Mountain Comics #26 – Captain America #275


Mountain Comics is back! Rob welcomes Sean Ross back to the cabin to discuss CAPTAIN AMERICA #275 by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck!

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33 responses to “Mountain Comics #26 – Captain America #275

  1. So happy to have a new season of Mountain Comics. I refer to my “Mountain Comics” as “comfort comics” and they are from this era as well.
    I fall right between you and Sean Ross in age having been 9 when this comic came out. It HOLDS SO much meaning! Captain America has been a role model an Icon to me for almost as long as I can remember. Be the best human being you can possibly be. Even when it’s hard. Even when everyone else seems to be doing everything wrong. Do what is right!
    I certainly didn’t “get it” back then. Much like Cap, I thought the Nazi threat had been ended in the 40s. (I should point out I’m a white dude who grew up in northern Massachusetts) For years, no, decades I knew there were still racist out there, but I thought they were a small dark sect of comic book like villains lurking in the shadows. That the light of society shunned them.
    As we know, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Two days ago I participated in a Black Lives Matter March. Something I never thought I would do, or even be necessary just a decade ago. That’s when I started dating a black woman. After our first date, she asked me if the race thing was an issue. I thought it was a ridiculous question. After we were married, and we traveled together on vacation outside of Massachusetts, I saw first hand, the experience Black people SUFFER in this country. In all my years of being a passenger in a car, (and I’ve traveled with some very aggressive drivers) we were pulled over on a WEEKLY basis when she drove! I can also tell you the officer’s attitude would change when they looked past her and saw a white guy sitting in the passenger seat. Much less aggressive, much more polite. She never received a ticket. We were ALWAYS pulled over because our car either “matched a description” or one time, we didn’t have the proper amount of bolts holding the license plate on the car. On one memorable trip to, we went into a restaurant with her kids from a previous marriage, and the hostess tried to seat us separately!!!!
    Even after settling the issue, she asked if there would be separate checks!?! I could tell by the look in my wife’s eyes she didn’t want a scene to be made, in front of the girls, so once again, she took the indignity in silence. It took all these things, not to wake me up! Of course things have gotten even worse in the last four years.
    All through dating, I wore Captain America t-shirts, read comics, and bought, Cap merch. My wife thought it was odd, but she smiled and nodded because she knew I enjoyed it. When the Marvel movies started coming out, I dragged her along. I think she’s a bigger MCU fan than I am!
    Any way… and I apologize for going on so long, but now I bring it back to Captain America and this issue. While she and I are no longer married, we are still best of friends. And because of Chris Evans Incredible portrayal of Cap, She gets not only why I was such a fan of the character. Captain America may be a fictional character, but he is one of the best possible role models for every one out there. I honestly feel, my trying to be as much like Cap, is the reason she fell in love with me. And this issue is one is one of the biggest lessons taught me.

        1. Thanks. I didn’t want to “hi-Jack” the comments. I’m just an enormous Captain America fan! I used to think I was number one, until I heard Mr. Chris Franklin. I am however ready to take up the duties as Captain America’s #1 Fan should Mr Franklin no longer be able to carry out the duty.

    1. Matt, thanks for sharing, it means a lot to hear people’s experience, all the best to you, your former wife and her kids… it’s shameful that people have been, and still are, treated so poorly.

      1. Thank you Martin. We were all together for the BLM March. It was a great experience to see so many friends and neighbors not only turn out to join the march but also stand along the route and offer support as well as pass out water. It was a huge boost to morale and our hope.

  2. The first couple issues of the DeMatteis run on Captain America have been collected in CAPTAIN AMERICA EPIC COLLECTION 9: DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT (which also reprints the Roger Stern/John Byrne issues). Later this year, Epic volume 10: MONSTERS AND MEN will come out, which collects more of the DeMatteis and Zeck run up to issue #285. So, these issues are currently being collected, but probably won’t be completed until late next year.

