This is "From a Different Point of View," a feature where I discuss a comic book series with another writer. In this case, it is CBR's own Eileen Gonzalez who will be going over the history of the Avengers with me, story by story!
We continue with Avengers #4, "Captain America Joins...the Avengers!" by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and George Roussos
Brian Cronin: It's interesting to note that this is the third inker for Kirby in four issues. I imagine Marvel was just sort of assigning issues to inkers almost haphazardly back then, but it's still a bit of a surprise to see three inkers in just four issues.
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, I guess it was just a matter of grabbing whoever was available
Brian Cronin: It's also interesting to see just how CONNECTED these past three issues were, right? It's essentially one long story from #2-4, while each issue was still its own distinct little thing.
Eileen Gonzalez: It's definitely been surprising to me (even though I've read these issues before!). I tend to think of Silver Age stories as stand-alones, but this one's practically it's own little soap opera.
Brian Cronin: All about Thor's distaste for Hulk's wardrobe choices
Eileen Gonzalez: Which seems a little unfair, given that in the issue after this Hulk's clothes seem to magically change color. Bruce Banner goes from a blue jumpsuit to the purple Hulk pants. You'd think magic clothes would win Thor's approval
Brian Cronin: Have you ever read Strange Tales #114?
Eileen Gonzalez: I think I have, but it's been years
Brian Cronin: That's the issue where Lee and Kirby have a fake Captain America fight the Human Torch.
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, that definitely looks familiar.
Brian Cronin: It's fascinating seeing them do this weird little "test" case for bringing Cap back.
Eileen Gonzalez: Ah, so when the splash page of Avengers #4 talks about the "avalanche of fan mail" that demanded Cap's return, the fan mail was in response to that issue, I suppose.
Brian Cronin: I think fans had been asking for him to return as soon as they brought Namor back, which was TWO YEARS earlier, but they just weren't sure.They had given Cap a comeback in the 1950s and it flopped. And I think Lee was really wary about using the older heroes. He only agreed to use Human Torch through a compromise with Martin Goodman that it would be a NEW Human Torch. Goodman thought that they should just do a team book featuring their older Golden Age characters (like Cap, Namor and Human Torch). The fascinating thing is, let's say that Lee and Kirby HAD done that book. I find it hard to believe that it WOULDN'T have worked, really.
Eileen Gonzalez: I remember hearing about the '50s Cap, mostly through later issues of Captain America where the '50s version came back as a crazed racist. It seems funny now, hearing that anyone was uncertain about using properties that are now box office gold mines. And yet Cap wasn't always such a sure bet, either in the comics or in those cheap movies we got in the '70s and '90s.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, and so Lee held off on bringing him back (he was probably still smarting from the 1950s failure). But two years in, people likely were thinking, "Where's Cap?" So we get that "test case" issue and obviously, people responded well to it. How funny is it that the front page specifically references Kirby drawing Cap in the Golden Age, but not that Kirby, you know, CO-CREATED Cap!
Eileen Gonzalez: I guess Stan Lee forgot to mention that bit.
Brian Cronin: "I think Kirby had something to do with Cap, but more importantly, my first script was a Cap script! I guess you could say that I am his creator."
Eileen Gonzalez: "Joe Simon? Who's that?"
Brian Cronin: "Aren't we ALL Cap's creators?"
Eileen Gonzalez: And the little note about saving this issue because you'll "treasure it in time to come." Well, they weren't wrong.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, that has got to be a fairly early push for an issue as a collectible.
Eileen Gonzalez: Either Lee was good at faking enthusiasm about a character he wasn't sure about, or he knew what he had by the time this issue went into production.
Brian Cronin: I think it's probably a little bit of both.