CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON: 1970s CLASSICS 3 – SOLARR AND DOCTOR FAUSTUS

For Part One of this series click HERE.

ca f 160CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #160 (April 1973)

Title: Enter: Solarr (The internal titles often differed from Marvel Comics’ titles on the cover.)

Villain: Solarr

Synopsis: We pick up an unknown number of nights after our previous installment. Captain America and the Falcon are still mopping up the scattered leftover criminals from the Cowled Commander’s organization called Crime Wave.

This is the final group of several masked men armed with machine guns and bazookas who were trying to pull off a robbery. The crooks remark out loud about how much stronger Cap is now, giving him and the Falcon the opportunity to explain to them (and to readers who missed the past few issues) how he now has Spider-Man level strength. It’s thanks to the way the Viper’s custom venom interacted with the super-soldier serum in his metabolism.

NOTE: This much higher level of super strength for Cap will last until Captain America & The Falcon #218 (February 1978).

After Cap and Falc defeat all but two of the masked men, that final duo try to escape by driving off in their gang’s armored vehicle. Our hero’s new strength makes him able to stop the vehicle, tear off the thick steel door and then easily knock out the final two Crime Wave operatives.

Noting how jubilant Cap still is about his increased strength, the Falcon points out how inadequate he now feels in his partnership with our main character. He’s grateful for the way Cap trained him and made him the Falcon in the first place but he doesn’t like the new imbalance in their crime fighting relationship.

NOTE: These feelings are what will soon drive the Falcon to ask the Black Panther to use Wakandan technology to give him his wings, thus granting him the power of flight, an upgrade that will make him feel equal to Cap once more.

falc leila rafeBack to the story, the Falcon swings off in a huff with his falcon Redwing flying along with him. Falc’s mood is not improved when, from a rooftop in Harlem, he sees his sometime girlfriend Leila Taylor once again arm in arm with Rafe Michel while they hang out with Rafe’s Silver Skulls gang.

Our hero lets his anger get the better of him. He swings down to the group and boldly invites Leila to dump Rafe right now and come with him. Falcon and Rafe exchange their usual insults, with Michel calling our hero a “honky-loving Uncle Tom” and Falc pointing out to Rafe that the bigotry of him and his gang is as bad as any other brand of racism. 

Leila is delighted to go off with the Falcon, since she has always preferred his more assertive nature to that of social worker Sam Wilson, whom she does not suspect is really the Falcon. After Falc and Leila swing off together, Rafe rallies his men and vows to make our hero pay for this.

Elsewhere, Falcon and Leila pass the rest of the night, with him confiding in her about how inadequate he feels now that Captain America has his new level of strength. (He does NOT yet tell her his secret identity, though.) As usual Leila encourages Falc to ditch Cap and work solo.

The next morning the brand-new supervillain calling himself Solarr strides into the business center of New York City. Using his solar powers he melts metal and shoots hot energy blasts from his hands, blasts that cut through walls and fry security guards & cops alive.

After stealing all the loot he can in a briefcase, Solarr walks back out onto the crowded streets. As he makes his way through the panicked mob, blasting to death anyone who doesn’t get out of his way quickly enough, he does a Villain Rant announcing how his mutant powers manifested themselves recently when he was lost in the Nevada desert.

Captain America arrives to stop Solarr’s deadly spree and the two fight it out. It turns out that in addition to his solar energy powers, Solarr also absorbs enough power from sunlight that his strength is on a level with Cap’s.

As the battle goes on and on, Sam Wilson hears about it on the news. He dons his Falcon costume and swings off to help his partner Cap. When he and Redwing arrive at the police barricades around the ongoing fight, the spectators cheer on Cap and tell Falcon he can sit this one out since Cap is countering everything Solarr does.

As the witnesses all discuss Cap’s new strength, the Falcon looks on, feeling conflicted. At length, Captain America defeats Solarr and turns him over to the cops. Seeing that Cap is okay, Falc swings off to resume pondering his options. Cap sees him and takes to the rooftops to try following him to see if he is still upset over his new power.

His pursuit of the Falcon takes him past the apartment building where Cap lives with Sharon Carter (Agent 13). The pair have been quarreling because of the way he had her stay behind when he and Falcon were fighting the Cowled Commander, Viper, Porcupine, the Eel, Plantman and Scarecrow. 

Cap is torn, but figures Falcon is the more immediate concern and continues going after him. Little does Cap know that Sharon is inside packing her bags to leave him. After all, at Cap’s request she agreed to step down to a desk job with S.H.I.E.L.D. instead of continuing as a field agent. She is angry that he shut her out of the action even when the whole city was threatened.

As Sharon walks off with her luggage, the cliffhanger ending shows us that she has left Steve Rogers (Captain America) a note telling him she has left him and asking him not to come after her.