  3. This is a great issue to highlight. I pulled it off of the spinner racks back in the day (I would have just turned 14 in the summer of 1982) and it made a similarly strong impression on me at the time. Back then, that issue, as well as that famous scene in the Blues Brothers, informed my views on neo-Nazis in the US. And I have to say that over the years, there’s been many times that I was reminded of and prompted to think about that issue (which I last read in my teens back in the early 1980s), but esp. in the summer of 2017, and a number of times after that. Sadly enough, it’s still so relevant.
    Otherwise, like you, Rob, I learned something new about the DeMatteis run from Sean: I was in my early teens in the early ’80s, and the fact that Arnie and Michael were a couple flew right over my head as well.

    However, I have to make some corrections to a few things Sean mentioned: the supporting cast for Cap/Steve, i.e., the people in the rooming house where he lived when he was working as a freelance artist, appeared long before DeMatteis came onto the series as writer. Initially, Anna Kappelbaum, Josh (the special ed teacher, forgot his last name) and Mike (the firefighter, ditto about the last name) were introduced somewhere in the 230s, when the main writer was Roger McKenzie. Bernie Rosenthal – who I still think is by far Cap’s best love interest and should have become established as such for all time afterward – was introduced by Stern and Byrne during their all-too-brief and fabled run (in issue #248). I always loved that whole supporting cast, and yes, DeMatteis did make great use of it during his tenure as writer (and also added some of his own characters).

    1. Edo,
      I totally screwed up the “JMD created Cap’s supporting cast” comment! I am even more embarrassed about this because Roger Stern is my favorite writer. Getting old sucks.


  4. Fantastic discussion folks. Sean is always a great guest, and I always seem to learn several new things each time I listen to one of his shows. I had no idea why the Torah was so sacred to the Jewish faith, which is just fascinating. I also was too young and/or too dense to pick up on Cap’s friends being gay, so don’t feel too bad Rob.

    It’s sad that this comic is more relevant than the day it was published, but many of us (unfortunately, not all) have awoken to the fact that injustices some believed were long behind us are still very much in front of us, just like Cap realized here. Leave it to a master like DeMatties to weave such commentary into a thoroughly enjoyable, tried-and-true Marvel action comic as well.

    On a silly side note, Hot Wheels releases several cars based on Marvel covers a few years back, and this was one of them. The card art is pretty much the cover, and the art repeats on the car as well.

    Great to have Mountain Comics back!


  5. I’m a big fan of Mountain Comics so I’m glad to see it back! Sean was a great guest and I was glad to have this be, as Sean said, “Jewish History 101”, as I also learned a lot and I’m glad I did! The information about the Torah was great and I had no idea about any of it. Well done! It was great to hear how the comic connected to you personally, Sean, and it’s sad that it’s become an even more timely comic today.

    This is my era of Captain America, as well. Very similarly to mountain comics, I had camping comics when my dad would take us out camping in the summer. For one of those trips, I picked up Captain America #282, also done by JMD, Zeck, and Beatty. That issue is one of those comics that made me want to go from reading comics to collecting comics. Listening to this episode, it makes me want to hunt down the other back issues by this team. I really enjoy JMD and Zeck’s work and this appears to be no exception!

    Excellent effort all around and I can’t wait to see what the next mountain comic will be! Keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks, Mike! I’m glad that the facts about Judaism proved interesting. I love this issue and run so much, so I was really excited when Rob invited me on the show.


  6. When I come home from work, I always click on bookmarks/thumbnails of podcast networks to see what new show is waiting for me. I got very excited when I saw this new episode of Mountain Comics. Part of it is b/c I grew up in NJ, knew what & where The Poconos were. I also know the Mt. Airy Lodge jingle. As a kid, I had my Captain America phase. I read sporadic issues in the 200s and became a strong collector in the very late 200s/early 300s and on. Unfortunately, issue 275 was one that I never read. A HUGE thank you to both you and Sean Ross for discussing this. Not just at the comic ‘face’ level, but digging into the underlying social relevance – then and now. As a fellow Jew, I appreciate the depth that Sean shared regarding the value and symbolism of Jewish artifacts.
    We all know comics are a great source of escapism. I still enjoy comics, but I appreciate them more now when there’s a message, It doesn’t matter if that is subtext or overt. I love that writers occasionally had Kitty Pryde embrace her jewish heritage (X-Men Unlimited). I was amused that, after all these years, Ben Grimm was revealed to be Jewish and his marriage to Alicia Masters was held under a chupah.
    The bottom line is that there are comics out there that I feel a special connection to and I will always cherish. Now I want to hunt down Captain America #275 and pore over every word. I think this will be a nice addition to my special comic pile.

