Captain America #144 (December, 1971)

In September, 1971, I bought my first issue of Captain America in almost two years; today, fifty years later, I’m not sure how to account for my long abstinence from the adventures of the Star-Spangled Avenger, especially considering that I was buying every other superhero title Marvel Comics was putting out at that time.  (Well, almost every other title.  Hulk remained a tough sell for your humble blogger, except for those occasions when his series crossed over with other books I followed, like Avengers.) 

Maybe I should blame Rick Jones.  As I’ve written about in earlier posts, back in 1968-69 I was fully invested in the plotline developed by Jim Steranko (beginning with the artist/co-plotter’s first issue, Captain America #110) in which Rick, a longtime supporting character in both Hulk and Avengers, had, after years of hints and teases on Marvel’s part, finally suited up in Bucky Barnes’ old gear to become Cap’s new partner.  And thus I was displeased when, within just a few issues of Steranko’s departure, scripter Stan Lee (in collaboration with artists/co-plotters John Romita, John Buscema, and Gene Colan) contrived matters so that Rick was summarily rejected as partner by “Cap” — who was actually a body-swapped Red Skull.  Nor was I mollified by Rick’s subsequently landing on his feet as the new partner (so to speak) of Captain Marvel, courtesy of Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, in issue #17 of the latter stalwart’s title.  I liked the Captain America-Rick Jones combo, and I was irked that it ended the way it did.

That shouldn’t be taken as meaning that I didn’t enjoy the Red Skull-Cosmic Cube storyline that wrote Rick out of Cap’s book on its own merits.  I did — at least, I enjoyed those installments I was able to find and buy (somehow, I missed three out of the saga’s five chapters, including the conclusion).  Those included Captain America #118, featuring the first foray into superheroic action of one Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon (who’d technically debuted in the previous issue, #117).  I liked those comics, and I liked the Falcon; but perhaps my general dissatisfaction with the title’s direction made it easier for me to abandon the book when Marvel instituted a new line-wide “no continued stories” policy at around that same time — a policy whose period of implementation would, not so coincidentally, closely correspond to a run of months from late 1969 through early 1970 when I bought hardly any new comic books at all — and maybe my residual dissatisfaction also made it easier for me to ignore the series when I returned to buying comics in force in mid-1970, even as I began to routinely pick up Marvels that I’d paid relatively little attention to prior to taking my hiatus, such as Iron Man and Sub-Mariner.

Quite a lot had happened in the two years I’d been gone, obviously.  On the creative front, after seven years of writing Cap (first in Tales of Suspense and then in his solo title), Stan Lee had given up that role.  Originally announced in July as part of the Marvel editor’s “couple of weeks” away from comics scripting for the purpose of working on a screenplay, Lee’s departure proved to be permanent — and so, as of issue #142, Gary Friedrich became Captain America‘s new writer.  Meanwhile, Gene Colan had wrapped up his substantial run as the book’s artist earlier in the year, yielding the pencil to John Romita with issue #140.

On the story side of things, the biggest change was one that was reflected in the very name of the series (at least as represented by the cover and title page logos, if not in the fine print of the indicia), beginning with issue #134:  Captain America and the Falcon.  Once again, the Sentinel of Liberty had a partner; and this time, it looked to be a lasting change.

It’s easy to miss this point from the perspective of a half century later, but Sam Wilson’s eventual role as Cap’s partner doesn’t seem to have been a sure thing from the moment of his creation.  Perhaps it was in the back of Lee’s mind from the moment that he and Gene Colan introduced comics’ first Black American superhero; but if so, he hedged his bets by having the Falcon tell Cap “so long for now” following the duo’s takedown of the Red Skull in #119.  After making his exit at the beginning of issue #120, Falc wouldn’t turn up again until #126; he then disappeared again until #132, for a storyline that continued into #133, at the end of which Cap finally asked Sam Wilson to become his partner.  Perhaps it was always going to happen; nevertheless, it took a year and a half for the first Black Marvel hero destined to rock his own logo to actually attain that historic status.

In any event, as of September, 1971, the Falcon had officially been Cap’s partner for eleven months; John Romita had been drawing the series for six months; and Gary Friedrich had been writing it for two.  What was it about Captain America #144 that made my fourteen-year-old self decide, “OK, I’m ready to give this book another shot”?

