America,' the movie (part IV)
ollywood, after decades of either ignoring Marvel Comics superheroes
or paying them the most unwanted of attentions (remember the "Spider-Man"
television series of the late '70s?), is finally attempting to do
the garishly clad characters justice.
A fairly good version of "Spider-Man" was released last
year, "The X-Men" were featured in a not-completely-embarrassing
movie two years before that, and we get to see Ang Lee direct "The
Hulk" later this summer.
True, "Blade" and "Daredevil" were pretty awful,
but those characters were never on the Marvel Comics varsity team,
anyway. At this rate, inevitably, we can expect to see an overpriced,
under-thought screen version of Captain America in production any
If so, it will be the fourth attempt to dramatize the Captain
and it's likely to be just as bad as the first three. I have not
seen any of those versions, but I'm willing to speculate: All three
sucked, inducing in viewers the uncomfortable, if not unfamiliar,
sensation of seeing money unwisely spent.
I, and I alone, know why.
At this point, its necessary to give some background. During
World War II, Captain America had a teen-age sidekick. All superheroes
during World War II had teen-age sidekicks.
It started with Batman. For his first 10 appearances, Batman was
a loner a rich dandy who idled away the daylight in his bathrobe,
then dressed up in clinging tights to prowl Gotham Citys rooftops
by night, looking for rough trade (to be fair, well, less unfair,
he referred to them as criminals).
Batman was pretty damn kinky.
Then, evidently, Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Batmans creators,
decided that Batman was not kinky enough. Something was missing.
And they decided what was missing was a touch of pedophilia. So
Batman got a teen-age sidekick, Robin. Soon, it became de rigueur
for every superhero to have a teen-age sidekick. One hero, Catman,
even had a teen-age girl sidekick, Kitten.
Americas sidekick was named Bucky. Throughout the wartime
years, Bucky accompanied Captain America everywhere. After World
War II, Captain Americas comic book was cancelled, and Bucky
followed Captain America into oblivion.
In 1964, Captain America was brought back to life in the pages
of another comic book: "The Avengers." Writer Stan Lee,
who understandably thought that the idea of teen-age sidekicks was
a bit odd (at very least, people would start to talk), wrote a story
which revealed that Bucky had been killed at the end of World War
II, and Captain America had been preserved in suspended animation
Ironically, the dead Bucky dominated post-1964 Captain America
storylines in a way the living Bucky never had during WWII. Captain
America was wracked with guilt (justifiably so) over Buckys
death. Bucky kept coming back, as a robot, an android and a ghost,
always (again, justifiably) very bitter toward his former mentor.
The Bucky-back-from-the-dead stories tend to blend together in
my memory, but the dialogue was unforgettable. Captain America:
Bucky! Youre still alive! But youve changed!
Youve become cruel bitter! Do you blame me for World
War II? Bucky: Hi, Cap! Kill any partners lately?
reason writers kept bringing Bucky back is obvious. It made for
a great story. Captain America was partially responsible for Buckys
death, and it was the stuff of real drama when Buckys corpse
popped in to remind the Captain. In short, Captain Americas
comic book was never as gripping as when he was being berated by
his former partner.
So, a word of advice to any who mount a fourth attempt to dramatize
Captain America: Bring back Bucky, the conscience of a fictional
generation of teen-age sidekicks who pandered to the darkest instincts
of the mid-century American empire. He still has much to teach us.