Regular readers have let me know they are going through Marvel withdrawal right now because WandaVision just isn’t giving them enough of a fix. Last year I looked at Captain America’s first 20 stories from the 1940s. Now here’s a look at his first 20 solo stories from the 1960s.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #59 (November 1964)
Title: Captain America
Comment: After being thawed out from his suspended animation in Avengers #4, Captain America had been serving as a member of the team while trying to adjust to the way he had lost twenty years preserved in ice. Now he was getting his first Silver Age solo stories. Jack Kirby was drawing Cap’s stories, just as he had during the 1940s when he co-created the character.
Synopsis: Alone on monitor duty at Avengers Mansion one night, Captain America was helping to pass the time by looking through old World War Two scrapbooks and memorabilia. He still missed his late partner Bucky. (NOTE: It was not until decades later that Marvel retconned events so that Bucky had survived as the Winter Soldier.)
Elsewhere in New York City, a gangster called Bull and his dozen or so men have learned that it’s Cap’s turn on monitor duty. With the other Avengers (Thor, Iron Man, the Wasp and Giant-Man) elsewhere, Bull and his men decide it’s their best chance to mount a raid on Avengers Mansion and make off with some of the Top Secret tech and national defense secrets in the place.
Sporting body armor plus ray-guns and sleeping gas rifles the gangsters (presumably Maggia members) capture the Avengers’ butler Jarvis and launch their raid. Captain America outfights and corrals the entire gang including a member in high-tech armor plus Bull himself, despite Bull’s head-butting attacks with his helmeted head.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #60 (December 1964)
Title: The Army of Assassins Strikes
Villains: Baron Zemo, Iron Fist and an army of assassins.
Synopsis: Nazi war criminal Baron Heinrich Zemo is still in hiding in South America with his Masters of Evil (a supervillain team he’s been leading against the Avengers). Baron Zemo watches his army of assassins, led by a man with a square iron prosthetic on his right arm, seemingly defeat Captain America. It’s really just one of his men dressed up as Cap to give the assassins practice.
Zemo dispatches his men to New York City to attack and kill Captain America as he performs at a charity event. In an all-out action frenzy Cap defeats Iron Fist (no relation to the later martial arts hero Iron Fist) and the entire army of fifteen or so assassins.
From South America, a furious Baron Zemo watches an American television newscast in which Captain America taunts him, telling him he survived the attack and daring him to come out of hiding. The Baron, apparently channeling Elvis, shoots out the tv screen.
NOTE: Marvel Comics had not yet created the villainous group Hydra or presumably it would have been Hydra soldiers that Baron Zemo sent to kill Cap.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #61 (January 1965)
Title: The Strength of the Sumo
Villain: The Sumo
Comment: Captain America in Vietnam! Despite Stan Lee’s much later pretense that he was always too enlightened for jingoism, we have another Cold War tale written by him. In this one the North Vietnamese are depicted as the villains just as unambiguously as the Nazis and Imperial Japanese were in the 1940s. (And yes, Stan was already writing for Marvel in the 40s, too.)
Synopsis: Cap goes it alone in Vietnam, penetrating deep into the jungle and clashing with Viet Cong units. He wants to find and set free American helicopter pilot Jim Baker, whose older brother we are told saved Cap’s life once during World War Two.
After clobbering large numbers of VC, Captain America gets taken to negotiate with a North Vietnamese general for Baker’s release. At the general’s plush headquarters, Cap comes face to face with General Wo, who is really the Sumo, a huge Vietnamese version of Spider-Man’s future foe the Kingpin.
This villain mastered the art of Sumo wrestling in Japan before returning home to fight the French, then the Americans. After a destructive battle throughout the Sumo’s headquarters, Captain America defeats him AND some of his guards, then frees Jim Baker.
Evading the rest of the defeated Sumo’s men, Cap and Jim reach the villain’s private aircraft and fly off to the American lines in South Vietnam.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #62 (February 1965)
Title: Break-Out in Cell Block 10
Villains: Deacon and several convicts.
Synopsis: Captain America arrives at an upstate New York penitentiary at the request of Superintendent Carlson. It turns out to be a trap, launched in true Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether style, by an imprisoned criminal mastermind called Deacon. That mastermind impersonated the superintendent while several cons impersonated prison guards until Cap was in the fake superintendent’s office.
The trap is sprung and our hero finds himself attacked by the fake guards and several convicts. After a lengthy battle, numbers tell the tale and Cap is defeated. Deacon has the men toss our hero into a death trap while he and the convicts try to use his shield to penetrate the prison’s state of the art gate. (That’s why they lured Captain America there in the first place.)
Cap survives the death trap and turns the tables on Deacon and his accomplices, then frees the real superintendent and guards.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #63 (March 1965)
Title: The Origin of Captain America
Villains: Assorted Nazis.
Synopsis: This is just a retelling of Cap’s 1940s origin story and his first meeting with Bucky. I covered that in the previous Captain America blog post.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #64 (April 1965)
Synopsis: This is just a retelling of Cap and Bucky’s battle with the Nazi supervillains Omar and Sando, which I covered last time around.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #65 (May 1965)
Synopsis: This is just a retelling of Cap and Bucky’s first clash with the Red Skull, which I covered last time.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #66 (June 1965)
Title: The Origin of the Red Skull
Villain: The Red Skull
Comment: Since the Red Skull’s origin was never revealed in the Golden Age, Marvel made a move which Roy Thomas must have loved – Stan and Jack presented an “untold” story of Captain America from World War Two. The Red Skull’s origin was revealed for the first time.
