The Origin of Captain America! (As told for the first time since 1941.)
You would expect an origin of Captain America to focus on his virtues, but there is less of that here than you would think (or that I would like). For instance, we see Steve for the first time as he enters the lab, and it is implied at first that he was chosen merely because of his body chemistry.
Only in the next panels do we learn of young Steve’s exemplary character, specifically his courage and intelligence.
To be fair, he’s also risking death for his country if the experiment should succeed!
And succeed it does! (Note that the super-soldier serum is not referred to by that name, nor are there any Vita-Rays in the procedure at this point—those were added in the next retelling of the origin in Captain America #109.)
As we know, the Nazi shoots Dr. Erskine and the formula dies with him. Steve attacks the killer and quickly dispatches him, declaring his intention to fight on behalf of… all the super-soldiers who could have been? (And the American people too, I’m sure.)
By the next page we see Cap in costume in a glorious Kirby page full of equally glorious exposition, laying out his courage, skill, and love of freedom.
Note that it neglects to mention any enhanced strength and speed, making clear that he is “armed with naught” but his courage and skill. As is typical of superheroes, descriptions and depictions of Cap’s physical abilities (and attributes, for that matter) vary over time, but he has often been shown to be significantly stronger and faster than even the most athletic person without the serum or rays. Here, though, these are not even mentioned, which is consistent with other comics of the time describing him as having no superpowers (such as the thieves in Tales of Suspense #59).
Next we see Private Rogers at Fort Lehigh in a scene straight out of Buck Privates, with Steve playing the bumbling fool, just like a certain mild-mannered reporter we all know.
The young chap is none other than James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, mascot of Fort Lehigh, who soon bumbles himself… into his future. (“No choice” indeed, Cap.)
I love how Cap thinks it’s important to keep his identity secret, but keeps Bucky’s name the same when they’re in costume! (“No one cares who you are, kid.”)
After completing their first mission at a team, Cap lets Bucky know how proud he is—something a certain caped crusader could stand to do with his sidekicks more often.
As this blurb reads, the next eight issues of Tales of Suspense (which I discuss together) will take place during WWII, with the first two retelling stories from Captain America Comics #1 (as did this one, of course).
Tales of Suspense (vol. 1) #63, March 1965: “The Origin of Captain America!” Stan Lee and Jacky Kirby (words, plot, and pencils), Frank Giacoia (inks), ??? (colors), Artie Simek (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Tales of Suspense #62 (February 1965)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Avengers #14 (March 1965)
NEXT ISSUES: Tales of Suspense #64-71 (April-November 1965)