BHOC: CAPTAIN AMERICA AT THE SMITHHAVEN MALL

It was at around this time, during the summer of 1977, that I became aware that Captain America was going to be making a personal appearance at my local Smithhaven Mall. Every year the Mall held a collectibles fair for a week or so, and this year as a part of it, they had hired on Marvel’s personal appearance program to provide them with Captain America.

I wasn’t a fan, not even a Marvel reader at this point. But when my mother told me that Cap was going to be appearing and that I’d be able to see him and ask him questions, I went to work with an unnecessary level of seriousness. It became somehow important to me that this Captain America, whoever he was (I was old enough at this point to at least be aware that this would be an actor and not the genuine fictional Captain) should know that I was no mere spectator. I was a comic book connoisseur, an expert!

So I rifled through the Captain America-related materials I had on hand, mainly the Steranko History of Comics (whose Cap chapter I still had not read) and Feiffer’s Great Comic Book Heroes, which reprinted his first story and talked about him a little bit. And I formulated my can’t-miss question.

My mom and the family drove out to the Mall the next day, and I can remember the announcer introducing Cap. They were shilling what must have been remaindered copies of the previous year’s CAPTAIN AMERICA’S BICENTENNIAL BATTLES treasury, so I can recall the announcer telling us that “when Mister Buda says so, Captain America travels to the distant past!”

We didn’t buy a copy of CAP’S BICENTENNIAL BATTLES. I wasn’t a Marvel fan.

Okay, so, eventually Captain America is working the crowd, showing off his shield to the other young kids and just generally hamming it up and having a good time. And then he gets to me. I say that I have a question for him, and he tells me to go ahead. And I say, 

“When you were missing from 1949-1953 and 1956-1964, where were you?”

And this poor actor stares at me for a second, and deadpans, “Hibernating!” before swiftly moving on.

At a certain point in his career way before STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, actor and director Jonathan Frakes sometimes made extra money by playing Captain America for Marvel. I have since concluded that the timeline doesn’t add up, that it’s impossible for it to have been him. But in my heart, I‘d like to think it was him.

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