Sunday, October 10, 2010

The "Roger McKenzie Era" (Captain America 215-246)

Visit those places on the internet where fans gather to chat about Captain America comics, and you'll hear a lot of praise for the "Mark Gruenwald era," a ten year stretch from 1985-1995 by writer Mark Gruenwald (most of which I haven't read). Others sing the praises of the "Mark Waid era" that immediately followed Gruenwald's run in the late 90s. Just about everyone loves the "Ed Brubaker era" (from 2005 to the present day) and Brubaker himself was heavily inspired by the "Steve Englehart era" in the mid-70s (which got me hooked on Cap in the first place). Some insist the high point of the series was the "Roger Stern/John Byrne era", though they only wrote the comic for 9 issues around 1980. Many longtime fans still fondly remember the issues by J. M. DeMatteis from 1982 to 1984. And of course, there was a couple of years written by some guy named Stan Lee way back when that weren't too shabby either.

Never have I heard somebody praise the "Roger McKenzie era".

Actually it would be more accurate to refer to Captain America 215-246 as the "Roy Thomas/Don Glut/Steve Gerber/Peter Gillis/Roger McKenzie era", with writers Roger Stern, Jim Shooter, Chris Claremont, Alan & Paul Kupperberg, Mike Barr and Steve Grant also helping out. But Roger McKenzie wrote more issues in this period than any other writer.

What united this 32 issue span was the deliberate dismantling of the book's previous status quo. The Falcon was dropped from the book. Sharon Carter was killed, along with the 1950s Captain America and Bucky (all of them would eventually get better). Steve Rogers got a new job as a commercial artist, and a new supporting cast at his new apartment building. An attempt was also made to downplay Nick Fury and SHIELD.

What also defined this era was a rapidly rotating series of writers and artists, some of whom delivered less than stellar work.

It's not that most of these comics are terrible. But most of them aren't great either. And prior to these issues, I wasn't too happy with what writers John Warner, Tony Isabella, Marv Wolfman and Jack Kirby were delivering either. So despite being a Captain America fan (I still followed his adventures in The Avengers) I finally gave up on Cap's solo series. Which is too bad, because by most accounts it was just about to get good.

Well, that's why I'm reading them now. I'm finally going to get to enjoy the good stuff. (I hope.)

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