What If... Steve Rogers Had Refused to Give Up Being Captain America?

No, not recently when he came back from the dead, but back in the late 80s when the mantle was given over to a government stooge and he took on the mantle of simply "the Captain". Jim Valentino offers up the first of many What If? scripts volume 2, a series he'll also draw on occasion before leaving to found Image with his angsty buddies.

What If vol.2 #3 (September 1989)
Based on: Captain America v.1 #332
The true history: A secret government commission manipulated by the Red Skull invoked the U.S. government's copyright on "Captain America" and ordered Steve Rogers to become its tool. Rogers refused, handed over the trademarked costume and shield, and became the Captain, leaving the Cap identity to the former Super-Patriot, John Walker.
Turning point: What If Steve Rogers had refused to give up being Captain America?
Story type: Slayer
Watcher's mood: Thumb-wounded
Altered history: In this reality, Steve Rogers decides not to even relinquish the suit, claiming that "Captain America" should be free from government influence. The Commission brands him a fugitive and soon sends Freedom Force (i.e. the old Brotherhood of Evil Mutants - oh 80s Republican America, you make me laugh so!) to harass the Avengers.
But Cap has quit to protect his teammates, so they get nowhere. Meanwhile, the Commission's training of a replacement Cap proceeds apace. Rick Jones and other Cap supporters go on tv to change public opinion, but it looks to me like public opinion was already on Cap's side.
The next day's rally turns out to be a huge mistake (somebody somewhere doesn't know what "fugitive" means, I guess). The Commission's stooges, Super-Patriot and his Buckies, attack Cap and his allies in broad daylight to bring him to justice. The fight is stopped by Nick Fury who's brought a little friend: RONALD REAGAN!
Before Obama came on the scene, Reagan was probably the most comics-appearance president in history, and here he was to sort it all out. He pardons Steve Rogers and allows him to represent American ideals, while Super-Patriot can see to the government's foreign and domestic affairs. But the Red Skull will have none of it. He panics and orders Cap's death right there on the stage, and martyrdom be damned!
The Skull's senatorial pawn gets all shot up by SHIELD for his trouble, and Reagan immediately asks Super-Patriot John Walker to become the next Captain America. As in our world, so in theirs: John Walker goes over the edge, giving in to roid rage and dishonoring the uniform. And without the Captain lurking in the pages of the comic, he really does go too far, pummeling baddies to death.
He is forced to retire, and in the monument erected to honor the real Captain America, the Red Skull laughs. He's finally won.
Books canceled as a result: Though Captain America has proven to be a pretty unstoppable title, it looks like it wouldn't have bounced back from the John Walker days chronicled in this alternate reality.
These things happen: As we know, Captain America did get assassinated (but he got better). As for refusing to give up the mantle, he recently had the chance and didn't. Looks like Steve Rogers is a bigger hero than "Captain America" is.

Next week: What if the Alien Costumed Had Possessed Spider-Man?
My guess: Lots of dancing.


Bill D. said...

Rick Jones and Reed Richards discuss Cap's actions on The Morton Downey, Jr. Show, right? At the time, I thought that was a very, very weird point of reference, and now it just dates it horribly!

Siskoid said...

That's the one!


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