Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Mission: Replace Captain America!

Like a few of his fellow heroes, there have been times when even the straight-up, cool-headed Captain America has "gone wild," in the popular vernacular of the late '60s (and even extending into the '80s); in fact, you and I can probably bring to mind a half-dozen such instances when Cap has done so, without even giving much thought to it. There was the time when Cap tore into the Avengers when he thought one among them had betrayed him by aiding Immortus in capturing Rick Jones; or when the loss of his shield made him a crazed loonie; or whenever Sharon Carter's life was threatened. As popular as the word "wild" was with young people, a comics character going wild made for good cover copy, since it usually meant you were going to see them lose it in some way in the story and that the stakes would be raised.

Of course, Cap tended to go a little wild when his foe would debase our country's pride in freedom and/or liberty. But what was it about a late-1968 story, in particular, that sent Cap over the edge? Whatever it was, it was enough for the defunct Marvel fan club, Marvelmania, to single it out and make a poster from its cover.

It looks like the word "wild" was so popular, in fact, that apparently Marvelmania didn't want the words "Cap Goes" to take away from its selling power in the ad. As for the story, you'll have to judge for yourself whether or not Cap went wild, or if it was again his usual sense of patriotism rising to the fore and giving him the drive to overcome his foe. At times it's admittedly hard to tell the difference.

It's one of the last few issues of Captain America which we'd see from artist Jack Kirby, who at this point in time was closing in on the date he would depart from Marvel--and with finishing by Frank Giacoia, one of my favorite inkers for Kirby (with apologies to Mike Royer), it's quite a feast for the eyes. Writer Stan Lee also steps up and provides words to keep pace with Kirby's work, one of many stories where he plays to Cap's strengths regarding his unwavering faith in his principles and the cause he fights for.

We start the issue running, finding Cap battling far East operatives making a raid on a S.H.I.E.L.D. lab in New York where its engineers are testing new Life Model Decoy technology. The raiders are taken out by Cap, though not before they deliver the stolen technology to a getaway ship--and from there, it falls into the hands of "the Reds," who seek to use it to fashion a LMD model that will be a valuable propaganda tool against the West.

As for Cap, he's accompanied back to his apartment by a SHIELD agent who offers him a new mission. Still on edge after his recent separation from Sharon Carter, Cap's patience is on a short fuse and he's inclined to give the agent the bum's rush--but the evidence he's shown from a film obtained from a Hollywood studio is enough to gain his undivided attention.

We could certainly argue that the doctored film has put Cap in a wild state, though he might simply be incensed by what he's seen. Needless to say, he's on his way to Hollywood to get to the bottom of this. Heh--"gone Hollywood," you might say.  Sorry.

Meanwhile, at Infinity Productions, we meet Cyril and Willie, brothers and co-heads of the studio, who, unknown to their staff, have become involved with the plot of our eastern friends in exchange for an influx of cash that will hopefully allow them to make more profitable films and achieve the fame they desire. But it's truly Cyril who is the driving force behind the arrangement, and not only because of his ambition.

Willie is the brother to watch here, since he's obviously in Cap's corner all the way and would like nothing better than to tell their eastern benefactors where they can put their money. But will he have the courage of his convictions?

Speaking of courage, we know that Cap has that to spare--and he'll need that and more, as he slips into Infinity and comes face-to-face with Operation Replica!

Caught off-guard by this likeness of himself, Cap is possibly out of his league with this powerhouse, who is not only incredibly strong and fast but also invulnerable to pain and injury. Cap has the battle savvy and skill--but the LMD is putting him through the ringer to such a degree that Cap begins to tire very quickly, and speed is one thing his opponent will not hesitate to use to his advantage.

If Cap has gone wild, he must be keeping it in reserve, since taking a beating isn't usually how you define the term. If anyone's gone wild, it's Willie, who has decided to help Cap at any cost--and that cost proves to be the highest that can be paid.

It would be incorrect to say that Cap's newfound resistance (probably thanks to a timely adrenaline rush) has his foe on the ropes, given Cap's own words: "He can't be hurt!" But his enemy fails to renew the struggle--and from the looks of things, it's obviously struggling with a development that neither itself nor Cap expected.

Things had fortunately worked out well, both for Cap and SHIELD's runaway experiment; yet for Cyril and Willie, their part in this scheme as collaborators has seen each of them meet their respective end. For Willie, he gave his life trying to save Cap; but for Cyril, who lost the brother he was trying to save, his end came later, when a foreign agent saw to it that he paid the price for failure.

It's not the wildest we've seen Cap by far, to be sure--"fighting spirit" is practically his middle name, after all. "The LMD Goes Wild!" might have been closer to the mark; put a costume on it, and they could have pencilled "Cap" back over the caption and gotten away with it. One thing we can say with absolute certainty is that Chairman Mao isn't going to be wild about how this plot turned out. SHIELD should look forward to a scathing letter taking them to task for their shoddy workmanship.

Captain America #106

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Frank Giacoia
Letterer: Sam Rosen


Anonymous said...

So that's the story behind that cover!
I always wondered about that, a little bit. I always thought that was Ka-Zar, but now I think that was a different cover, where Ka-Zar is trying to break out of the sewer. But no, it was an LMD.
Now that I think about it, that was a Daredevil cover, where they're down in the sewer.


Rick said...

I always loved this story, and had the original Marvelmania poster for years. And I'm inclined to agree with you about Frank Giacoia's inks. I always thought he was best suited to ink Jack's work.

Jared said...

Love this art. Always have felt Kirby's best career work was the Tales of Suspense Cap stories and the first few issues after it changed to a full Cap title.

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