The Greatest American Hero

Don't expect to see Iron Man, Thor or the rest of the Avengers play major roles in Marvel Comics' soon-to-be revamped "Captain America" series. Steve Rogers initially donned the now-famous red, white and blue duds way back in 1941 to protect the United States of America as the nation's first super soldier - and the new "Cap" team primarily wants to return the hero to his essential roots when the series relaunches in early 2002 as part of the venerable Marvel Knights line.

"When we talk about Cap, one word keeps coming up: soldier," said artist John Cassaday, who will team with writer John Ney Rieber on the title. "We're really going to get back to the root of what he is. He's going to be a man of few words, but those few words will say a lot."

Cassaday, Marvel Knights editor Stuart Moore and other Marvelites promoted the new ongoing series - one of the worst-kept secrets in comicdom - on Friday during an official panel and separate interviews on the first morning of the Wizard World convention in suburban Chicago.

Moore promises the new creative team won't monkey around with one of Marvel's oldest icons, swearing their only goal is to tell really good Captain America stories. So you probably don't have to worry about changing costumes, new origins or back-from-the-dead sidekicks. "We don't want to screw up Cap," Moore says. "There's nothing wrong with this character."

Without revealing any details about the first story arc, Cassaday says the stories he and Rieber plan to tell definitely are action-filled tales. "The guy is an icon," Cassaday says. "We're not going to get into the nitty-gritty of everyday life. You're not going to see him brushing his teeth."

Fans may be wondering why Marvel is choosing to relaunch "Captain America" as part of the Marvel Knights imprint, rather than just putting a new creative team on the existing title. Marvel spokesman Bill Rosemann compared the situation to the ultra-successful relaunch of "Daredevil," a book that has since become the flagship of the Marvel Knights line. Putting the series under the Knights umbrella, he said, is a chance to attract creators who wouldn't necessarily work on other Marvel books, as well as an opportunity to give Cap some long-needed special attention.

"Here's a character who's one of the greatest characters in the industry," Rosemann said of the star-spangled hero. "And oftentimes, a character who's been around for a long time doesn't get the attention he deserves."

Although "Captain America" will relaunch with a Number One on its cover, the secondary numbering system instituted by Editor in Chief Joe Quesada will continue so completists won't have to worry about missing an issue.

As for whether the other Avengers eventually will appear in the series, Rosemann pointed to the character crossovers that occurred in "Daredevil" and other Marvel Knights titles once the new books really got rolling along. "If we clutter (the series) with other characters that readers aren't familiar with, they may get confused," Rosemann said. "But will he run into other heroes down the line? Sure. But first we want to give Cap the spotlight."

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