The PoP! Stars narrow it down to the cream of the crop in categories ranging from (but not limited to) Comics, Movies, Toys and Geek Culture in general. This is the PoP! Top 6-Pack.
Friday, July 22nd, marks the day when Captain America: The First Avenger, starring Chris Evans, the origin film of Steve Rogers‘ Nazi-fightenest hero, and the final piece in the Marvel Studios Avengers puzzle, debuts on theater screens across the country he was sworn to protect. While First Avenger might be Cap‘s highest profile leap from page-to-screen, it is far from his first foray. Captain America has been depicted on screens big and small since the 1940’s, and this week on the PoP! Top 6-Pack, we’ll look back at the First Avenger’s filmography before you head into packed theaters for some shield-slingin’ action.
Captain America (1944)
Cap first debuted in movin’ pictures via this black & white serial (loosely) based on the Marvel Comics hero, starring out-of-shape actor Dick Purcell. There was no shield to be seen, not a single drop of Super-Soldier serum, a complete lack of Bucky, nary a Nazi to be punched, and instead of Steve Rogers, Captain America’s alter-ego was that of District Attorney Grant Gardner. Captain America battled evil villain The Scarab, who plotted to obtain super weapons “The Electric Firebolt” and “The Dynamic Vibrator”. No, this was not written and directed by Axel Braun‘s great-grandfather. The strain of the production caused Purcell heart problems, and he died a few weeks after production wrapped. In Captain America #219 from 1978, it was revealed that this movie serial is exists within 616 continuity, and the real Steve Rogers stepped in to the role of Grant Gardner after the Cap stuntman was shot by a gun rigged by the show’s Nazi prop-master.
The Marvel Super Heroes (1966)
Cap’s television debut came courtesy of the Canadian-produced The Marvel Super Heroes animated syndicated series, featuring 7-minute segments of five Marvel Comics superheroes, five nights a week, including Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, The Invincible Iron Man, The Mighty Thor, and Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner. The series’ shoddy animation was created by xerography, a method of photo-copying images straight out of the comics and manipulating the mouth, an arm, or a leg, ever-so-slightly. But you have to admit…that Cap theme song is pretty f—ing catchy.
3 Dev Adam (Three Giant Men) (1973)
This unauthorized Turkish take on Captain America (once again, without shield) paired him with superhero luchador, El Santo, against the evil super-villain and counterfeiter…Spider-Man? A crazed serial-killer Spider-Man that doesn’t sling webs or stick to walls, instead, brandishes a switchblade, with a greenish costume stretched over his gut, and giant, bushy, Monarch-ian eyebrows? Holy hell. Part of me wishes Cap would have just let Istanbul burn to the ground. El Santo, on the other hand, was some sort of national hero in Turkey, so popular throughout the 60’s that there’s a statue of El Santo outside an Istanbul movie theater.
Captain America/Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979)
CBS aired two live-action television movies in 1979 based on the Marvel Comics Avenger starring Reb Brown as marine-turned-artist Steve Rogers, whom after a near-fatal accident, is administered the experimental chemical F.L.A.G. (Full Latent Ability Gain) which saves his life, and grants him heightened strength and reflexes…almost as if he were some kind of super…soldier. Cap sports a sweet van that can launch his equally sweet motorcycle with optional hang-glider, and the windshield of the bike detaches to become a sad rendition of Cap’s classic shield. An OH MY…there’s also that awesome winged motorcycle helmet. The sequel, Captain America II: Death Too Soon, also starred Christopher Lee (Lord of the Rings) and Darren McGavin (A Christmas Story), but we won’t hold it against them.
Captain America (1990)
Heading into the 90’s…as Marvel was pushing towards bankruptcy in a market dominated by Chromium covers, I guess they really had no better options than to green light awful-looking B-movies based on their A-List characters, like Captain America. Matt Salinger wore the rubber ears of Steve Rogers’ alter-ego, and despite the film laying a decent groundwork with the World War II origin and Cap’s subsequent slow-and-low thaw, they kinda ruined it by making Red Skull an Italian dude instead of a goose-stepping Nazi a-hole. The film was slated for a summer 1990 blockbuster release, to the point that teaser trailers and posters showed up in theaters nationwide, but was then shelved for nearly 2 years before finally being unloaded directly to home video.
X-Men: The Animated Series -‘Old Soldiers’ (1997)
Included in this list as the most memorable television appearance of Captain America from my teen years is this Cap/Wolverine crossover, ‘Old Soldiers’ from the very cartoony-looking 5th season of X-Men: The Animated Series. Logan and Steve meet cute in World War II-era Europe and team to take down the Red Skull and rescue a kidnapped American scientist. Lawrence Bayne, he who also voiced Cable on the animated series, provided the pro-USA tones of Captain America, while Cedric Smith, better known as the voice of Professor X, got his Nazi super-villain on as Red Skull.
Captain America‘s list of credits has been red, white, and blue shades of embarrassing for over 60 years, so here’s hoping that First Avenger
can restore some honor to Cap on the big screen.