Wednesday, March 7, 2007

THE HAT SQUAD: CAPTAIN AMERICA

The New York Daily News had an exclusive this morning, announcing the death of a superhero icon:

CAPTAIN AMERICA KILLED!
BY ETHAN SACKS
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER


Captain America is dead. The Marvel Entertainment superhero, created in 1941 as a patriotic adversary for the Nazis, is killed off in Captain America #25, which hits the stands today.

At the end of the article, there's a snapshot profile of the comic book character:

'LIFE' OF AN AMERICAN HERO
Created: March 1941
True Identity: Steve Rogers
Born: July 4, 1917
Birthplace: Lower East Side
Current Home: Red Hook, Brooklyn
Superpowers: None (Super Soldier serum makes him a "nearly perfect human being")
Weapon: His red,white and blue discus-like shield
Archenemy: Red Skull
Pop Culture Moment, Film: Easy Rider, Peter Fonda's character is nicknamed Captain America.
Pop Culture Moments, Music: The Kinks' song, Catch Me Now, I'm Falling, has this lyric: "This is Captain America calling." Guns N' Roses' Paradise City: "Captain America's been torn apart, now he's a court jester with a broken heart."

According to the Marvel Wikia, that misses out on several songs which feature the hero, but the profile also doesn't mention the Captain America of Toobworld.

Back in 1979, there were two TV movies which were probably serving as pilots for a possible series, starring Reb Brown as Captain America. The backstory of Steve Rogers becoming the "super-soldier" during WWII was dropped in favor of making the character more contemporary. No need to keep him frozen in an iceberg for forty years; Rogers didn't take the super-soldier serum (now called the FLAG formula) until 1979. This also meant that Cap's tele-version wasn't born in 1917 like in the comic books, but in the 1940s.

However, Steve Rogers learned in the pilot that his father previously operated as "Captain America" after having taken the serum in his prime, so the super-hero may have operated back in WWII after all. Confirmation of that can be found in the 'Angel' episode "Why We Fight" when a crewman named Hodge remarked, "He's some sort of super soldier like Steve Rogers, or Captain America."

O'Bviously, the Steve Rogers played by Reb Brown was Steve Rogers, Jr.

With the second pilot there was an attempt at improvements, with Connie Selleca replacing Heather Menzies as Dr. Wendy Day, and the addition of the legendary Christopher Lee as the villain. (The character of Miquel isn't going to rank up there with Saruman, Scaramanga, Count Dracula, or even Count Dooku, however.)

The pilots never took flight as a series, of course. One look at a picture of Reb Brown in his costume proves that the producers didn't have a handle on how to properly present the character.

Matt Salinger appeared in a direct-to-video movie about Captain America in 1990, but that was probably intended for theatrical release originally and not for Television. Let it slug it out with the 1940s serial as to who should represent the Cineverse.

There's also the animated version to be found in The Tooniverse who's appeared in several different cartoon series over the years (among them 'Spiderman', 'X-Men: Evolution' and 'Marvel Superheroes').

Although it's not Reb Brown playing the role, Captain America has also appeared in TV commercials which can be considered part of the main Toobworld. One is for the Visa Check Card, and the other is part of the "Got Milk?" campaign. Hidden behind the mask, and with limited dialogue, I think it's safe to give these blipvert Captain Americas a pass as to being one and the same with Reb Brown's portrayal.

Except for any possible future appearances in TV commercials, I see no reason why it can't be possible for the Captain America of the main Toobworld to share the same fate as the comic book original. It's not like Reb Brown is ever going to come back in the role; he didn't have the luxury of a block of ice to keep him preserved all these years since 1979. If the character does ever come back in a TV movie, series, or special, a new actor would be found to play the role and so the project would be catapulted into an alternate TV dimension.

It's not like superheroes of Toobworld haven't passed away before - in Earth Prime-Time, Superman (as played by George Reeves) is dead. (It's the Toobworld conceit that he absorbed radioactive Kryptonite in the Nevada desert back in the early sixties while saving Luca and Paulie from an A-bomb test between seasons of 'Crime Story'.) And once Clark Kent was no longer around to protect the secret he shared with Superman, the whole world became privy to who he was and in the case of Jerry 'Seinfeld', knowing who Kal-El's father was.

Of course, Superman still exists in other TV dimensions, as proven by 'Lois & Clark: The Adventures Of Superman', 'The Adventures Of Superboy', and 'Smallville'.

It's only for the sake of future blipverts that I'd keep Captain America alive in Toobworld. And it wouldn't be the first time a TV character didn't share the same fate as the original version. (Richard Widmark as 'Madigan' is a good example of that.)

Whether or not Captain America still lives in Earth Prime-Time, his exploits since 1979 brought him to the attention of the world at large. Whenever other residents of Toobworld make mention of "Captain America", they're referring to the actual superhero of their reality, not to the comic book character.

For instance, Shannon Rutherford called her step-brother Boone Carlysle "Captain America" back in September of 2004 when he voiced his concerns about fellow survivor Rose ('Lost').

For now, I think Toobworld should follow the lead of Marvel Comics and accept the idea that the Captain America of Earth Prime-Time has passed away. This could all change, however, if by some unlikely happenstance Reb Brown returned to the role nearly thirty years later; hey, stranger things have happened. (Look at Robert Stack returning as Eliot Ness in a TV movie so many decades after 'The Untouchables' went off the air.)

With Toobworld, all is in flux.

BCnU!
Cap'n Toby
(It's a 'Lone Gunmen' reference.....)


For a collection of pics showing the various Marvel Superheroes in action in Toobworld, visit "Superheroes Lives".

2 comments:

AJ O'B said...

You want to know what I think? Let's break it out to the component parts:

1. I am continually amazed at your command of TV minutiae--whether or not it's actually in your head, you do have the (super)power to bring to hand seemingly all the data regarding a "tele-topic."

2. I am impressed by your ability to focus on this development's impact on "tele-toobery." You are true to the mission statement of your blog, to deal with alternative universes embodied in TV lore.

And finally. . .
3. I am appalled by your ability to focus on this development's impact on "tele-toobery." You waste an opportunity to berate and deny the forces of mercantile liberalism and anti-establishment opportunism, in their attempt to cash in on the national disquiet over the war in Iraq. At a time when Captain America is all the more relevant to the youth of America--indeed, to all Americans--the editorial staff at Marvel have seemingly seized on a tremendous opportunity to boost revenues without outlaying a few million to develop a cinematic franchise and its related merchandizing powerhouse. This is, in short, a disgusting affront to all that the Marvel Universe has stood for over the last sixty-something years (with the acknowledged exception of Dazzler). I loved comics for their ability to inspire and expand my dreamspace. Killing off a character who stood for everything noble in the human spirit does not inspire, instead it expands the laundry list of my daily nightmares. Isn't the nightly news good enough at that without comic books lending a hand?



Ever your youngest brother,

Andrew

AJ OB said...

okay, "appalled" was too strong. "disappointed" is a better choice. still, you should see that i am pretty pissed at marvel's powers that be.