NOTE: After this story, Solarr forms a long-lasting partnership with the supervillain Ulysses Klaw.

ca f 161CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #161 (May 1973)

Title: If He Loseth His Soul

Villain: Doctor Faustus

Synopsis: We pick up after Captain America has spent the entire rest of the day and all night scouring the city for the Falcon. Now it is sunrise again and Falc still hasn’t even shown up at the office of his secret identity, social worker Sam Wilson.

Cap reflects on how he can understand how Falcon or any other man would feel about their new situation. Giving up the search for now, he heads to his and Sharon Carter’s apartment and at last discovers the note she left.

Devastated, Steve wonders if Sharon has gone back into the field as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to teach him a lesson. He makes his way to the seeming barber shop which is secretly the entrance to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s underground installation.

Cap meets with Nick Fury, their first encounter since they patched things up following the way Contessa Valeria pretended to be dumping Nick for Cap. (She did that to show Nick how it felt when he temporarily left her for Laura Brown. Jeez, these people!) 

Nick informs our hero that Sharon has quit even her desk job at S.H.I.E.L.D. and did not provide any information on her new whereabouts. Before Cap leaves, Nick lets him pick up his old motorcycle from the motor pool.

Cap rides the motorcycle over to Harlem, where he finds the Falcon in combat with Rafe Michel and all of his Silver Skull gang. As Cap and Leila Taylor look on, Falc totals all of the gang, including Rafe himself.

Leila and Cap congratulate Falcon on his huge victory. Cap and Falc reconcile and agree to continue being partners. Leila decides that she is attracted enough to Falcon to stay with him even though she still thinks he should ditch Cap.

As Captain America and the Falcon spend the next few days searching for Sharon, we cut to her location. She is in Lost Souls Asylum, a Connecticut mental hospital, and her mother & father are there visiting her.

Though the staff tries to convince her she was in a car accident and has been having a mental breakdown since then, Sharon soon suspects that she and her parents are really being held prisoner at Lost Souls Asylum. Mr and Mrs Carter also tell Sharon that this is the same mental hospital where a mysterious “she” is being taken care of.

doctor faustusWe readers are shown that Lost Souls is secretly run by Captain America’s old foe Doctor Faustus, whose real name is Johann Fenhoff, an East German psychiatrist and operative for Communist Intelligence. He is in a plush office with a seated, mysterious older woman dressed in black, including a veil.

Doctor Faustus does a Villain Rant to this woman, who is the “she” that the Carters were referring to. The villain states that after his previous defeat at Cap’s hands he is still continuing his mission to use psychological warfare to destroy our hero. He feels that all the threads are coming together and he will soon complete his plans.

Elsewhere, Cap and Falc, each riding motorcycles, are on their way to Derby, CT, where their sleuthing has shown them that Sharon Carter was headed in a rental car from a New York City agency. The trail eventually leads them to Lost Souls Asylum, where the two heroes are ambushed by armed thugs working for Doctor Faustus.

While Cap and Falc battle the goons, the still-suspicious Sharon Carter slips out of her room and begins nosing around the mental hospital. She spots the woman in black, who is in a barred cell for some reason, even though, as Sharon reflects “she’s never been violent.”

Next, Sharon spots Doctor Faustus and realizes the danger she and her parents are in. Faustus, smarter than most comic book villains, has cameras trained on every room in his lair, and has traced Sharon to her current location. He and one of his subordinate doctors sedate Sharon, sending her into unconsciousness.         

When Sharon comes to, she finds herself in Doctor Faustus’ Psycho Pit far beneath Lost Souls Asylum. She is in the company of Captain America and the Falcon, whom Faustus’ goons maneuvered into the Psycho Pit. She informs them that Doctor Faustus is behind it all. 

This Psycho Pit is a vast, booby-trap filled labyrinth. It’s a figurative Rat Maze loaded with every inhuman means of psychological torture that the doctor could conceive of. This first room of the pit seems to be a bombed-out city during World War Two and our three heroes are attacked by armed soldiers in Nazi uniforms.

From his office, Doctor Faustus and the veiled woman watch the action on a viewscreen as the villain assures her that at long last Captain America is doomed.

ca f 162CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #162 (June 1973)

Title: This Way Lies Madness

Villain: Doctor Faustus

Synopsis: Captain America, Falcon and Sharon Carter continue fighting the various dangers of the Psycho Pit, which is sort of like Arcade’s Murderworld but in this case filled with troops, high-tech traps and holographic illusions designed to drive Cap insane.

From nearby, the veiled woman alongside Doctor Faustus screams, and he soothingly assures her that the deadly psycho-drama they are watching unfold has at last broken through the hysterical amnesia she has been suffering for a very long time. He has succeeded where all her previous doctors failed.

Back in the Psycho Pit, Cap, Falc and Sharon have moved on to the next level, where they face bizarrely mutated monsters. (After Sharon and Steve kissed and made up with each other while fighting the fake World War Two actors.)