Synopsis: This tale opens up with Captain America and Bucky already in the Red Skull’s clutches. We are told they came seeking their archenemy in Germany shortly before D-Day. Cap is in special restraints and seated. The Red Skull by turns interrogates him and smacks him around.
Since they are in his own lair and surrounded by his own troops, the Skull tells our hero that Bucky is being held elsewhere as a hostage in case he tries to escape. Next, the Red Skull indulges in a Villain Rant, explaining his origin to Captain America.
As Johann Shmidt he was a poverty-stricken orphan, stealing food and committing other crimes as he grew older. When he wasn’t in jail he would work menial jobs and even those he often failed at. Shmidt was working as a bellboy at a hotel when Adolf Hitler and his entourage came to stay. Johann was in awe of Hitler, whom he felt was his exact opposite – dictator of the Third Reich, not a nobody.
Shmidt served Hitler and his underlings drinks in their room while Hitler was chewing out some Gestapo men. Disgusted with them, Adolf pointed to the trembling bellboy and said even HE could serve him better than they had.
So, in a Pygmalion/ My Fair Lady (or My Fair Nazi) kind of way, Hitler began personally training Johann, molding him into a conscienceless piece of garbage to rival himself. (In some retconning back and forth it is sometimes said Hitler gave Shmidt a German version of the Super Soldier treatments that had turned scrawny Steve Rogers into Captain America. This Nazi version of the treatments made Shmidt strong and agile plus made him a scientific genius.)
Back with the imprisoned Captain America, the Red Skull is now attacked by Cap, who has broken out of his restraints. The Skull defeats the battered, weary hero and then regales him with another flashback – this time regarding all the war crimes he joyously committed. This flashback ends with how the Red Skull lured Cap and Bucky into a trap and captured them.
When our villain is finally done, Captain America struggles to his feet and again attacks the Skull. (In a bit of rare common sense for a supervillain, the Red Skull kept Cap’s shield in another room.) This time, in the middle of their battle, our hero collapses unconscious.
It turns out a combined knockout/ brainwashing drug was administered to Cap without his knowledge and it has finally put him under. When he comes to he is in thrall to the Red Skull, who even makes our hero give him the Nazi salute. In a cliffhanger ending, the Skull tells Captain America that he is sending him on a mission to kill Supreme Commander Eisenhower.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #67 (July 1965)
Title: Lest Tyranny Triumph
Villain: The Red Skull
Synopsis: Over the course of an unknown number of days, the Red Skull subjects Captain America to a series of tests to ensure that he is fully under his control. Cap passes them all, including shooting at pictures of General Dwight Eisenhower.
Elsewhere, Bucky is being taken before a firing squad since the Skull no longer needs him as a hostage. Bucky has organized his fellow prisoners and they all overcome the guards and escape. Bucky lingers in the area to try to locate Cap.
In Berlin, the Red Skull demonstrates to Adolf Hitler his absolute control of Captain America. Hitler gives the okay to proceed with the plan to have Cap get up close to and then assassinate Eisenhower. Back at the Skull’s lair where Captain America and Bucky had been held, the furtive Bucky overhears the Skull’s men talking about a rendezvous with the Red Skull and Cap at Midnight. They will then fly to England to carry out their plan.
Bucky knocks out a Nazi soldier, dons his uniform and blends in with the men. On the flight to England, he can tell Cap is completely hypnotized. Once over London, Cap, the disguised Bucky and several of the Red Skull’s men parachute down to rendezvous with a Nazi spy who opens the door to Eisenhower’s HQ for them.
Bucky doffs his disguise and tries to get through to his partner but to no avail. While Bucky fights some of the Skull’s men the others go with Cap and confront Eisenhower. At their command, our hero aims his pistol at Ike and fires.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #68 (August 1965)
Title: The Sentinel and the Spy
Villain: The Red Skull
Synopsis: Captain America emerges from the Red Skull’s control just in time to have fired wide of Eisenhower, leaving the General unharmed. Cap starts fighting the Red Skull’s troops and is soon joined by Bucky. Together they mop up the Nazis, then return to their army unit in their secret identities of Steve Rogers and James Buchanan Barnes.
Next, we cut to days later. The Red Skull, having learned that Ike survived the assassination attempt, covertly signals one of his men in England to start Project Vanish. The man – Wolfgang – retrieves a buried creation of the Red Skull’s called a Vanishing Ray.
Wolfgang ambushes American troops in England – including Steve and Barnes’ unit under Sgt Duffy – and uses the Vanishing Ray on them. Men, guns and tanks are completely disintegrated by the ray, prompting Steve Rogers to switch to his Captain America uniform and attack Wolfgang.
In the subsequent battle, Cap manages to avoid all the blasts from the Vanishing Ray until at length it overheats and explodes, killing Wolfgang. Switching back to Steve Rogers, our hero uses one of the injuries he sustained as Cap during the fight to get taken away on a stretcher by the medics.
Sgt Duffy, like in the original World War Two comic books, is annoyed at everything Steve does and he complains to Barnes that in a few days Rogers will be back with them and getting on his nerves again.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #69, 70 and 71 (September – November 1965)
Synopsis: Another retelling of a World War Two adventure of Cap and Bucky.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #72 (December 1965)
Title: The Sleeper Shall Awake
Villains: The Sleeper(s)
Synopsis: Finally back to a present-day (1960s) Captain America story. At Avengers Mansion, Cap has been regaling his fellow Avengers Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver with tales of some of his World War Two adventures. As usual, he starts wallowing in self-pity about Bucky, then goes to sleep.
