Weird(cool) Panels: Captain America and the Search for Friendship
This should really be called Weird(sad) panels but we'll get to that. Part of my bounty at one of the many con or comic book sales was a handful of 1982 Captain America's with covers by the awesomely iconic Mike Zeck. For April's # 268, J.M. DeMatties writes, John Beatty Inks, Jim Novak Letters, Bob Sharen Colors, Jim Scalicrup Edits and Jim Shooter Edits In Chief. The story begins with Steve Rogers and neighbor/new ladyfriend Bernie Rosenthal on a date. They've just seen the 1940's smash hit Raiders of the Lost Ark. Audiences loved the flick but what did Steve think of it? That Indiana Jones was amoral! Bernie lets it slip that she loves him but Steve clams up and responds that he cares about her...very much...OHHHHHH! Bernie no like that and the date ends abruptly. But give the guy a break, he's a man out of time and his only previous lady friends were both with him during World War II or became S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents. Anywho, Steve is struck down by some kind of a mental bolt from a friend who's been kidnapped by a secret agency made up of displaced operatives from the FBI, CIA and other clandestine types. Dum Dum Dugan helps locate the secret base Steve's friends are being held at and boom, Captain America is mixing it up with dudes dressed like Roman Centurions and talking about how he's been dodging Nazi Death Rays long before they were born! Apparently these evil dudes want to take out the USSR, the last blockade of lasting peace but Cap socks their leader in the mouth as he works for understanding, not death and represents the American dream not a bunch of borders, boundaries or blind hatred. Highlights of this issue were definitely Steve unintentionally dissing Bernie and a Hostess Fruit Pie starring Daredevil!
# 269 is a nice off-beat adventure, which I love. We start with Steve eating breakfast at his landlord Anna's apartment along with brownstone neighbors Joshua and Mike. Steve is a bottomless pit who eats all the waffles while the other men tap out. That's what happens when you're buff, you gotta eat! Mike mentions some current events with Neo-Nazi's that makes Anna's blood boil, wishing they could lock them all up to which Steve exclaims that we can't take away freedom or deny rights. And that society must be unafraid of ideas however noxious and believe people are wise enough to make the right choice. Bernie shows up and it's awkward city since she just told Steve she loved him last issue and our guy couldn't respond in kind. Ol' Steve-o then jumps on his hog and rides over to a motorcycle exhibition as Captain America. You see, Steve has loved motor bikes since first straddling one during World War II. There's a grace and heart stopping beauty to the machines as well as the potential to rise to another level of power. See how deep this guy is? Stop making him some middle America yokel who likes football. The man is an artist who lost both parents young, grew up sickly then fought in World War II. He's sensitive, Damme it!
At the bike show we meet Team America, a trio of stunt riders named Honcho, Reddy and Wolf. Cap joins their show doing tricks and whatnot before a mysterious vortex opens up in the middle of the arena and a huge, naked bald guy with yellow skin shows up and grabs them. They're all teleported to a picturesque village known as Ponder where they're greeted by none other than Mark Twain and Albert Einstein! It doesn't go full Twilight Zone with a parallel dimension but it's close as we soon learn that other inhabitants of Ponder include Shakespeare, Plato, Abraham Lincoln, Confucius and Socrates among others. All summoned by The Mad Thinker, a man with formidable reasoning powers who can predict just about any action! Also a talented mechanic and designer, The Mad Thinker has built an army of advanced androids and put the consciousness of his favorite historical figures into them. Learning is his god so the replicas keep him company but there's only so much a dead person's personality can provide. Think has been kidnapping Nobel Prize winners in order to spur independent thought in his androids and thinks Cap would be a great addition to his collection of copies. But Cap and Team America destroy the androids which leaves The Mad Thinker depressed as all he wanted was some friends to pass the time with...Super sad, everybody needs friends! Also sad is the lack of cool ads in this issue.
June's # 270 reintroduces us to Steve's childhood friend Arnie Roth. Growing up, Arnie was always there for Steve and had quite the life as a popular ladies man. The two met up again while serving in the military and Arnie couldn't believe how Steve had changed post-Operation: Rebirth. Cut to the 80's and Arnie's life just didn't work out very well, he never got married and is always in trouble with a gambling addiction. The swinger turned loser couldn't believe Steve was still alive and knew his secret identity. Arnie tries to use that knowledge to clear a $50,000 debt or it's curtains for roommate Michael, the only good thing in Arnie's current life. Cap walks into the trap and takes out some thugs before facing off with their big, armored, brain looking monster boss. Just a super weird and kinda sad couple of issues, man. I guess it really is hard to make friends as you get older...Mike Zeck's art has always been among my favorite with lots of dynamic action and jumping poses, angry looking faces and muscularly heroic heroes and villains. He also has some of the most memorable covers of all time across The Punisher, G.I. Joe and Cap.