Even though the entirety of superhero comics owes a dramatic debt to the 1940s and World War II for the period’s historical role in their creation, it’s perhaps fair to say that the Marvel Comics mainstay Captain America became even more connected to the second World War in the 1960s. After being revived from an icy slumber in “Avengers” #4, Steve Rogers character arc remained a mix of flashbacks and man out of time drama for years to come. However, straightforward takes on Cap’s war years have been few and far between for most of his career, until today as Marvel announced a new ongoing focused on the hero’s earliest years with “Captain America: The Fighting Avenger” which launches in January.
“It’s an origin that doesn’t concern itself with the very beginning,” series writer Brian Clevinger told CBR News. “We’re approaching Captain America from an angle you never really see. It’s that window between getting hepped up on supersoldier serum and becoming, y’know, the mythic Captain America that immediately comes to mind when you talk about him. He was a living legend during the war, and it was only amplified when he was brought out of the ice. In a world filled with gods and super science, Cap doesn’t merely hold his own, he’s a guy that everyone else defers to. His mere presence inspires awe and hope. He can change the tide of a battle just by being there.
“Well, we’re going to see Cap before he was like that. We’re going to see him when he was still new to this whole war thing. Before people believed in him! We’re going to take him down the bumpy road from poster boy to legend – and we’re going to see how he copes with the burden of living up to his own myth.”
Best known as the writer of Red 5’s ongoing “Atomic Robo” string of miniseries as well as recent forays into the Marvel all-ages line, Clevinger admitted that “The Fighting Avenger” wasn’t a book he immediately went after. “Don’t get me wrong, I love Cap, but I never collected his comics and never sought him out as a character to play around with. I was taken aback when Nate first offered it to me. My first reaction was, ‘Captain America? Really? I don’t have anything to say about him though.’ Of course, within minutes my head was spinning with ideas.
“In ‘Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War,’ the role that Robo plays in Allied military strategy was based on two things: real historical commando teams and how Captain America would have realistically fit into that. I mean, give Robo a shield and some red boots, and that’s a very Captain America batch of war stories. So, in a kinda tangential way, I’d already researched the hell out of this thing without realizing it!”
Key in the writer’s take on Steve Rogers is telling stories that show the reader where his head is at throughout his early career. “What’s great about Steve is that he just wants to do what’s right. Actually, it kind of goes beyond that, doesn’t it? It doesn’t occur to him there’s an option. Even more than Spider-Man, I’ve felt that Steve is the embodiment of, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ Only, in Steve’s case, I think he considers ‘citizenship’ to be the great power in question. Whereas the power/responsibility mantra is more of a lesson or a reminder to Peter Parker, for Steve it’s a fundamental part of reality that’s as inevitable as gravity.
“All Steve wants to do at the onset of the war is what he feels is his duty. He doesn’t want glory, he’s not out for revenge or blood, he doesn’t want adventure, none of that stuff. Nothing about enlisting involves his ego. He genuinely wants to do The Right Thing. That’s the beginning and end of it. And when he finally gets into the war, he’s got the weight of the entire Allied effort on his shoulders while doing a job that was intended for whole battalions.”
Those waves of enemies both of the rank and file and the supervillain variety will drive the conflict of the comic into many varied corners of the war. “He’ll be all over the place,” Clevinger promised. “We’ll have him in trenches, at sea, in Europe and the Pacific, in the skies, anywhere and everywhere he’s needed. He’ll fight ordinary troops, wild sci-fi stuff, monsters, the whole gamut of Weird War II lore. Remember, the Nazis expected to face hundreds to thousands of Allied super soldiers. They’d been building their own responses to that threat for years by the time Steve hits the front lines. And now he’s the only thing standing between the Allies and all those insane machines of war.”
The writer added of the specific villains fans will be seeing, “You can’t get away from Red Skull. He’s such a perfect and iconic foil for Cap. Beyond that, there’s a rich catalog of villains from that era of Marvel comics I won’t be suffering for antagonists for quite a while.”
As for his collaborators on the title, Clevinger was happy to give a one word answer to who his artists will be: “Gurihiru! A couple of very nice ladies from Japan whom you may know from their amazing work on Power Pack over the years. Or, more recently, ‘Thor and the Warriors Four.’ Or, super most recently, a couple mini-stories I wrote for ‘World War Hulks’ starring Nextwave and the Fantastic Four. I love the energy and expressiveness they give to everything they do. World War II might seem like an odd fit for a team known for such light and cartoony art, but I think the depth of their talent will really show here.”
As to whether he’s at all worried that “Atomic Robo’s” reputation of being a funny take on the WW2 adventure concept will color reader’s perceptions of his new book, Clevinger simply stated “Well, this won’t be a humor book, but humor will be a part of it. We’re not trying to tell a grim and gritty account of Captain America’s Dark Days of World War 2. It’ll have its serious moments, it’ll have its psychological moments, but let’s face it, Cap’s Rookie Follies will be a part of it too. We’re seeing Captain America before he was the living legend that awes (or punches) everyone. I think it’s a rare opportunity to let Steve show his own sense of humor…and to have jokes at his expense!
“To put it into die-hard Marvel reader terms: it’s not funny like Deadpool, but maybe it’s funny like Iron Fist.”
All in all though, the drama of the title hero will remain central to “The Fighting Avenger” as long as the series lasts. “I want to remind people that Captain America is human. Yeah, he’s got the supersoldier stuff and the training and all that jazz. But most importantly he’s just a kid from NYC who likes to draw. He’s the unlikely surnamed son of Irish immigrants and he’s the best in all of us.”