My Top 10 Favorite Issues of CAPTAIN AMERICA

Written: 16 April, 1998

I hate "top 10" lists...

Here are my favorite ten issues of Captain America prior to #300 (circa 1984). (I'm going purely by memory on this, so I might have a few details wrong here and there...) This list is in order of greatness, 1 being the best issue, 2 being next best, etc.

1.) #250: "Cap for President" by Stern/Byrne (circa 1980).

2.) #267. "Everyman" by DeMatteis/Zeck (circa 1982). A controversial choice. But in recent years I've realized what a great issue this is.

3.) #237. Issue where Cap learns of Sharon Carter's death, begins a new life for himself, gets new neighbors, and hears Anna Kapplebaum talk about what it was like to live in Nazi Germany. The 2 pages showing Cap approaching and liberating the camp are among my all-time favorite comics panels. Steve happens to reveal in this issue that his favorite beverage is goat's milk. Earlier in the issue, Cap gave a press conference and a reporter asked if he had "outlived his usefulness." Cap replied, "I don't know." From memory, I think this issue was plotted by Chris Claremont, scripted by Roger McKenzie, and drawn by Sal Buscema (probably with Don Perlin inking).

(The thing that sticks in my mind about that period [of Cap's series] is that it seemed like the beginning of a "fill-in" period. Every issue was either one or two issues long -- and that's about how long each creative team lasted. On one hand, interesting; on the other hand, inconsistent from one month to the next. #242 (with nice, polished Perlin/Sinnott art) is probably my favorite issue of that period between #237 (when Cap's new supporting cast was introduced) and #247 (when Stern/Byrne took over). I guess most people like the Punisher issue from that period best (#241?), although it didn't interest me much and I didn't realize the significance until later, when the Punisher became mega-popular.)

4.) #111. Steranko, giving us a strange Cap issue. (Well, they are all -- #110 & #113 being the other two Steranko issues -- strange, but I find this one the strangest.) Rick Jones has a 2-page flipped out hallucination. Rick can't compete with the memory of a dead Bucky. (Nice little "photo-realism" panel there of Cap & Bucky together in B&W.) The best of Steranko's Cap covers (against tough competition). Written by Stan Lee, by the way. The ending connects with the card Steve got at the beginning of the story...and in the end, we have a cliffhanger that would do Mark Waid proud. Cap is believed killed and the cops recover a "Steve Rogers" mask from the waters...If Cap wasn't really Steve Rogers, then who was he?

5.) #110. The first of the Steranko issues. The cover has a weird Golden-Age/Eisner feel to it, with a giant Hulk. By Lee/Steranko/Sinnott. Circa 1968.

6.) Cap's Bicentennial Battles by Jack Kirby (1976). Well, I did want to just limit this to issues proper of Cap's series, but this great comic tends to get overlooked and I think it deserves mention. Especially since there's a paucity of Kirby on my list, for some reason! But this huge mag is Kirby at his best. Kirby's panels are terrific at this size...They always looked big before, but this comic is even bigger than big. Plus, the story has a bunch of wonderful little touches. I think my favorite scene is probably the one where Cap looks confused standing in the middle of a Hollywood Busby Berkely-style dance scene. He's horrified at the use of the "flag" (Cap) as pure mindless spectacle. He calls for "Mister Buda" to get him out of there. Story/art by Kirby with chapters inked by Barry Smith, John Romita Sr., and (I think) Frank Giacoia.

7.) #154. This is the second part of the "1950s Cap" arc (#153-156), and my favorite among them. By Steve Englehart & Sal Buscema. Circa 1972. Cameo appearance by The Avengers (who appear on the cover). Best scene is when a mob of Harlem residents storm the 1950s Cap & Bucky's hideout to rescue the Falcon. The early 1950s Commie-hating Cap encountering early 1970s Black Power!

8.) #137. Nothing like a guest-star to liven things up. This one's got Falcon vs. Spidey. This issue could place 8th, 10th, 12th, or 25th on my list depending on my mood -- but still a good issue. Written by Stan Lee, drawn by Gene Colan.

9.) #225. Another odd choice, but I like it. This one tells the story of what Steve Rogers was like growing up. By Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema. Only problem is that this story (with good reason) was revealed in #247 to be a false-memory implanted in Cap. So, everything in #225 is wrong. Still, I enjoyed it nonetheless. Great to see a weak Steve with an authoritative father -- who is disappointed to see that frail young Steve is unable to catch a baseball without getting injured. Steve spends a lot of his teenage years in his room, reading. His dad finds his lack of apparent interest in girls or sports abnormal, and he finds the books Steve reads to be subversive. This is a father and son who will never get along. We see the passing of years here, the aging of not only Steve into manhood, but Steve's father becoming older, perhaps frailer-looking, but still the bad feeling remains between them. This ain't a typical "superhero" comic -- it's a purely human drama.

10.) OK, what should I put in the ten-spot... Howabout #135? I always liked that issue for some reason. A Stan Lee/Gene Colan story that reads like something out of Where Monsters Dwell...

Honorable mentions: #120 (campus riot), 130 (another riot, good wacky story), 143 (race riot), 144 (Falcon gets his red & white costume; SHIELD's feminist power; cameo by the Nixon administration), 153, 155, 156 (rest of the 1950s Cap saga), #169-175 (The Secret Empire saga...with #175 having the President's suicide), #180 (Cap becomes Nomad...and trips over his own cape), #183 (Death of Roscoe...and the end of Cap's Nomad career), 193 (return of Kirby to Cap), 216 (reprint of Human Torch meeting an imposter Cap...good early pre-Avengers #4 story), 219 (the 1940s Cap movie serial explained), 222 (I remember liking this one...I think it has Cap being attacked by a love-bug car in his apartment on page one...*that Gerber!!*), 235 & 236 (Cap and DD), 247 (first Stern/Byrne issue, Cap uses his triangular shield again for the first time since 1941), 253 & 254 (introduces the new Union Jack, by Stern/Byrne), 255 (the proper origin of Cap by Stern/Byrne), 280 (good Scarecrow story I recall), 282 (Zeck was getting really good at this point), 286 (Deathlok by Zeck). An "origin of Red Skull" issue around #298 is ok. There are a whole bunch of other good issues in there...(that's why I hate top 10 lists!)