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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Badass Week: Independence Day With Captain America

Badass Week slams into its third installment, just in time for America's birthday!


And what better way to celebrate Independence Day--other than by exercising your right to vote in the ISB's Toughest Man In Comics competition--than with a look at the Star-Spangled Avenger himself, Captain America.

In the very first image the public ever got of Captain America, he is punching Adolf Hitler in the face, and as far as badass moments go, that's pretty hard to top--especially considering that this was eight months before the United States officially entered World War II. It's one of the most powerful images in comics history, and for good reason:

Punching Hitler in the face never gets old.

But as much as this may surprise you, most of my favorite instances of Captain America being a total and complete badass have nothing to do with punching. To me, Cap captures the spirit of America--or at least, the ideal of America--better than any other character in comics, and that spirit is defiance.

We are, after all, a country that was forged by a small group of guys who got together and decided that they'd had enough of being ruled by a man they saw as a mad tyrant and resolved to stand together and face down the most powerful Empire in the world. And seriously, regardless of your political views or nationality, that's pretty awesome.

Plus, our National Anthem has the words "rockets" and "bombs" in it, and that's pretty exciting.

But anyway, that's what I like about Steve Rogers: That he felt so strongly about standing up against tyranny and injustice that he didn't just want to fight the Nazis, he was willing to undergo an untested and potentially lethal process just to have his chance to fight for what he thought was right, whether it was against Adolf Hitler, or, oh, I don't know...

How about Thanos of Titan?

Jim Starlin and Ron Lim's Infinity Gauntlet is, hands down, the best Marvel "event" comic. And in #4, the shit hits the fan, bigtime. Thanos, after killing half the universe and acquiring capital-G Godlike power, decides to use a mere fraction of it to fight the Marvel Super-Heroes.

And things don't exactly go too well for the good guys.

By the end of it, Captain America is the only one left standing and he's just seen--in order--She-Hulk and Namor dissolved; Dr. Doom incinerated; Wolverine reduced to a quivering blob of agony-wracked flesh; the Scarlet Witch destroyed, Cyclops suffocated; the Vision's heart ripped out; Cloak ripped apart from the inside; Drax the Destroyer and Firelord eaten by dinosaurs; Iron Man decapitated; Spider-Man blugeoned to death with a rock; Thor, God of Thunder, turned to glass and shattered, and various other horrific deaths. Thanos has won. All in the span of like five minutes.

So what does Cap do?

He walks up... and breaks it down.

"As long as one man stands against you, Thanos, you'll never be able to claim victory."

That, my friends, is defiance.

And it's on a cosmic scale, too, but for my money, there's a moment every bit as good that takes place right in Avengers Mansion, from the classic Roger Stern/John Buscema story in Avengers #273-277. It is my all-time favorite Avengers story, and seriously: if you have not read it, you need to.

Essentially, it's exactly what it sounds like: The Masters of Evil bust in and tear ass all over the mansion, keeping heavy hitters like Thor and Hercules occupied while they nearly destroy the Avengers in their own home. And at the center of it all are Baron Zemo and Captain America.

Zemo's got Cap held hostage, forcing him to watch as Mr. Hyde tortures Jarvis, destroys the original shield he carried through World War II, and--in one of the most heartbreaking moments of Marvel history, rips up the only photograph Steve has of his mother. And then he asks what Cap, beaten and tied up, is going to do about it.

Enter the four most badass words Roger Stern ever wrote:

In the very next panel, Zemo leaves the room as quickly as possible.

And just for the record? This one ends up in a lot of punching.

Ahh, that's the stuff.

BONUS FEATURE: Captain America Sets A Bad Example

I don't think it's exaggerating at all when I say that the late, great Mark Gruenwald wrote the craziest Captain America stories since Jack Kirby had him battle a seven foot tall woman named Tinkerbelle in a roller derby to get his shield back from 20th-century British Loyalists (#196, for those of you keeping score). Take, for instance, Captain America #357, where Cap, regressed to a teenager (because shut up, that's why) is in iminent danger of being beaten to death by a group of female assassins called the Sisters of Sin.

They can't decide who gets to kill them, so they end up all jumping on him at once, but when the smoke clears, they're all punched out, and Cap... well, see for yourself.

Today's Dubious Moral: Punching women makes you a man!

More Independence Day Tomfoolery:
| Independence Day 2005: The Presitron |


Blogger McGone said...

Genius, And God Bless America!

Trust me... I am saluting right now.

7/05/2006 3:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've noticed how Nazis seem to aim gunfire at Cap's shield with alarming regularity.

They probably can't look away from the pure liberty of it.

7/05/2006 4:10 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome, if you look closely you can see by Thanos's posture he thinks he's all that, but look into his eyes..... you know he's shitting himself.

7/05/2006 6:48 AM

Blogger Kevin said...

Wow the awesome-o-meter just reached 1776!
And Chris, please give us more "dubious morals of the day" because dammit, I need moral guidance!

7/05/2006 12:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

God, I love Infinity Gauntlet. The best part about that Cap scene is... IT DOESN'T WORK. Silver Surfer MISSES grabbing the Gauntlet, so back in 1991 everyone was shitting their pants trying to figure out how they were going to get out of that one.

7/05/2006 1:01 PM

Blogger Mark W. Hale said...

I nearly shed a manly tear reading Siege on Avengers Mansion, let me tell you.

If you can read that and Infinity Gauntlet and not come out loving Captain America, you are a fool and a Communist. And probably also somehow a Nazi.

7/05/2006 1:15 PM

Blogger jblackstone said...

Typical liberal/feminist double standard.

Captain America didn't punch them out to prove he was a man, he punched them out because they were attacking him. Ho's had it coming!

It just goes to show you that Cap treats everybody equally.