Meanwhile, in Germany, a plan we readers are told was started by the Red Skull in 1945 is at last ready to be launched. Twenty years earlier the Skull had constructed and buried three robotic Sleepers who would draw electrical energy from the ground, Tesla-style. Since it would take two decades for the Sleepers to reach a sufficient charge, this was a fallback plan to destroy the Earth if the Nazis lost World War Two.
In Bavaria, a Nazi veteran from World War Two, serving as an agent for the presumed-dead Red Skull, gathers some men and opens the subterranean vault concealing the first Sleeper. That Sleeper, a Godzilla-sized Robby the Robot type of android, goes on a Kaiju-style rampage.
Captain America has arrived in Germany on the trail of some old Red Skull agents whose names he came across in his memorabilia, among them the one who just unleashed the first Sleeper. Cap tries everything he can to stop or destroy the rampaging Sleeper but nothing works. As our hero watches helplessly the robot leaves him further and further behind.
The cliffhanger ending also features a female Red Skull agent – Erica Wolfmann – instructing her own underlings in the town of Telback to gather and she will lead them as they dig up the second Sleeper.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #73 (January 1966)
Title: Where Walks The Sleeper
Villain: The Sleeper(s)
Synopsis: While Captain America – riding a commandeered motorcycle – continues to futilely attack the lumbering first Sleeper, Erica Wolfmann and her men unearth the vault of the second Sleeper. This one, for no apparent reason, was set to explode, killing Erica and her men while simultaneously unleashing the second Sleeper.
This Sleeper is a quasi-winged construct and flies through the air, causing massive destruction with its weaponry as it goes. After sending off a telegraphed message to NATO to blow away the Sleeper even if their attack kills HIM as well, Cap catches sight of this second Sleeper and tries to prevent it from its obvious intent to hook up with the first Sleeper.
This construct is equally impervious to all his attempts to damage it but he does manage to climb on top of it and rides along to its rendezvous with the first Sleeper. The two robots link up, forming a larger robotic body which continues flying along. Over the Baltic Sea, Nato missiles approach the combined Sleepers and Cap jumps off to the waters below.
One missile misses the target and the other hits but causes no damage. From the sea below, Cap watches the Sleeper(s) continue flying away. Elsewhere, in an unnamed German town, another elderly Red Skull agent retrieves a key from a pawn shop and goes to unleash the third Sleeper.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #74 (February 1966)
Title: The Final Sleep
Villain: The Sleeper(s)
Synopsis: This issue picks up an unknown amount of time later. Captain America has managed to reach a NATO base and explains the entire situation to a General Logan. Meanwhile the combined form of the first two Sleepers continue flying around Europe, raining down destructive energy blasts wherever it goes.
Back at the NATO base, General Logan places his troops under the command of Captain America, who leads them into battle with the Sleeper. The final Red Skull agent uses the key he retrieved last issue to open the disguised vault of the final Sleeper and he, too, is blown up like Erica Wolfmann and her men.
This third Sleeper is an enormous construct that resembles the Red Skull’s head. It flies off to link up with the other two Sleepers to complete the robotic form. The linkup occurs despite all the efforts of the NATO forces to stop it.
Still wreaking havoc on the countries it flies over, the Sleeper heads north. Cap, aboard a NATO jet, pieces together what the robot is programmed to do – it will reach the North Pole, then burrow straight down through the pole toward the Earth’s core. Ultimately it will cause the entire planet to rupture. (It’s a comic book, just go with it.)
Since their weapons aren’t having any effect on the Sleeper, Cap has the NATO jet fly up right over the robotic weapon so he can leap down onto it, carrying a flamethrower and a parachute pack with him. Far to the north, over the Arctic Ocean, our hero manages to set the flamethrower to keep shooting its flame (somehow) and aims that flame at the skull/ “brain” part of the Sleeper.
Cap parachutes clear, to be picked up by NATO rescue planes, while his work with the flamethrower (double somehow) causes the Sleeper to explode high over the northern ice, in such a remote area that no human life is lost. And so, the menace of the Sleeper is defeated, because … reasons. (Missiles? No problemo! A flamethrower? D’OH!)
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #75 (March 1966)
Title: 30 Minutes To Live
Villain: Batroc the Leaper
Comment: The very first appearance of Captain America’s frequent foe Batroc! Once upon a time this supervillain’s powerful legs and mastery of savate grew to seem kind of silly, but in the decades since then kickboxing became a thing, making this Frenchman again seem like a serious threat.
Synopsis: Cap is rescued in the Arctic Ocean and is then hospitalized for a few days to recover from the injuries he suffered against the Sleeper. Then he is flown back to New York City where he relaxes at the apartment he has rented as Steve Rogers.
Elsewhere in the city, an experiment is conducted by some of the evil scientists of the group called THEM. THEM are a group assigned by Baron Von Strucker, the head of Hydra, to coordinate with the Secret Empire and A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics), two subsidiaries of Hydra. A.I.M. are easily recognized by their yellow hazmat suits that make them look a bit like high-tech beekeepers.
NOTE: In August of 1965, Hydra had been introduced in the pages of Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The experiment being conducted by THEM involves demonstrating the incredible destructive power of a substance called Inferno 42. This unearthly substance was retrieved from a fallen meteor and is so potent that even the microscopic amount being used in this demonstration causes a huge explosion.
Further conversation among the scientists of THEM reveals that THEY (sorry) cannot proceed with their plans as yet, since the rest of the Inferno 42 was recently stolen from them by a male S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent. The man plans to convey it to Agent 13. That agent eventually turns out to be Sharon Carter, the younger sister of Peggy Carter, Captain America’s World War Two girlfriend.
