Many Marvel fans, especially devotees of continuity (like myself), often cite Steve Englehart’s three-plus-issue arc detailing the origin of the 1950s Captain America as one of the best of all time. After all, some kind of explanation was due since the Cap we know and love was put on ice after attempting to stop that Nazi missile, and thawed out almost 20 years later by the fledgling Avengers.
Captain America had been published from 1941 through 1949, and four years later Stan Lee, along with iconic artist John Romita, brought the Captain (and Bucky) back in the book Young Men. The duo battled the Communist menace as, well, that’s what immediate-post-war America was all about. However, superhero comics weren’t doing so hot at that time, and Cap dropped off the scene around 1954.
Beginning with a brief glimpse in Captain America #153, the 1950s Cap — William Burnside, a teacher who did his college thesis on the real Cap, fanatical devotee of the hero that he was — and “Bucky” are shown harassing several African-Americans in Harlem. The next three issues play out the explanation: In researching his PhD thesis, Burnside came upon files and a serum sample of Nazi Germany’s own “Project: Rebirth,” and he offers to become the “new” Captain America to help in the Korean War effort.
He even undergoes plastic surgery to look just like Steve Rogers (the original Cap — did I have to tell you that?).
The government puts the kibosh on Burnside’s idea, however, as the war ends. But, after an attack by the Red Skull, Burnside and “new” Bucky Jack Monroe go ahead and inject themselves with sample serum. The untested serum lacks the stabilization factor of the “vita rays” used on Steve Rogers; as a result, Burnside and Monroe slowly become insane, and the government throws them into cryo-sleep until something can be done for their condition.
Eventually someone in charge of looking after their bodies gets pissed off at current events (ironically, in the #155 panel above, we see a newspaper headline about Richard Nixon opening up relations with Red China — the very same politician who would serve as Englehart’s “Number One” of the Secret Empire just 20 issues later), and awakens the duo. The awakened heroes vow to “get those Reds” and the reader (and the real Cap, Falcon, and Sharon Carter, who’re hostages of Burnside and Monroe during this history lesson) is up to date on everything.
Marvel writers from the 1970s-on had (and have) a bad habit of portraying conservatives, Republicans and patriotism in general as the media and Hollywood do: simple-minded quasi- (or outright) bigots and bigotry. When Steve Rogers was replaced by John Walker in the 1980s (and who was president then?), the former Super Patriot, he becomes mentally unstable after, yes, a fascist militia group (see above) murders his parents. Anyone recall the scene at the end of West Coast Avengers #45 where the Wasp wonders who Walker — as the US Agent — was talking to while alone in his room? The answer is no one; he was chatting with pictures of his dead parents:
Writer Chuck Dixon wasn’t a big fan of Englehart’s 1950s Cap; in a recent Bounding Into Comics piece, Dixon said that the Burnside character…
[…] was a mouth-breathing, right wing caricature. Sort of a stand in, an allegory for Joe McCarthy in the House on Un-American Activities. And as usual the stories were written without doing any actual research into the communist scare period, the red scare period. And the 1950s Cap is portrayed as a villain. I’ve always thought that was wrong.
And as we know from the Venona Papers, it was really wrong. Because there really were communists here in the United States trying to overthrow our government, seeding sedition. Hollywood types and people in academia, and even people in our government who held actual military rank in the NKVD in the Soviet Union. They weren’t just sympathizers or informers. They were actual spies in the pay of the Kremlin. And all that really happened.
So 50s Cap was right as we know now from papers handed over after the fall of the U.S.S.R. In the interest transparency, the United States government was allowed access, and the United States media, the whole world media was allowed access to KGB and NKVD papers proving that many of the things that people were told were just crazy conspiracy, looking for communists under the rug kind of things, actually were true.
Dixon revealed he pitched Marvel a miniseries idea of revamping the 1950s Cap which would chronicle the hero’s adventures in that decade. “I think you can guess how far that pitch went,” he said.
Indeed, six years ago Dixon co-penned an article blasting liberal bias in comics. Then-Marvel hotshot Tom Brevoort responded that the company would have no issue with the politics of someone like Dixon, just his behavior.
If you believe that, then you also believe Hillary Clinton is our rightful president. How Marvel creators have behaved online over the last decade simply, an utterly, tears asunder Brevoort’s contention. The examples are way too numerous to list.
Ironically, for all the complaining progressives do about how the Red Scare was overblown, they’ve been acting precisely like Senator Joe McCarthy in blaming Russia for anything they don’t like. They concocted one of the greatest schemes ever in American politics: that Donald Trump is/was a Russian stooge who did Vladimir Putin’s bidding, all of which occupied much of the Mr. Trump’s first three years in office.
It was all bogus. At least McCarthy had some facts on his side.