Captain America's Greatest Speeches

Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me.

Today, we take a look at Captain America and his famous penchant for giving out awesome speeches. I thought a nice little twist this time around is not only to show a bunch of these awesome (sometimes very patriotic) speeches but also to TRANSCRIBE the speeches, so that you can freely cut and paste the speeches from this post into your various social media accounts whenever you wish to quote an awesome speech from an awesome superhero like Captain America.

Since this isn't a ranking of the speeches, I'm going to go in whatever order the speeches occur to me. Let's start off with a very famous speech that Captain America gave to Spider-Man during Civil War that was later adapted almost directly into the Captain America: Civil War film. Spider-Man, of course, is down on his luck because he originally supported the Pro-Registration Act side and now he feels like a moron for going with Iron Man, even revealing his secret identity to the world like a dummy (a move that would end up getting his beloved Aunt May shot). Captain America tries to give him a pep talk in Amazing Spider-Man #537 (by J. Michael Straczynski, Ron Garney and Scott Hanna)....

Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — "No, you move."

Our next great speech comes from a somewhat surprising source, an issue of What If...?! In What If...? #44 (by Peter Gillis, Sal Buscema and Dave Simons), the real Captain America ends up remaining in suspended animation for much longer than he was in the original Marvel Universe, not getting thawed out until "today" (in this context, today is 1984). In the meantime, however, the 1950s Captain America was still created and that nutjub ended up taking over the United States, as a tool of some evil folks. Luckily, the real Captain America DOES thaw out and seeks out the fradulent Captain America and they have a big fight in front of the cameras and the real Captain America wins. He then turns to the crowd and tells them...

Listen to me -- all of you out there! You were told by this man -- your hero -- that America is the greatest country in the world!

He told you that Americans were the greatest people -- that America could be refined like silver, could have the impurities hammered out of it, and shine more brightly! He went on about how precious America was -- how you needed to make sure it remained great! And he told you anything was justified to preserve that great treasure, that pearl of great price that is America!

Well, I say America is nothing!! Without its ideals -- its commitment to the freedom of all men, America is a piece of trash!

A nation is nothing! A flag is a piece of cloth! I fought Adolf Hitler not because America was great, but because it was fragile! I knew that liberty could be snuffed out here as in Nazi Germany! As a people, we were no different than them! When I returned, I saw that you nearly did turn American into nothing!

And the only reason you're not less then nothing -- -- is that it's still possible for you to bring freedom back to America!

I love that aspect of comic books where you never know WHERE an awesome character moment is going to pop up. For instance, one of my all-time favorite Captain America moments happened during "Maximum Carnage." Maximum Carnage, people! Spider-Man is in bad shape, both physically and mentally, questioning all of his beliefs about right and wrong and all he needs is someone to help him, someone to guide the way a little bit and voila, Cap shows up and gives Spider-Man a literal (and figurative) hand and helps set him on the right path (said issue was written by former Captain America writer, J.M. DeMatteis, so it all makes sense).

In Avengers #6 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Chic Stone), Captain America got to face off against Baron Zemo for the first time (Zemo was a new character that was retroactively introduced as being responsible for the apparent death of Captain America's sidekick, Bucky, and Captain America being lost in suspended animation for many years). As they battle, Captain America gives him an amazing speech that completely dresses him down. It's epic...

I fought your kind every day of that war, Zemo! You mocked democracy and said that free men were weak! Well feel this grip, Zemo — it's the grip of a man who loves liberty! Look into the eyes of your foe, and know that he will die for his freedom! The world must never again mistake compassion for weakness! And while I live — it had better not!

When Captain America returned to Earth in Heroes Return, along with all of the other superheroes who were though to be killed in the final battle against Onslaught (by the way, can you even imagine being a person in the Marvel Universe to turn on the news and learn that the Avengers and the Fantastic Four were all dead in one battle? Yikes!), it led to him being treated almost like a bit of a god. After all, he did come back from the dead, ya know? So in Mark Waid's relaunched Captain America series, Cap struggles with the newfound adoration that the people have for him. However, a Skrull then decides to take advantage of "Capmania" by taking on Captain America's form and convincing the United States that there has been a huge Skrull invasion, leading to people turning on their own neighbors (and even their own friends and family).

Cap has to hold back until Iron Man and Mister Fantastic Four work out a device that can disrupt Skrull powers. So Cap waits for the fake Cap to give another speech and then has him turn into a Skrull in front of everyone and then the Avengers, Fantastic Four and the real Cap show up to take down the Skrull.

Captain America then has to answer questions from the press conference that the fake Skrull held, and Cap has to deal with the fact that this was all caused by Capmania and he admits that he played a role in it, as well, as he likes the attention. He then decides that it is time for him to define his role in the world. He is said to represent the "American Dream," but that is an amorphous concept, so what does he represent? Mark Waid, Andy Kubert and Jesse Delperdang let us know...

