Sunday, August 24, 2014


Collects Captain America Comics Nos. 21-24 (cover dates December, 1942- March, 1943)
Writers: Stan Lee and other, unidentified writers
Artists: Syd Shores, Vince Alascia, George Klein, Mike Sekowsky, Pierce Rice, Don Rico, Ed Winiarski, Ernie Hart, Harry Fisk, Edd Ashe, Al Avison, Al Gabriele, Bob Oksner, Guy Blythe, and other unidentified art assitants.

Golden Age comic books are fascinating to me. As stated in this book's introduction, creators were being drafted or were volunteering for the armed forces during this time, so multiple art assistants handled these strips assembly line style. Syd Shores keeps things tight and provides a consistent appearance throughout in spite of this. While the artwork isn't quite as good as the team of Simon and Kirby it has grown on me over the course of the post-S and K volumes. 
Golden Age comics were 52 page anthology series. Captain America was the headliner and got two or three stories per issue, with a Human Torch back-up story and recurring back-up strips The Secret Stamp and Dippy Diplomat as well as a two page text story. Those were included due to some ludicrous Post Office regulation from the late 19th century which stated that a periodical must have at least two pages of text to qualify for a specific mailing rate.

While the Nazis remain Captain America's foes, they are not his only foes this time out. Unlike the stories in Volume 5, Cap is back home fighting Fifth Columnists and the like. His enemies are mostly macabre-tinged, such as The Creeper, The Sorcerer, Satan (yes, the “real” Satan), Dr. Eternity, The Reaper, Count Varnis The Vampire, and some not-so-macabre villains, like The Turtle-Man, The Eel, Izan, and Prince Ba'Rahm, an “Oriental Mystic” who appears to be Arabic. I am sure that it was all Greek to rural folks in the 1940s.

I love Carl Burgo's work on the Human Torch. Every one who handled him after Burgos enlisted seemed to miss the point about this character. He was a fricking android and yet he is always portrayed as being knocked out by gas, so on and so forth. It is annoying and silly and the character has worn thin over the course of these Golden Age Masterworks.
Dippy Diplomat is a highly stylized strip with gags that are sometimes amusing but are often groan inducing. Comics were typically aimed at children but there was a large adult audience as well, particularly soldiers. Some of the gags in this strip were aimed squarely at adults. It is a pleasant enough read but could never carry a collection of it's own, which is why I am glad that Marvel takes the completist route for these anthology titles. Imagine how many gems are buried in those early issues of Action Comics and Detective Comics that we will never see.

The Secret Stamp, on the other hand, is geared for the kiddies. Roddy Colt is a newspaper boy who sells War Bonds while peddling newspapers. It is one of those quaint reads that is more of a historical curiosity than it is a compelling read.

Like all Golden Age comics, there is a sort of almost casual racism throughout. While modern politically correct comic fans are uber-sensitive and would likely get their panties in a bunch while reading this, I can accept what the mores of society were during this time. Your mileage may vary, depending on how much soy is in your diet.
 Marvel seems to have mothballed Golden Age reprints, since not one collection of material was or is scheduled to be released this year. Contrary to what the Disney conspiracy theorists think, I believe that this has less to do with political correctness at the corporate level and more to do with lack of enthusiasm on the consumer end. I know that I did my part and bought them all. I hope that we see more of these someday but I won't be holding my breath.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Marvel Masterworks are my poison of choice. For Masterworks of this book's vintage, rest assured that this is the definitive Blu-Ray edition of this material.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Introduction by Will Murray. (5 pages)
Cover to the squarebound 1942 all-reprint Canadian Captain America “Annual”. (1 page)
Linework and color restoration: 5 out of 5. Think of the post-2007 Masterworks as definitive Blu-Ray editions, with painstakingly restored linework and a color palette that is 100% faithful to the source material.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Thick coated semi-glossy stock that has that sweet, sweet smell that all Chinese manufactured books have. I theorize that this delectable aroma is caused by the toxic stew of broken asbestos tiles, lead paint chips, heavy metal industrial waste, and mercury from recalled thermometers combined with the blood, sweat, and tears of the Chinese children working the sweatshop printing presses. The frosting on this delicious cake scent is the paper which is likely sourced from virgin Amazon rainforests.
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Rounded book casing and Smyth sewn binding (six stitches per signature) allow this book to lay completely flat in one hand as Godzilla intended.

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