By Justin McCarty
UK publisher Titan Comics reintroduces Fighting American to the modern audience. First introduced in the mid-1950s, Fighting American was Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s version of Captain America after they sold him to Timely Comics (Marvel). There have been a couple attempts to bring back the character before, but this is a direct continuation of the stories the character was built on sixty years ago. What we end up with seems to be a comic that is as true to the creator's original vision as it possibly can be. Granted, I have not read the original series.
Fighting American is a square-jawed, virtuous and patriotic hero. He imparts corny wisdom on his sidekick about doing the right thing and standing up for American values (the only values anyone in the world is apparently allowed to have). Fighting American was a satire commenting on the nationalism and anti-communism of the ‘50s. The same attitudes that created the righteous nationalism then are back in vogue today; what better characters to study today’s polarized politics than Fighting American and his sidekick Speedboy? They certainly lack the baggage of the brand name Marvel heroes, which gives them that freedom.
Fighting American is an adventure story on its surface. The story starts with our heroes chasing highly characterized versions of commie bad guys into the twenty-first century. It seems that the bad guys have used time traveler scientist Dyle Twister’s technology to jump to the future on the instructions of a larger evildoer. Part one only introduces us to the main players, and we just get the chase. There is a twist that comes at the end and sets up the opportunity for the heroes to have to try and understand the world they have come to inhabit, especially the impressionable Speedboy if they are to stop the bad guys and their evil plan.
In its execution the book is really dynamic evoking the art of the era, staying close to feel of the original creator’s style of the time. I felt a dash of Eisner in the style of the faces particularly in the ugly bad guys, though Eisner’s influence on the art of early comics, and on Joe and Jack, goes without saying. The book uses these styles to highlight the facade of the virtuous and depraved. Every panel is packed with visual interest even when there is no action, and there is plenty of action. All of this is juxtaposed with a more modern packaging in the lettering and design, bringing the past to the present.
Fighting American may not have had a chance to become the icon Captain America was eventually to become, but Titan has an opportunity here to rectify that. There is a chance here to revisit the hokey ideals and hypocrisy of that era to comment on our current conflicted relationship with western values, wrapped in a red, white and blue adventure story. Titan Comics might have just given us a fast-paced modern classic in Fighting American.
Fighting American #1