AVENGERS WEEK: Captain America (COOL COMIC COVERS #8)

Cool Comic Covers is a weekly (almost) look back at some of the most interesting, intriguing, and engaging artwork in pop culture. This week:

It’s Avengers week! Each day we are taking a look at the characters who will be featured in the upcoming (depending on when you are reading this) Avengers movie. First, Iron Man. Tuesday was Hulk. Today is Captain America. Thursday is no surprise to anyone. And Friday will be the team. The Avengers.

Normally, for Cool Comic Covers, we feature one comic cover. But for Avengers week, we’re going to give a handful of our favorite covers featuring the spotlighted characters.

Captain America #1 -- by Jack Kirby. Sometimes it's easy to forget that not only did Jack Kirby help create a ton of classic characters and draw in a dynamic style that can only be copied, he also created some of the most iconic images in comic book art. Stan Lee got a silly line in a cameo in the Captain America movie; this cover from Jack Kirby was featured front and center, and was far more important both in a story sense and in a metatextual sense.

Captain America#109 -- by Jack Kirby. Another iconic image of the character. One of Captain America's characteristics -- both a strength and a weakness -- is that he is a walking flag. He is meant to be a symbol of America. Here, that symbol of America is smashing through the pages of time, implying that the ideals and ideas of America that he embodies are timeless.

Captain America #250 -- by John Byrne. The fine line between inspiring and cheesy can be a hard one to walk, considering that Captain America isn't just a character. He's a metaphor. Metaphors are not easy, especially when not everyone can even agree on what the metaphor should mean or is intended to mean. But let's face facts: no matter which side of the political spectrum you fall on, wouldn't you vote for Captain America? I think he's the only independent who could actually win . . .

Captain America #280 -- by Mike Zeck. One thing I find interesting about Captain America covers is that they usually feature: 1. The shield, the icon for the character; 2. Some sort of action pose or some sort of "patriotic" pose; and/or 3. Captain America weak, beaten, or in bondage. This is true for many characters, I guess, but I think it is more striking and dramatic when that character is a metaphor for a whole country, or at least a metaphor for the ideals of a whole country. Also, when Mike Zeck draws it, it will be dramatic and dynamic.

Captain America #454 -- by Ron Garney. An iconic, patriotic illustration. Sometimes I'm surprised a character like this has survived so long.

Captain America Annual #8 -- by Mike Zeck. I think almost every character Marvel has published has gotten a cover like this, featuring the character fighting Wolverine. This one is perfectly composed, with so much raw emotion and energy. Wolverine, the unstoppable "animal," versus Captain America, the determined and unstopping man.

Captain America: White -- by Tim Sale. The symbol for truth, justice, and freedom casts his shadow over the symbol for humanity's worst characteristics . . . It's not a political idea that gives Captain America his power as an icon. It's the broader and bigger ideas that make something like this work. Yes, it is "rah, rah, rah, America." But the America he symbolizes is much more the America we SHOULD be, not the America we ARE; it pushes us to aspire higher, again, no matter what side you fall on.

Captain America #344 -- Ron Frenz. Okay, so sometimes specific political views DO make their way into the character, like this issue. This was the first Captain America comic I bought with my own money, and I followed the title for half a year. It was a great run, and this issue was cool to my junior high self. And the cover! How could I NOT buy this book when I saw it? But yes, that is President Reagan, who has been turned into a snake man. He is not the villain of the story, but when the story is over, and he has been cured, we see he still has a forked tongue and fangs. The personal views of the storyteller cannot help but leak into stories, and writers of Captain America do sometimes try to make a specific political point using the character, even if it is, ahem, tongue (the forked variety) in cheek.

Captain America's Weird Tales #74 -- Martin Nodell. I'm including these last two as something of a curiosity. After Captain America #73, Captain America's book was turned into a horror anthology. This first book did feature Captain America in a story in which he fights Red Skull in hell and wakes up to find it was only a dream (he fell asleep in a chair, in full costume, with his shield still on his arm, if I remember correctly) but was it really a dream? He still had, clutched in his hand, a piece of red cloth. And then, the next issue . . .

Captain America's Weird Tales #75 -- by Gene Colan. Captain America appears in one place in this comic. His name in the title. Too bad, considering the title of the book, I had hoped it would have Captain America hosting the horror stories, crypt-keeper style!

~ Ben

Previous Cool Comic Covers:
#7 — AVENGERS WEEK: Hulk
#6 — AVENGERS WEEK: Iron Man
#5 — “Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction” Giant Size Special
#4 — “Fear” #1
#3 — “From Beyond the Unknown” #12
#2 — “Action Comics” #419
#1 — “Weird Science-Fantasy” #27

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