I feel pretty certain that the cover was the main selling point, if not the only one.  To begin with, the new logo that had been introduced a month earlier was very striking (ironically, it would be gone after the following month’s #145).  Also, the black background was dramatic, and the torn-photo concept of Romita’s illustration cleverly tweaked the new “picture frame” cover design that Marvel had instituted across its whole line in August.  Then, of course, there was the information conveyed by the cover — most especially, the news that Cap and the Falcon were splitting up.

To be clear, I don’t believe that I was eager to see the partnership end, either because I was still jonesing for Rick Jones to come back (by then, I knew that ship had sailed), or for any other reason.  In fact, I suspect that I didn’t take the “split” all that seriously in the first place; after all, if Marvel really were dropping Sam Wilson from the Captain America title, would they be going to the trouble to give the guy a brand-new costume at the exact same time?  Because that’s what they were doing in this issue (though fans had technically gotten their first peek at Falc’s new threads a month before, courtesy of the title’s new trade dress, with its miniature figures of Cap and the Falcon flanking the logo, which had debuted on the cover of CA #143).

No, I didn’t think that Marvel was breaking up the Cap-Falcon team for good.  But it did seem like they were beginning a brand-new storyline in the book — which meant this might be an opportune time to jump on board, and see if I enjoyed the ride.

As it turned out, that was a pretty good call.

Two pages into Friedrich and Romita’s story, and I felt that I was on very familiar ground.  Cap fighting the hordes of Hydra alongside Nick Fury and his agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?  I’d read this sort of thing before… though that didn’t necessarily mean I’d mind reading it again.

Ah, yes…  Remember the days when Nick Fury would take time out in the middle of a military-type action to light up a cigar?  Well, then, you’re probably about as old as I am.

Phase Two” commences when Cap and his cohorts jettison their jetpacks, so they can bring the hurt to Hydra on foot…

“Just no way I can fall into that scene!”  “…some kind of ego trip I’m on…”

Gary Friedrich’s attempts to have the Living Legend of World War II speak in a contemporary idiom haven’t aged very well, I’m afraid.  The writer would probably have done better to let Cap talk like,,, well, like a Living Legend of World War II, frankly.

Of course, there’s something to be said for no dialogue at all…

Why, yes, that is indeed President Richard Milhous Nixon and friends watching the proceedings (which apparently don’t represent a “real” raid on Hydra at all; kind of a disappointment, if you ask me).  “Tricky Dick” had been turning up in Marvel’s comics with some frequency of late; an android duplicate of the Prez was featured in this same month’s issue of Hulk, and the real deal would show up in the following issue.

Fury’s remark to Nixon concerning “the economy” reflects contemporary American concerns over rising inflation and unemployment — concerns which would lead the President to establish a national wage and price freeze in August, after this story had been written, but before it had been published.  (That action ultimately resulted in problems for Marvel related to the company’s rapid successive price changes during the summer of ’71, as we discussed on the blog a couple of weeks ago.)

Incidentally, that’s Sharon Carter, S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent 13 (and Cap’s longtime love interest), silently monologuing at us in the last panel — but you probably knew that already.

Friedrich’s “hip” dialogue for Cap earlier in the story may have made one wince a bit, but that which accompanies the entrance of “Femme Force One” is truly cringeworthy.  Not to mention that the concept itself doesn’t make a lot of sense, even in its original 1971 context.  We’ve seen women like Carter and Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine acting as full-fledged S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in Marvel’s conics for years by this time — so what’s the point of this initiative?  If the idea is to field more female agents, then kudos, but why a special unit segregated by gender?  Perhaps it would be best just to give Marvel a few points for at least trying to rise to the cultural moment, and not think about the specifics too much.

Fury seems to realize that he’s losing his grip on his august audience’s attention, but he has one more weapon in his arsenal to persuade the Prez to support S.H.I.E.L.D.’s new projects — which, along with expanding the Femme Force, include building a bunch more Life Model Decoys (LMDs), the latter of whom have of course provided the Hydra-garbed cannon fodder for today’s demonstration.  Yes, it’s time for the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. to bring out his big gun… a diagram!

The two officials flanking Nixon in the last panel above don’t appear to be based on any actual persons living or dead, but that’s definitely Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew in the right foreground, and the round-faced gentleman at left appears to be Melvin R. Laird, U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1969 to 1973.

