The First Avenger
Created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, Captain America delivered the first American left hook to Hitler before America became involved in what it then considered to be a European conflict. A super soldier bearing all of the attributes that the Nazis aspired to in the mythical ubermensch, Captain America was a plucky and fearless insult to the Axis powers and became an inspiration to the soldiers in the very real war that enveloped the world. A controversial comic book hero, Captain America was brought back to the world by Stan Lee in the 1960’s as the Marvel line of superhero comics gained momentum.
The comic book character Captain America has become a symbol of patriotism, but hardly a right wing flag waver that many want him to be. A scrawny artist from Brooklyn, Steve Rogers was turned down for service several times until he was chosen to be part of an experiment intended to produce a new breed of soldier. Chosen not for his physical attributes but rather his strength of character and sense of what is right, Rogers was granted enhanced agility, strength and endurance by the super soldier serum. An unexpected success, the project’s forefather Dr. Erskine was killed and his work destroyed by a Nazi spy. Donning a colorful red, white and blue costume and bearing an unbreakable shield similarly emblazoned in the patriotic colors, Rogers entered the battlefield as a modern day standard bearer, encouraging his fellow soldiers and daring the enemy to fire upon him.
The 2011 feature film directed by The Rocketeer’s Joe Johnston develops the seeds of the modern day mythology of heroism in the Marvel Universe and connects another strand toward the 2012 Avengers film. The trailers have been stunning, but the latest contains several key moments indicating that it will not only be a visually stunning movie but also retain the spirit of the comic book. From what I have seen so far, two young Jewish cartoonists named Joe and Jack should be proud (Jack Kirby sadly passed many years ago, but Joe Simon is of course still with us and still drawing).