NOTE: Over the decades, retconning changed Sharon to Peggy’s niece, then grand-niece and for all I know she’s now called Peggy’s great-great-great grand-niece in order to reach back to the ever more distant World War Two era.
Back to THEM: further conversation reveals that they have hired a mercenary supervillain called Batroc the Leaper to retrieve the Inferno 42 from the male S.H.I.E.L.D. agent before he can safely pass it along to Agent 13.
Cue Steve Rogers waking up in his apartment, dressing in a suit and tie and heading out to walk around Manhattan. He moodily ponders his time-lost situation again, his guilt over Bucky’s presumed death AND the way he misses his old flame Peggy Carter. (Sheesh! Not even Peter Parker wallows in this much self-pity!)
In a typically unlikely comic book coincidence, Steve catches sight of Agent 13 (Sharon Carter) while she’s walking the streets to rendezvous with the male S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and covertly get the package of Inferno 42 from him.
Because he finds something familiar about Agent 13, Steve follows along behind her. When she and the other undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent pretend to bump into each other and he does the handoff, Steve stupidly thinks the man intentionally stole the blonde’s package and replaced it with an identical one.
He rushes forward to tell her, but she doesn’t want anyone to catch on about what she and the other agent just did so she thanks Steve but assures him she has the right package.
From the rooftops above, the costumed Batroc also observed the handoff but mistakenly thinks the male agent still has the Inferno 42. He attacks the man in an alleyway, defeats him and examines the package only to realize his mistake.
Back with Steve and Agent 13/ Sharon, in dopey Soap Opera fashion he thinks to himself that up close she REALLY resembles Peggy Carter while she thinks to herself that he resembles pictures she’s seen of her older sister Peggy’s old boyfriend Steve, except he’d be over twenty years older now.
Neither one says anything out loud, however, and Sharon goes on her way. Steve follows her, still intrigued. (DOWN boy!) Naturally, this allows him to see her get attacked by Batroc. He runs into an alley, changes into his Captain America costume and starts fighting the Frenchman.
While they battle, Batroc swashbucklingly comments that it will be an honor to kill Captain America. Meanwhile, Sharon recovers and reaches for her fallen gun, only for Batroc to stomp it with one of his paranormally powerful legs, utterly crushing it to pieces. (It’s a comic book.)
While Cap and Batroc resume their Battle Royal, Sharon grabs the package of Inferno 42 and runs off. Soon our hero and his opponent realize she slipped away and Batroc also notices that the package is giving off a faint glow. It must have been cracked during his attack on Sharon, and he tells Cap that the exposed substance will explode in 30 minutes, wiping out all of New York City.
For her part, Sharon is so determined to lose Captain America and Batroc that she reaches a false wall that is really an entrance to a S.H.I.E.L.D. emergency shelter. She slips through and closes it behind her, leaving Cap and Batroc unable to find her.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #76 (April 1966)
Title: The Gladiator, the Girl and the Glory
Villains: Batroc and THEM
Synopsis: Captain America and Batroc pursue Sharon Carter and the Inferno 42 only to come face to face with a brick wall. Fearing they might smash through it, Sharon pushes a button which opens a trap door under Cap and Batroc. The Frenchman falls through but Cap manages to snag a hold and pulls himself inside the S.H.I.E.L.D. shelter.
Our hero catches up with Sharon just as she collapses from her unknowing exposure to the leaking Inferno 42. Cap and Sharon compare notes on the imminent explosion of the substance, and she and our hero swiftly replace the real container with a dummy container.
They did it just in time, as Batroc kicks his way into the shelter through the wall and, thinking Cap has the real Inferno 42, attacks him for it. The pair duke it out again for awhile before Batroc seems to have beaten our hero and heads off to give THEM the package before it explodes.
Batroc’s incredibly powerful legs let him cover several blocks in record time with his leaps and he turns over what he THINKS is the Inferno 42 to his clients in THEM. Still thinking it may explode they immediately put it in a specially designed case to prevent that from happening.
The French villain demands his payment but the men of THEM try to convince him to continue working with them and he’ll eventually get even more money. Batroc refuses, wanting to take his fee and leave but THEM insist he cannot, that once employed by THEM there is no leaving their service.
Cap bursts into THEM’s hideout. He was playing possum so that he could follow Batroc to his clients. The scientists of THEM, still thinking they have the real Inferno 42, escape in a pneumatic tube while Captain America and Batroc clash yet again.
Eventually Batroc realizes that THEM took his pay with them, so he has nothing to gain by continuing this battle. He kicks his way through another wall and departs.
Cap runs back to Sharon and discovers that other agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. reached her in time to put the Inferno 42 in their own package which prevented the explosion. Sharon was getting medical treatment early enough that she’ll live but she’s now being taken away to a Top Secret S.H.I.E.L.D. hospital.
Cap, who still doesn’t know her name, wonders if he’ll ever see her again.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #77 (May 1966)
Synopsis: Another World War Two flashback tale, this one wallowing in Steve and Peggy’s love affair, which was forever interrupted by their respective duties.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #78 (June 1966)
Villains: THEM and their Humanoid.
Synopsis: While Captain America goes through a training session at Avengers Mansion, Colonel Nick Fury shows up to watch. When Cap is done the two exchange greetings and recall how they once fought together during World War Two when Fury was just a Sergeant in the Howling Commandos.
Next, Fury goes on to show Cap what he came to see him about – a ping-pong ball sized model of a human brain. Nick explains to Cap that it was an item that S.H.I.E.L.D. recently nabbed from THEM, the same people who originally had the Inferno 42.
