Saturday, December 29, 2012

Retro-review: The Fighting American

The Fighting American, issues 1-4, April - November, 1954, by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby.

When Marvel (through Atlas Comics) revived Captain America in 1954, Joe Simon & Jack Kirby (who had created the hero more than a decade before) decided to try their hand at another patriotic hero, The Fighting American. This book was an early example of a creator-owned book, as they made a distribution deal with Leader News, who also distributed the controversial horror and crime books of EC Comics. 

The origin of Fighting American is similar to Captain America's, involving science-fiction science and a bizarre experiment. There is also a weird body-swapping concept that is never, ever mentioned again. The color scheme of the character is a combination of Cap and Superman, nicely combining red, white, blue, and yellow.

In both his role as The Fighting American, and in his guise as newscaster Johnny Flagg, he is able to fight communists and saboteurs on all fronts. His newscaster intern / page boy becomes his sidekick, Speedboy. Each story (or "mission," as the comic calls them) introduces an event or villain through the newscast, and then Fighting American and Speedboy proceed to bring justice to the situation.

There are some very dynamic Kirby fight scenes and poses. And the addition of yellow to the red, white, and blue color scheme adds dynamism to the character design, and the mask/helmet portion of the uniform still looks good almost six decades later. There are also clear references to Dick Tracy's rogues gallery, in such villains as Doubleheader, Square Hair Malloy, and Poison Ivan. There are various other grotesque characters, giving Kirby a chance to display his unique art style.

Issue three features an exciting fight scene staged atop the Statue of Liberty, and issue four stretched the boundaries of the character's world, sending him to both Japan and to outer space (spoiler: the latter was a dream). Whether these globe-trotting tales were intended to set the comic apart from the competition, they certainly made for interesting reads.

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