THE ORIGIN OF THE RED SKULL
(Captain America #298-300, 1984)
A hero is only as good as his nemesis is bad, and in The Red Skull, Captain America definitely has one of the worst. The Red Skull is a sadistic mastermind and cold-blooded killer who will be played by Hugo Weaving in the Captain America movie. Red Skull exemplifies all the worst qualities of Nazi Germany during World War II - in essence, the villain is the opposing symbol of hate and oppression to Captain America's representation of hope and freedom.
In Captain America #298, the origins of Red Skull are explored in depth, explaining the effect that Johann Schmidt’s cruel and impoverished upbringing played in turning him into a sociopath and murderer. Far from painting him in a sympathetic light, however, the comic shows that The Red Skull takes pleasure in inflicting injustice and, thus, serves as the perfect foil for the righteous Captain America.
By reading these three comics, Chris Evans will gain a better understanding of the kind of evil that Captain America was created to defeat. It also will give Evans an opportunity to see how far Captain America will go in dispensing justice when he is pushed. Case in point: in issue #300, Captain America, believing his friends to be poisoned, tells The Red Skull, “I see now the only way I'm ever going to be free of you is to see you dead!” Truly Badass.
CAPTAIN AMERICA NO MORE
(Captain America #332-350, 1987)
While Captain America is undoubtedly one of Marvel’s most fiercely patriotic characters, that doesn’t exclude him from having problems with the government. In the "Captain America No More" story arc, written by long-time Captain America writer Mark Gruenwald, Steve Rogers is given an ultimatum by the Commission on Superhuman Activities to either work exclusively and officially for the government, or turn in his costume.
Deciding that to obey their wishes would compromise his integrity, Cap resigns his post and, for a brief period, fights crime under the alias of "The Captain" while the commission seeks to find his replacement. In issue #350 Steve Rogers would retake the mantle of Captain America, defeating (who else?) The Red Skull.
While it is unlikely that any story like this will come up in the Captain America movie - or any of the other Marvel movies Evans is contracted to appear in - there is still a lot of strong character development in these issues.
In Iron Man 2, we know that Tony Stark must decide how much control, if any, he will give the government over his Iron Man technology. By reading "Captain America No More", Evans can ask a similar question of his character. In addition to helping him find the limit of Captain America’s allegiance to the government, it would also help Evans identify with some of the choices that Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man must make, which could only help improve the chemistry between the two characters in The Avengers movie.
CAPTAIN AMERICA JOINS THE AVENGERS
(The Ultimates Vol. 1, 2002)
Though Captain America on his own is awesome, I think we can all agree that he’s at his best as the leader of The Avengers. As such, I would be remiss not to include the story of how Captain America joined up with the super group in the first place.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why did you choose The Ultimates instead of the classic Avengers #4?” For one thing, because the Marvel universe as it exists on film owes more to the Ultimate universe than the traditional Marvel canon. Beyond that, it’s just a tremendously well-written series.
Besides giving us Mark Millar’s trademark pithy dialogue, along with beautiful artwork from Brian Hitch, The Ultimates tackles a very important aspect of Cap's character: It takes a good hard look at what it would be like for a man from the 1940s to suddenly wake up in a world completely unfamiliar to him.
Moving forward from Captain America to The Avengers, it will be important that this theme of time-displacement is explored. How Chris Evans decides to play Cap in his own film will be an important part of how he plays him in The Avengers movie. That’s why I think - at the risk of getting ahead of himself - Chris Evans should use some of his downtime on set to check out The Ultimates.
What do you think of my five choices? Are there any other Captain America stories you think Chris Evans needs to read?
The First Avenger: Captain America will be in theaters on July 22, 2011.
Source: Marvel Wikia
Header Image source: adonihs