The postwar era provided challenges for many of the super-powered costumed crusaders who filled the pages of the nations comic books as, without a ready-made national enemy to fight, they were faced with a crisis of irrelevancy. And none encountered this existential ennui more directly than Captain America. Cap had been created to win the war with the Axis powers–but now the war had been won. What reason was there for his continued adventures–and for readers to part with their dimes?
For a while–a good, long while–the end of the war was pretty much ignored in the series, and Cap and Bucky continued to face the same sorts of menaces (often with a Now-It-Can-Be-Told disclaimer.) But eventually, that became too difficult an illusion to maintain, so the Captain began battling domestic criminals, his background and life situation entirely ignored. Cap and Bucky were Cap and Bucky all the time, but their battles against colorless mob goons weren’t especially memorable, and sales were drooping. Something had to be done.
And so, in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #59, Cap was given a new backstory and a new status quo. This is one of the first times that such a change in direction was made to a major character, but it was an absolute necessity in this case. The GCD credits BATMAN co-creator Bill Finger with writing this story, and they suspect that the artwork is by Jack Binder and George Klein. This story set up Cap and Bucky’s status quo for the remainder of the Golden Age.
ADDITION: In the comments, Dr. Michael Vassallo states that this story was actually illustrated by Mike Sekowsky
I’m reasonably certain that this is the first time that Cap’s origin was retold since the first issue. And the sequence of events and even images draws directly from Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s original. Though it does look like some lettering changes were made on this page.
All of this matches the Simon & Kirby version almost precisely. But in the present, no account has been taken of the passing of time–Bucky is still exactly as old as he had been in 1941. And now, Cap was retroactively a schoolteacher before the war, which seems like a bit of a stretch, but go with it. He also wears glasses for some reason and smokes a pipe. It’s also worth noting that the school Steve Rogers is offered employment at is the Lee School, named after editor Stan Lee.
The economics of the Lee School would no doubt disturb many these days. Also, Steve is made an “all-around teacher” so as to not limit any story possibilities, I assume.
Hey, it was a different time.
That last panel is pure Bill Finger, turning a plot point on an obscure bit of information.
That third panel caption was definitely relettered and probably changed. Same thing with the top half of the caption in Panel 4
Steve seems incredibly freaked out by that worm in Panel 3.
3 thoughts on “Captain America Musters Out!”
Tom, that story you show was penciled by Mike Sekowsky. It’s about as far away from Jack Binder as you or anyone can imagine. The GCD credit was an old one made up seemingly out of thin air, a problem I’ve been grappling with for years.
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Thanks for the correction, Doc!
…Of course, Marvel eventually explained that the various Caps and Buckys who appeared in 1945-49 were a series of substitutes with various C-list Timely.xharacters taking on the name…Does that early’80s Cap annual that set this out still stand as canon?