C2E2 2010: CAPTAIN AMERICA: PATRIOT - Tale of Another Cap

C2E2 - PATRIOT: Tale of Another Cap

See all of Newsarama's C2E2 2010 coverage here.

The history of Captain America is an odd one – though in current Marvel continuity, it was established that he was frozen in ice in 1945, in reality, Timely Comics (later Marvel) continued publishing the character through the end of the 1940s, and even had him return in the 1950s.

In one of the earliest “retcons,” these discrepancies were later explained away by establishing that other men had assumed Cap’s identity after Steve Rogers vanished. One of these was the Patriot, an established Timely character from the 1940s.

Reporter Jeffrey Mace was retroactively given a career fighting alongside Cap, and assumed his identity after the second Captain America, the Spirit of ’76, died in battle. It was established that he was the Captain America seen in the stories published in approximately issues 58 to 75 of the original Captain America Comics.

Mace later retired as Captain America, married his sidekick Golden Girl, and passed away from cancer in the 1980s with Steve Rogers at his side. But the full story of his career as Cap has never been told.

Now, veteran creator Karl Kesel, who’s doing the online Captain America comic strip, has teamed with fan-favorite artist Mitch Breitweiser for Captain America: Patriot,, the untold legend of this Captain America can finally be shared. We turned to Kesel and Breitweiser to find out about this unique tale.

Newsarama: Karl, tell us about the character of Jeff Mace/the Patriot. Give us the history of this character, his role in the Captain America legacy, what to expect from this story, and who he is.

Karl Kesel: Well, Zack, answering those questions is really what the mini-series is all about. But I’ll say this much...

Jeff Mace is a rough-and-tumble reporter for the Daily Bugle in the early 40s, and is inspired to become a superhero-- the Patriot-- by Captain America. Unbelievably, that origin story has been referred to but never shown— until now!

In this mini-series we finally see the exact events and reasons that lead up to Jeff Mace donning his Patriot persona. At some point after that, he’s asked to take over the role of Captain America. Of course, those are very big boots to fill both physically— Jeff has no super-powers— and symbolically. Jeff’s struggle to live up to being a living legend is what the series is all about.

And making matters even more interesting, Jeff wears the costume as America enters the 1950s— a very different world of Red Scares and McCarthyism.

Nrama: Mitch , tell us about designing this character. The very first Patriot costume had no pants...I'm assuming you went in a different direction.

Mitch Breitweiser: Nobody wears pants. This will be an entirely pants free comic.

Seriously though, I love the Patriot's costume, and didn't feel the need to monkey around too much with a design that was already perfect. He's got this sort of art deco metallic eagle on his chest that juxtaposes nicely against a costume that's a little more matte.

In fact, I went to great lengths to make sure that the costumes and fashions of all the characters in the book fit the period and setting. I wanted the artwork to really pull the reader into that era, with only Elizabeth's beautiful digital coloring serving as a modern lens throughout the book.

Nrama: What are the challenges of doing a WWII book, and what kind of research did you have to do?

Breitweiser: I watched a ton of old movies throughout the production process, and I also found some really great vintage fashion blogs. The challenge for me is making the reader believe the setting, but that's pretty much the same problem I get to solve on every book I do.

All I can say is: Thank God for the internet! It made getting the timeline right pretty easy, and made the series much better anchored in its time than it probably would have been otherwise.

Nrama: Karl, hat made you want to tell this story? Little is known of the Patriot's run, save a flashback in a What If? story and a number of other retconned tales depicting his career.

Kesel: I got interested in Jeff Mace while writing last year’s All-Winners one-shot. I liked the idea of someone having to live up to the legend of Captain America, of walking in that shadow and filling those boots, especially someone like Jeff Mace who was not a super-soldier or had any powers of his own.

And when I learned that Jeff actually retired from being Cap— walked away from what had to be the best superhero gig in the world at the time— I really wondered what the story was there. So I wrote it!

Nrama: Mitch, what were you most excited about drawing in this story?

Breitweiser: This was my first chance to draw the Whizzer in an official capacity. Who wouldn't be excited about that? Also, I'm a sucker for the retro super-babes, and this book is chocked full of them.

