So we all know the story: Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, falls to his icy death during World War II. The last thing he sees before succumbing to the ocean's frigid grasp is the mid-air explosion that kills his teenage sidekick, Bucky. Two decades later, our hero's frozen body is discovered by The Avengers while they are searching for the Hulk in the Arctic.
The story was first told in The Avengers #4. It's a classic by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It's also hilarious.
It wasn't exactly the Avengers who found Cap's body first. It was actually a group of “Eskimos” who were worshipping the frozen man as a god, because comics were sensitive about other cultures in the sixties. Namor arrives on the scene and is unimpressed. He breaks up the party and just straight tosses Captain America back into the ocean.
Thankfully the Avengers happen to be bopping around the Arctic in their submarine, and someone (Iron Man?) tells Iron Man to throw the brakes on.
They quickly recognize the costume of Captain America. But is it Captain America? Could it possibly be?
"Let's not be hasty...it could be another man wearing Captain America's costume and holding his shield."
Then Captain America wakes up and flips the fuck out.
"I'll smash you all!"
This is seriously so sad. And it gets sadder.
"He is dead -- he is! And nothing on Earth can change that!" Just wait forty years or so, Cap. I think you are going to be unpleasantly surprised.
I love the quick shift from mourning Bucky to "Anyway, who are you guys?"
Cap, being Cap, is quick to gather himself together and let them know that he is indeed Captain America. And that he hates being Captain America.
He tells them, and the readers, his whole sad story. The Avengers listen, but decide that maybe there's a chance this guy isn't who he says he is. Maybe this guy is some sort of con artist who got himself a Captain America suit, froze himself in a block of ice, and bobbed around the Arctic Ocean waiting for the Avengers to pass by in their submarine! Only one way to make sure!
Is that how Wasp fights? She just stands in front of bad guys and is like "Fight's over, unless you want to hit a girl!" Nice strategy.
So anyway, Cap convinces them by being really good at fighting. If he wasn't awesome at fighting, do you think they would have decided immediately that he wasn't the real McCoy? Or do you think they would have taken into consideration that he was JUST DEFROSTED MINUTES AGO AFTER BEING FROZEN FOR TWO DECADES?!
Wait, wait, hold up. He knew the, ahem, Eskimos were worshipping him? What? How?
The Avengers drive their submarine back to New York City. They disembark first, because Cap is napping after the exhaustion of being defrosted and then forced to fight four Avengers for no reason, and are immediately turned into stone statues by some mysterious villain. Cap exits the sub minutes later, and sees 1960s NYC for the first time.
"And why am I bothering to wear my gloves right now? And how did my shield fit through this hatch? And could someone please take me to a hospital? I've had quite an ordeal."
He sees the Avengers as statues, and assumes they are just statues of the Avengers. Makes sense. Then he checks out some ladies.
The girls are still as lovely as ever. All of them.
The people of New York start to recognize Captain America, because he's dressed like Captain America. One police officer is reduced to tears. It's pretty great.
Rather than go to a hospital, which he should definitely do, Captain America goes to a hotel that he certainly has no way of paying for. He falls in love with television before he even gets his boots off.
I like to think he spent like five straight days just watching television. We need to talk about the costume he's wearing, because he never takes it off in this comic, not even to sleep. It must be SO GROSS. He was found frozen in the damn ocean wearing it.
You might think he's just going to move forward and become an Avenger and become a well-adjusted citizen of the 1960s. This is not the case, because Lee and Kirby are great storytellers. Instead we get pathos and extremely sexy panels like this one:
That panel might be the best thing I have ever seen. It's certainly the sexiest thing.
Cap's lovesick pining for Bucky reaches extremely creepy levels when poor, unsuspecting Rick Jones enters the room.
Aaahh! Run, Rick! Run for you life!
For real, is this going to happen every time Steve sees a young man? Rick does not even look like Bucky. But try telling Cap that:
Seriously, Rick. Get the hell out of there.
"I don't know who the Hulk is, lad. Sounds like a cool guy, though."
Cap pulls himself together, sort of. Rick awesomely deflects Cap's insane ramblings, and Steve decides he needs to convince Rick that he is not crazy. He does this by becoming a commanding asshole.
"He thinks I'm some sort of madman! Well I'll prove to him that I'm not! By putting on this costume!"
They look at some photos from the docks, find one of their suspect, and Cap goes on the hunt. The next panel pretty much sums up Captain America's lot in life:
Cap eventually finds the menace who turned his new friends into statues, using the most inefficient method ever:
For real, he went around New York City carrying a photo and looking in windows.
Anyway, Captain America takes out some thugs and even gets some quips in while he's doing it.
This is where things get really weird. In a reverse Scooby-doo twist, Cap removes the villain's human mask to reveal a crazy-looking alien. My favourite part of this panel is the reaction of the hired goons:
A bunch of stuff happens. The Avengers stop being statues. They all end up back in the Arctic to fight Namor.
Stan Lee continues to not hide his crush on Captain America:
"If only there had been heroes like the Sub-Mariner in my day! And maybe a man who could fly and ignite himself! And a boy who could do the same! What invading we could have done!"
The Avengers move to attack Namor, but Namor has an "ace in the hole," as he says because that is a term that an Atlantean would probably be familiar with. Namor has captured Rick Jones, and he will kill him. Except Cap isn't going to sit back and let Bucky, er, Rick get killed.
"Make one move towards me, and the boy's life is--WHA?!!" is so funny.
Namor gets sick of this shit pretty quickly. He tosses Captain America aside like a bag of garbage.
Long story short, Cap does find a way to out-maneuver him. The Avengers win the day, and then pop the question to Captain America, who says yes without even hearing the offer.
"Like a man!" Wasp is like "I'm right here, guy!"
And that's the story of how a mentally unstable, severely traumatized Steve Rogers became an Avenger.
"Thanks, five different-shaped Buckys!"
He moves into the Avengers mansion, never receives any treatment of any kind, and a couple of issues later he slaps Rick Jones across the face when he dares to wear Bucky's costume. Because Rick thought that was what Cap wanted. And can you blame him?!
"Get out! GET OUUUUUUTTTT!!!!"
My point is, there's no way the movies could possibly be too heavy handed by comparison when it comes to having Steve Rogers obsessing over Bucky.