And with that last weary sentiment from Captain America, our story makes an abrupt segue into… something very different:

“The Falcon Fights Alone!” features a statistically rare Marvel job by artist Gray Morrow (who also contributed the chapter’s uncredited lettering); I say “statistically” rare, as 1971 was actually one of the artist’s most prolific where the publisher was concerned, at least in the post-Atlas era, with a full three stories appearing under his byline,  (In addition to his half of Captain America #144, Morrow had also drawn a 7-page romance tale [and accompanying cover] for My Love #14 [Nov., 1971]; more notably, he’d provided the character design and artwork for the origin and first appearance of the Man-Thing in Savage Tales #1 [May, 1971].)  But regardless of whether or not a reader of this issue of Cap had seen his work before, Morrow’s distinctive, illustrative style stood out not just from the John Romita art that had preceded it, but virtually everything else then appearing in Marvel’s superhero titles, as well.

I need to note here that, according to the letters column of CA #148, John Romita “touched up a few figures of Captain America” throughout Morrow’s chapter, “in order to keep him looking consistent throughout the whole story”.  But I’d also like to point out that I’m pretty sure I didn’t notice this at all when I first read this comic in 1971; and I’m not sure I would recognize Romita’s hand now, if I weren’t looking for it.  Compared to, say, Murphy Anderson’s redrawings of Superman and friends in Jack Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen around this same time, Romita’s touch-ups to Morrow’s Cap renderings are quite subtle.

The object of Sam Wilson’s aspirational affections seen above had been introduced into the series’ supporting cast in Captain America #139 — but since Friedrich’s script for this issue rather oddly never refers to her by name, I’d have to wait until her next appearance (in issue #149) to learn that the young woman went by the handle of Leila.  (For the record, not only yours truly, but every other reader as well, would have to wait until 1975’s CA #188 to learn that her last name was Taylor.)

Seems like Sam would have at least asked Cap, “Um, just how long have you been lurking there outside my window, pal?”  But maybe that’s just me…

The “near-riot” referred to by Cap, chronicled in the previous month’s extra-length CA #143, involved Black people in Harlem being manipulated into committing acts of violence by a mysterious masked leader who ultimately turned out to be… the Red Skull!  This type of scenario, involving groups with a variety of legitimate concerns — including the Vietnam War, pollution, and women’s rights, as well as racial injustice — getting duped by supervillains who only cared for their own evil agendas, recurred with a depressing frequency in Marvel’s titles during what we now think of as the “relevance” era of American comics.*  Regardless of the individual creators involved, Marvel seemed to be perpetually torn between sympathy with the concerns of those Americans pressing for serious social change, and fear of what such radical change could mean for those who, at the end of the day, were fairly well served by the status quo (i.e., middle and upper class white men, especially those beyond draft age).

On the other hand, for all of the plaudits Marvel’s rival DC had received for its forthrightness in dealing with social issues in Green Lantern and other titles (plaudits mostly deserved, in my opinion), that publisher still had few if any Black people appearing as regular characters in their comics — and no Black costumed heroes as yet (though we should note that John Stewart’s debut as a new Green Lantern was only one month away at this point).  So, perhaps we should say again that Marvel was trying; as indeed was DC.  Each of the two major publishers was perhaps doing a bit better than the other one in some areas, though both still had a long way to go (and, it may well be argued, still do).

Oh, and if you’re wondering (as I was, in September, 1971) what Cap said to Falc in the immediate aftermath of #143’s narrowly avoided riot (and is now trying to apologize for), it was this: “Well, all’s quiet for now — but who knows what little something it will take to make them explode again!”  Little something? Yeah, I’d say Sam had a pretty good reason to be ticked off.

The Falcon’s “new set of threads“, designed by John Romita,** would prove quite durable; with a few modifications that would be coming up in the near future (including a gauntlet for that right hand, and — of course — the now iconic wings) this basic look would take Sam Wilson into the 1990s; and its red and white color scheme has stuck with the character virtually up to the present day.

