Friday, April 17, 2015

Best Character Ever 3: Captain America

Ron Garney is still the best Cap artist in my opinion. Image credit: Marvel Comics. 
I really am not sure where I first came across Captain America. It was most likely an episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, but I could not tell you what episode or when it aired. It certainly didn’t leave a lasting impression. I’ve watched it within the last year or so and even now I cannot remember the details of the Cap episode.

That being said, I quickly fell in love with the character. After my love affair with G.I. Joe blossomed into a love for Firestorm and Uncanny X-Men, I branched out as I started to get older. Captain America was one of the characters I started to fall in love with very quickly.

I’m fairly sure I started with my brother’s issues. This was during the long Mark Gruenwald era in the 80s and early 90s, more specifically in the period where John Walker took the costume and Steve Rogers wore the black Captain costume. I instantly became hooked, not realizing that in many ways it was a better told rehashing of the previous Nomad arc of the 1970s. It didn’t matter to me, both the Captain and John Walker were awesome to my ten or eleven year old mind.

I followed the book through my brother for the next few years. I started buying the book for myself during what I still consider one of Gruenwald’s finest storylines “Streets of Poison”. To this day, that arc is one of the strongest six part stories I can remember just packed with action, great guest stars and gorgeous artwork by the always underrated Ron Lim. From there, Cap was always a favorite.

I read Cap off and on for the next several years, mostly based on artists, but I started back on the book full time just before Gruenwald’s final arc “Fighting Chance”. While I know a lot of folks have little good to say about that era, I still think it’s terribly awesome. The characters created in that arc could fuel an entire year of comics written by this guy. I still would love to write an Americop series for Marvel someday.

I call this look Captain Armorica.
Art by Dave Hoover.
But this column isn’t just about the greatness of Gruenwald’s era or the spectacular Waid/Garney era that followed, it is about the greatness of Captain America. And he truly is a great character. Steve Rogers is the ultimate personification of the American can-do spirit. He’s not invincible by any means. He’s often one of the weakest Avengers. But he never gives up even in the face of defeat.

Art by Ron Lim. 
The finest moment of Infinity Gauntlet is when Captain America alone stands up to the dark god Thanos despite having no hope for victory. That is Cap and that is why he can never truly be defeated, not by death and not even by bad writing.

Cap in many ways is the best part of the current Avengers cartoon franchises and Chris Evans has done a superb job breathing life to him in film. Whether it be comics, prose, television or film I always enjoy seeing more from Captain America. And yes, that even includes the 70s TV movies and that strange 1990 film starring J.D. Salinger’s son.

Cap at his best is about doing great things. Comics—and life—always needs more of that.

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