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How Mark Gruenwald Set Up Mark Waid's Captain America Run

This is "In The Spotlight So Clear," a feature where we spotlight times in comics where characters need to be cleared out of the way to make room for a new status quo. Like, for instance, you want to introduce a new Captain Superhero, you might want to first get rid of the previous Captain Superhero. Stuff like that.

Today, we look at how Mark Gruenwald set up Mark Waid's Captain America run with the end of his own run on Cap.

Recently, I did a Comic Book Legends Revealed about how people tend to think that Mark Gruenwald introduced the existence of a "cure" for Captain America's condition (that he came down with in the last year or so of Gruenwald's run) as part of a discussion with Mark Waid to set up Waid's run. As it turned out, Gruenwald just introduced the cure on his own. Waid didn't ask him to do it. However, Waid DID ask Gruenwald to do one thing before he ended his run. Read on to find out what that was!

Mark Gruenwald took over writing duties on Captain America a little bit past #300. He then wrote the character until Captain America #443. I believe he probably owns the record for the longest Captain America run, but I don't know about that for sure (it sure seems pretty likely, though, right?). In his last hurrah on the series, he introduced a shocking twist in Captain America #425 (art by Dave Hoover and Danny Bulanadi), which is that Captain Americas's Super Soldier Serum had sort of gotten past its expiration date and was now actively working against his body based on how much he exerted himself. If he continued to push his body like a superhero does, he would die within a year...

Of course, being Captain America, he couldn't just stop being a superhero, so he continues as Cap. Along the rest of the "Fighting Chance" storyline, Gruenwald basically did his own version of Reign of the Superman (it was the 1990s. Every comic book series seemed to do their own "Reign of the Supermen" storyline) with different new patriotic characters being introduced (only this time, it was only three new characters). There was the oppressive and ruthless Americop...

and the totally embarrassing but also really heroic next generation of heroes in the Free Spirit....

and Jack Flagg....

Over time, Cap started needing help fighting crime. He started using a sort of utility vest that carried all sorts of gadgets and weapons to help him out...

Ultimately, he began using a special battle armor because he could not move otherwise...

Around this time, Gruenwald introduced the idea of a cure for Captain America's condition. While he did not do it in conjunction with Waid, it is still worth noting that Gruenwald put the idea out there, presumably so that if Waid WANTED to use it, he could. The cure was stolen by Red Skull (since the Skull was living in a cloned body of Cap, he was having the same problems with his body) and seemingly gone for Cap.

So this brings us to Gruenwald's final issue...

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