I’m not certain if this is Marvel’s first story to deal directly with drug addiction since the revision of the Comics Code back in April; regardless, it’s interesting to compare it not only to the “Speedy is a junkie” storyline running concurrently over in DC’s Green Lantern, but also to Marvel’s original, Code-busting efforts regarding the subject back in Amazing Spider-Man #96 – 98, in which Spidey’s friend Harry Osborn ran into problems with unspecified, but highly potent “pills”.  In a relatively short time — just seven months since the first installment of the Spider-Man story shipped — we appear to have arrived at a new, relatively realistic standard for the depiction of illegal narcotics in American comic books.

Arriving at the scene, Falc has a moment of self-doubt (” What if I blow it my first time out?!”), but manages to shake it off — and just in time, too…

I have no idea whether the Captain America shirt worn by one of the neighborhood bystanders was Friedrich’s idea or Morrow’s, but it’s a nice, nuanced touch.

The story concludes a bit abruptly, with an inset panel clearly drawn by Romita, rather than Morrow (and lettered by Artie Simek, who also handled that job for the comic’s first ten pages).  And that’s that for this stylistically varied, even disjointed issue.***

Regardless of how disjointed it is, however — and how little of lasting consequence actually happens, outside of the introduction of the Falcon’s new look (spoiler: Cap and Falc will resume their active partnership almost immediately) — Captain America #144 was about as good a jumping-on point as my younger self could have wished for.  In hindsight, sure, becoming a regular reader now meant I’d have to read some pretty middling stuff before the book got really good — but when it did start to improve, following the advent of Steve Englehart as the book’s new regular writer with issue #153 (Sep., 1972), I’d be glad I was already on board.  I look forward to sharing that issue with you next June — trust me, it’ll be just the first of many really good Captain America comics to come.


*Examples include a university campus protest in Captain America #120 (Dec., 1969) where events were manipulated by M.O.D.O.K. and his cohorts at A.I.M.; environmentally-motivated demonstrations against a Stark Industries plant in Iron Man #31 (Nov., 1970), where a villain named the Mastermind was responsible for similar machinations; and the Enchantress’ posing as a feminist champion, the Valkyrie, as she led a group of mystically-influenced superheroines, the “Lady Liberators”, against the male members of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in Avengers #83 (Dec., 1970).

**As a special bonus, here’s Romita’s original color sketch for the Falcon’s new costume:

***The available forensic evidence suggests that “The Falcon Fights Alone!” was originally intended to run as one segment — perhaps the centerpiece — in an extra-length, 25-cent version of Captain America #144 which never came to fruition, due to Marvel publisher Martin Goodman’s decision to end his company’s experiment with a larger and more expensive format after about a month.  Let’s start with a look at the final two panels of CA #143:

As should be evident, this scene dovetails neatly with the beginning of the Falcon chapter in CA #144 — or at least with the dream/flashback portion of the chapter, beginning on page 12.  So far, so good.  But what’s this in the “next issue” box about Cap heading to Las Vegas?  We all just went through issue #144 together, and we know that didn’t happen.

But it does happen in #145’s 21-page “Skyjacked!”, in which Cap, as well as the Femme Force, do indeed board a plane for Sin City, only to be hijacked en route by, you guessed it, agents of Hydra.  As I see it, then, the most likely explanation is that Captain America #144 was originally supposed to contain “Hydra Over All!”, “The Falcon Fights Alone!” — and the first, fourteen-page chapter of “Skyjacked!”, which was pencilled by Gil Kane and inked by John Romita.  (The second and concluding chapter, only seven pages long, was both pencilled and inked by Romita alone.)  That would make for 34 pages of all-new content — the second 25-cent/48-page issue of Captain America that could have been, but never was.


  1. DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · September 11, 2021

    Captain America was never one of the Marvel books I read regularly back in the day, but I would pick it up from time to time and was familiar with his new partnership with the Falcon, though I don’t think I ever realized his partnership with Rick Jones was so short (by the way, if you miss Rick Jones in the comics, what about the way he’s been written out of every story he was ever part of in the MCU? Hulk, Cap, Marvel-talk about feeling unnecessary). Though I’ve never given it any real thought until now, I think I just assumed that Rick and Steve teamed up early after he came out of the ice and stayed together for awhile before RJ went off with Captain Marvel and Steve met Sam Wilson.

