In 1986, writer Mark Gruenwald began building towards one of the high points of his acclaimed run on Marvel Comics’ “Captain America” when he and artist Paul Neary introduced readers to John Walker, a former soldier with an enhanced super human physique and a great love of his country. One year later, Walker accepted the U.S. Government’s offer to become Captain America after Steve Rogers refused to become their direct operative. The John Walker Cap saga was filled with a variety of exciting twists and turns, and remains a fan-favorite storyline from Gruenwald’s decade-long run on “Captain America.”
The story came to an epic conclusion in 1989’s “Captain America” #350, where Walker discovered his wielding of the shield came about thanks to the machinations of the Red Skull. He quickly came to terms with the fact that his violent brand of justice wasn’t always compatible with the ideals Captain America represented, and gave the Cap identity back to Steve Rogers.
Walker still serves his country, as the shield wielding super soldier known as the U.S. Agent, and in “Captain America: Sam Wilson” #11, writer Nick Spencer and artist Daniel Acuña brought the U.S. Agent into the orbit of their title character. Walker’s take no prisoners attitude and his views on what — and who — Captain America should be means he and Sam Wilson are bound to have a confrontation. Unfortunately for Sam,it’s coming at a time when he already has his hands full trying to defuse an explosive situation involving “Civil War II,” the corrupt private police force known as the Americops, and the superhero Rage.
CBR News: Nick, in “Captain America: Sam Wilson” #11 you reintroduced U.S. Agent to the world of Captain America in a major way. As a big Mark Gruenwald fan, how does it feel to write John Walker?
Nick Spencer: I’m super-excited to be writing John Walker; he is one of my all time favorite comic book characters. I was just the right age for the John Walker Cap saga, and when I was a kid, it was probably the comic story that I was the most invested in for the longest amount of time. It remains an all-time favorite.
John is just such a fantastic character for the Marvel Universe. He’s a tough as nails, patriotic, red-blooded American type who sees the world in black and white and is not afraid to get his hands dirty. His is a voice I think is somewhat lacking in the Marvel Universe. I’m very excited to push him forward and put the spotlight back on him. You might see more of him as time goes on, too. He’s a character that I’ve been wanting to bring into the run for quit a while now, and I’m excited that he’s finally here.
U.S. Agent and Sam are headed for some sort of confrontation in upcoming issues — does that mean Walker will be a villain in your story?
No, he won’t. Definitely — I certainly don’t view John as any kind of a villain. It’s very important to me that that’s reflected in the story. We might be looking at a story where John and Sam very much disagree and see things differently, but that doesn’t necessarily make John the bad guy.
I think we strike a balance here. These are people with opposing view points. It’s a “Civil War II” tie-in, and while it doesn’t always deal directly with the central premise of “Civil War II,” it is a story of two heroes at odds over something that’s very important to both of them. We felt that, thematically, this was very much a “Civil War II” story.
What can you tell us about how John views Sam and the role of Captain America?
John gave up the shield because he believes there was only one person to carry it. He believed that Steve Rogers was the rightful Captain America, and if he couldn’t do it, no one else could but Steve. He never regretted giving that shield back, and that’s sort of a point of pride for him.
â€¨He feels he learned a lesson from his time as Captain America, and that lesson, generally, is that there’s only one guy who can do that job. When he sees Sam trying to do it, he feels like the same mistakes are being repeated. It might have made sense while Steve was an old man, but now that Steve has regained his youth and is back as Captain America, he deserves to not share the spotlight with somebody else. That’s something that John certainly thinks.
So John’s viewpoints echo those of some readers.
Exactly. It’s a little bit meta, but it’s also something that I think makes a lot of sense in the Marvel Universe. The reverence for Steve Rogers is so high, and Sam’s tenure as Cap has been so controversial, that it’s easy to see how a huge number of folks would feel like that. No matter what conclusion they came to about Sam as Cap, they might feel like, now that Steve is back, it’s time for Sam to exit stage right.
With Bucky’s adventures tied to your larger Captain America tale via “Thunderbolts,” and now John Walker entering the picture, it feels like your story is developing into a large saga of people who have been Captain America at one point.
Exactly. They’re kind of all on the table now, and there’s more to come. What we’ve been saying for a while, and now you’re starting to it come into focus a little bit more, is that we’re really playing with all the big, notable Captain America toys. You won’t see very many get left off the board here — you’re going to see some very big names from Cap history showing up all over the place soon.
Walker isn’t the villain, but one group of characters definitely playing the roles of antagonists are the Americops. In light of recent real-world events in America, an unaccountable, brutal and literally faceless police force seems like an especially timely foe. Was that always your intention with these characters?
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