Okay, so we’re running a little late with the latest installment of “Captain America is Still Dead,” this time, focusing on issue #39. In our defense, there was a convention, and writer Ed Brubaker’s schedule was moving around a little here and there. Excuses out of the way, let’s dig in.
#39 finally saw the ‘50s “Captain America” back in action after his resurrection/revival by Arnim Zola and programming by Dr. Faustus. This “Cap” is an unnamed individual who idolized Captain America so much that he changed his name to “Steve Rogers,” underwent plastic surgery to look more like Rogers, and when the Communist Red Skull surfaced in the ‘50s, injected with a quasi Super Soldier Serum which gave him speed and strength equivalent to the original’s.
But – the Serum gave this “Cap” mental problems of a psychotic nature, and he (along with his “Bucky”) were placed in suspended animation. Years later, “Cap” is programmed by Dr. Faustus and takes the name “The Grand Director” and leads a Neo-Nazi group against the real Captain America. One more mental breakdown later, and the Grand Director apparently killed himself.
But – one resurrection later, this “Cap” is back, and once again in Faustus’ hands. In issue #39, he’s been released to the public, which is just too much for the new Captain America (James “Bucky” Barnes), and by the end of #39, the “Cap” vs. Cap fight is just about to begin.
On to our chat with Brubaker…
Newsarama: Ed, this issue started off with "Cap" listening to Senator Wright's speech. The narration boxes open up the possibility - are/is Wright's words triggers for this "Cap," programmed by Faustus - just redundancies on top of redundancies on top of redundancies?
Ed Brubaker: No, I was just trying to show that he's not paying attention to what the Senator is saying, really, and just registering the highlights. He's just waiting for his moment to act.
NRAMA: Along those lines, what are some of the things Grand Director Cap has been programmed with? Obviously, to kill Bucky, but what else? An unwavering endorsement and support of Wright?
EB: Yeah, he was there primarily to endorse the Senator's campaign, since he looks and sounds just like the real Cap. Also, he was meant to lure New Cap out, so they can take him out of play. Other than that, you'll have to see next issue.
NRAMA: In their sparring scene, Sam brings up a good point - Skull, Faustus and Zola are all out there somewhere, with tech and resources at their disposal. Bucky's frustration is understandable - why aren't they knocking in every door they can, and in constant search mode? For an unregistered hero, Bucky's doing a lot of waiting around for SHIELD's help...
EB: Well, just because we didn't see it, doesn't mean they've been sitting around all week. I would imagine they're chasing down every lead, but on the Arnim Zola husk, they need someplace like SHIELD getting involved, really. Bucky doesn't have those resources yet.
NRAMA: Gut level, how does seeing another man pretending to be Cap out there hit Bucky? Does he even have an inkling of who this could be? Even in his Winter Soldier days, was he awake when this "Cap" was active?
EB: I don't think there would have been any overlap, but he certainly would know there were other people who'd worn that mask or who'd taken up his name. That's been shown in the series already. But having not ever actually encountered this guy, and not realizing he sounded just like Steve, and the fact that he's supposed to be dead... he probably hasn't put it all together yet. He's still praying it might actually be Steve on some level, while weighing all the other odds.
NRAMA: Wait - Bucky's mention of his memories of going to see Sarte's No Exit after the liberation of Paris...he and Toro got drug to a play by the grateful nerdy Parisian college girls? Bummer. Did he at least score after the play?
EB: I can't say, I don't want to tarnish their reps.
NRAMA: We might have to take that as a “yes.” But Bucky's point - were politics really that different when he was observing them for the first time? Or is it as he said - there's so much more theater now...more style with less substance?
EB: I think we all would say that about the first time we were conscious of politics. For me that was the early ‘80s, and I think it's much more style than substance now already. But I'm pretty sure that "all politics is theater" saying is pretty old. It may even be from Roman times, for all I know. That's how politics has almost always been. I think I was really just trying to get across how, just like Steve, Bucky would have FDR on a pedestal, and deservedly so, because of the New Deal.
NRAMA: Later, we see that Bucky has his mission for the evening - what is it inside him that pushes him to "go outside of parameters?" Just a burning curiosity, or is the appearance of a new Cap affecting his judgment?
EB: Yeah, exactly like he says. He can't stop himself from digging deeper. He's just pissed about this other guy dressed as Cap, and wants answers, and he's tired of waiting.
NRAMA: We've got the Cap vs. Cap fight set up for next issue – if we were say, trying to handicap things here...any advice on who we should put money on? Bucky's what – a good fighter with a cybernetic arm and the shield, but the Grand Director… he's as juiced as Steve was, right? Bad juice in the end, but still, juiced...
EB: The ‘50s Cap is actually stronger than Steve Rogers. He got a slightly different version of the Super-Soldier Serum, so he's stronger, but that's also what made him go nuts, so it's a trade off. Bucky is probably the more skilled fighter of the two, but will that matter? I can't really say, without spoiling it all.
NRAMA: Okay, so after that - from the solicits, #41 is described as the penultimate chapter of "The Death of Captain America" and #42 is described as the final chapter of "The Death of Captain America." Can you help us out a little? It's a touch confusing between the Acts and the chapters and the parts of storylines...
EB: It is not... Okay, maybe a little.
NRAMA: So when does "The Man Who Bought America" wrap up?
EB: Issue #42 is the final chapter of the "The Man Who Bought America" which is the close of the big Red Skull Strikes Back epic we've been telling. That overall arc is called "The Death of Captain America" because... well, it just is, that's why. This big arc, in some variation, has been in the planning stages of the series since about issue #14 or so, and was altered and grew into a bigger and different story after the big Civil War summit. But the overall thrust of this story, the Red Skull and General Lukin's joint planned attack on the US through the corporate entity, has been part of my scheme all along. And this title – “The Man Who Bought America - is of course a reference to the old Kirby story "The Man Who Sold the United States."
NRAMA: And what starts after that?
EB: The next Cap story. Drawn by Luke Ross. Starring the New Cap, and some other friends. It's about him coming to grips with the current Marvel Universe and his place in it, and features a villain that has ties to WW2 and the Cold War, as well as someone I've been meaning to get to in our book for quite some time.
NRAMA: Before we let you go, Luke Ross was announced as an oncoming artist on Captain America. When we spoke with Luke , he said that you personally invited him to join you and Steve on the book. Obviously, you needed a replacement for Mike, but what led you to Luke, specifically?
EB: I really dug his work on Jonah Hex and Samurai, and thought that while he and Steve Epting have different approaches, they come from the same basic school of thought on how to do these kinds of comics - a mixture of reality and big epic moments that reminds me of some of the classic Marvel artists of the 70s. It's a similar reason we sought out Mike Perkins. He and Steve have different styles, but they come from the same influences in some ways.
NRAMA: How will the workload split between Steve and Luke?
EB: For this first run, Luke is drawing three issues, and Steve is doing the next four. We'll see how that works, and if that gives us all the time we need to make the book look great.