If the tiny artificial brain is placed in a hydroponic tank of chemicals, it would grow into a full-sized brain, ready for insertion into an android constructed by THEM. Colonel Fury is there to see if the Avengers have any leads on the organization.
While Cap and Fury continue consulting, a THEM aircraft drops off just such a humanoid robot as our heroes were just discussing. The Humanoid is able to emit acid strong enough to melt through the walls of Avengers Mansion. It attacks Cap and Nick to fulfill its mission of recovering the stolen small-scale brain.
Captain America and Nick Fury wage a running battle with the Humanoid throughout the mansion, with Cap sometimes using Avengers Mansion security technology against the creation. The biochemical android is able to survive everything they throw at it and keeps on coming.
It can even mix chemicals internally and use them to shoot gasses, electric bolts and incendiary bursts at them. From a distance, the men of THEM – working directly with A.I.M. this time – monitor the battle via a camera built into their Humanoid.
Before the Humanoid can kill our heroes, Nick Fury finally locates an opening in the creation’s form and slips in S.H.I.E.L.D. chemicals that render the android inert. Rather than let it be analyzed, THEM triggers its self-destruct mechanism and it dissolves into nothingness.
Cap and Fury say their goodbyes and the Colonel gives Cap a S.H.I.E.L.D. A-1 priority badge so that he’ll be able to contact him any time he wants to work with S.H.I.E.L.D.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #79 (July 1966)
Title: The Red Skull Lives
Villains: The Red Skull and THEM.
Comment: This is the FIRST story with the Red Skull revealed to be alive and well in the Silver Age.
Synopsis: Captain America attacks a handful of THEM goons in high-tech armor as they try to sabotage a power station. Cap does not yet realize it but the armed soldiers are using THEM technology that makes them invisible and inaudible to everyone except Cap.
To onlookers it seems that our hero is engaging in some William Shatner-level fights with himself. At a predesignated moment the goons escape in a futuristic aircraft which is also invisible and inaudible to everyone but Cap.
The crowd makes snarky remarks as if Cap has gone crazy because none of them can see the alleged soldiers he insists were there. Even a cop condescendingly tells our hero to just go home and get some rest. A confused Cap does so.
Meanwhile, from their aircraft the THEM goons radio a report about their successful mission to two men named Horst and Wolfgang. Those two are soon joined by their boss, the Red Skull himself.
After typical Villain Talking To His Underlings dialogue, the Red Skull muses aloud about how he, Horst and Wolfgang came to be in their present plush headquarters. In Berlin in April 1945 the Skull and Captain America were fighting it out in the Skull’s secret underground bunker laboratory to which Cap had traced him.
Their battle was interrupted by a dropped bomb making a direct hit above the bunker, causing explosions and a cave-in which separated Captain America and the Red Skull. Cap survived (and presumably went straight from there to his final mission with Bucky within a day or so) but the Skull was presumed dead in the explosion.
Some of the experimental gasses from the Red Skull’s laboratory were released into the confined space where the Skull, Horst and Wolfgang lay amid the subterranean wreckage. Those gasses preserved them in suspended animation just like Cap was preserved in ice for two decades.
The scientists of THEM have very recently located the long-lost wreckage of the Red Skull’s laboratory bunker and probed it for anything they could use. They found the unconscious Skull and his two subordinates, managed to revive them from their suspended animation and formed an alliance with the Red Skull against their new foe Captain America.
The next day or so, one of the Skull’s men has traced Captain America to a psychiatrist he is consulting about his seeming hallucinations. Horst, in THEM-designed armor, attacks him there but is also invisible and inaudible to the psychiatrist, but not to Cap.
After the ensuing battle and Horst’s escape, the psychiatrist blames our hero for trashing his office in a fit of hallucination. The doctor tells Cap he obviously needs help and the superhero agrees, but heads off to find it elsewhere.
Back with the Red Skull, Horst reports his success. The Skull tells him that next will come Phase Three of his plan. This next time Horst, in the high-tech armor, will ALSO make himself invisible and inaudible to Captain America as well as any bystanders.
Horst will shoot someone to death and leave the gun on Cap’s person so that he will get blamed for the murder. The public will remember Captain America’s two recent (seeming) psychotic episodes and will supposedly believe Cap guilty.
Elsewhere, at a facility labeled A.I.M, their scientists are showing an operative named Count Royale an object they recently discovered. It fell from outer space. The object is in an ionic shell being studied and it is an immeasurably powerful object they call the Cosmic Cube – later retconned as the TESSERACT and also retconned as one of the Infinity Stones. THIS IS ITS FIRST APPEARANCE.
Count Royale and the A.I.M. techs in their “evil beekeeper” hazmat suits discuss the object and the tests they are running on it. They also mention how it must never fall into the hands of the Red Skull or he will use it to destroy them all and take over the world alone.
Cut to Captain America, walking the New York streets and wincing at the distrust and suspicion with which the crowds are regarding him. Horst, in his armor and thinking to himself how not even Cap can see or hear him this time, approaches our hero.
An autograph hound, an older man, asks Cap for an autograph to send to his son in Vietnam. Cap obliges and chats with the man. Horst is about to pull the trigger and complete his plan to kill the man and leave Cap with the gun, when Captain America suddenly attacks Horst.
He defeats and captures the now-visible armored soldier, who lets slip that the Red Skull assured him Cap would not be able to see or hear him. Our hero is stunned at the realization that the Skull is still alive. We learn that when Cap went for “help” earlier he went to S.H.I.E.L.D. whose scientists designed a device to make him immune to hypnotic devices. That device was embedded in the “A” on his forehead and made him able to detect and deal with Horst.
