Friday, May 8, 2009

Oh Captain

Hitting the road until Monday. Until then, here's something from my massive marchives.


Captain America:
An Appreciation

Frank J Rutherford

March 9, 2007 |


Captain America is dead - Long live Captain America!

No, on first blush that doesn't make much sense, does it? Those swaggering words, when applied to the King, of course, refer to both the former King and the newly crowned one, but if Captain America is dead, who would replace him... unless, unless... it were to be you and I. Could you and I be Captain America?

Joe Simon and Stan Lee, the men who created him - if created be the proper word - were not the same as the coward who took the Captain's life with a sniper's bullet this past Wednesday. That assassin, a hack by the name of Ed Brubaker, shall live in infamy, at least if I have anything to say about it.

But today, we praise the hero who bore his nation's name.

Captain America lived in bolder times than our own, coming to the fore in 1941 when the Greatest Generation was stepping forward to fight the war to end all wars. He killed many many Germans, but always there was another to take their goose-stepping place. Why, on more than one occasion he even took on der F├╝hrer himself, although, alas, the German madman always eluded the Captain's final deadly blow.

In the spring of 1943, Captain America was sent to the Pacific theater, where the nation could benefit from his greatest talent - killing Japs, a chore which this man of men took on with great enthusiasm, wiping out whole squads of the yellow scum at a single outing.

Fighting always by his side was the irrepressible Bucky, who was released from reform school at the age of fifteen by agreeing to join the armed forces. Bucky was a natural partner for Captain America, and although he had no special powers, he was widely feared for his prowess with a baseball bat.

Having given his all and then some, Captain America was very disturbed by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, believing that war should be fought with fists and bats, and perhaps, for lesser souls, with bullets and bayonets. After leaving the Army, he vowed to never kill another Jap, a promise he kept until his dying day.

For years he drifted, unsure of his place in a changing world. While never losing his patriotism, he though that the Koreans looked too much like Japs for him to enter that good fight. For a time he expressed interest in confronting the Red Menace, but became discouraged by his realization that Communists could not be visually identified.

Like a number of other wartime heroes, Captain America decided to give Hollywood a shot, a smart move for an action icon who didn't need a stunt double. He ran into trouble, however, on the very first day of his first shoot, when upon arriving on the set of 'Heist on 57th Street', he mistook the rehearsal for a crime in progress, and wantonly attacked the cast and crew. He would never see action on a film set again.

The mid-sixties found Captain America with high hopes for a comeback. He briefly joined B-list super team The Avengers, along with Thor, Iron Man, Red Pants Guy, and Little Woman. The rest of the team proved to be far more interested in fame than in bad guys, and they soon replaced the Captain with the much higher profile Spiderman.

Dejected and alone, Captain America would reunite with his old partner Bucky, who was no longer cute, and had spent the last two decades in and out of mental hospitals.

The above picture was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in June of 1971, and quickly led to a national uproar. In this new age of Miranda Rights, Captain America's behavior was seen as simply beyond the pale. Bucky was convicted of manslaughter and died at San Quentin a few years later.

What was there left for this great man to do except adapt to the role of lone and lonely crime fighter? Sadly, hard living and hard drinking had taken their toll, and in the end he found it impossible to trust the wisdom of his own primal instincts.

And that negligent day was the last in which he appeared in the eye of the nation, until his sad final hour this very week.

I like to imagine that neither the sniper's bullet nor the falling safe made the cut as the Captain's final scene. There are rumors - none verified, mind you - that the Captain healed enough to aid his country one last time. There have been reports from time to time that Captain America reported to duty in the eighties for Ronald Reagan, the greatest president of modern times. They say he taught the Contras the true meaning of the sword, and helped bring about the country that we now know as Nicaragua.

Naysayers claimed that this is not true, and that he spent his last semi-lucid years wandering the hills of Kentucky and kicking beaucoup hillbilly ass, but these reports have been largely discredited.

Captain America is dead - Long live Captain America!

Frank J Rutherford

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