With Independence Day coming up in the U.S., I thought I’d do something of a patriotic nature. I figured a quick look at the (super)heroes in the Marvel and DC Universes — btw, aren’t they really Multiverses? — who are patriotically themed might be fun. Of course, I’m talking specifically of American patriotism (duh!), so maybe I should call them “America-themed”? While some characters (e.g., Nick Fury, Sgt. Rock) are arguably very patriotic American citizens, I am only looking at those whose costume designs and/or names have a distinctly American theme. As it turns out, there are more than I originally thought, and I really don’t have time to do an exhaustive list. So, I’ll just cover the “biggest” ones. In fact, I had to limit myself to just Marvel. I’ll do DC’s America-themed heroes some other time. Deal?
First appearance: Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941)
Civilian identity: primarily Steve Rogers, though other men have taken over as Captain America for periods of time
Comment: How could I not start with THE American superhero icon? (Superman may have started fighting for “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” a couple years earlier, but his color-scheme was all wrong.) Cap couldn’t fly or bench-press a Buick — at least, not the original, not normally –, but he was an Olympic-level athlete in peak human condition, master tactician, martial artist, and could fling that shield of his around with expert accuracy! Add to that Cap’s outspoken love for America and its ideals, personal modesty, inspiring leadership ability, and respect for his fellow-soldiers (and everyday citizens, for that matter), and he became a hero to many a young lad over the decades, including me.
(The) Spirit of ’76
First appearance: The Invaders #14 (March 1977)
Civilian identity: William Naslund
Comment: Naslund was an athletic (but non-powered) young man who was inspired by Captain America, became a superb hand-to-hand combatant, and designed & wore a bulletproof/flameproof cloak made of an unknown material, which he wore while fighting crime. The costume was (obviously?) made to look as if it was from the Revolutionary War era. Naslund fought for a time alongside a group called the Crusaders. After they disbanded and Captain America went MIA, President Truman recruited Naslund to take over as Cap. He died a hero in 1946, while warning his fellows in the All-Winners Squad of an enemy plot to assassinate young JFK.
There have been a couple significant players calling themselves “Patriot”….
First appearance: The Human Torch #4 (Spring 1941; numbered #3 on cover)
Civilian identity: Jeffery Mace
Comment: Like Naslund, Mace was also inspired by Captain America to become a costumed crimefighter and later co-founded the Liberty Legion. He continued to fight crime as the Patriot after WWII ended, and he became the third man to wear the Captain America costume after Naslund’s death. (Well, technically, it was a different costume, since Rogers was still wearing what was left of the original while frozen in a block of ice.) Mace retired from crimefighting in 1949, got married, and led a long life until succumbing to cancer.
First appearance: Young Avengers #1 (April 2005)
Civilian identity: Eli Bradley
Comment: Bradley’s grandfather Isaiah was a test-subject in an early attempt to recreate the Super Soldier serum that transformed Steve Rogers. Bradley joined a group of superpowered and exceptionally skilled teens to form the “Young Avengers”. Bradley has gone through some difficult times and dealt with heavy issues, but he has proven himself a skilled leader and selfless hero.
First appearance: (historical): Marvel Mystery Comics #49 (Nov. 1943); (modern): Giant-Size Avengers #1 (Aug. 1974)
Civilian identity: Madeline Joyce Frank
Comment: Here we have another Golden Age character and one of a rash of female superheroes that followed Wonder Woman’s debut in late 1941. Madeline Joyce was a teenager from a wealthy family, who gained superpowers when re-creating a scientific experiment. She became a costumed adventurer, joined the All-Winners Squad, and eventually married her teammate, Robert Frank (aka the Whizzer). She died while giving birth to their 2nd child (a stillbirth). A retcon in the 70s placed Miss America (and the Whizzer) in the WWII team called the Liberty Legion. I first encountered the character in an issue of “Marvel Two-in-One” that had the Thing travel back in time to work with the Liberty Legion. Those were the days! Sigh…
First appearance: Captain America #323 (November 1986)
Civilian identity: John F. Walker
Comment: Walker was a U.S. soldier given superhuman abilities by the shady Power Broker. Originally a supervillain (of sorts) named Super-Patriot, Walker was created by writer Mark Gruenwald as the “anti-Steve Rogers”. He then returned and was installed as the new Captain America, while Steve Rogers was “on the outs” with the current administration. In the months he served as Cap, some of Walker’s rough edges were smoothed and he became more of a “good guy” and hero. When Rogers resumed the role, Walker got a new costume and the handle “U.S. Agent”. At first, U.S. Agent worked for the Commission on Superhuman Activities as their inside man in the West Coast Avengers. But, he eventually rejected their control and became a respected member of the Avengers and the greater superhero/adventurer community.
First appearance: A-Next #4 (1999)
Civilian identity: Shannon Carter
Comment: Carter appears in a series of comics under the “MC2” banner, which takes place in one possible future (roughly 20 years forward, I think) of the primary Marvel Universe. As the teenage niece of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter, she idolized Captain America. She trained to be a skilled martial artist and Olympic level athlete, fashioned a costume inspired by Cap, and formed a group of aspiring teenage heroes called the “Dream Team”. They all were soon recruited into the newly-reformed Avengers (aka A-Next), and Carter has proven to be a real hero and skilled leader, as well.
Defender (Private Don Stevens) – Timely Comics
Rusty (Defender’s Sidekick) – Timely Comics
(The) Yankee Clipper
Happy Independence Day!!