title, he also had to inherit all the cartoonish shit the original had to deal with, because sure enough, one day Wilson woke up and discovered he had developed a bit of a body hair problem.