Publisher: Titan Books
Written by: Joe Simon
Illustrated by: Jack Kirby
Review by: Matt Peters
Like the excuse given for a granddad at Sunday dinner, the stories contained within the Fighting American collection are from a different time. That means it’s littered with classic story ideas and stereotypes that are sure to confuse and offend those who are unfamiliar with the entertainment of the era. Compiling the work of two comic book legends, some of these tales are finally being published for the first time ever. Do the Cold War-era adventures of America’s other patriotic superhero deserve a look?
Originally launched as a joint venture between Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, Fighting American (the character) is an obvious rip off of Captain America. The saving grace is that these two comic powerhouses actually created the Captain for Marvel (then Timely) Comics. In 1954, they bared witness to a relaunch of their creation without their involvement, and knowing they could do better, came up with Fighting American and his sidekick Speedboy.
Oddly enough, these adventures read more like Bob Burden’s Mystery Men and Flaming Carrot than Captain America. With names that seem like they were lifted from Dick Tracy’s rogues gallery, it’s hard to take villains like Poison Ivan and Hotsky Trotski seriously. Let’s not even get started on Doubleheader. It’s obvious that Simon and Kirby were having fun with this book.
Speaking of Kirby, it’s an interesting chance to see his art evolve over the years. Due to the books irregular schedule, with issues released in 1954, 1955 then 1966, Kirby’s line work shows substantial progression with every story. It’s also a testament to how much these two creators loved Captain America as, even when they couldn’t create stories for the character, they still found a way to scratch the itch.
It’s sad that Fighting American hasn’t aged well at all. For readers who grew up with books like Spawn and Savage Dragon being their first exposure to the medium, this is a difficult collection to recommend. Having a desire to read the classic adventures of a character usually involves being a fan of their modern incarnation or a poignant storyline. Unfortunately, the most recent attempt to bring the character to the limelight was mishandled by Rob Liefeld’s Awesome Entertainment. Still, the chance to see what may have been if Simon & Kirby continued with Captain America in this era is an interesting experience.
For more info, visit titanbooks.com
Pads and Panels received a copy of the book courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.