    Anyway, I’m sorry to say that I’m not as big a fan of the cover as you are, Alan. To me, it’s too busy and the poses of Cap and Falcon don’t look very fluid or dynamic to me, though the art within the book is great through and through, whether it’s’ by Romita or Gray Morrow (always a fan). This book is a great example that while Marvel deserves it’s kudos for the “Age of Relevance” as you put it, for whatever diversity Marvel was working on in the comics, it wasn’t happening in the actual Marvel bullpen. Friedrich’s fairly sexist treatment of Sharon Carter and the unfortunately named FemForce (and Romita doesn’t do Sharon any favors with the way he draws and poses her during the chat with Fury and Steve about going on vacation either) and his over-done attempt at portraying the legitimate complaints that African Americans have always had in this country really come across as being heavy-handed and awkward. Who was Marvel’s first black writer and artist anyway? I’m embarrassed to say I don’t really know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · September 11, 2021

      Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Marvel’s first Black writer was probably Christopher Priest, (originally Jim Owsley), who began working for Marvel around 1980; and that their first Black artist was Billy Graham, whose first Marvel work appeared in 1972.

      Liked by 1 person

      • DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · September 11, 2021

        Thanks, Alan. I’m familiar with Priest, of course, but had no idea he was first and I’ve never heard of Graham (except as an extremely white TV preacher from the same time period, and I’m sure there’s no relation). What books did Graham work on? Now, I’m interested.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Alan Stewart · September 11, 2021

          Graham contributed significantly to the original run of “Hero for Hire” (Luke Cage), inking every issue and drawing a number of covers. He also drew most of the Black Panther stories in “Jungle Action”. Sadly, he died in 1997 — way too soon to see the massive success of those characters in the larger popular culture.

          Liked by 1 person

          • frednotfaith2 · September 11, 2021

            Graham was an excellent artist and did some very memorable work with Don McGregor on the Black Panther series.

            Liked by 2 people

      • Chris A. · September 12, 2021

        If not Billy Graham, then Wayne Howard (who worked in Wally Wood’s studio).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haydn · September 15, 2021

        If you include the Atlas Era, Cal Massey did some art for Stan Lee in the early 1950s. And Matt Baker was drawing romance comics for Atlas (and other publishers) until his untimely death in 1959.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. frednotfaith2 · September 11, 2021

    First time I’d seen any of the contents of this issue (my CA&TF collection began with #153). Really love Gray Morrow’s art, of which I’ve seen too few examples. Gary Friedrich’s writing, however, doesn’t do much for me. Reading about him, Wiki states he was the 2nd new writer to start working for Marvel after Roy Thomas and the two of them had been friends since their high school years and it was Roy who helped get him into the comics biz. But he never rose to the same heights as several other new writers who started between ’69 and ’73. The work I most know him for was the early Ghost Rider stories, which were entertaining enough. On this issue, however, his dialogue for Cap really seems out of character and otherwise problematic, such as that scene where Cap transitions from thoughts to crying out, “Captain America” in the heat of battle. Uh, maybe my 9 year old self would have glossed over that, but to my 59 year old self it comes off as ridiculous. Actually, I think my 9 year old self would have thought so too. Also seems Friedrich was an alcoholic during the ’70s, which likely hindered his writing to some extent.
    Anyhow, the Femme Force also seems a rather daft idea that was quickly dropped. Guess it didn’t get that funding from Nixon, aka Number 1, after all.
    BTW, there wasn’t any particular reason why I wasn’t getting Captain America comics at the time, just that my collecting was still very sparse and mostly random. My favorites were already the FF and Spider-Man but I wasn’t yet even collecting those regularly. And when I got issue 153, much as I liked that particular issue, I missed most of the next several (although I eventually filled in those gaps). I wasn’t familiar with Englehart at all when I got that issue, but in short order, from his writing on Avengers and Defenders, he became one of my favorite comics writers. His dialogue, looking back, seemed much more natural and true to the characters, even while he evolved many of the characters he wrote, but in ways that didn’t seem utterly jarring, at least IMO.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Steve McBeezlebub · September 11, 2021

    I’d forgotten a flightless version of the winged costume debuted first. For a time I thought I preferred the green costume but that was only nostalgia. Seeing it in reprints proved no, I didn’t much like the costume at all.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Chris A. · September 12, 2021

    I never bought any Cap books except for the Steranko issues. Did peek through a b&w “phonebook” reprint, and was amused to see Cap and the Red Skull in a Bullitt-style car chase, drawn by Gene Colan.

