It’s been just over a week since Marvel announced that Chris Evans would play Captain America, and fanboys around the world have more or less embraced the decision. In fact, they’ve already begun making their own Captain America posters.
While others have jumped on the Evans bandwagon, I have been more hesitant. Although I don’t think Evans is bad for the role (he certainly makes for a more believable Cap than some of the other rumored candidates), I’m unsure if he has the gravitas necessary to lead a team as important to the Marvel universe as The Avengers. I mean, can you honestly say that you see Chris Evans leading Robert Downey Jr. into battle?
Now before I get angry fanboy letters, I should say that I still think Evans has the potential to be a great Captain America. The key to his success, however, depends on one thing: research. If Evans takes the time to properly research who Captain America is as a character and what role he plays in the Marvel universe, he’ll be in a stronger position to knock this role out of the park.
Of course, with more than 70 years of source material to sort through, finding the best Captain America stories to research is no easy task. That’s why I, being the nice guy that I am, decided to do Evans’ legwork for him. So, without further ado, I present “The Top Five Captain America Stories Chris Evans NEEDS to Read.”
CAPTAIN AMERICA'S ORIGINS
(Captain America Comics #1, 1941)
While the cover of Captain America’s first comic is misleading (Cap wouldn’t go face-to-face with Hitler until Captain America Comics #2), it clearly demonstrates what Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were thinking when they created the character. A product of World War II, Captain America was conceived from the beginning as a response to the evils of Nazi Germany. In essence Cap was, and remains, a patriotic hero that represents the greatest ideals of American society.
In the character’s first appearance, we learn how Steve Rogers is transformed from a frail young man incapable of serving his country into the powerful Captain America, thanks to the U.S. government’s “Super-Solider” formula. Although this story is familiar by now, looking back on the first issue of Captain America almost 70 years after it was published provides a new perspective on the character's origins.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that American patriotism is not as strong in the 21st century as it was in the early 1940s. By reading Captain America Comics #1 and imagining what the world was like at the time of its publication, Evans will better understand the kind of man Steve Rogers is - i.e., a guy who would do ANYTHING to serve his country, even subject himself to an unknown, potentially dangerous experiment.
CAPTAIN AMERICA'S EXPLOITS DURING WWII
(Tales of Suspense #63-71, 1965)
Considering that the events of The First Avenger: Captain America are going to take place primarily during World War II, it would make sense for Chris Evans to brush up on some of the Captain’s wartime battles. Beginning with Marvel’s Tales of Suspense #63, a retelling of Captain America’s origins, this run of Marvel comics during the mid 1960s showcases Captain America and his sidekick Bucky Barnes in a series of flashbacks, as they fight Nazis and trade blows multiple times with their archenemy, The Red Skull.
While the stories in Tales of Suspense #63-71, which were primarily written by the legendary Stan Lee, are often criticized for being boring, I still think there is value in reading them. Why? Well, for one thing, they are comprised almost entirely of action scenes. Granted, the action scenes are repetitive, but they are action scenes nonetheless. If Chris Evans wants to find a comic where 90% of the pages are Cap wailing on Nazi soldiers, this would be a good place to start.
Additionally (in my opinion at least), there is a certain endearing quality to the melodramatic writing that runs through these nine issues. It may not be the “gritty” superhero that modern audiences have come to expect, but it’s good material for Evans to look into if he wants to see how the “good old-fashioned” Captain America took care of business.