Nrama: Even as we face the last years of the Greatest Generation, WWII remains an indelible part of the American psyche -- and we're still seeing works like The Pacific and the (now-postponed) film about Hiroshima that continue to explore new aspects of that conflict. Why do you feel that even several generations later, people are still fascinated by WWII, and how do you feel it's reflected in our modern world?

Kesel: There’s no doubt that WWII was the pivotal event of the 20th century— the world was a different place after it than it was before. It impacted and affected almost every aspect of life— until 9/11, which I believe was another such pivotal moment.

But while the fight against terror is in many ways quite different from the fight against the Axis powers, the struggle and sacrifice of the soldier, the sense of world-wide danger and uncertainty— these are things both times have in common, which is why I believe WWII stories are still relevant today and, in some ways, are even more relevant now than they were before 9/11.

That being said— almost all of this mini-series takes place after the end of WWII, and has more to do with the 1950s, McCarthyism, and the politics of fear. Which, sadly, has a lot to do with today’s America.

Breitweiser: I've really been fascinated with generational and sociological studies lately, and this book gave me a chance to delve deeper into the American psych of the post-war period. Mark Twain said that "History doesn't repeat itself. It rhymes."

So, I look to this era not only with an eye to the past, but as a place our society is going once our current crisis are over....just hopefully without the McCarthyism and strained race relations.

Nrama: Karl, you're making your mark on Captain America with this and the comic strip storyline. What's led to all this Cap-action?

Kesel: Happy accident! I also wrote this year’s Amazing Spider-Man Annual which shows Spidey’s very first meeting with Cap— so it’s sort of All-Cap All The Time with me right now!

The interesting thing is each project is so different— the on-line Captain America Comic Strip is just flat-out fun with Nazis and robots and a secret city (and if you haven’t checked it out, you really should!) while the Spidey Annual is a solid comic in the Mighty Marvel Manner— but I must say that Captain America: Patriot is probably the most emotionally resonant— and a huge part of that is Mitch’s amazing art, which really kicked the entire project up about ten notches.

I cannot stress too much how beautiful his stuff is— each and every page was breathtakingly beautiful with crystal-clear storytelling and the sort of dynamic compositions that would make Jack Kirby proud. I’d like to think this was a good story when I wrote it— but Mitch made it a great story.

Nrama: What are your favorite Captain America runs and creators?

Kesel: Kirby’s work with Joe Simon, Stan Lee or solo— each have their own appeal for different reasons. Outside of that, I really loved Steve Englehart’s run on Cap— the Nomad storyline really blew my small, young mind at the time— while the Stern/Byrne run was far, far too short, and Mark Waid and Ron Garney’s Cap was like mainlining pure adrenaline.

And I’d say this Brubaker guy’s doing some pretty cool stuff, too...

Nrama: What do you feel has made Captain America such an enduring character, after all these years?

Kesel: Like any enduring character, there are a lot of facets to Cap, and different ones can be focused on at different times. Right now I think Cap’s greatest strength is that he is 100% trustworthy and reliable.

In today’s world, with terrorist cells and contentious politics, it’s nice to know that Cap can cut through all the crap, get to the truth of the matter, and do the right thing. We really do need him now more than ever...

Breitweiser: Karl said it perfectly. It's about trust. Even in our darker days as a culture, Cap is there like a beacon. An anchor for American values. The perennial Boy Scout that we all wish we could be, but we are all too fallible to fully realize.

Nrama: What's next for you, and is there anything else you'd like to discuss?

Kesel: Right now I’m in the middle of drawing the Captain America Comic Strip and, in all honesty, nothing would make me happier than to do more of it! It’s the most flat-out fun I’ve had in comics in a long time!

So if enough people read it, and want to read more, I’d be happy to oblige!

Breitweiser: Just buy the book. Karl's script blows the dust off these old characters and reveals a level of charm and sophistication that could have easily been lost in the dustbins of a comic shop for all time.

As far what's next what's next, I have no idea. I still have a few more weeks to go to finish this project, but I'm sure Marvel will have plenty to keep me busy once I'm done.

Meet Captain America: Patriot this July.

Zack Smith (zack.zacharymsmith@gmail.com) is a regular contributor to Newsarama.

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