Superheroes again: Captain America

I could probably turn this into a comic book blog (a la Dave’s Long Box) with a focus on Captain America if I had a mind to (and if I wanted to scare away the half-dozen people who actually visit the site on a regular basis). There’s no denying it: I love Captain America in an entirely platonic manner. ((Seriously, they’re going to have to get someone other than Matt Salinger to play him on the big screen before I switch teams for the Star Spangled Avenger.))

Captain America may not be the coolest hero to put on a pair of tights, ((I believe that honor goes to Ralph Dibny.)) and some might consider the patriotism that he embodies to be a bit passé in the post-modern world, but something about the Star Spangled Avenger strikes an idealistic chord deep inside my psyche. The country that Steve Rogers tirelessly defends may not be perfect, but I admire his values, determination and personal strength, not to mention his ability to kick every known subspecies of ass.

Cap also has the single coolest offensive and defensive weapon ever conceived. Forget about power rings, adamantium claws, batarangs, trick arrows and golden lariats, I’m talking about Captain America’s shield. The nigh-indestructible disc is so incredible that it has its own Wikipedia entry. In the hands of Captain America, the red, white and blue shield not only deflects bullets, it can disarm or disable multiple foes when thrown. Cap’s intuitive understanding of physics is so great that the thrown shield will almost unerringly return to his had after bouncing off any number of walls, bad guys or other objects. I spent many an afternoon in my youth attempting to coax all manner of discs—from aluminum garbage can lids to Frisbees to plastic coffee can covers—to bounce off the barn wall, a parked tractor, then my brother’s head and return to my hand. Unfortunately for me (and fortunately for my brother), the projectiles I flung rarely made it beyond the first bounce.

Captain America LunchboxLike most costumed heroes, Captain America has often appeared outside of the comic books in which he was created. I’m not what you’d call an avid collector of Captain America merchandise, but I do have a couple of things emblazoned with his patriotic visage. The first is my lunchbox, which I actually use on a fairly regular basis. The lunchbox in the picture has a blue handle, but mine is the rarer, “red handle” version, which generally fetches top dollar on eBay. ((No, not really.)) Second, I have a pair of Captain America pajama bottoms. Sadly, I couldn’t find a picture of these on the Internet and if blogging about Captain America doesn’t scare people away, pictures of me in my star spangled PJs almost certainly will.

Captain America (1991)Speaking of scary, I own a VHS copy of the 1991 film version of Captain America, which I won in an eBay auction a couple of years ago. ((Yes, really. After I’d made the winning bid, the seller e-mailed me to ask if I really knew what I was bidding on, and if I actually wanted to spend money on it. Oh yeah, the movie is that good.)) That version isn’t exactly easy to find and I doubt it will ever be available on DVD. Also in my VHS library are the two made-for-television movies, Captain America and Captain America II: Death Too Soon, which co-starred none other than Saruman himself, Christopher Lee. The movies—starring Reb Brown as Captain America—were produced in the late 1970’s, and it shows. I’m not holding my breath for a DVD release on those, either.

Last but not least is the 1944 serial starring Dick Purcell as Captain America. This version bears almost no resemblence to its comic book forbearer. Captain America is not Private Steve Rogers of the United States army, but a district attorney named Grant Gardner; instead of the signature shield, the black and white serial version wields a pistol; where the comic book Cap is a living symbol of America, the Republic Pictures Cap is just a guy in a costume punching out thugs. The only real resemblance is superficial: the Purcell version wears a costume that is nearly identical to the one found in the comic books. Still, it’s Captain America, and the tapes sit on the shelf beside his other video incarnations.

Perhaps when (or if) the new Captain America movie is released in 2009 some of the older versions will be made available on DVD (as the Batman & Robin serial was when Batman Begins was released) and I’ll be able to move one step closer to a VHS-free household. Until then, the tapes (along with an unspecial edition Star Wars trilogy) are just about the only reason there’s still a VCR in the house.

I guess that about covers it for Captain America. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I suppose I can go back to talking about video games and crappy science fiction movies.

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