It's generally known that, until Pearl Harbor was attacked, most people in the US favored staying out of World War II - the "America First" crowd. But what's really surprising - nearly unthinkable today - is that a lot of Americans assumed if we did enter the war, it would be on Germany's side. That certainly wasn't the opinion of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, which is why they created a hero who would fight in no uncertain terms: Captain America was introduced to the world on the cover of his very own comic, punching Hitler in the face.
On the day Steve Rogers walked into an Army recruiting office
in New York City, he was just a scrawny art student desperate for a way to serve his country. Rejected outright by the recruiter because of his physical limitations, Steve was offered a chance to take part in a top-secret program that turned him into the super soldier known as Captain America. Armed with enhanced strength, reflexes and an indestructible shield, he battles injustice, tyranny and fear wherever it is found. He is the living symbol of the American ideal, a fierce individualist who is nonetheless willing to sacrifice everything he has for the sake of the greater good.
Being so bold was not an easy choice for Simon and Kirby. They received hate mail and death threats from isolationists and Nazi sympathizers alike, for daring to show their patriotic new hero
taking a decidedly non-neutral stance. When shady-looking guys started hanging around the front of the Timely Comics building and people were afraid to go to lunch, the creators reported this to the police, who began standing guard outside and patrolling the halls. Joe Simon even got a personal call from Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, a notorious comic lover (and yes, the guy the airport's named after), promising him that the city of New York would let no harm come to them. How freaking cool is that?
The last time we got a "World War II" version of Captain America (not counting the variant ML8 Ultimate Cap), it was a repainted videogame figure with a new head. And yet fanboys complained about his inclusion in this series. This isn't an unneccesary update.
Cap stands 6¼" tall, and has lots of nice articulation. There's a balljoint at the head, shoulders, wrists, hips and ankles, swivels at the biceps, waist, thighs and boots, and hinges at the elbows, torso and knees. The thigh swivels felt stuck, but that just highlights a difference between ToyBiz's Legends and Hasbro's: for a joint like that on a ToyBiz figure, you'd have to freeze the figure, then gamble the plastic would unstick before it ripped; for ths figure, I just kept turning the joint until it started working properly.
The figure's sculpt is very good, and definitely does a better job
capturing that distinctive "Kirby style" than a lot of the First Appearance figures do. It's more than just making sure his mask leaves the back of his neck bare - the shape of his face needs to sell the idea that it's based on Kirby's art. Now, the figure doesn't exactly match the way the character looked in Captain America #1, but the big square jaw, the grimmace and prominent lower lip, and the thin nose between beady eyes all convey a certain Kirby quality that serves this figure well.
And the way you can tell this figure is based specifically on his first issue appearance? That's the only time he had this particular shield. When you think of WWII-era Cap, you think of this triangular shield, rather than his more iconic disc one. But the disc debuted in the second issue, thanks to complaints from another comic company. MLJ (now Archie Comics) had a superhero line, including a patriotic hero who debuted 14 months prior to Captain America.
This hero, The Shield, wore a costume with a distinctive flag pattern on it - a pattern which matched Cap's shield almost perfectly. MLJ complained, Timely changed the design and we've had the disc ever since. This accessory is the same as the one that came with the Patriot figure in the Young Avengers box set - just with a darker blue and the red and white stripes reversed. It's a nice piece, with a good sculpt, but the wrist clip on the back runs the wrong direction on the shield and is just a little too small to fit the figure's arm without stressing.
Watch out for the paint on this figure. Though for the most part everything is good - nice dark blues, bright reds, clean whites - the paint on the stars is unreliable. Both on his shield and on his shirt, the paint will often miss the sculpted edge.
It's easy to see through the package (except for the star on his back), so check him out before you buy. The lower edge of his mask is often skin-colored, and the area between his boots and his legs is uneven. Since the average case will have two Captains America, comparing paint shouldn't be a problem. Fortunately, his Brood Queen BAF pieces (three legs) don't have any paint problems worth mentioning.
Captain America was the subject of one of the first retcons in Marvel Comics. When he was reintroduced in Avengers #4, it was revealed that he'd been frozen in ice since the end of World War II. But that wasn't actually the case - Timely kept publishing Captain America all the way through the end of the '40s, and Atlas printed some new Cap stories starting in the early '50s. Of course, the company had changed its name a third time (to Marvel Comics) before bringing Steve Rogers into the "modern" day and sweeping the post-war appearances under the rug in 1964.