    Very surprised to see Gray Morrow here. The slick inks look more like Romita or Sinnott house style. Morrow was drawing for DC’s mystery titles at the time, and his work was very photo-referenced and often atmospheric, aided by screen tones, duoshade paper, cocquille board, and other effects. His artwork for short story “Image of Darkness” in House of Mystery #192, cover dated June, 1971, is classic.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. lordsinclair · September 12, 2021

    Besides the cringeworthy attempt at “hip relevance,” Friedrich’s dialog also has that head-scratching comment that ” weapons aren’t for me” because “no way I can fall into that scene.” It reminds me of Gruenwald’s (much) later insistence that Cap has never killed and never will. Obviously as a veteran of WW2 — one who we’ve already SEEN using guns and killing — this makes no sense. But the challenge of writing Cap has always been that tension between the desire to adapt him to the current cultural moment versus the fact that what *defines* him is where he came from. More than any other hero, you can’t write a successful Cap by ignoring his past.

    All that said, any chance to see Gray Morrow on a Marvel character is awesome. I’m a little younger than you so my first Cap story came later. For me the series “started” as a team-up book a la World’s Finest and it took some getting used to when Sam was dropped from the title.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. frednotfaith2 · September 12, 2021

    Yep, Lords, as if Cap’s shield isn’t a weapon. Gruenwald’s assertion was asinine, IMO, ignoring Cap’s background as a “super soldier” of WWII and Steve Rogers having been a regular soldier in that war. Unlike previous Cap writer Steve Englehart, Steve Rogers was not a conscientious objector to war and if Cap had taken the position of, “oh, unlike you ordinary soldiers, I up so pure that I would never take a life during battle against our Axis enemies no matter what the situation. I would rather let them kill our troops rather than take action that might fatally harm them.” Captain America would have been ridiculed as a coward and a holier-than-thou jerk, and would not have been admired for his stance by anyone in the military or most of the public. He would have been a joke.
    I hate war and despise those who initiate wars of conquest, such as Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese Imperialists, or even our own President James K. Polk. But a proper response to unjustified aggression is necessary, including military action. Steve Rogers was shown as anxious to fight against the Axis powers over a year before the Pearl Harbor attack because he saw what the Nazis were doing in Europe, the entirely unjustified murder and carnage they were engaging in, their crimes against humanity. Simon & Kirby created Steve Rogers and Captain America, to represent their feelings regarding what was going on in Europe in late 1940. Kirby himself was later directly involved in the war while serving in the U.S. Army. Cap was not meant to be a pacifist or attempt to convince German soldiers to give up by appealing to the better angels of their nature by just waiving his shield around. I’m sure Gruenwald meant well, but his stance on Cap was idiotic in the extreme.
    Climbs off my soapbox.

    Liked by 2 people

    • markwaid · September 17, 2021

      “Asinine” and “Idiotic” are pretty harsh, dude. Refresh my memory: did Gruenwald insist Cap had never killed even in wartime combat or just never outside of wartime combat? I mean, I do remember “Cap never kills,” and I adhered to it in all my Cap runs (outside of wartime combat).


      • frednotfaith2 · September 17, 2021

        Maybe a bit harsh, but the impression I got was that it was Gruenwald’s assertion that Captain America never killed period, not even during WWII, which I found pretty ridiculous. Now if Gruenwald had stated Cap never killed unless he had no choice, such as in the heat of combat or to save someone else’s life, I could easily have gone with that, even despite WWII era comics showing Cap very gleefully killing German and Japanese combatants, even if they posed no immediate danger to himself or anyone else. But to insist he never killed anyone at all, not even Baron Blood? Sure, Cap’s not at all like the Punisher, but he is a WWII combat vet, and as such he handles guns and rifles as well as his shield. Sure, Cap’s a far out fantasy character, but it was too much of a stretch for Gruenwald to make such a blanket statement that a character, who is supposed to have been the veteran of many fierce battles in World War II and won the respect of many ordinary soldiers who saw him in combat, never killed anyone at all during the war. Actually, I think it was even insulting to actual war veterans, as if saying, “hey, my fantasy character could have won that war without killing anyone, and shame on those of you who did.” I know that’s not what Gruenwald meant, but that’s the sense that I got from his statement. It just wasn’t very well thought out. And if he later modified it, fine. I just hadn’t ever read about any such modification by him, only by later writers and editors.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Steve McBeezlebub · September 17, 2021

