Death to America; Captain America, that is

You may have heard by now, that Captain America was assassinated the other day. I guess a little surprising to me is all the hoopla that has been made of it. Is it symbolism for something bigger, like the death of some aspect of Americanism? Yeah, sure; but I couldn’t help but to be reminded of a Captain America series from back in the day. Yes, I read and collected Marvel Comics and I followed Captain America and this all took place during the early 1970′s. Let’s see now…what was going on at the time? Hmmm…let’s see; an unpopular war led by an unpopular president. It got me reflecting on that series, which I remember well. At the end the evil genius behind the whole big dastardly plot was none other than the President of the U.S. To be honest, it was a big ho-hum to me. But, of course, I was 15 years old when the last issue was published and, well, let’s just say that an evil president didn’t stack up in my view to the likes of the Red Skull.

But do these stories have any social value? Absolutely, they do. They are (or will be) like mini-history books; no different than the ads in the comic books that harken back to yesteryear. I ran across this commentary from the end of my Captain America from the guy who was writing it at the time, Steve Englehart:

CAPTAIN AMERICA was my third Marvel series. It was being considered for cancellation when I got it, because it had no reason for existence. Stan Lee had written it for years, and it was clearly his least favorite book; the stories had become not only lackluster but repetitive. Gary Friedrich had picked it up a year before and done some interesting stuff, but he hadn’t stayed long; then Gerry Conway did two issues as a stopgap; and then I got it. The problem across the board at Marvel was that this was the 70s – prime anti-war years – and here was a guy with a flag on his chest who was supposed to represent what most people distrusted. No one knew what to do with him.

Me, I had been honorably discharged from the Army two years earlier as a conscientious objector – but I was supposed to also be a writer. So I did something for the first time that marked everything I’ve written since. I said, “Okay, if this guy existed, who would he be?” Not “Who am I?”, but “Who is Captain America?”

Six months later, the wayward book slouching toward cancellation was Marvel’s Number One title, and I seemed to have found my career. I’d also found an artist, Sal Buscema, who could draw exactly what I envisioned, so it was all good.

So I had asked myself “Who is Captain America?”, and had found an answer for the man. Thing was, America was moving from the overarching Vietnam War toward the specific crimes of Watergate.

I was writing a man who believed in America’s highest ideals at a time when America’s President was a crook. I could not ignore that. And so, in the Marvel Universe, which so closely resembled our own, Cap followed a criminal conspiracy into the White House and saw the President commit suicide.

And that was the end of Captain America…

And, just for fun, here’s a scan of an ad from one of my Captain America comic books circa 1970..

Comic Book Ad from 1970

Petula Clark and me

Jones, Dolenz, Boyce & HartThe MonkeesMy earliest memory of wanting to be performing in front of people was listening to Downtown on the phonograph (my sister’s 45). I grabbed the king from the chess board to use as a microphone and sang my heart out. I still get chills when the key-change hits heading into the trumpet break. For a while I think I wanted to acutally be Petula Clark.

Only a few acts came close to Petula in gaining my admiration. Those would be the Monkees and a duo that wrote for them: Boyce & Hart. I could have settled for being one them. When the Cowsills hit I thought there was a chance that my family might go on the road. I would be the star of course.

I’m not your stepping stone
I’m not your stepping stone 

You’re trying to make your mark in society
Using all the tricks that you used on me.
You’re reading all those high fashion magazines
The clothes you’re wearin’ girl are causing public scenes.

I said
I’m not your stepping stone
I’m not your stepping stone

When I first met you girl you didn’t have no shoes
Now you’re walking ’round like you’re front page news.
You’ve been awful careful ’bout the friends you choose
But you won’t find my name in your book of Who’s Who.

I said
I’m not your stepping stone
I’m not your stepping stone

Or how ’bout this one:

If I had told her that I loved her
She would have stayed till who knows when
But I guess she couldn’t understand it
When I said I want to be your friend
Cause a friend would never doubt you
Or ever put you uptight
And now I wonder what she’s doing tonight

Oh yes I wonder
What she’s doing tonight
Ohoh I wonder what she’s doing tonight

We were so close we shouldn’t get closer
And it’s making me feel so sad
But I tell myself I didn’t loose her
Cause you can’t loose a friend you never had (come on now)
Cause a friend won’t say it’s over
And go out just for spite
And now I wonder what she’s doing tonight

(all right Bobby)
Because a friend will always be there
If you’re wrong or if you’re right
And now I wonder what she’s doing tonight



Those were very different days weren’t they?