What If... Captain America Were Not Revived Until Today?

Now we're getting to the very first What If? I ever saw on the stands. I think I bought the next one first, but since this one hadn't yet been returned and pulped, I soon snatched it up. Everything else after that was scouring comic book shops in other towns for back issues. The last few issues of the original series are, for my money, some of the best What Ifs ever produced. Peter B. Gillis got into a good groove with character origins and was paired up with classic artists (here, Sal Buscema) for full-length stories about truly pivotal moments in the Marvel Universe. And did I mention the Bill Sienkiewicz covers? Well I am. They. Are. Gorgeous.

Now, you could do a What If Captain America Were Not Revived Until Today story every decade and come up with something different. There's more than one of these floating around. This is the 80s version.

What If Vol.1 #44 (April 1984)
Based on: Avengers #4
The true history: Running from the Avengers, the Sub-Mariner finds Inuit worshiping the frozen figure of Captain America and throws it in the waters where it thaws and is rescued by the pursuing superhero team. Cap is still alive and joins the team, taking it to new heights of heroism.
Turning point: What if the Sub-Mariner's course took him in a more southerly direction?
Story type: New World Order
Watcher's mood: Smoke machine-enhanced
Altered history: Namor goes south and is never caught by the Avengers and the Inuit take their idol with them to parts unknown. When the Avengers go their separate ways, Cap isn't there to rebuild the team with Hawkeye et al. so they just disband with Rick Jones looking glum. A few years later, Nixon's going to China and a nameless American sees this as the beginning of the end for America. He goes down into a secret facility and revives the men he thinks are Captain America and Bucky, but who are, in fact, the 1950s replacements of the real deal.
They still make a big splash, fight the good fight, and soon become media darlings. Not made of the same moral fiber as the real Cap and more than a little obsessed with the "red menace", this Cap doesn't trust other heroes and starts campaigning for a right wing party called the First Party.
He gets Norman Chadwick elected to the Senate and is often seen shilling for his bills, including a National Identity Card that insures illegals don't get work in the USA.
At a demonstration against the measure, the First Party's puppet masters arrange for Cap to be shot...
...igniting a race war of incredible proportions. Cap is only wounded, and from his hospital bed, shills for martial law and every fascist measure proposed by Chadwick. We now jump to 1983 (i.e. "today") and to a submarine that finds a man trapped in a block of ice. When it thaws, they're not too happy about what they see.
They think he's a "Sentinel of Liberty", Bad Cap's police force and American Nazi homologue. The boat's captain is old enough to remember the real Cap and when he sees him in action, sets things in motion to get the real Cap back to the motherland. New York's changed since we last saw it. The nice parts of town look like a prison...
...and the bad ones, behind the "Harlem Wall" are even worse.
Thankfully, there's a resistance. J.Jonah Jameson passes secret messages for it in the Daily Bugle's crossword puzzles, and their HQ is in the Harlem ghetto. It's got some famous members too: A trigger-happy Spider-Man, General Nick Fury - ex-agent of a disbanded SHIELD, and Snap Wilson - the man who in another reality became the Falcon.
As they get ready for the second American Revolution, the Bad Cap is helping the First Party with their national convention and getting a right monarchist in the Oval Office. Bad Cap still seems to think he's doing the right thing for America to protect it from Communism. At this point, I'd like to show you the First Party and ask you if Bad Cap should be redubbed Mad Cap:
Yeah, these guys really look on the up and up. At the convention, Mad Cap (I went ahead and changed it, knowing you'd be cool with it) is about to present his candidate when the Revolution begins and it's Cap vs. Cap for the spirit of America! There can only be one, and that one is Steve Rogers. America DOES need you Mad Cap, but...
The audience realizes it's the real Cap at last and start asking for their new orders. Cap won't hear of it. He makes an impassioned speech telling them they made America nothing with their racism and fascism and that they should look inside themselves to make moral decisions. Awkward silence falls, and then one guy... there's always one guy... inspires a hugely cheesy, but hugely satisfying ending.
Sorry, I've got something in my Canadian eye. Let's move on.
Books canceled as a result: They went and canceled the Avengers, but it's hard to imagine over ten years' worth of Marvel books in that environment unless they're all about rebel action. Spider-Man's got a title, certainly, but does anyone else? One expects that they do, but they're simply not based in New York City.
These things happen: We've had replacement Captain Americas who've fallen in with the wrong crowd, like the man who would become the Captain. And some moments, like the assassin's bullet, sure do seem familiar. And I suppose that with most comics' sliding timescale, Cap WAS revived in this decade and will always have been revived in this decade.

During the week: What if the Hulk Went Berserk?
My guess: Uhm...just an average day?

And next week: What if Spider-Man's Uncle Ben Had Lived?
My guess: David Letterman eventually tires of having Spidey do Stupid Super-Human Tricks.


snell said...

Actually, the Patriot (Jeffrey Mace) retired as faux Cap in 1949. "Mad Cap," who was frozen because he was so unstable (super-soldier formula but no vita-rays!) was William Burnside, the 4th man in the role. He was so nuts he had plastic surgery and called himself "Steve Rogers" so he could better play Cap.

Goddamn I have too much trivia in my head.

Sleestak said...

Or... http://thatsmyskull.blogspot.com/2007/12/what-ifcaptain-america-remained-frozen.html

marktayloruk said...

Both that comic and Nos 29/30 -President Rogers turning out to be the Red Skrull in disguise-were essentially copouts.Did they ever think of having the real Captain actually turning into a dictator?Power corrupts,after all.

Spirit Wolf said...

That was the early 1980s - nowadays, Americans might welcome such a card system, but no government will dare try it now (beyond a state or two.) Maybe if they HAD instituted such a card system back then, they wouldn't have the invasion they're having now. Same goes with the current European invasion. We didn't protect our borders, we didn't distinguish between citizens and foreigners, so of course the mooch train has gone gotten out of hand all over the Western world, and if you think that portrayal of "fascism" is bad, just wait. In the future, it'll be a choice between Muslim religious fascism, Chinese communism/culture (see Richmond BC), extinction, or "racist" fighting to keep the Western way of life intact.

Siskoid said...

I'm sure neither I nor Captain America share your politics.

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

This issue came out just one month too early, otherwise it could have had an incredible title:

What If Captain American were not revived until Nineteen Eighty Four?

Siskoid said...



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