Still in shock, our hero prepares to find and take on the Red Skull.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #80 (August 1966)
Title: He Who Holds The Cosmic Cube
Villain: The Red Skull
Synopsis: We open more than a week after the previous issue. Under questioning by S.H.I.E.L.D. Horst has revealed how he, Wolfgang and the Red Skull survived and were found by the men of THEM. Cap is making his way across the rooftops of New York City when he spots a futuristic aircraft in trouble in the sky overhead.
From rooftop to rooftop, Cap follows the damaged vessel until it crashes in the Hudson River. He dives in and swims to the submerged aircraft. He notes A.I.M. markings on it and rescues the pilot, taking him up to the nearest pier. NOTE: Advanced Idea Mechanics had not yet been exposed as a criminal/ espionage organization, but were believed to be a legitimate research outfit.
The frantic pilot babbles to Cap about how he and another A.I.M. pilot were flying after one of their Keepers, who had betrayed them and was taking A.I.M’s discovery the Cosmic Cube to the Red Skull. In the Skull’s hands the Cosmic Cube will let him rule the world. The Keeper had shot down THIS pilot but the other A.I.M. pilot was still pursuing him somewhere.
Cut to the Red Skull’s plush mansion hideout on his island lair. He and Wolfgang are watching on a viewscreen as the other A.I.M. pilot tries to shoot down the Keeper to prevent him from handing over the Cosmic Cube/ Tesseract to the Skull.
The Red Skull takes remote control of the Keeper’s aircraft and manually shoots down the pursuing A.I.M. aircraft, so that now the Keeper can deliver the Cube to him unmolested. Wolfgang asks the Red Skull how he got the Keeper to betray A.I.M. and deliver him the Tesseract.
The villain replies that THEM called a meeting with A.I.M. last week, a meeting he was invited to as a presumed ally. When he heard about the Cosmic Cube he knew the time was ripe to double-cross his saviors and obtain the powerful object from space.
Shaking hands with the Keeper after the meeting adjourned he slipped a tiny neuro brain-tap device in the Keeper’s palm. That invention gave him mental control over the Keeper. He ordered him to steal and flee with the Cosmic Cube/ Tesseract at the first opportunity and bring it to him.
Now the Red Skull reveals to Wolfgang that he just slipped a similar neuro brain-tap device into HIS palm as they shook hands. In typical comic book villain tradition he orders his underling to put his gun to his head and kill himself. God knows why.
Meanwhile, as the Keeper’s aircraft draws closer to the Red Skull’s island lair it is overtaken by a S.H.I.E.L.D. intercontinental passenger missile. Captain America is on board. He used the A-1 priority that Nick Fury gave him a few issues back to have S.H.I.E.L.D. provide him with fast enough transport to overtake the Keeper’s vessel.
Cap does a mid-air switch to the A.I.M. aircraft and tussles with the enthralled Keeper in his A.I.M. hazmat/ beekeeper uniform. Our hero even holds on to the man as the Keeper ejects over the Red Skull’s island headquarters and parachutes down with him.
Through his telescope the astonished Red Skull sees that his archenemy Captain America is WITH the man bringing him the Cosmic Cube. As Cap and the Keeper struggle ashore, the Red Skull tells the Keeper to get the Cosmic Cube to safety while he deals with Captain America.
Along the beach the pair of old enemies fight again for the first time in over two decades. At length Cap gains the upper hand but the Skull treacherously shoots knockout gas from his sleeves to send our hero to the ground. The villain’s filtered skull mask protects him from the gas.
After a few moments Cap comes to on the beach to see the Keeper instructing the Red Skull on how to use the Cosmic Cube/ Tesseract. The Skull tests its power by banishing his now useless thrall to another dimension. As the horrified Captain America looks on, the Red Skull continues testing the power that the Tesseract gives him.
He even “wishes” a nearby boulder to shoot into the heavens at escape velocity to become lost in space. Though the Skull seems invincible now, Cap steels himself to attack the villain.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #81 (September 1966)
Title: The Red Skull Supreme
Synopsis: Captain America attacks the Red Skull and tries to knock the Cosmic Cube/ Tesseract out of his hand but to no avail. The Skull toys with Cap, causing him to flee by using the Tesseract to unleash flames on him, then to shoot shock waves from his hand, chasing our hero all around the beach as he tries to dodge them all while stones shatter all around him.
Cap gets too close to a tree and the Red Skull causes it to explode, showering our hero with wooden shrapnel and splinters as he protects himself with his shield. Taunting Captain America about the power he now possesses, the Skull uses the Cosmic Cube to enthrall everyone on Earth, from national leaders on down, forcing them all to make public affirmations of their obedience to the Red Skull.
After that demonstration of his power the Red Skull tells Cap he will form every able-bodied man on Earth into an army. He will then “wish” miracle weapons into existence and arm his troops with them. Creating interstellar vessels with the Tesseract he will send forth armies to conquer every inhabited world in the universe now that his ambitions have no limits upon them.
Next the Skull creates a humanoid creature out of the soil and stones nearby and has that lumbering beast attack Cap. The villain enjoys playing with our hero this way, like a cat with a wounded mouse. Eventually, when it seems that Captain America is gaining the upper hand in the battle against the humanoid, the Red Skull simply banishes the creation.
Next he taunts Cap that he will now likewise transport HIM to another dimension, where he will never see the Earth again but will suffer by knowing the Red Skull is using it as the base for his star-spanning empire.
Our hero plays the kind of fake-out that only works on villains in FICTION. He pretends to panic and surrender, dropping to his knees and pleading with the Red Skull to let him stay on Earth and serve him. Amused by the thought of reducing his archfoe to his personal lackey the Red Skull ponders it.
