In the annals of comic history, no other character quite fills the same creative space as The Fighting American. The 1950s Harvey Comics hero, though short-lived in his original run, was a trailblazing mix of satire and superheroes. That should come as no surprise, as the character (and his trusty sidekick Speedboy) was created by the legendary Joe Simon and Jack Kirby towards the end of their creative partnership. While Simon and Kirby did everything from groundbreaking adventure comics to pioneering four-color romance, Fighting American presenting their most tongue-in-cheek tales ever, poking fun at the very model set up by their own Captain America a decade earlier.
This weekend at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Dynamite Entertainment announced that the superhero would fight back as part of their publishing line, reviving the satiric edge of the hero as well as his original look in the hands of cover artist Alex Ross. “This is something we’ve been working on for a couple of years now,” Dynamite President Nick Barrucci told CBR. “We started talking to Joe Simon himself, and met with him and his attorney Ted Kessler, and then the conversation went to Lisa Kirby and Lisa’s attorney Paul Levine. From there, it’s just been a very long conversation.”
For his part, Ross’ interest in the character came after seeing more recent attempts to revive the Fighting American, which never truly matched the spirit of the original Simon and Kirby issues. “I believe this first goes back to 18 years ago with DC on a short mini series, and then the use of him by Rob Liefeld was to fill a spot where he had all this Captain America material he had drawn for Marvel before he got fired off the ‘Captain America’ book, and then he ultimately replaced Cap with a character of his own making, which he got sued over, and wound up getting the rights for Fighting American to fill that slot of standing in Captain America’s shoes,” the artist recalled. “I think that all of that underserves what this character’s origin and use is for. It’s telling a social commentary through the use of a superhero in the guise of parody and a more tongue-in-cheek feel. They were creating their version of a Commie-fighting Captain America in the mid ’50s as a reflection of the idiocy of the times and the idiocy of that jingoistic point of view. Now, we don’t live in exactly that same period now, but maybe you could use that same ability with the character and apply it towards today -Â with a spotlight towards various things we’re at war with ideologically.”
In drawing the hero, Ross went back to the source material as well. “I think my job is first to bring back that original look. It was a very key design, which I’ve even argued with Nick about, as to whether or not it can fly today. I can put a ‘fresh coat of paint’ on something to make it seem like it’s today without actually changing the corners and details of the thing. So my purpose is that you’ll see Fighting American and Speedboy in their classic form, but they will be in today’s era and up against things that are of contemporary caricature.”
Of the interior talent on the series, Barrucci said, “Essentially, we have some really cool talent on the project, but it’s too early to say anything. Is aren’t dotted and Ts aren’t crossed, so it’s a work in progress. I’m just happy to announce it.” Ross added, “My vision of the book – along with whatever person I’ll be partnered with -Â is to try and create a modern-day Jack Kirby comic that feels like the work he was doing for Marvel and DC in the 1970s, which is a good 20 years removed from when he did the original Fighting American.”
Whether the exact tone will play as broadly as some of the old Fighting American comics did or reign it in a bit was waiting for input from the final creative team, as Barrucci explained, “It will truly depend on who the final writer is. We could see it going both ways. We can see it being more serious, and we can see it being tongue-in-cheek where there’s still good stories of good versus evil, but there’s still a level of satire to it.”
And while fans wait to see what Ross and his collaborators cook up, the painter expressed excitement for meeting Joe Simon to discuss the book and the legend’s recent opinions of his own stuff. “Joe Simon, through Nick talking to him, had said after my new Captain America design had been promoted, ‘Yeah, that’s a good design,’ Ross explained, noting that in some other interviews Simon came off less favorably to his “Bucky Cap” take on the character. Though the painter had a good spirit about the seemingly conflicting reports, joking, “I feel like at this point, Joe Simon owes me one. I didn’t say anything bad about his stuff. Come on.”