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Writer Steve Englehart talks about his ‘Captain America’ stories; CCC reviews them (interview flashback)

2014 April 9

With the release of the “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” film last week, it’s been all Star-Spangled Avenger all the time here at Cary’s Comics Craze!

So imagine my delight when I was doing an unrelated search yesterday including the name “Steve” on the NORWALK REFLECTOR website for my job as a reporter and I discovered the following gem. (I thought the Internet sucked this down into the Internet black hole, never to be seen again!) This is an email interview I did with writer Steve Englehart, which was published on the REFLECTOR website Sept. 10, 2010. Englehart not only made Captain America a relevant and intriguing character during his lengthy run on the original series, he truly established how tight Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson (aka The Falcon) are (as also seen in “Winter Soldier”). So needless to say, you fellow Capheads should really enjoy what the man himself told me about two of his most influential storylines (which includes my thoughts and notes for context intermixed with Englehart’s comments). Enjoy! …

There’s a cliche that is so true: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Just announced today (Sept. 21, 2010) is that the late Steve Rogers will be returning as Captain America. Starting July 1 (2010), writer Ed Brubaker and artist Bryan Hitch present the limited series CAPTAIN AMERICA: REBORN and will share how Brubaker planned to have the original Cap return since starting the latest volume of CAPTAIN AMERICA in 2004.

After Cap was assassinated, his former partner, James “Bucky” Barnes,” began a journey of redemption that ultimately witness him take up his mentor’s shield and alter-ego.

Go back 35 years (from 2010). Things weren’t too different.

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‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ film review

2014 April 8

“On your left.” — Steve Rogers to Sam Wilson

“Don’t trust anyone.” — Nick Fury to Rogers

Capheads, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is definitely your film. Whether you’re a cinematic Cap fan or a comic-book one, the latest installment in the massive Marvel Studios film saga is nothing less than a thrill-ride and one of the first must-see films of 2014. And like any great movie, “Winter Soldier” features fantastic character interactions propelled by equally great cast chemistry.

That chemistry literally starts and ends with Chris Evans (Steve Rogers aka Captain America) and Anthony Mackie as military veteran Sam Wilson. The first sequence and conversation between Rogers and Wilson feel quite natural. So when Cap and Black Widow (the perpetually appealing Scarlett Johansson) face an overwhelming quandary of not knowing who is their friend or foe, they naturally go to Wilson, a man who treats Rogers not as a national icon (as the public perceives him), but understands Rogers’ challenges in transitioning to a new life.

Each scene with Wilson, a former paratrooper, as Falcon is more than fun; those scenes inspired this lifelong Caphead to smile and pump his fist. Cap and Falcon’s partnership and friendship were integral to the CAPTAIN AMERICA comics in the 1970s — so much so the title changed its name to CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON for about 7 1/2 years. Writer Ed Brubaker made Falcon equally important to Cap’s supporting cast when he took over the writing duties in the early 2000s. By the very last scene in “Winter Soldier” (aptly book-ended with Rogers and Wilson), it’s nearly impossible not to want to see Evans and Mackie together onscreen as soon as possible. (That being said, I hope we’re treated to more Falcon in “The Avengers: The Age of Ultron” in May 2015 and won’t have to wait for the recently announced third “Captain America” film.)

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Talking shop: More on quality time with Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis

2014 April 7

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio — There’s one thing to meeting a celebrity. Needless to say, that’s pretty darn cool. It’s a whole other thing having unhurried time talking shop with someone whose stories I’ve enjoyed but I wouldn’t say is one of my favorite writers.

But how about getting a fist-bump from that same celebrity?

After Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis did a rare in-store signing Saturday, my respect for him went through the roof. He took several unhurried minutes with me — and I was about the fourth or fifth fan in a line that went down the far side of Comic Heaven and nearly to the door.

My intention was to have him autograph my hardcover copy of the first volume of Bendis’ AVENGERS series reboot, but much to my surprise, he engaged me in conversation. And sat back in his seat to take a long listen to what I had to say.

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Comic Heaven: Face time with writer Brian Michael Bendis

2014 April 6

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio — “Is that the ‘Hunger Games’ version of The Avengers’?”

That was the first thing long-time AVENGERS writer Brian Michael Bendis said to me during his in-store signing at Comic Heaven. This was a rare treat, especially since Bendis is a Cleveland native who lives in Oregon and doesn’t do many in-store signings. Much less make it back to Ohio.

Bendis was referring to a black T-shirt with an orange Avengers logo with flames coming off it I was wearing. Ironically, my best friend Andrew Gates made a similar “Hunger Games” comment to me about 45 minutes earlier during lunch at the McDonald’s near Comic Heaven when telling me he thought I was wearing a cool shirt.

I thought it was an appropriate shirt to wear as I’d bought it a few days earlier at Walmart, where it was on clearance for $5. Bendis appreciated that, too. Even cooler, he opened our conversation with a comment about the shirt I wore in honor of him being the modern architect of Avengers stories!

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‘Captain America & Bucky: The Life Story of Bucky Barnes’ review

2014 April 3

Remember how I bought a whole mess of Marvel trade paper- and hardbacks for rock-bottom prices several weeks ago? And several of those were about Captain America? And I’ve declared it’s OK not just to be a Caphead, but that Steve Rogers is a bada** (and that op-ed didn’t even get into the comic books)?

Of course if you’re Caphead — much less a fanboy or fangirl — with a heartbeat, you know “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” has come out this week. What I’m leading up to is it’s fitting — and through no pre-planning, I read THE LIFE STORY OF BUCKY BARNES one week before “The Winter Soldier” was released and started typing this up the night I’m going to see it.

