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The Birth of Captain America: A Little-Known Real-Life Story of Triumphing Over Anti-Semitism

Captain America: Awesome? Hmm.

In somewhat of a protest over the means of Captain America’s demise, Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun! has captured a great panel from issue #194 of the Avengers (April, 1980) that demonstrates how the Captain “lays down the awesome”. Bully seems to suggest that the tragedy in Cap’s death is the void in the comics world where Cap’s awesomeness used to be.

But… not so much. Cap wasn’t the coolest or most exciting character in the Marvel stable… Wolverine has more street cred and contemporary appeal any day of the week. But Captain America’s death was, indeed, tragic. Why?

Jack Kirby and Joe Simon created Captain America in the New York City offices of Marvel Comics in 1941. The covers of Captain America #1 and #2 depicted Cap giving Hitler a resounding smack-down. (Can I get an Amen!)

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Captain America #1

Imagine the domestic climate in New York (and in the U.S.) at that time: Thousands of pro-Nazi sympathizers had rallied at Madison Square Garden, a mere two years previous. The German American Bund (or, the German American Nazi Scumbag Wannabes) organized pseudo-military training camps on Long Island. The U.S. had only recently begun to slowly reverse it’s staunchly isolationist policies and attitudes. And the true horrors of Hitler’s campaigns were yet to be discovered.

In the aftermath of the Captain America covers, Jack and Joe and their employees had to get to work under police protection through crowds of screaming, pro-Nazi demonstrators. They suffered a flood of hate mail and obscene phone calls with one general theme: “Death to Jews.”

But here’re these two Jewish guys flipping a noble, metaphorical bird to the haters. Here are two guys who knew evil when they saw it, and weren’t going to let a little thing like death threats stop them from painting a colorful, public picture of justice, as they saw it.

Captain America was born out of two real-life guys doing what was right, even though “right” was hard (and dangerous). In the comics, you could always count on Cap to do what was right, in spite of any adversity.

The Cap stood for something: A strong moral compass, and the fortitude to follow it.

And tiny Baby Jesus knows we need all of that we can get these days.

When Marvel killed him-regardless of the reasons-it was as if Marvel was saying that Captain America represented something that isn’t relevant any more.

And that’s tragic.

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5 comments… add one

  • Paul May 13, 2007, 9:58 pm

    Nice post. I’m a big fan of cap’s. Not so much a reader of his comics, but more him in general.

    By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask you GWS, did you want to do a link exchange? Let me know: Paul.Toybender@gmail.com (I would have asked you privately, but you don’t have an email link that I can find)

  • nickolai May 14, 2007, 2:30 pm

    Agreed, nice post GWS. It’s good to know that Captain America stood for something more than terrible outfits and shields you can throw.

  • Great White Snark May 14, 2007, 2:33 pm

    See? It’s amazing how worked up people got over the death of a character that, at his core, is quite dorky.

  • Keith May 18, 2007, 6:30 am

    Great Post GWS. Yeah Cap even puts the Big Blue Boyscout to shame when it comes to moral fortitude. It’s cool that you had that little backstory about the birth of Cap. Keep up the great posts. Definitely adding GWS to my feed reader.

  • Great White Snark May 18, 2007, 10:44 am

    Thanks, Keith, glad you’re enjoying. Big blue boy scout. Superman and Cap were definitely in a race for that moniker.

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