Meanwhile, the veiled woman tells the reassuring Doctor Faustus what she is able to remember. Late in World War Two she was in a town being bombed and amid the injuries and emotional suffering she developed hysterical amnesia.

She was hospitalized in Belgium, where her family found her and brought her to the U.S. and had been seeking psychiatric cures for her ever since. Doctor Faustus encourages her to wrack her mind for everything that she can now recall about Captain America so he can use it as he oversees events in the Psycho Pit.

Back in that pit, our heroes realize the mutated creatures are mere illusions, then go on to the next level to face a Faustus goon posing as the Red Skull. After surviving that ordeal they go up against combined illusory, robotic and human imposters of Cap foes like Agent Axis, Baron Zemo and M.O.D.O.K.

At long last, Faustus plays his trump card by using multiple stimuli to force Cap to relive Bucky’s death in 1945.

NOTE: It was Marvel canon that Bucky was dead until decades later when it was retconned that he had survived as the Winter Soldier.

Faustus has pushed our hero to the verge of mental collapse by hammering Cap’s guilt over Bucky’s death, amplified by sadistically programming pleas from the young man for Cap to save him. Neither Sharon nor the Falcon can snap Cap out of it.

The Falcon decides to take the initiative to save them all. Though Cap is able to be emotionally and mentally crippled by Bucky imagery, Falc has no personal baggage where Bucky is concerned. He overcomes Faustus’ traps and thugs and dispels all of the implements of Bucky psycho-warfare.

Cap recovers and the trio burst out of the Psycho Pit and find themselves in the “normal” portion of Lost Souls Asylum. When they find and free Sharon’s parents, all three Carters decide to tell Cap the truth.

Steve’s World War Two girlfriend and secret agent Peggy Carter (Sharon’s much older sister) wasn’t killed during the war like everyone thought.

NOTE: Over the years since the 1970s, as time left the World War Two era further and further behind, Marvel retconned things so that Peggy Carter was instead referred to as Sharon’s aunt, then presumably great-aunt, and on and on. At any rate in 1973 it was still feasible that Peggy Carter was still around and in her fifties.

The Carters eventually learned that Peggy had survived and brought her to America, but she was trapped in her memory loss and trauma and had to be hospitalized. Sharon, meanwhile, had become a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and met Cap.

She first fell in love with him in his Steve Rogers identity, as I covered long ago, and though she noted Steve’s resemblance to photos of her older sister Peggy’s boyfriend during World War Two, figured it couldn’t possibly be the same guy since that man would have been as old as Peggy.

Eventually Sharon learned Cap and Steve were one and the same and that he had been frozen in suspended animation for decades and that’s why he hadn’t aged. By then she was so in love with Cap/ Steve that she didn’t want to give him up and she and her parents felt guilty but figured Peggy would never recover enough to feel hurt or jealous over Sharon and Steve’s romance.

The Carters allowed Cap to go on thinking Peggy had died after his disappearance during World War Two. (Nice bunch of people!) Recently, doctors from Lost Souls Asylum reached out to the Carters claiming they could cure Peggy. The Carters had no idea that the Lost Souls staff were all agents of Doctor Faustus and that brings us up to date.

Infuriated at his old foe and at the circumstances, our hero demands to know where Peggy is being held. Sharon gives him directions to her room and Cap goes off alone to rescue her, leaving Falcon and Sharon to protect her parents.

Cap gently talks to the veiled woman, calling her Peggy and getting her to take off the veil. She is still beautiful, but different, as anyone would be from their 20s into their 50s. (Hell, technically she might just be in her late forties in 1973).

The reunited couple are overjoyed but in tears as they talk to each other. Suddenly, Doctor Faustus and more of his armed men burst in. Cap takes out his anger and outrage on the goons, then faces the doctor. Faustus uses his new Psycho-Gun, which he was able to calibrate to Cap’s mind-waves while his instruments observed him during the battles in the Psycho Pit.

With Cap in agony from the gun, Peggy Carter rouses herself to action and knocks the gun out of Doctor Faustus’ hand. Cap knocks out the villain and calls the authorities.

EPILOGUE: With the bad guys all taken away, Cap, Falcon, Sharon, Peggy and the Carter parents have relocated to a home the Carters own in Connecticut. Amid the joy of Peggy at last being cured and reunited with them all, Cap and Sharon feel guilt over their relationship which they decide to keep from Peggy at this point until she seems stable enough to deal with it. Naturally, this odd romantic triangle will be dealt with more next time around.

I’LL BE EXAMINING OTHER CAPTAIN AMERICA CLASSICS FROM THE 1970s SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK.

FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ MANTIS/ KANG/ CELESTIAL MADONNA STORY CLICK HERE.

FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ KREE-SKRULL WAR STORY CLICK HERE.

FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s ADAM WARLOCK/ GAMORA/ THANOS/ MAGUS STORY CLICK  HERE.

FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s BLACK PANTHER VS KILLMONGER STORY CLICK HERE.   

      

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