Found in the ruins of a bombed out flat, preserved in a cedar chest sealed by wax, the surviving episodes of the Captain America comic strip from the 1940s were taken to the Jeffersonian for restoration. Beautifully recolored by Ben Dimagmaliw, Karl Kesel’s lost Captain America work can now be seen in full for the first time.
You know what I love about the Captain America 1940s Newspaper Strip? Everything. It’s such a brilliant idea and I hope it will be repeated. I’m glad that I waited for the trade. This is how the book should have been formatted, all along–square-bound, printed oblong in a comic strip format on superb paper stock. In addition, it’s nicely priced at $14.99.
The United States Government calls upon Captain America and Bucky to visit Operation Firebird. Cap’s mission? Guinea Pig. The Powers That Be in Washington want to duplicate Professor Erskine’s super-soldier formula.
The story plays out against the field of super-science as imagined in the 1940s. One doctor wishes to test Cap and study his DNA. Another doctor doesn’t care about Cap at all and seeks to prove his mechanical man the superior super-soldier. A third individual wants Cap dead. The unmistakeable fingerprints of the Red Skull, FBI profiler Mickey Flynn and a classic, long forgotten Captain America character spices up an already juicy plot.
Karl Kesel’s story is full of twists and turns most apropos for the cliffhanger nature of comic strips. His dialogue while playful doesn’t talk down to the reader. Such writing actually maintains tradition with the classic comic strips of old. Adventure strips such as Dick Tracy were not meant to just entertain kids. They were meant for total public consumption.
Kesel’s mainly known for his inking, but for this foray, he adds penciling to his repetoire. Kesel’s Captain America and Bucky are lankier than the heroes normally seen in comics. The difference agrees with Joe Simon’s and Jack Kirby’s original Golden Age Cap and Bucky design. Kesel makes the cast in general a nuance more cartoony than the characters normally seen in comics books, and as a result, Kesel’s players become wonderfully more expressive without losing visual verisilimatude. Here’s hoping, he started a trend.
Old adventure strips such as The Phantom, Superman and Johnny Comet, just to name a few, were awash in action and excitement. Kesel creates a work that competes with the classics of the genre. I enjoyed every panel of Captain America the 1940s Newspaper Strip.