Monday, June 22, 2009

Hero of the Week #4: Captain America

Real Name: Steve Rogers
First Appearance: Captain America Comics #1 (March, 1941)
Group Affiliation: Avengers, Secret Avengers, Invaders, SHIELD
Gaming Credentials: Spider-man & Captain America in Dr. Doom's Revenge (1989); Captain America and the Avengers (1991); Maximum Carnage (1994)Marvel Super Heroes (1995); Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems (1996); Marvel vs Capcom 2 (2000); Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (2005)Marvel Ultimate Alliance (2006); Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (TBA)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #7

I've blogged about it before and I'll definitely blog about it again: comics and video games have a lot in common, both as artforms, and as industries. In many respects, I believe the relatively young medium of gaming could learn a lot from it's sequential senior. Where gaming has a leg up, however, is justification for levity towards death.

If you were following the news at all last week, you probably heard all about Marvel's big announcement for Captain America #600 -- the return of Steve Rogers! If you bought into the hype and actually picked up the hefty $4.99 issue, then allow me to apologise on behalf of the entire industry. Chances are you would've been left a little bemused by the so-called major issue, given that it was a lead-in to the actual series and event of Captain America: Reborn.

Unlike last week's hero (Flash); Captain America's death did not come with a grandiose sense of self-sacrifice; did not benefit all of mankind; and hadn't really even been put to paper all that long!
It was only back in April of 2007, in Captain America #25, that the big A bit the big 1 when he was shot Lee Harvey Oswald-style on the steps of the courthouse he was to be tried in for unlawful activity as an unregistered superhero. The proverbial gunman-on-the-grassy knoll was Cap's arch-nemesis and rooftop assassin, Crossbones, who was working on behalf of the Red Skull. The actual culprit amidst the chaos, however, was the Captain's own straight shooting ex-girlfriend, and agent of SHIELD, Sharon Carter!... Or so it seemed...

Reborn re-examines the events of the fateful shooting, starting with Sharon Carter, the superspy who had been brainwashed to shoot Cap in the gut at point blank and will now find a way to bring him back.

For Marvel Comics, who owe their most significant history to the Stan Lee era of the 1960's; Captain America is one of the few enduring characters that connects them to the Golden Age of comics. Revived as part of Lee's super-group, the Avengers, the Captain re-entered the "modern" world as a man not quite in sync with the time around him. That otherworldly distance the WWII hero possessed has allowed him to become a cypher for many discussions about the American political landscape, and the ideals of an idealistic nation.
To this day, the character largely represents the incorruptible good that America has failed to achieve, but always strived for. He is a character larger than life, important around the world not for the jingoistic flag-waving his red, white, and blue costume represents, but for the larger-than-life superheroic truth and justice he stands for.

The subtleties and unique intrigue of 1940s superheroes, even in their updated incarnations, hasn't always connected directly with gamers, but many will fondly remember the character for his iconic flinging of the shield in games like Captain America and the Avengers and the vs Capcom series. Off the back of his significance in the modern Marvel Universe, however, Cap has enjoyed a more substantial role in the Ultimate Alliance game, which, for now, represents the most thorough venture into the entire Marvel universe, rather than just one brand.

Cap returns in the Ultimate Alliance sequel, Fusion, packing a punch as one of the key figures in a storyline adapted from 2006's Civil War. The story, centred around the registration and exposure of superheroes to the government, pitted two factions of heroes against one and other in a clash of ideals, asking readers to choose between Captain America and Iron Man. As if to bring events full circle, it was the Civil War that indirectly led to the assassination of Captain America!

Cap also returns later in the year in the [delayed] digital reissuing of Marvel vs Capcom 2! Captain America: Reborn #1 hits comic stores July 1st. The much talked about feature film, Captain America: The First Avenger, is currently slated for a July 2011 release.

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths: The Comic Book Fight Club is updated with varying consistency, promising a feature fight for every Friday on the calendar (even if sometimes they're late). The site acts as an information resource, discussion site, review blog, and an All-American good time.

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