For Your Consideration: Marvel’s Captain America: The Adventures of Captain America

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

The Sentinel of Liberty has been a beacon of hope since his debut at the outset of World War II. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby felt a need among the readers and filled it with a verve that patriotic predecessors lacked. Ever since, Captain America has been inextricably tied to that era despite still fighting the good fight today.

Captain America: The Adventures of Captain America

Captain America: The Adventures of Captain America


After three films and many collections in support of each, Marvel has finally gotten around to one which has never before been collected and it’s high time they presented this one. Captain America: The Adventures of Captain America collects the 1991 four-issue prestige format miniseries set during the early days of his colorful career.

The project was conceived by writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Kevin Maguire, who were close pals at the time. Maguire’s rep was riding high thanks to his eye-opening work on DC’s Justice League and this was promised to be his first major Marvel assignment.

The two got the project green lit and got to work, but Maguire proved slower than the House of Ideas wanted and after waiting, wound up having others finish the work. As a result, the first issue is from Maguire and Joe Rubinstein while Terry Austin inked the second and the third was finished by penciller Kevin West and Austin while West and Steve Carr split the penciling chores for the final chapter with Austin’s inks keeping things consistent.

The Adventures of Captain America #1

The Adventures of Captain America #1


Even so, the project wound up skipping a month between issues one and two, which may be one reason it has been overlooked for so long. And that’s a shame because Nicieza does a lovely job retelling not only Cap’s origins but explores Steve Rogers early days as an army grunt, withering under Sgt. Mike Kelly’s tutelage. Nicieza shows us how Rogers met James Buchanan Barnes for the first time and how “Bucky” discovered Rogers’ secret.

There are Nazi spies, still on the hunt for the secret of the super-solider formula, torturing the dead Dr. Erskine’s lab assistants. The Germans kidnap Lieutenant Glass and Colonel Fletcher, who were assigned to the project, hoping to glean the secrets from them. However, the US government counters their move with sending Captain America into action, which sets up his first confrontation with Hitler’s own symbol of hatred, the Red Skull.

“I thought that was the most fun period for Captain America, and I don’t think that at that point there had been a real comprehensive origin,” Maguire said in Modern Masters Volume 10.

You have action, espionage, some globe-trotting and plenty of derring-do. Maguire set the bar high for the look of the series, with detailed illustrations making 1941 come to life and presenting a picture perfect representation of army life.

The Adventures of Captain America #2

The Adventures of Captain America #2


Maguire did extensive research and in time, his basement apartment was filled with reference tacked to the walls. Despite not drawing the final issue, he was still credited as a storyteller since he and Nicieza effectively co-plotted the entire event. After they plotted the story and got it approved, Maguire relocated to Florida for two years and without being a presence in the offices, started falling behind on the pages required by the four 48-page books. Despite starting the book in 1989, by 1991, Marvel had gotten tired of waiting and wanted the book on its publishing schedule so West then West and Carr were brought aboard.

Nicieza’s retelling, though, was distinct enough to contradict what the various Marvel Handbooks of the era considered canonical, so it was discounted by editorial early on and readers may have followed suit, hence the series being largely forgotten. This is a real shame since the creators involved brought affection and action to the pages, making it a fun read, regardless of its place in the continuity (which continues to be retconned, revised, and reconsidered to this day).

Steve Rogers still remains the essence of American virtues, trying to serve his country despite a body considered 4-F by the military. His strength of character, though, gets him into the super-soldier program and their faith in him is repaid a hundredfold. It’s an earlier, more innocent era which Nicieza and Maguire nicely capture. Credit to Paul Mounts for subtle color work has to be given.

Bucky is also more sharply delineated by the writer, making him more a street-hardened wise guy, more Leo Gorcey’s Slip Mahoney from the Bowery Boys than just a younger paragon of virtue like Steve was. The contract is a welcome one as the opposites attract and it’s clear they make each other a better person.

Captain America: The 1940s Newspaper Strip #1

Captain America: The 1940s Newspaper Strip #1


The remainder of the volume is filled with the charming Captain America: The 1940s Newspaper Strip, a 2010 project that began life as a digital exclusive. Written and illustrated by Karl Kesel, the story retells the origin once more and pits Cap and Bucky against Nazi spies, underground cities, robots, and of course, the Red Skull – all the things one might find had Timely actually managed to sell a syndicated Cap strip.

Canonical or not, this one’s most definitely worth giving a read.

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Captain America: The Adventures of Captain America

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