Monday, May 11, 2015

31 Days of Comics: Day 11 – Old Comic You Love

ROB'S NOTE: May has become the go-to month of the Comic’s Industry (even though National Superhero Day is late April, but whatever… Congress… pshaw).  It is when Marvel drops their big movie of the year.  May also sees the annual Free Comic Book Day celebration take place on the first Saturday of the Month, so I hope you all got to check that out.  May also has 31 days of the month so what better way to celebrate the wonderful world of sequential art with the 31 Days of Comics?
Seth Hahne, who runs the blog GoodOkBad, has put together the 31 Days of Comics challenge.  A daily challenge in which you are given a category and you have to fill it with a comic that you think fits it the best.  You’re all on the internet, I shouldn’t have to explain it to you.  For the rest of the month I will be taking this challenge.  It is my hope it encourages others to make and share their own lists either in the comments here or on their own websites.  The sharing not only might turn comic fans on to works they have yet to sample but maybe catch the eye of a few non-comic fans and highlight the diversity of the form. 

Our prompt for Day 11 is an ”Old Comic You Love.”

Captain America #175 “Before the Dawn”
Written by Steve Englehart
Pencils by Sal Buscema
Inks by Vince Colletta
Colors by Charlotte Jeter

 To be honest I am not sure how to define “old” here.  Are we talking about “old” in terms of the number of years I have walked the earth?  Are we talking about “old” in terms of the lifespan of the modern comic book?   Considering that question, and considering I don’t want to pick a book that I consider “old” and have anybody reading say “oh that came out like 5 years before I was born… you remember that?” I think I will go with a comic that came out before the “modern age of comics” (roughly coinciding with either “Watchman” or “Dark Knight Returns”).

While my first legitimate comic reading came in the 1980s I have been able to go back and read quite a number of books that came out in the 1970s.  And while every writer and book had its own tone and its own story tics there is one thing that seems to unite comic books of the 70s. 

They are literally insane.

Captain America #175 is living proof of this insanity. 

This issue is the culmination of the Secret Empire storyline that kicks off in issue 169, which today would be a typical “written for trade” length of an arc for most comics, but at the time was an epic storyline for a book to be concluded in a milestone issue.  At the time Cap was joined by the Falcon in his adventures.  At the time the Falcon couldn’t fly.  He seriously was just named Falcon because he had a pet falcon because… you know… the 70s. 

The start of the storyline sees the Falcon, feeling inadequate, going off to Wakanda to see if the Black Panther can hook him up with some technology that will make him feel like he’s more of a partner to Cap instead of a walking plot device that Steve Rogers needs to save every issue.  Meanwhile Cap investigates the Committee to Regain American Principles (that’s right CAP investigates C.R.A.P.), which is thinly veiled substitute for Nixon’s C.R.E.E.P (Committee to Re-Elect the President).  Along the way Cap is framed for the murder of a super-villain by a group called the Secret Empire, who attempts to replace him with their own “hero” known as Moonstone.   Moonstone captures Cap, who is later “broken out” of jail by “supporters”, hired by the Secret Empire to throw even more suspicion on the hero.  The rest of the storyline involves the X-Men, as the Secret Empire is kidnapping mutants in order to fake the landing of a flying saucer, Captain America disguised as a bum and then infiltrating the Secret Empire with the Falcon (who now has the power to glide thanks to millions of dollars of Wakandian technology and “things that stick out under his armpits”) and in full costume stealing materials for them to prove their loyalty, and the Secret Empire having a weapon called the Atomic Annihilator which is just the most comics name a weapon can have. 

This brings us to the concluding issue, which basically says “the amount of drugs we were on to write the lead-up is nothing compared to the amount of drugs we took when we did this one.”  The fake saucer lands on the White House lawn and the new hero of the American public, Moonstone, instead of “defeating” them to secure his popularity does something a bit different.  He flat out surrenders to the aliens in an attempt to demoralize the American public.  Luckily Captain America shows up and defeats Moonstone, who eventually reveals the ruse and outs the Secret Empire.  The head of the Secret Empire, known only as #1, escapes into the White House with Cap on his tail.

Captain America tracks down #1 in the Oval Office, defeats him, and takes off his hood.  While #1’s face is never shown it is heavily implied when #1 states, “High political office didn’t satisfy me! My power was still too constrained by legalities!”  #1 eventually pulls out a gun and kills himself.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the reason this comic is my favorite old comic is not just because of the fact that Falcon’s big upgrade was “super-gliding”, or that Captain America pulls a robbery in full uniform, or that the Secret Empire has a “Wheel O’ Mutants” powering their scheme. 

The reason this is my favorite old comic comes from the fact that the conclusion of the story is when Richard Nixon commits suicide.  Although Marvel tried to distance themselves from the ongoing Watergate scandal by claiming the storyline was in development a year in advance, people believed that about as much as they believed Vanilla Ice’s baseline to “Ice Ice Baby” wasn’t sampled from “Under Pressure” by Queen.

And if you’re too young to understand that reference then I hate you. 

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