If you’ve been near a TV or movie theater this summer, you might be aware that “Captain America: The First Avenger” opens Friday. The movie adaptation of the classic Marvel Comics character is intended to introduce the patriotic warrior – introduced in the 1940s, revived in the 1960s and a staple of comics ever since – to moviegoers. The character will be a main player in “The Avengers,” a big-screen movie of the Marvel superhero group that opens next May.
While I reviewed and wrote about movies from 1978 to 1990 (first movie reviewed: “Animal House.” last: “The Two Jakes.”) and sometimes got to see them in advance, any inside track I had on movies – other than insight from some friends – is long gone. I haven’t seen “Captain America” and don’t know if it’s good or not.
I hope it is (and early word of mouth appears to be good) in part because Cap – Marvel’s writers and editors were adept at creating an intimacy among themselves, their characters and their readers – was always one of my favorite characters.
When Cap was reintroduced in the 1960s – found frozen in ice and thawed out by Iron Man, Thor and the other Avengers – I was an early comics reader. Even at a young age, I found the character appealing. Like my dad, Cap had been a U.S. soldier in World War II. The war was less than 20 years gone by that point and to many of us seemed like just yesterday.
But the comics, which were often melancholy, established Cap and his alter ego, Steve Rogers, as a man outside of time. Twenty years out of date – now 70 years! – Rogers awoke to find that most of his associates were long gone and that society had changed. Rogers was not a flag-waving stick-in-the-mud – there was a period in the 1970s when, disillusioned by government corruption, Rogers even gave up the Captain America identity and became a man without a country – but he was a man of honor who stood up for his beliefs.
He was an outsider but a leader of men and women, a symbolic figure who disavowed jingoism (for the most part; it was the early 1960s, after all) and a heroic figure who, if he didn’t always know exactly what to do, figured it out.
Cap was a prominent player in one of my earliest comic book memories. An older neighbor, Mike, gave me his copy of Avengers #4, in which Cap is reborn into the then-modern world. I don’t have that comic anymore – boy I wish I did – but I still think about it. It helped introduce me to a world of the fantastic leavened by real, everyday concerns and cares.
If the movie evokes some of those memories, it’ll be a success for me.