What I Think of Current Issues of CAPTAIN AMERICA

Written: 4 July, 1991

(Actually, I haven't read any, thank god)

There have been (to my knowledge) THREE "controversies" in CAPTAIN AMERICA over a member of the creative team's handling of the book.

The first was when Frank Robbins drew #182, 183, 185, 186, 188-192. Frank's ideosyncratic artwork (replacing Sal Buscema) threw readers for a loop. In the letter page of #186, one reader wrote of Frank's art: "[it] looks like it was drawn by a 6 yr. old riding on a rough train during 1938." Actually, his art is better than some of the recent Cap pencilers (Tom Morgan, Keiron Dwyer). In #195, one reader wrote "At first I didn't like his style but, as you said, he kind of grows on you."

Anyway, Robbins was replaced by the 2nd controversy Jack Kirby. Kirby wrote and drew #193-214. He ignored a lot of the continuity of the previous years (i.e., he didn't repeat what went before) and focused on plot and action. "Kirby writes Cap as if it was in the 40's or 50's" complained one reader. They also complained that Jack's stories "have had little if anything to do with the rest of the Marvel Universe."

The third controversy was when, in #332 Mark Gruenwald had Cap quit & be replaced by John Walker as Capt. America. Letters protested "Gruenwald, would you please leave the book and spare us all?!" and called his scripts "pitiful attempts at writing." I agree that Gruenwald should've left the book some time ago. He's been writing the book since #305 or so, and the book is now around issue #386!! If you can't say what you want to say in that many issues, you're never going to say it. (I don't apply this, however, to people who CREATED the series, like when Lee & Kirby did 102 issues of the F.F.) Gruenwald isn't a good enough writer to justify his hogging the book like that.

Also, the choice of artists has been poor. Paul Neary had his moments, but the inking was too indistinct & vague. He was replaced by Tom Morgan, whose art was bland & stilted. (The inking was vague here, too; maybe it has something to do with the super-bright "comic booky" coloring they use these days?). Then came Keiron Dwyer, who's better than Tom Morgan, but is also unremarkable and, when inked by Al Milgrom, looks rushed.

Also, the stories seem to focus too much on super-powered goons (instead of real people) and that ol' Marvel "continuity." (That back-up strip in #350 wasn't a story, it was practically an illustrated MARVEL UNIVERSE entry.) Another thing I dislike is that Gruenwald has made the book much more VIOLENT than it has ever been. #350 is so violent, I wondered how I'd felt about it had I read it as a kid. (Besides the fact that the art was lacklustre and the cover, by Milgrom, has to be one of the lamest Cap covers in my collection!)

One thing more I've noticed is that these new Cap issues seem like TINY TOON ADVENTURES-versions of the original WARNER BROS. characters (i.e. plastic, cheap, dumb!). Gruenwald also has added stupid people into the cast, acting like he has "contributed to the legend." The most ridiculous of these is Cap's "partner" D-Man, an ex-wrestler who has a costume which is part Daredevil's first costume and part Wolverine's costume (an obvious ploy to attract Wolvy fans to the comic). That is PATHETIC. The comic reads like a G.I. JOE cartoon, simple-minded, aimed at Marvel Zombie 12-yr. olds, & without taste or class.

I've been re-reading my old Caps lately, and it's amazing. There's a neglected period of Cap issues, around #114-144 (Stan quit writing it with #141) where the letter pages are filled with debate about the Viet Nam war, patriotism, the legacy of WWII, lots of intelligent subjects! Some of the letters were written by people who later became writers for Marvel: Don McGregor, J.M. DeMatteis, & Steve Gerber (these last two later scripted Cap!). Maybe it had something to do with the times (#114-144 came out during 1969-1971), but I think it also had to do with the scripts Lee was turning out (#120 & 130 were both about campus protests that turned into riots, #133 was about the tearing down of slums, #128 was about an outlaw motorcycle gang, #125 took place in Viet Nam, and #143 -- not written by Lee -- was about a race war in Harlem). The introduction of The Falcon & his life into the series around this time assured a large amount of the pages focusing on black characters -- not just the Falcon, but normal black people -- who had been ignored previously (except for Wakanda or something).

These days, the comic has not questioned the "relevance" of Cap in today's world. Despite what people say, the 60's was not a "simpler" time, it was an era where people questioned & found it hard to accept black & white issues. These days, there is no questioning, Cap fits in fine with today's "might makes right" America. Lee's Cap was CONSTANTLY asking if he was relevant & always seemed a man out of place, out of time, in this modern world. I don't understand people like Wes's friend who has a big Cap collection, yet claims to prefer the new issues to older ones. One thing's for sure -- Cap has really gone down the drain; looking at these back issues proves it. (Actually if anybody should've done a good 80's Cap it was Kirby. He was out of place in the 70's, when they criticized him for not doing "characterization.")