        Reading your comment, Mister Waid, I wondered if my memory was skewed, like people thinking ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ appeared in a Star Trek episode when it didn’t, so I Googled it. If I was wrong, I wanted to know. I found a Brian Cronin column with a panel from Captain America #322 with the Cap thinking ‘I never carry a gun. I have never taken another person’s life. Until three hours ago.’ He may have meant the qualifier ‘outside of warfare’ as something understood. I have to say that point was never anything that affected how I thought of that run. He was internally consistent with his assertion and I enjoyed about three quarters of his tenure on the book.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. John Auber Armstrong · September 13, 2021

    “pencilled by Gil Kane and inked by John Romita” – what a terrible idea/ Marvel really did Gil no favours in pairing him with inkers. I think Adkins was the best match

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Chris A. · September 14, 2021

    Gil had a wife and an ex to support (with alimony) so inkers were a boon to him. He could churn out the work and stay financially afloat. Romita Jr. has been in that same position for some time as well.

    Comics were regarded as disposable entertainment in those days. No one was having original art returned or earning royalties. Artists who were in it for the long haul were journeyman hacks, and I say that in the best sense: they knew how to churn out a LOT of material with a consistent level of quality, hitting deadlines year after year. They loved to draw, and this was the avenue available to them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • John Auber Armstrong · September 14, 2021

      I understand the economics and that these guys were craftsmen, working for a living. I simply said they did him no favours in who they hired to ink his work.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Chris A. · September 14, 2021

        Did you like it when Gil Kane inked his beautifully drawn figures with a felt tip pen? The lines were uniform and dead. Other inkers often breathed life into his fine pencils. Have you seen Berni Wrightson’s uncredited inks on Kane’s backup story in Conan #12? Here is one page:


        • John Auber Armstrong · September 14, 2021

          Can’t say I was a fan of his felt pen inks, but as to other inkers breathing life into his pencils I’ve been an admirer of Gil’s art for close to 60 years so yes, I’ve seen a few inkers. What that has to do with my comment, I have no clue. Jesus, save me from contentious comics nerds looking or an argument.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Chris A. · September 15, 2021

            The desired result:
            discussion, yes; argument, no.

            This whole site is for comic nerds! Own up. 🙂


  9. Chris A. · September 15, 2021

    Of course, THE seminal, most celebrated moment in 1970s Marvel comics was the death of Gwen Stacy story arc in Amazing Spider-Man 121-122. Gil Kane pencils, John Romita inks, Tony Mortellaro background inks. I’ve never heard any complaints about Romita’s inks on Kane there. 123 is also great.

    I’ve met Gil Kane at DC’s offices many moons ago, but never asked him about his inkers. Pleasant gent, and quite tall.

    Liked by 2 people

    • John Auber Armstrong · September 15, 2021

      did he call you “my boy”?


      • Chris A. · September 15, 2021


        That’s how Sugarlips rolled.


        • John Auber Armstrong · September 16, 2021

          hahahaha – absolutely. what a gent


    • Stu Fischer · September 24, 2021

      Gwen Stacy’s death was “THE seminal, most celebrated moment in 1970s Marvel comics”??? Slowly, I turn, step by step. . .

      Liked by 3 people

      • Steve McBeezlebub · September 25, 2021

        Seminal? Maybe. Celebrated? Not even when I read it

        Liked by 2 people

  10. Stu Fischer · September 24, 2021

    Alan, I’m glad that you turned your attention to Captain America this month because there are a few things I really want to say about Cap in this time period. First off, I want to defend Gary Friedrich from your blaming him (and others blaming him) for Cap’s unrealistic 1960s teen-age speech patterns in this book. While Friedrich is at fault here, he was just following the lead of none other than Stan Lee in a few prior issues of Captain America (most notably ones dealing with students, but not only when talking with them). As you know, back in 1971, writers were still expected to write as much like Lee as possible, so I suspect that Friedrich was doing so here. Example of Stan Lee putting 1960s slang into Cap’s words and thoughts:

    Now it’s time to wade into the pretty bad stuff, some of which you and others touched on. If Marvel wanted to do realistic stories about the black experience in America at the time, they needed to do so with a black writer at the very least. I grew up thinking that the oversimplified formulation in Marvel books at this time was really what black people were all about (I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania where there were no black people). So I thought that they all lived in the ghetto, spoke slang, hated whites, wanted to burn down their own neighborhoods, etc. Obviously, this was a time of great racial turmoil and rioting in America, but having white men write about it in stereotypes did no justice to presenting and explaining the serious issues and experiences involved in any realistic or “relevant” manner.

