Book Article

Black in Action

Marvel imagines darker origins for Captain America. In Marvel Comics' ''Truth'' series, the hero's origins are reimagined to reveal a black predecessor

Captain America | THESE COLORS DON'T RUN Baker's Cap on the first issue's cover
Image credit: Captain America: © Marvel Comics
THESE COLORS DON'T RUN Baker's Cap on the first issue's cover

Any self-respecting Marvel Comics fan knows the story of Captain America's origin, right? How, back in 1941, a sickly blond Army reject named Steve Rogers allowed a government scientist to inject him with a ''strange seething liquid'' that transformed him into a super-soldier; how Rogers assumed the costume and identity of Captain America, and gave Hitler's minions hell during WWII before being (literally) put on ice until his resurrection in 1963.

That's the way the tale was laid down by the renowned writer/artist team of Joe Simon and the late Jack Kirby some 61 years ago. But it turns out Simon and Kirby weren't telling us the whole story -- at least, not if you believe what you'll be reading in Marvel's new six-part series Truth, which reveals that the experimental (and potentially deadly) super-soldier serum was first tried out on African-American soldiers and that, in fact, the first Captain America was a black man. (Not to worry: The Steve Rogers Captain America is not being replaced, as original Spider-Man Peter Parker was for a few strange years in the '90s; Truth is a prequel, not a wholesale revision.)

The idea of a Cap of color first sprang up in a creative meeting presided over by Marvel editor in chief Joe Quesada. A year and a half ago, writer Robert Morales and artist Kyle Baker (DC's 2002 King David) were tapped as the creative team. Morales recalls that after being offered the assignment, ''I wrote a proposal that was so staggeringly depressing I was certain they'd turn it down. But they didn't.''

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