As he and the fake-begging Cap discuss it, the Skull warms to the notion and expands upon it. He contemplates the supreme irony of having Captain America risking his life in battle fighting FOR the Red Skull as the leader of his own version of Teutonic Knights.
Cap keeps swearing he’ll obey the Skull like a slave and – in a slight nod to good storytelling – the villain DOES reflect that with the Cosmic Cube in his possession, even if Cap tries a double-cross he can just banish him THEN. And so the Red Skull agrees to it, and by wishing it, garbs himself in golden armor complete with a crown.
Cap begs to get down on one knee before the Skull, so that the villain can use his golden sword to “dub” Captain America as his first “knight.” Cap uses his position crouched on one knee to instantly spring forward at the Skull, grappling with him for possession of the Tesseract. (If only real-life villains were this stupid.)
The struggle is preventing the Red Skull from fully closing his fist around the Cosmic Cube but he is still able to use it to cause an earthquake to strike the island. As that island rips apart around them, Cap and the Skull continue their tug of war for the Cube.
At length our hero strikes the Red Skull’s arm with his shield, making him drop the Tesseract and freeing all mankind from the villain’s mind control. It falls into the ocean beneath them and the Skull lunges for it, falling into the water, where his golden armor prevents him from swimming and seemingly drags him down to a watery death. Like all good villains he survives this and turns up again in the near future.
Captain America pulls himself onto the lone remaining sliver of the island and awaits rescue from S.H.I.E.L.D. hoping he’s seen the last of the Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube.
NOTE: It’s kind of fun how way back in 1966, when Thanos and the Infinity Stones weren’t even a gleam in the eye of any Marvel Comics writer, the Cosmic Cube/ Tesseract made its first appearance. Similarly Adam Warlock’s Soul Gem, which would debut in the 1970s, would also later get retconned as another one of the Infinity Stones.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #82 (October 1966)
Title: The Inconceivable Adaptoid
Villain: The Adaptoid
Synopsis: At Avengers Mansion Captain America is relaxing. As usual he passes the time by looking through old photos and news stories about him and Bucky fighting the Axis Powers during World War Two. (Even Norma Desmond thinks this guy is too hung up on the past.)
Presently Cap tells the Avengers’ butler Jarvis that he is going to take a shower and go to sleep. (No, Jarvis does not reply with a John Gielgud style “I’ll alert the media” but wouldn’t it have been kickass if he HAD?) On his way to his quarters our hero catches a glimpse of someone moving in the shadows and pursues them.
The figure seems to be Agent Axis, one of Captain America’s World War Two villains. (Agent Axis’ origin is that he was the result of a The Fly-style transporter accident which blended a German, a Japanese and an Italian agent into one body with the strength of three men.) It’s just an illusion as it turns out.
To avoid confusion I’ll point out Cap is suddenly suffering these illusions because “Jarvis” is really the Adaptoid and he drugged our hero’s coffee. The real Jarvis is unconscious and tied up elsewhere in the mansion. But the Adaptoid had nothing to do with THAT. (I’m kidding!)
Cap’s next illusion comes in the form of another of his World War Two villains, in this case Warlord Fang, an Imperial Japanese bad guy. Captain America forces himself to remember that Warlord Fang died in the bombing of Hiroshima. More World War Two hallucinations follow until at length Cap collapses unconscious into Jarvis’ arms. The butler effortlessly lifts up Cap and carries him off.
Miles away, a paramilitary unit of S.H.I.E.L.D. is going through the wreckage of A.I.M’s mountain headquarters after its recent destruction at Nick Fury’s hands (in the pages of Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.). The uniformed personnel come across the barely conscious Count Bornag Royale (from a few issues back).
While medics attend to the captured Count Royale, other agents find a human-shaped high-tech “coffin” device, but empty. The groggy Count Royale mumbles that the device held the Adaptoid, who is now on the loose, meaning A.I.M. may yet prevail.
Back at Avengers Mansion, “Jarvis” lays Captain America on his bed, then checks on the knocked-out real Jarvis. The Adaptoid reverts to its default form, a faceless, featureless figure. (Think of the liquid metal Terminator before it assumed anyone else’s form.)
Next the Adaptoid fires a scanning ray from its head, a ray which roams and analyzes Cap’s entire body, following which the Adaptoid becomes a duplicate of Captain America with all of his abilities. The villainous being takes Cap’s shield and walks off to start the rest of his “mission.”
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #83 (November 1966)
Title: Enter … The Tumbler
Villains: The Adaptoid and the Tumbler
Synopsis: The Adaptoid, in his Captain America form, has the run of Avengers Mansion now, while the real Cap and the butler Jarvis lie bound and knocked-out upstairs. In one of those highly unlikely comic book coincidences, before the Adaptoid can put in motion his mysterious “mission,” a costumed supervillain calling himself the Tumbler breaks in to the Mansion and mistakes the android for the real C.A., whom he wants to kill.
The Tumbler is extraordinarily agile and strong and the Adaptoid-Cap welcomes the opportunity to improve his programming and skills by trying out his Cap body in battle with this new villain. While the two fight their way around the mansion wreaking havoc in each room as they go, the Tumbler reveals his origin in a piecemeal Villain Rant.
This villain is really John Robert Keane, a psychotic loser like Travis Bickle or other such figures. He got it into his head that he would become a big man if he could kill a famous hero like Captain America. With a madman’s obsessiveness he trained with acrobats, jugglers and weightlifters until he felt he was good enough to knock off Cap, sort of like a young gunslinger thinking they can make a name for himself by blowing away a high-profile gunman.
