Forgotten: The Lost Captain Americas Pt.1

Before we had the success of “Captain America: First Avenger”, Marvel had tried several times to launch the patriotic hero into his films and shows. Now with Captain America leading the Avengers onto the big screen come May, this blog takes a look at the six lost Lost Captain America projects.

Back in 1940, writer Joe Simon came up with a character called the ‘Super American’ for then Timely Comics. In his autobiography, Simon says that the name just didn’t sound good and there were too many super guys in comics already. So he went with Captain America. His boy partner was named Bucky Barnes after a star on Joe’s high school basketball team.

When Timely agreed to America wasn’t in the war yet but the book was given the go ahead and superstar Jack Kirby and Simon’s friend agreed to do the art.

Simon was so concerned with Jack’s workload that he didn’t think Jack could draw his book but Jack promised he would make his deadline.

Simon said Captain America was a consciously political creation; he and Kirby were morally repulsed by the actions of Nazi Germany and felt it was inevitable America would join the war:  “The opponents to the war were all quite well organized. We wanted to have our say too.”

They were right. The comic debuted in March 1941 with Captain America punching Hitler in the jaw, nine months before America would officially enter World War 2 with the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Sales remained close to a million copies per month after the debut issue, which outstripped even the circulation of news magazines like Time during the period. Simon/Kirby would leave the series after issue #10 but the character would endure.

The smashing success of Captain America led to the serials taking Captain America to the big screen in 1944 with a Captain America serial starring Dick Purcell. This was hardly a Captain America adaptation.

Subtitled “The Purple Death”, Purcell’s Captain has no shield, holds a gun and well his alter ego is called Grant Gardner.

Captain America battles the evil forces of the archvillain called The Scarab, who poisons his enemies and steals a secret device capable of destroying buildings by sound vibrations. Oh the silliness.

The character saw hard times post-war and the shifting of Timely to Marvel comics pushed the Captain back to a more supportive role. The series ended with #75 in 1950 and with very few appearances it was almost like Captain America did end up in that block of ice until the hero 1964 return in Avengers #4.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby shook the comics industry and changed the face of comics in the early 60’s and eventually Captain America would get his own solo book after his success in Avengers and a back up feature in Tales of Suspense.

Cap’s success became so popular in the 1960s that he was included among other Marvel heroes in their now infamous and some what classic Marvel cartoons. The animation wasn’t anything to really praise when you compare it to say today’s animation of even Fleischer’s Superman from earlier but the series did accent the arrival and importance of the Marvel comics movement in the 1960s.

In Part Two, we will jump straight into 1970’s cheese as we discover “motorcycle helmut” Captain America and we will witness the first live action incarnation of the Red Skull. See you then!

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