Captain America is not here to lead the country. I'm here to serve it. If I'm a captain, then I'm a soldier. Not of any military branch, but of the American people. Years ago, in simpler times, this suit and this shield were created as a symbol to help make America the land it's supposed to be... to help it realize its destiny. Ricocheting from super-villain duel to super-villain duel doesn't always serve that purpose. There's a difference between fighting against evil and fighting for the common good. I'm not always able to choose my battles... but effective immediately, I'm going to make an effort to choose the battles that matter. Battles against injustice, against cynicism, against intolerance. I will still serve with the Avengers. I will continue to defend this nation from any and all threats it may face. But as of today, I am not a "super hero." Now and forevermore, I am a man of the people. Together, you and I will identify and confront America's problems. Together, we will figure out what we are and what we can be. Together, we will define the American Dream and make it an American reality.

I won't lie, Captain America's speech in Captain America #250 (by Roger Stern, John Byrne and Joe Rubinstein), where he has to let the people know that he is not interested in running for president (the story was put into place by the previous creative team on the title, so Stern and Byrne inherited it when they took over the book) doesn't make a TON of sense, but it still sounds really cool...

The Presidency is one of the most imortant jobs in the world. The holder of that office must represent the best interest of an entire nation. He must be ready to negotiate -- to compromise -- 24 hours a day, to preserve the republic at all costs! I understand this...I appreciate this...and I realize the need to work within such a framework, by the same token, I have worked and fought all my life for the growth and advancement of the American dream and I believe that my duty to the dream would severely limit any abilites I might have to preserve the reality. We must all live in the real world...and sometimes that world can be pretty grim. But it is the dream...the hope...that makes the reality worth living. In the early 1940s, I made a personal pledge to uphold the dream...and as long as the dream remains even partially unfulfilled, I cannot abandon it and so I hope that you can understand that in all fairness, I cannot be your candidate. You need to look within yourselves to find the people you need to keep this nation strong and, God willing, to help make the dream come true!

In Dark Reign: New Nation #1 (in a story by Jonathan Hickman, Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli and Daniel Rudoni), the Secret Warriors comic book was given a spotlight before they got their own series by showing Nick Fury in the present inter-cutting between the present and the past as he remembers a speech that Captain America gave to the Howling Commandos before a major attack in World War II....

These are dark and desperate times. I know that some of you are afraid. It's alright. It's perfectly natural. But I want you to know that I am not. I am not afraid to die this day because what we do here is necessary. It may seem impossible, our enemies may appear to be endless, but that doesn't matter. Because there is no one else. Look at me. I believe in an idea, an idea that a single individual who has the right heart and the right mind that is consumed with a single purpose, that one man can win a war. Give that one man a group of soldiers with the same conviction, and you can change the world.

In an epic story arc from Captain America #17-19, Captain America actually kills the Red Skull, but in doing so, he unleashes a powerful force within Korvac, who was disguised as Kang the Conqueror. Korvac now has complete control over the world. In the future, though, he keeps Captain America alive because it amuses him to see Captain America try to stop him. Every time it fails, he reboots reality and gives Cap another try. His belief is that eventually Cap will tire out and give up. However, he doesn't know Captain America. Mark Waid, Lee Weeks and a bunch of inkers/finishers (it was an oversized issue) showed Cap give an awesome speech in Captain America #18...

Listen to me. I know your concerns about this. I know how frigtening it is to contemplate the enormity of Korvac's power. I know you're afraid. But the antidote to fear...is faith. In my time, I have seen hundreds of men triumph in thousands of battles they thought were lost. How? Because they believed in their cause. Because they refused to be slaves. Because the human spirit can be dampened...but never extinguished. Because deep down inside, every man and woman knows one true thing: that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil...is for good men to do nothing. I won't lie to you. The road ahead of us is full of risk. We have to strike hard and strike fast. Korvac can bend time and space...but I promise you...he cannot bend your will unless you let him. Believe in the strength of unity. Believe in the prize. Believe.

Let's close things out with this story from Marvel Fanfare #18, "Home Fires," by Roger Stern, Frank Miller and Joe Rubinstein. So, a bunch of jerkwads, pissed about their lost jobs, decide to go around torching places in New York to try to extort some money. Cap tracks them down to their headquarters (a "Knights of Brooklyn" lodge) and stops them, but not before their ringleader (a guy named Brady who Cap had seen with his family earlier and had been jealous of how happy his family seemed) decides to kill himself (and everyone else there) by torching the place. He dies, but Cap not only frees the others, he finds time to go back into the burning building to save the American flag within. He uses the flag to then give a quick, but powerful speech (note that the speech is not a "don't burn flags" speech, which is what this issue is sometimes accused of being about)...

This belongs to all of us. But it's not for free - and it doesn't come easy. It's America! America doesn't hand you things on a silver platter. Sometimes all she offers is hope.

Actually, speaking of Frank Miller, I guess I should feature the bit from Daredevil #233 (by Miller and David Mazzucchelli), where Captain America discovers the secret military program that has created Nuke and he is none too pleased about it. He gives a cool little speech about his true loyalties.

I'm loyal to nothing, General.. except the Dream.

See what I mean about how you never know when a cool character moment will pop up?

Okay, folks, that's it for this installment, but feel free to both write in with more Cap speeches that you like (maybe I can do a sequel to this post) and also write to me (at brianc@cbr.com) with ideas for other Knowledge Waits columns!

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