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Is That Really What Happened to 'Ram' From Captain America's Hot Line?

In Remember to Forget, we spotlight comic book stories that I wish I could forget, but I can’t, so I instead share them with you all!

Today, inspired by an e-mail by reader Garrett, we take a look at the bizarrely tragic end to Hiram "Ram" Riddley, the computer whiz kid who ran Captain America's Stars and Stripes hot line!

It all started in Captain America #311 (by Mark Gruenwald, Paul Neary and Dennis Janke), when Captain America got a job at Marvel Comics as an artist on their Captain America comic book series (which I wrote about recently here). The comic book received a letter from a fan trying to get into contact with Cap...

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Cap decided to investigate and he found that the kid was telling the truth! He had come across the Awesome Android!

In the next issue, Cap comes into some money and so he used it to start up a hot line where people can give him tips to help him fight crime...

He gives a speech but it is interrupted by the Flag-Smasher...

In the next issue (Al Williamson on inks), Cap and his girlfriend of the time, Bernie Rosenthal, are going through the deluge of requests when they notice that someone is hacking into the hot line!

Cap tracks the computer that is doing the hacking and follows it to a New Jersey. He meets a woman and discovers that the hacker was her pre-teen son, Hiram "Ram" Riddley!

Ram explained how he and some hacker buddies were using their computer skills to make Cap's hot line more efficient...

At the end of the issue, Cap basically allows Ram to run the whole Stars and Stripes hot line!

The hot line played a major role over the next year or so of Cap stories, but Ram wasn't really involved.

The next time we meet Ram was when Steve Rogers was debating giving up being Captain America in Captain America #332 (by Gruenwald, Tom Morgan and Bob McLeod). He gives Ram a call and Ram is clear that he is ready to support Cap in whatever he does next...

When Cap became The Captain, he maintained the hot line. Okay, so now fast forward nearly a decade. It is the last issue of Gruenwald's over a decade long run on the series. Gruenwald used his final twenty issues or so to tell a story about the American Dream and where such a thing stood in the modern "grim and gritty" era (including some metafictional stuff that I covered recently). He introduced two new helpers, Jack Flagg and Free Spirit, who could demonstrate that Cap's legacy would be in good hands in the future, so it wasn't that things were utterly bleak. However, in Captain America #443 (by Gruenwald, Dave Hoover and Danny Bulanadi), Cap is near death. His Super Soldier Serum has turned against him and he has roughly a day left to live. He decides to check in on some old friends, including a new older Ram, who gave him a call a month earlier but Cap was busy with other cases to respond.

And...yep, Ram's mom was shot in the face on the way back from church and he blames Cap...

Damn, dude!

That's Ram's final appearance in a comic book and THAT'S where we're left? Damn, dude!

I know Gruenwald wanted to mix in some darkness with some slightly less dark stuff in his final issue, but for the most part, it was a pretty darn bleak final issue. Probably TOO much so.

Gruenwald was obviously working through some very deep thoughts on the nature of superheroes and stuff like that I obviously respect the heck out of his thoughts on those topics, but this just seemed way too necessarily dark.

If anyone else has a suggestion for a story that you wish you could forget, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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