If there's one thing you can say about 1940s' super-heroes it's that few of them were in any danger of winning awards for social responsibility. Leaving aside their love of a good fight - often involving guns - virtually none of them seemed to see anything wrong with dragging children into battle at any opportunity.
This made no sense. If you're going to drag an annoying sidekick into battle with you, make sure it's an adult. He'll be much better at getting between you and any bullets that might be flying around, leaving you to survive and get the plaudits.
Captain America was of course no exception to all this - showing his magnificent lack of regard by making sure it was always he and not his youthful sidekick Bucky who got to hold the shield whenever there were bullets about.
But every so often Cap'd take a break from dressing Rick Jones up as Bucky, to get a pang of guilt about his past and, in the Avengers #56, thanks to Dr Doom's time machine, he and his team-mates go back to the 40s to make sure the original Bucky really did die in the Second World War.
Once there, they show their usual inability to stay out of trouble by inadvertently becoming solid and getting into a fight with Baron Zemo before witnessing Bucky's demise.
Written by Roy Thomas, a man never afraid to raid Marvel's vaults for ideas, this has always been one of my favourite Avengers tales, with the art team of John Buscema and George Klein at the peak of their collective powers and a chance for Cap to do the agonising he always did so well. It also leads into the Avengers Annual #2 which has always been a fave of mine.
I would mention its faults but I really can't think of any. We get to see the Panther sneaking into a castle. We get to see Goliath take on giant robots. Those of us of a younger persuasion get our first glimpse of Bucky in action. Even the Wasp's lame nodding off while womanning the time machine controls, is later revealed to be for a good reason. We even get the sense of pride that comes from being able to spot the panels in which John Romita's clearly added Cap's head after Buscema opted not to.
I suppose the one complaint I'd have is it proves that breath-taking irresponsibility isn't confined purely to 1940s' super-heroes. You do have to wonder just what was going on in that stretchy head of Reed Richards that, all these years, he's been happy to leave Dr Doom's time machine lying around in his abandoned castle where any idiot could find it and use it to rewrite history.
Then again, didn't multi-billionaire Gregory Gideon remove the time machine from Doom's castle, in The Fantastic Four #34, and place it in the Baxter Building? Does this mean that Richards then removed it from his own HQ and put it back in Doom's castle? Super-heroes, you really do wonder why they're allowed out without a minder.
Top of the Pops: 15th December, 1977.
5 months ago