Joe Simon and Jack Kirby introduced Cap in his own CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS in 1941, the cover of which famously depicts Cap socking Hitler in the jaw. This was before the US was actually in the war, mind you. The result of an unreproducible science-fiction procedure, 4-F Steve Rogers, a stout-hearted weakling from Brooklyn, was transformed into the pinnacle of physical perfection, Captain America. Outfitted with an unbreakable shield, Cap fought his way though WW2. When the war ended and interest in superhero comics waned, Cap was suspended in the arctic ice, thawed by the superheroic Avengers to fight for justice again.
Captain America was also the favorite superhero of my friend James, who died almost a year ago. Like the Captain himself, James was often disillusioned by it by his country, but continued to believe in it. This piece is dedicated to James. RIP, buddy.
Hope you’ll make the circuit back here tomorrow for the next superstar of MIGHTY MARVEL MAY.
Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby as an antagonist for Captain America, the Red Skull first appeared in CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 in 1941. His evolution was constant, with numerous details added and amended to his character and backstory over the years. Essentially he was a simple bellhop chosen by Hitler to become the ultimate Nazi ubermensch.
There have been efforts over the years to humanize the character, but for the most part, he is not so much a person as an ideal of pure evil. And on that level, coupled with his striking visual, he works.
This picture scared the living hell out of me as a child. (Art by Al Avison.)
Whether the Red Skull is masked or disfigured is controversial and changes from version to version (one Golden Age story suggested he was wearing an actual, painted human skull over his head… Somehow). Although drawn by many people over the years, once again I stuck with Jack Kirby as a guide. Kirby’s 1960s, Silver Age version of the character doesn’t particularly look like an actual human skull, it looks like what it is: a monster.
Quick reminder that today is FREE COMIC BOOK DAY at comic shops throughout the US (and maybe other countries, as well?), so go get some free comics!
And come back tomorrow for our next MIGHTY MARVEL MAY installment for a character who’s had a lot of ups and downs.