7/05/2006 1:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's all well and good, the thing with Thanos. But how about when Cap trounced the Serpent Society WITH BOTH HAND?!? After that, he sermonized to the Falcon on following one's convictions. Alas, I don't remember what issue this was (I was a boy of 8 when I read it. It was a great influence on me). Does anyone?

7/05/2006 1:37 PM

Blogger Phil Looney said...

From more recent times - Cap jumping out of the S.H.E.I.L.D. Helicarrier, hijacking and surfing on an F-16, and then taking the pilot out for a hamburger afterwards

7/05/2006 1:41 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cap's battle against Korvac, after Korvac's either killed or incapacitated all the other Avengers, has both defiance AND PUNCHING. And early George Lopez artwork. All of which makes it totally awesome.
- Physician

7/05/2006 8:51 PM

Blogger Matthew E said...

Sorry to get serious here for a second... do you think 'defiance' really is the spirit of America? I mean, maybe it is. But that's a scary thought.

Defiance is great when you're a scrappy bunch of colonies trying to shake off the yoke of your imperial transatlantic overlords. It's great when you're an industrial giant trying to put a depression behind you with one hand while fighting a two-front war against fascist aggression with the other. It's not so great when you're a nuclear superpower and the most powerful nation in the world.

I'm just saying.

7/05/2006 11:54 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Yes, actually, I do.

If not of the government, then of the people. A democracy based on freedom, after all, is about people making a choice, and it cannot and will not grow and flourish without the voices of dissent offering the choices to make.

A country wherein the majority rules without the voices of dissent and rebellion being heard will stagnate into oppression, and those are the same conditions that America was founded to fight. Defiance and dissent--in discussion and action--are the principals that brought us the Revolutionary War, slave rebellions, the Suffragettes, and the Civil Rights movement.

I fully understand what you're saying, and I don't think it's wise for the government of a country to base itself in the concept of defying its people or the rest of the world (or common sense, for that matter), but I don't think the spirit and ideals of America are often reflected in her government, instead residing in the hearts of her people. And it is the right and the duty of a free people to stand up in defiance of injustice and tyrrany in all of its forms.

Thomas Jefferson and Nathan Hale told us that. Martin Luther King showed us that you could do it with peace. And, well, Captain America showed us that you could do it against Thanos, and that's why I love that guy.

7/06/2006 12:51 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


"We are, after all, a country that was forged by a small group of guys who got together and decided that they'd had enough of being ruled by a man they saw as a mad tyrant and resolved to stand together and face down the most powerful Empire in the world. And seriously, regardless of your political views or nationality, that's pretty awesome."

It would be more awesome if it were truer! Effectively, the American War of Independence was won by France. Colonial defiance would have been spit in the wind-a laughable incident of colonial ingratitude, it would probably have been in the history books (the new taxes financed the military that was "protecting" America after all)-without French money, French officers and leadership, French materiel, and later significant detatchments of the French armed forces. The soon-to-be-USA was an 18th century Korea, where the contemporary world powers could beat on each other without messing up their own countries.


(So seriously, US Americans in general-learn your real history, lay off the French and show some gratitude!)

7/06/2006 5:23 AM

Blogger Chris Sims said...


7/06/2006 9:17 AM

Blogger Matthew E said...

Chris: That's a good answer. (Well, two good answers, with the A-for-France thing.)

7/06/2006 9:31 AM

Blogger Steven said...

Thank you Chris Sims!

I only thought I loved Captain America before.

Now I know better!

Oh, and Anonymous France-lover,

there's a big difference between France being a great ally to the American revolutionaries (absolutely true) and France WINNING the war, especially considering France refused to get involved at all until the US was already winning, starting with the Battle of Saratoga!

None of which takes away from Chris's original point, that it was the defiance of the founding fathers, in the face of an overwhelming empire (one they COULDN'T beat alone), that inspired the founding of this nation as well as a little revolution in France itself.

So nah :P

7/06/2006 11:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't know Batroc read the ISB, let alone Commented about France on it.

7/06/2006 4:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


You left out the best part of the Thanos/Captain America face off! Thanos orders the ziggurat to grab Cap's feet, holding him still, shatters the shield with a single punch, and then there's a full-page face off, 16 panels, I think, with Thanos raising his fist to strike Captain America down and Steve just staring at the fist as the Silver Surfer races closer and closer to snatch the Gauntlet away from Thanos... and the Surfer misses.

It's over. Thanos knows what the trick was, he won't fall for it again, there is no hope. And Captain America PUNCHES HIM IN THE MOUTH ANYWAY. Because to do anything else would be bowing down to tyranny. Look at that panel where Norrin Radd misses the grab for the Gauntlet. Cap is already moving into the swing. There's no hesitation. He's done for, the universe is done for, and he's not even thinking about it.

And THAT is defiance.

7/07/2006 12:41 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That IS a huge erection on Cap after (unimaginably) taking those girls out, right?

(I mean, I'm not REALLY asking. I just thought it was a mandatory thing after such a beating, and I got pissed at the thought that it could NOT be intentional)

1/19/2007 9:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: steven

Just like the US in WWII huh?

12/18/2007 5:39 AM

Anonymous www.encontactos.com said...

Very useful piece of writing, much thanks for your post.

5/28/2012 9:55 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the other Anonymous, maybe you should show some gratitude toward the US to what they did in WWII. Without the assistance of the allies, including the US's major assistance, France probably wouldn't exist! Who knows?!
So stop being a whiny baby saying France "won"the Revolutionary war because they didn't. France was a great ally to the US in that War just like the US was a great ally to France in WWII.

So stop whining and contradicting yourself and show respect toward the US ;) K

To Chris: Right On!!!
God bless America :D

1/12/2013 11:39 PM


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