Writer Ed Brubaker did it again. (Seriously, if you haven’t read any of his CAPTAIN AMERICA run, you need to do so. Instant classic stuff. Here’s the CCC page of the Brubaker stuff I’ve covered and/or reviewed; it should be a good starting place.)

What does that mean? That means Brubaker brings his brilliant, yet simple and straightforward storytelling talents to expanding Barnes’ origin while staying true to older stories and adding a new insight into Cap’s World War II partner. Brubaker never does anything complex with his stories, but they stick with you. That must be why I’ve enjoyed what he’s done with the Cap mythology.

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Reviews of two ‘Captain America’ trade paperbacks

2014 March 30

CCC inadvertantly has turned into Bucky Barnes and Chris Claremont all the time lately. And I just realized as I sat down to type these two Captain America trade paperback reviews, that fittingly — with “The Winter Soldier” coming out next week — I’ve been writing a lot of Cap-related stuff too!

Moving onto the trade reviews. …

There is one essential component that means I’ll enjoy a comic book story — a “hell yeah!” moment.

That’s when the story makes me pump my fist in the air and/or makes me say … wait for it … “hell yeah!” It’s when I gleefully realize the creative team “gets” the character.

I found plenty of “hell yeah!” moments and even some “aw snap!” moments in two Captain America trade paperbacks.

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Captain America is a badass: Why it’s OK to be a Caphead

2014 March 28

It seems the general public have finally caught up to my way of thinking. In fact, by this time next week many of you movie fans will be buzzing about the first must-see superhero film of the year, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Nowadays it’s less and less common for people to really dig straight-arrows like Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) and certainly Superman. Just as some misguided women tend to be attracted to “the bad boys,” so do fans.

Wolverine, Batman and The Punisher are indeed rough customers. (I’d rather call them something that rhymes with “mad pass,” but I attempt to make this a family blog. … But if you want to know wht I say “Batman is the ultimate badass,” click here for my March 2012 op-ed.) Even actor Stephen Amell’s conflicted Arrow on the CW TV series of the same name and actor Robert Downey Jr.’s snarky take on Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) are attractive to fans who prefer their heroes to be a bit edgier.

So I’m here to tell you Cap is the real deal and in fact, it’s more than OK to be a Caphead (this columnist’s name for dedicated Captain America fans). What’s not to love about a man of conviction dedicated to spreading the principles of the country he adores?

Let’s look at what the onscreen Cap does to see why the Star-Spangled Avenger is, well, a badass.

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Writer Chris Claremont on story ideas

2014 March 18

“For every ‘Dark Phoenix Saga,’ there’s the first 10 pages of MS. MARVEL,” legendary comic book writer Chris Claremont said during his March 1 Q&A session at the 2014 Great Lakes Comic-Con. (For more about killing off Jean Grey and Claremont working with artists Dave Cockrum and John Byrne on their legendary X-MEN runs, click on this link.)

“There had to be a better idea in there somewhere,” he added.

That’s right; even creators considered living legends don’t hit it out of the park with every story they write.

Claremont shared with fans how the best of his editors — Archie Goodwin and Ann Nocenti —would let him hear for himself what his bad story ideas were. Claremont said he could remember going into their offices with what he thought was a good idea, pitch it to them and then realize several minutes into it he was tired of telling his story and it didn’t have the legs or punch he expected.

“They let you hear it for yourself,” he said.

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‘All-New X-Men’: ‘Yesterday’s X-Men’ and ‘Here to Stay’ reviews

2014 March 17

In short, these are the type of Brian Michael Bendis stories I dig. These first 10 issues of the ALL-NEW X-MEN series are fun, based on an intriguing concept and feature spot-on characterizations and great moments.

Yes, this is very good Bendis. (And you readers should know I hate it when I say that!)

Here’s the concept: The Beast is worried that Scott Summers taking action on behalf of mutantkind (after the AVENGERS VS. X-MEN epic — a highly recommended read) will create mutant genocide — and at the very least, a revolution that will make the already shaky relationship between humans and mutants even worse. To avoid this, Beast goes back in time and brings the original X-Men to modern times so the young Summers can confront his modern self and do everything in his power to make sure the ramifications of his older self don’t come to fruition.

Honestly, I’m not sure how Bendis will pull off this story once everything is said and done. At the very least, it will make the X-Men’s already twisty-turny history even more complicated and confusing. At the worst, the result could be such a huge clusterf**k not seen since the Spider-Man clone story.

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Random thoughts from legendary ‘X-Men’ writer Chris Claremont

2014 March 16

WARREN, Mich. — “When you have aliens fighting superheroes, you get to be collateral damage. You don’t want that.”

I’m not sure what the exact context legendary X-MEN writer Chris Claremont had for saying this March 1 during his Q&A session at The Great Lakes Comic-Con. But honestly, with a great quote like that, does it matter?

Yes, the dramatic and entertaining Claremont had a few random things  to say. (Actually, I’m sure those seemingly random quotes were in the context of other diatribes, but anyway. …)

One of the most intriguing topics he discussed with convention goers was sales figures and how expectations have changed in the last bunch of years.

Claremont said it used to be that selling 100,000 issues of a title paid off the printing costs and in turn, would give Marvel Comics a profit. At that time creators were making three times the page rate.

“When you’re doing 16 issues a year, that’s not chump change,” Claremont said, noting that the more sales increased, the bigger the royalty checks. (Keep in mind Claremont said at the height of X-MEN sales, it wasn’t unusual for Marvel to sell 100,000 or 200,000 copies of an issue per month. Per month!)

But with the comic-book industry crash of the 1990s, “all that went away,” he said.

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