Captain America: The First Avenger – Since I like the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies I’ve seen, I’m trying to catch up on the ones I missed. I have to say I generally wasn’t that keen on the idea of Captain America, who just seemed too nationalistic. Why do superheroes have to be so tied in with politics? It’s like how Superman fights for the American way even though one of his creators was Canadian. Really, though, it’s hard not to like the Captain, as he’s a nice guy who’s more interested in standing up to bullies than killing anyone, and he punched Hitler in the face.
Steve Rogers starts out as a small, sickly guy who frequently gets bullied, but obtains incredible strength and other abilities when injected with a super serum invented by Dr. Erskine. Now, a lot of superheroes are weak before obtaining their powers, and sometimes even after. It seems that most of them either obtained their powers by accident or the will of destiny, however, while Erskine flat-out thinks a wussy guy is his best choice. There’s a line about how someone who wasn’t born strong wouldn’t take it for granted. The Captain starts out his career doing promotions for war bonds, but on a visit to the Italian front he takes it upon himself to rescue a unit that had been taken prisoner. His main nemesis is the Red Skull, a ruthless and powerful Nazi agent who plans on ultimately betraying Hitler as well.
His real name is Johann Schmidt, the German equivalent of John Smith. Cap manages to destroy Schmidt’s doomsday machine, but in the process is frozen in a block of ice for several decades. I had originally thought more of the movie would take place after his defrosting in the present, but that’s actually a coda.
The idea of Rogers having been frozen was introduced in 1964 as a way to bring back a character who had declined in popularity after the end of the World War II, but Marvel Comics thought could be successful again. This added the extra element to his character of feeling out of place in a new society, which is only made more apparent when the movie has him wake up in the 2010s instead of the 1960s. It’s a somewhat depressing ending, as it means he never received acclaim for his heroism or went on the promised date with Peggy Carter. It also ties directly into The Avengers, which I guess was in production already because even if Cap’s solo movie turned out to be a flop (which it wasn’t), there were enough other successful characters in it.
I haven’t read any of the early Captain America comics, but I was aware of some aspects of the mythos that they changed for the film. While Bucky Barnes was originally a boy sidekick in the style of Robin, here he was a soldier of about the same age as Rogers. There were also some explicit ties to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, like Cap’s equipment being made by Iron Man’s father Howard Stark, and the Red Skull using the Tesseract and referencing Norse mythology. Not that this seemed at all out of place, as Hitler was himself said to be obsessed with the Norse myths. I’m kind of surprised they didn’t show Nick Fury as a young man in the 1940s, especially since many of the minor characters on the Captain’s team were originally part of his Howling Commandos. Maybe they figured Samuel L. Jackson’s version of the character was too young to be a WWII veteran, although the comics’ explanation for this is that he was injected with a different experimental serum that slowed his aging.
Speaking of Marvel Comics, I recently purchased and read some collections of recent comics that they had at Walmart, specifically Captain America, Spider-Man, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. I get the impression that they intended these to introduce the characters to people who found out about them through the movies, although there are some significant changes from their most popular conceptions. Spider-Man is no longer dating Mary Jane, but they’re still friends. J. Jonah Jameson somehow managed to be elected Mayor of New York City, and his father is married to Aunt May. Also, Freyja has become ruler of Asgard. The Guardians story heavily involves Star-Lord’s father J’son of Spartax. I understand that the sequel to the Guardians film is supposed to give Star-Lord a different father, unless that’s just a bit of misdirection.