    Which brings me to THE most shocking and disgusting thing I think I’ve ever read in a comic book (except maybe for Avengers #200) although it completely did not faze me and I took it as normal when I read it in August 1971. It was in the book immediatel prior to this one. In Captain America #143, Sam Wilson is trying to get Leila to pay attention to him romantically and all but threatens to rape her before Leila agrees to (implicitly) have sex with him in return for getting him to go a rally (see pages 10 and 11, I wish that I was technically competent enough to send a link). In any event, the whole notion of Sam falling for Leila in the first place makes no sense. She acts reprehensibly and she treats Sam reprehensibly. What can he possibly see in her, other than physical attraction?

    Getting back to Marvel’s depicting black issues generally, why is it that Sam Wilson decides to break away from Captain America? How is going out on his own being less of an “Uncle Tom” or moving towards the militant side? It’s all simplistic, fatuous and clueless meanderings of white guys trying to be “relevant” about issues that they have no personal knowledge of or experience with. Oddly enough, the first panel of page 14 in this issue, which you reproduced above, has the best and closest comment to ring true–and it explicitly criticizes the creators of the issue.

    As far as treatment of women go, such as Sharon Carter and “Femme Force”, we’ve all discussed this before–Marvel’s minimalizing women characters. However, at least the SHIELD agents actually go into battle action and take initiative (cf Sue Richards) and the fact that Sharon Carter would not give up her SHIELD career to settle down with old fashioned chauvanist Captain America even though she really loves him is a radical idea for the time and I think unique in Marvel comic books for the period.

    By the way, in your listing of all the regrettable Marvel stories in which protesters of serious issues of the day are duped by super villains, I think that the Valkyrie story isn’t on point. The Enchantress did a lot of, uh, enchanting there to get the women to do what they did, whereas, for example, the Red Skull, just used normal rabble rousing methods. However, you did forget another prime example in a story arc that I know that you love–the Kingpin using ESU students for his scheme to get the stone tablet in Spider Man circa 1968-69.

    I actually don’t remember this issue at all although I know that I read it, and I surely never heard of Gray Morrow before. However, his artwork is wonderful and his style is perfect for “relevant” stories like the Falcon story done here (and yes, the grittiness of the junkie scene shocked me because it seems to be the first time something that gritty and edgy showed up in a Marvel comic book). It’s too bad that they couldn’t find a Denny O’Neil write-alike to go with him (preferably black) to do a real “relevant” series with The Falcon.

    I’ve been reading comic books from the early 1990s now. Nick Fury was going into battle smoking a cigar even then, at a time where the place where I was working had already banned smoking in the building.

    When I first saw the scenes with Nixon, I first thought that the bald guy was John Ehrlichman and wondered how Friedrich knew about him pre-Watergate. I had forgotten about Melvin Laird, who as Secretary of Defense was clearly the right person to put into the scene. Thanks for setting me straight. Also, forgive me if I asked this before, but why do comic books include a disclaimer that none of the character therein represent real people living or dead when they clearly do this all the time?

    Ironically, because this issue didn’t deal with it, you did not have to address Cap’s stint undercover with the NYPD. At the time, I liked the idea. Fifty years later, not so much.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · September 24, 2021

      I remember reading something years ago that explained how there was an understood legal exception for “public figures” in that standard “any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental” boilerplate we’re all familiar with. I don’t remember where I read it, but I imagine a Google search might turn up some results. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      • frednotfaith2 · September 25, 2021

        “Public figures” occasionally also including the writers & artists and their colleagues as well, as with Lee & Kirby appearing every so often in the FF, or much of the Marvel staff appearing in an issues of Sub-Mariner and the FF, etc. And comics artists often based the looks of their characters both on people they knew or on famous actors, such as the original Captain Marvel not coincidentally at all resembling a young Fred MacMurray.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Pingback: Captain America #155 (November, 1972) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books

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