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Captain America Annual #4

Captain America Annual #4

Marvel threw the keys for Captain America to Jack Kirby in 1977 and one of the things they got out of the deal was this odd and delightful annual. Like all of Kirby’s late offerings for Marvel, this book seemed to occur in its own reality — a Kirby-Verse, if you will. I mean, it has Captain America and Magneto in it, and you will recognize them from other books, but they are singular characters here, divorced from the way they appear in the rest of Marvel’s offerings, and even a bit different than I remember them under Jack’s hand when they originally appeared. Is this dissonance due to co-creator Stan Lee’s absence? Or maybe Jack just … changed a bit as a creator in the decades he was in the business? Both seem reasonable to me.

For the record, I dig Kirby-Verse Marvel, and this Annual has long held a place in my heart. It’s bizarre. Magneto draws unwanted attention from Captain America when he places a “Mutant Seeking Mutant” personal ad in the newspaper. (No, really!). Magneto is aided and abetted by yet another incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and it really seems like he’s hit the bottom of the barrel with this crew. Everyone ends up fighting over a mutant so tiny that he can fit in a ring on your finger — Magneto wants him so he can explore the inside of a little spaceship he found somewhere. You can’t make this stuff up … but Jack Kirby could! Man, could he ever!

  • Script & Art: Jack Kirby
  • Inks: John Verpoorten & John Tartaglione

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About Paul O'Connor

Revelations and retro-reviews from a world where it is always 1978, published once a month or so at www.longboxgraveyard.com!

Posted on April 30, 2018, in Marvel 1977 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. It’s the original Mutant Massacre!

    I agree this Kirby run feels weak on characterization, and it gives the impression that Kirby was more interested in creating “pulse-pounding” action stories than developing characters. You could almost substitute any other action hero for Cap without losing anything.

    It makes me wonder how much this series was a reaction to seeing his Fourth World titles cancelled at DC, then having his Eternals series cancelled after he returned to Marvel. He seemed much more interested in developing depth in 2001, Eternals, and Devil Dinosaur around this time, while his Cap feels more like an excuse to draw awesome panels.

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    • He may well have regarded books like Cap and Black Panther as work-for-hire by this point. I remember at the time a sense of disappointment that Kirby didn’t go back onto Fantastic Four, but maybe that was just as well.

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  2. Dale Bagwell

    Damn. Well Kirby never stopped impressing with those action-STACKED panels, like the one you showed of Magneto tossing random furniture at Cap,. but those character designs for Mags’ poor man’s Brotherhood is just…..uninspired. I’m guessing outside Mr. Peepers, they all got killed right?

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    • I dunno, Marvel has always used every part of the buffalo. Wouldn’t surprise me if any or all of those sad sacks turned up in later books, and would surprise my only slightly less if they were reimagined for some multi-billion-dollar movie franchise in a few years. We live in weird times.

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  3. Great piece Paul – both annuals and the Bicentennial Battles special were among the best of Kirby’s 70s Captain America work, so this worked as a positive coda to your Farewell to the King post.
    The Cap monthly run suffered from slow pacing – the Madbomb storyline had plenty of interesting stuff in it, but it was over twice as long as the Galactus trilogy! – whereas the annuals had to be done-in-ones, so have the tightness Kiby’s approach needs.

    Its long been a standard criticism of Kirby in some quarters that he was still producing 60s comics in the 70s, but that’s always seemed wrong headed to me – his work had clearly moved on, just in a different direction to that of the (younger) writers we associate with that era.
    One of those new directions was the beginning of continuity porn – Kirby’s 70s Cap seems to be the only A-list Marvel of that era that wasn’t full of returning villains and old concepts.
    He wasn’t that interested in looking backwards, so his Cap had more in common with his (then) recent work on OMAC than anything he’d done for Marvel in the previous decade.

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    • I still need to hunt down a copy of Bicentennial Battles. Along with the bulk of 2001, it is the last of Kirby’s late-Marvel work that I haven’t read … though I am ashamed to admit I didn’t realize there was a second Annual, and hadn’t read it until a couple weeks ago. It had nothing on #4, though.

      I hear you on Continuity Porn, too, though I’d turn the clock back even further. When I came into comics in 1974 I got a distinct sense that the creators were looking backwards, to such an extent that even as a new reader I felt like I’d just missed all the best stuff. Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, in particular, felt like books cloaked in the shadow of the past (which might be part of the reason I never really bonded with those titles). I mean, to be fair, pretty much all of Marvel’s books were happy to dump you into the middle of a storyline and let the reader figure it out — that was half the fun — but there felt a difference between not knowing who was who in an Englehart Avenger book versus reading FF and sensing through oblique reference to Galactus and et. al. that the party ended before you got there.

      Nice observation re: OMAC. Are you familiar with Kirby’s post-Marvel work for Pacific? I’ve heard it was pretty dire but made Jack money (bonus!).

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      • Not only did I read both of Kirby’s Pacific comics at the time, Paul but I liked ’em too! Its all part of the Great Work.
        Kirby’s approach to comics grew more stylized over the course of his career, particularly after he reinvented himself with his fantastic creative burst in the mid-60s, so while the Pacifics clearly show an artist in decline – he was getting on a bit, and the haters will find plenty to confirm their prejudices – they also feature Jack at his Kirbiest.
        Theres a nice appreciation of Captain Victory that’s worth a read at
        http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/06/kirby-approaching-the-threshold/

        Had a quick look online, and sure enough OMAC #8 was cover dated Dec.1975, with Captain America #193 January 1976; also as it happens, going back a little further, FF #102 was dated Sept 1970 and sure enough Kirby’s first Jimmy Olsen appeared the following month.
        Amazing when you think about it, eh?

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        • That was a fantastic link, Sean, thanks. “One has the feeling that Kirby owes nothing, but is still giving.”

          Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen run is deeply strange and I have toyed for years with trying to wrestle it to the ground here at Longbox Graveyard. Maybe next year.

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