The earliest days of Marvel Comics were full of truly amazing artists: Kirby, Ditko, Dick Ayers and more.  Those early days were a revelation for fans of dynamic art, but things got even wilder as the sixties came to a close and the psychedelic/op art movement hit the Bullpen.  Audiences in 1969 certainly were, but are YOU ready for the magic of Steranko?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Captain America #110 awaits!

CaptainAmerica110CoverCAPTAIN AMERICA #110
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jim Steranko
Inker: Joe Sinnott
Colorist: Jim Steranko
Letterer: Sam Rosen
Editor: Stan Lee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 12 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $300.00

Previously in Captain America: Though publisher Martin Goodman (and Stan Lee, who in addition to serving as writer and editor-type, was Goodman’s wife’s cousin) had been in business since the 1930s, the Marvel Age of comics truly began circa 1961.  Though earlier efforts had borne the legend “A Marvel Comic”, Marvel’s 60s output quickly became a phenomenon, thanks to the creative teams and characters such as the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man.  Stan Lee, now editor-in-chief, had even revived one of the company’s 40s favorites, Captain America, giving him his own feature and a prominent spot in The Avengers.  Cap had even taken over ‘Tales Of Suspense’ with issue #100, and his adventures were among the most interesting of Marvel’s late 60s, thanks to the writing of Lee and the art of Jack Kirby.

Then, this happened…

CaptainAmerica1101
Yes, friends, that is our very own Captain America, firing up a Lucky Strike (their tobacco is toasted!) in a dark and moody alleyway, brooding about being a man out of time.  By this point in the game, Steranko had been illustrating in the advertising game since the late 50s, and had been handling the ‘Nick Fury’ strip in Strange Tales since 1965, and his style was already a standout.  (Some of those Nick Fury tales are surrealistically brilliant, and we’ll have to eventually get to them in Retro Review corner, as well.)  As for our man Steve, his reverie is quickly interrupted, Merry Marvel style…

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Cap is shaken (but not stirred, ’cause he’s Cap) by the sudden appearance of The Incredible Hulk, but the Gamma Goliath passes him by, his focus on escaping pursuit from the heavily-armed soldiers who are tracking him…

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I rather love that last large panel, showing as it does the clear influence of Jack Kirby’s work on Steranko’s earliest pencils, but also giving Captain America whipcord flexibility in his limbs as he races to keep anyone, be it Hulk or soldier, from harm.  Taking to the rooftops, Cap follows the Hulk’s path of devastation, unaware that another is also following ol’ Greenskin.  When he engages The Hulk in combat, Captain America is shocked to hear Rick Jones shouting at him to stay away.

It’s advice that Captain America simply cannot take…

CaptainAmerica1104

Cap engages The Hulk in battle, but the enraged creature can’t be reasoned with or overpowered.  So angry is The Hulk that, when Rick attempts to intervene, he is struck by the debris of his green pal’s departure.  The Hulk leaps away, escaping once again, leaving Captain America to do with an injured Rick…

CaptainAmerica1105

I have to admit, I really like the mod furniture and light fixtures that adorn Steranko’s version of Avengers Mansion, making it look remarkably like the Monkees hip beach pad.  Leaving Rick to sleep off his injuries, Cap once again take some time to brood about his responsibilities, and the terrible memories that he carries from the (at this point VERY recent) death of his partner Bucky.  Stan’s existential ruminations don’t always age well, to be honest, but this issue still works, giving Cap a haunted, tragic nature that will prove really hard to escape.  (He’ll still be milking Bucky’s loss well into the 1980s, for one thing.)  Steve’s monologue is interrupted once again, this time in less percussive, but somehow more distressing fashion…

CaptainAmerica1106

Grudgingly, Captain America agrees to let Rick accompany him (and thus, launching decades of stories wherein Rick reminds us that he was ‘trained in combat by Captain America himself’) as the new Bucky, a decision that comes just in time for the Avengers alert to peal an emergency tone…

CaptainAmerica1107

And just like that, Cap’s solitary war once again becomes a team-up, as they find themselves under attack in an underground HYDRA lair.  As was the style of the times, Rick gets no warning before he is faced with an army of madmen firing frap-guns.  Wading into their armed-and-armored foes the duo gets in a few good licks before Cap realizes that he has created a perfect situation for history to repeat itself…

CaptainAmerica1108

He does, Master Jones, he does.  And that reason seems to be some sort of chemical imbalance.  Distracted by covering Bucky’s escape, Captain America is taken down by the hordes of HYDRA, who bring them to their new leader, the enigmatic Madame Hydra…

CaptainAmerica1109

These days, she’s better known as The Viper, and has been married to Wolverine, immortalized in a terrible X-Men film, and gained a facial scar, but to this day tends to wear the same green leather catsuit that Steranko has given her here.  Captain America revives, and once again presses the battle, even managing to defeat one of HYDRA’s mooks and stealing his uniform and power-vest to infiltrate the group in disguise.  For his part, Rick Jones makes his way through the sewers and back into the fight as well, ruining the Captain’s ruse.  Fortunately, Captain America is a master of combat improvisation…

CaptainAmerica11010

Though Rick’s tenure as Bucky was short (lasting only from this issue to #116, if memory serves), and Steranko’s run not even that long, this issue began a lasting change in Captain America’s adventures, beginning the transition from tortured manouttatime to foremost super-duper of the age.  Stan Lee’s writing is in fine form this issue, but the real star is Steranko, coloring his own work and making even the mad dash that is this adventure look amazing in so doing.  Captain America #110 is generally priced at double the tag of the issues on either side of it for a reason (or at least, for a reason other than the first appearance herein contained), and is worth every penny of that price, earning a very impressive 4 out of 5 stars overall.  Even with the myriad gems littered among Silver Age Marvels, this one stands out as excellent…

The earliest days of Marvel Comics were full of truly amazing artists: Kirby, Ditko, Dick Ayers and more.  Those early days were a revelation for fans of dynamic art, but things got even wilder as the sixties came to a close and the psychedelic/op art movement hit the Bullpen.  Audiences in 1969 certainly were, but are YOU ready for the magic of Steranko?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Captain America #110 awaits! CAPTAIN AMERICA #110 Writer: Stan Lee Penciler: Jim Steranko Inker: Joe Sinnott Colorist: Jim Steranko Letterer: Sam Rosen Editor: Stan Lee Publisher: Marvel Comics Cover Price: 12…
The first appearance of one of Marvel's slinkiest villains, capped with classic Stan Lee top-of-your-lungs angst and great art from Steranko. What's not to love?

CAPTAIN AMERICA #110

Writing
Art
Coloring

The first appearance of one of Marvel's slinkiest villains, capped with classic Stan Lee top-of-your-lungs angst and great art from Steranko. What's not to love?

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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2 Comments

  1. August 30, 2015 at 12:55 pm — Reply

    That IS pretty dynamic for 60’s art!

  2. DamienR
    September 1, 2015 at 12:03 pm — Reply

    It’s a shame that you had to forego the two-page spread where they leapt into the fray of Hydra forces in the sewer. Sigh!

    Great review!
    When I became a Hulk-fanatic in the 80s, and started retracing his (large) steps in the back issue bins, this issue always seemed to come up. When I finally got my hands on this short run, I was not disappointed. Not only did it reintroduce me to Captain America, but I also officially discovered the genius that is Steranko!

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