As a sign of how unhinged he is – or how badly written he is – the Tumbler actually thinks that if he kills Captain America he’ll be offered the leadership of organized crime. As the battle continues, the Adaptoid-Cap realizes that though it can duplicate Captain America’s body and abilities he lacks the experience and instinctive battle savvy of the original.
As the android lets slip that it is not the real Captain America but an entity called the Adaptoid, the Tumbler defeats it. The real Cap arrives, having freed himself from his bonds upstairs. He heard the Adaptoid confess to its identity and now takes on the Tumbler, winning out and calling the police to come and take him away.
Captain America next frees Jarvis and the two bind the Adaptoid in one of the labs in Avengers Mansion. Cap summons his fellow Avengers, little realizing that is exactly what the Adaptoid wants. It plans to duplicate the powers of ALL the Avengers and become presumably unstoppable.
NOTE: The Tumbler would return to plague Cap in the future until he was murdered by the supervillain called Moonstone in 1974. Years later Keane’s brother would become the new Tumbler and set out to destroy Cap.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #84 (December 1966)
Title: The Super-Adaptoid
Villain: The Super-Adaptoid
Synopsis: We pick up an unknown amount of time after the end of the previous issue. The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are on leave in their home nation of Transia, but Hawkeye, the Wasp and Goliath have come in response to Captain America’s summons.
While they all observe the bound and featureless form of the seemingly unconscious Adaptoid, Cap briefs the other Avengers on what happened earlier. He also states that while waiting for them to arrive he consulted with S.H.I.E.L.D. and was told about the Adaptoid that the captured Count Royale babbled about.
After a lengthy discussion speculating on the nature of the Adaptoid and why A.I.M. created it, Goliath aka Hank Pym, Phd, promises to give the android a thorough examination. First, however, he and the Wasp have to handle another urgent National Defense situation, so they depart for now. Hawkeye leaves for a date with the Black Widow, while the lone Cap remains at the mansion.
Presently Captain America goes to hang out in the courtyard terrace of Avengers Mansion. The Adaptoid reflects to itself that the Avengers did not realize that its sensors were scanning the heroes while they stood around it and it now has all their powers, too.
Using Goliath’s strength, the android – now calling itself the Super-Adaptoid – frees itself from the lab table restraints. It stands there and transforms into its composite Avengers form. It can grow to giant size like Goliath, has wings like the Wasp and can shoot bio-electrical “stings” like she does. The Super-Adaptoid also has a blank shield (similar to Cap’s) plus a bow and high-tech gimmick arrows (like Hawkeye), all of which change size with it as it changes size.
NOTE: The explanation often given for the Super-Adaptoid’s seemingly impossible abilities is that A.I.M. created it by using the Cosmic Cube/ Tesseract to empower it before the Red Skull stole that item. They combined those powers of the android with one of the artificial brains they created, like the one for the Humanoid who attacked Cap and Nick Fury awhile back.
The Super-Adaptoid takes on Captain America now in a running battle which ranges from Avengers Mansion throughout New York City, until it defeats Cap. Believing him to be dead, the Super-Adaptoid drops our hero in the East River. It now awaits further remote orders from its A.I.M. masters but none are forthcoming since they’ve all been killed or arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D.
The Super-Adaptoid resolves to meditate and form its own new objectives, and flies off to go into hiding while it does so. Down below, Cap emerges from the water, alive after all, but exhausted.
NOTE: The Super-Adaptoid would soon return to take on the entire Avengers team and became one of their regular foes over the years, adapting the powers of whatever roster of Avengers it went up against. The villain even clashed with the X-Men at one point.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #85 (January 1967)
Title: The Blitzkrieg of Batroc
Villains: Batroc and Hydra
Synopsis: Batroc the Leaper forms a temporary alliance with Hydra. He captures Agent 13/ Sharon Carter for them to lure Captain America to a vacant former hospital. Batroc wants to fight Cap alone to kill him for revenge following their previous battle. Hydra agreed but has several of its armed and uniformed men in the vacant hospital as well in case Batroc loses and to guard the bound Agent 13.
As ordered (if he ever wanted to see Agent 13 alive again) Cap comes alone to the hospital without telling anyone where he was going. Once inside he is attacked by Batroc and they engage in another lengthy and destructive battle throughout the place.
Eventually the Hydra soldiers lose patience and try to kill Cap in an ambush. Batroc, having a certain sense of honor, saves Cap from that ambush because he wanted to defeat him in a fair fight. The Hydra men are defeated by Cap and Batroc but the ones that escape boast that they will kill Agent 13.
Working together, Captain America and Batroc catch up with the Hydra men and defeat all of them. With his plans for a fair fight ruined, Batroc departs, assuring Cap they will meet again. Cap frees Agent 13/Sharon Carter and they embrace while she thinks to herself that she can’t really be angry with Batroc since his antics reunited her with Captain America.
*** AND THAT’S TWENTY STORIES! AS ALL CAPTAIN AMERICA FANS KNOW CAP BECAME CAUGHT UP IN A ROMANTIC TRIANGLE INVOLVING SHARON AND HER OLDER “SISTER” PEGGY CARTER ONCE THE MISSING PEGGY WAS FREED FROM CAP’S RECURRING FOE DOCTOR FAUSTUS. ULTIMATELY SHARON WON OUT, GIVING CAP ANOTHER THING TO FEEL GUILTY ABOUT.
FOR THE HARVEY COMICS SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR THE FOX FEATURES SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR THE PRIZE COMICS SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
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FOR THE DELL SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR THE AUSTRALIAN SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR MORE SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE: Superheroes
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