These three issues continue Jack Kirby’s “Madbomb” storyline that he began in issue #193 upon his return to writing and drawing the character he co-created in 1940. Just in case you didn’t read the last post on this series—and if so, why not?—Captain America and the Falcon are looking for Madbombs, devices that emit mental waves sending every person nearby into a rage, which are being used by the Elites to destroy democracy.
In issue #195, Cap and Sam lead the mindless creatures—the victims of the Elites’ vicious experiments—out of their holding pen to fight the armed forces outside. Cap makes clear to one of them what he thinks of those who aim to subordinate or enslave their fellow human beings.
After they finish with the guards, Cap and Sam head to the experimentation center, and Cap reminds his partner who the mindless creatures (“labor zombies,” to the guards) actually are.
Settle down, Cap, I don’t think Sam meant anything by it—but it’s still a nice sign of Cap’s compassion.
When Cap confronts one of the “doctors,” he gets an earful of the Elites’ attitudes and plans.
Cap and Sam show that they understand what this means all too well… and the doctor’s rephrasing doesn’t make it any better.
The woman is Cheer Chadwick, daughter of one the Elites’ leaders and a fan of their ideology who cheerfully refers to others as “inferiors,” who nonetheless takes a liking to Cap and Sam and exposes them to more of the Elites’ activity, including… well, Sam gets it.
How are they doing it? A combination of Orwell’s 1984 (after which this issue’s story is titled) and Kirby’s accurate prediction of deepfakes.
Frighteningly but predictably, the mesmerized crowd attacks the straw man (literally and figuratively) of the “freedom freak”…
…as the “leader” cheers them on.
Cap and Sam asks Cheer about the Madbomb, but are attacked by the massive and powerful Tinker-Belle, who has come to draft them into the “Kill-Derby,” which begins in issue #196. What’s the Kill-Derby, you ask? Well, Kirby tells us as only Kirby can in the double-page spread below.
After Cap and Sam succumb to the other fighters, one takes his shield, which hits Cap hard—very hard.
Cap and Sam refuse to compete any longer and instead appeal to Tinker-Belle, but to no avail. Cap becomes despondent, and it is up to Sam to remind him who they are.
Judging from below, I don’t think Cheer understands Cap or Sam at all. (One has to wonder if this was a dig at fellow comics creator Steve Ditko, an acolyte of Ayn Rand’s philosophy.)
Most of the rest of the issue is taken up with the ensuing Kill-Derby, in which we see our heroes’ teamwork and Cap’s appreciation for it.
Finally, Cap tries to reason with the contestant wielding his shield, but finds there are some people you just can’t reason with… and clearly this frustrates and saddens him.
This specific battle starts in issue #197, where Cap tries to reclaim his shield while the crowd gently requests a more dramatic ending.
Did Cap’s words actually convince his opponent? Even Cap knows this is too good to be true.
Cap’s intuition was correct, and upon examining his shield he sees remnants of explosive on it. Next, he turns his attention to the crowd and appeals to their humanity…
…but to the same effect as with his former opponent.
Soon thereafter, the U.S. Army bursts in, causing havok in the crowd before battling the Elites’ guards, who unleash a sonic cannon that Cap manages to disable, after which he reconnects with his fellow soldiers.
Unfortunately, Cheer and her father escape, and the Madbomb remains hidden … so the mission will continue in the next issue (and post).
Captain America (vol. 1) #195, March 1976: Jack Kirby (writer, pencils), D. Bruce Berry (inks), Janice Cohen (colors), Gaspar Saladino and D. Bruce Berry (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Captain America (vol. 1) #196, April 1976: Jack Kirby (writer, pencils), D. Bruce Berry (inks), Janice Cohen (colors), John Costanza and D. Bruce Berry (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Captain America (vol. 1) #197, May 1976: Jack Kirby (writer, pencils), Frank Giacoia (inks), Phil Rachelson (colors), John Costanza (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
All collected in: Captain America and the Falcon: Madbomb and Marvel Masterworks: Captain America Volume Ten
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #193-194 (January-February 1976)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Avengers #145-146 (March-April 1976), Avengers #147 (May 1976), Invaders #5-6 and Marvel Premiere #29 (March-May 1976)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #198-200 (June-August 1976)
Good observation about Jack Kirby possibly critiquing Objectivism via Cheer Chadwick’s dialogue. Kirby certainly disagreed with Rand’s philosophy. His original plot for Fantastic Four #66 (the intro of Him, later to become Adam Warlock) was a pointed critique of Ayn Rand’s philosophy…
In any case, whenever I hear some troll raging about “SJWs making comic books political” or some such nonsense, the first thing that usually comes to mind is Kirby. His work was very political. Certainly he is being extremely overt about his political views in these issues, as well as tragically prescient about the dangers this country faced.
Absolutely — couldn’t agree more!