When I was a kid growing up in Belfast I would go every Sunday with my mum to Marshals newsagents on Donegal Street. Papers and cigarettes for her and a wee treat for me.
On one of these many visits she noticed me staring curiously at the wall of comic books. To my young eyes they seemed to go forever, they where infinite and windows to other worlds staring heroes unlike I’d ever seen. “Do you want to pick one son?” she asked. This was at first music to my ears but that quickly turned to “just one?”. How could I choose? They all looked so inviting.
Then I seen it… A star spangled hero wielding a shield fighting a masked villain on the edge of a snowy cliff. Like the best comic book covers it did its job. An image frozen in time, a hero in peril, a visual cliffhanger. I had to know more, how could the colorful hero survive?
It was CAPTAIN AMERICA issue #322 from Marvel Comics and I’ve been reading and watching his adventures on the big screen ever since.
Captain America was the creation of the super solider program designed to make the perfect fighting machine. Just a kid from Brooklyn born in the 1920’s to poor Irish immigrants who wanted to fight for his country and stand up to the ultimate evil of the Third Reich bullies.
But Steve was too puny and scrawny a specimen deemed unsuitable for the fight, until his resolution identified by scientist Abraham Erskine helped choose Steve as the perfect subject for Operation rebirth. Enhanced strength, agility, speed, reflexes, durability and healing are Caps “powers” but its Steve Rodgers humanity that for me makes him the ultimate and my favorite Hero.
Steve is the embodiment of the fighting spirit. A positive optimistic character. An idealistic leader but also a tragic character who has suffered loss in WW2 before being frozen in time only to awaken in a world that has left him behind.
As I read Cap on pages of the Avengers and his own comic title, and as I watch Captain America on the big screen it begs the question – why did I keep reading about his many adventures, why did that kid who picked Cap as his first comic stay the distance? I’m not American, so what is my attraction to Captain America?
It’s his identifiable and relatable humanity. Captain America is not a god, an alien or a millionaire crime fighter. He wasn’t given a magic ring or accidentally given super powers. Cap choose his life. Choose to make a difference. Captain America hasn’t had greatness thrust upon him. That kid from Brooklyn was great to begin with.
So I identify with his moral stance. His goodness and born leadership, with his “I can do this all day” attitude. Showing us that with the right fight and determination there is potential in all of us. Captain America is a protector of his morals, no surprise he carries a Star Spangled shield to help defend them. So when I think back to picking my first comic and reading it cover to cover, over and over until the next issue was released I know I made the right choice. I’m still influenced and entertained by my favorite hero.
Oh and by the way.. Captain America defeated that masked villain on the snowy cliff. The villain named flag-smasher is injured in the comic book throw down but kept alive by Cap overnight in the freezing cold alpine snow until the rescue team arrive next morning. There’s those morals I was talking about again… but hey, what do I know… I’m just a kid from Belfast.