    1. Brian,
      I’m right there with you on feeling a special connection to this issue. I also loved that Ben and Alicia were married under a chuppah. I actually showed the issue to my wife.


  7. Yay! Mountain Comics! Really fascinating discussion. Sean is a wonderfully insightful guest – his explanation of the deeper resonance of the Torah was exceptional. Never actually read this specific issue, as my period as a Cap reader was from around 300–360ish, with only occasional pre-300 issues (the Byrne ones in particular). But this sounds like a classic period that I should really explore. I loved your explorations of how ahead of his time JMDM was (and is). Definitely one of the all-time greats. Ah, what might have been with Black Crow… but I wonder if JM’s idea of replacing Steve was the initial spark that led to the John Walker storyline that would follow a few years later.

  8. Welcome back Mountain Comics, and with another tip-top discussion.

    I remember this one well, I was lucky enough to have it turn up every month at my local newsstand. Yeah, this is a classic run, with a fine mix of action and character. I love that cover, it’s so vibrant and colourful: Sean got it right when he said ‘iconic’. The new star corner box is an especially fun way to zoosh up the look.

    It’s interesting that just a year later Paul Kupperberg was giving us a similar situation in Supergirl, with Linda’s Jewish landlady disturbed by a similar demo – Paul Kupperberg was also inspired by that New York rally. Anj has been covering that story recently over at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary.

    Thank you to Sean for the fascinating details of the Torah, I know of it, but growing up a Roman Catholic in the north east of England, I never knew any Jewish people – there’s a vibrant Jewish community in Sunderland, near my home town, but it turns out we were insular – so it’s brilliant to hear more. I’ve never seen ‘G.d’ for ‘God’, so that’s new to me… just fascinating. To find a hopefully not-offensive link back to comics, it’s maybe a little like being Captain Marvel Jr, and unable to say his own hero name.

    ‘Bernie’ to me sounds more like a catholic name, I always figured she had a Catholic dad. She seemed like Rhoda Morganstern, feisty and fabulous.

    Thanks for the thoughts on just why Steve was so tin-eared towards people being upset, it makes sense to have someone be the gateway character, but really, Steve is a terrible fit, for reasons discussed by you lads.

    I wonder if Steve Rogers went to the Joe Kubert school.

    Bernie realising Steve was Cap was a nice progression of something she said in one of the early Stern/Byrne issues, about Steve looking like a tiger about to pounce… I paraphrase (I may be getting confused with things people say about me). How perfect that you ended the episode with Eye of the Tiger.. deliberate?

    Michael and Arnold were very important to me as a teenage gay in the early Eighties, visibility was important. As for Michael looking like he might be Arnold’s son, I took it that there was a bit of an age difference – how great that JM DeMatteis and Mike Zeck we’re showing us that couples didn’t have to be identikit.

  9. Hats off to DeMatteis for what he was able to do, as well as tried to do, during his run on Captain America. And, hats off to you gentlemen (don’t worry, I always keep some extra hats on hand) for sharing all of the fascinating historical context surrounding this story. I was completely unaware of this run and its significance, because it occurred about four or five years before I started buying comics. Of course, if I had bought this issue at that time, I’m guessing a lot of this stuff likely would have gone right over my head.

  10. I cannot remember a podcast episode that was as timely for me than this one. I am reading this run of Captain America on Marvel Unlimited and got to this episode today. I also today read a news report from a newspaper from a town near the small northern Wisconsin town where I grew up, reporting about the rise of blatant white supremacy in the area. One of the examples given was that the owner of a rather popular for the area tavern is owned by an open Nazi, who displays a Swastika in the bar, claims to be a member of the KKK and everyone in the town knows it and goes to the bar. To the credit of literally all people in the area but not that particular town that were commenting, this is news to a lot of people and they were horrified. And then the people from that town showed up who “weren’t racist, but…” And they let us know that the real enemy is the press who reported it, because they themselves weren’t Nazis, it’s just that guy and a few others, and if we shine the light on them, the counter protests would just focus more attention on him than he deserves. (He then went on a whole thing about how also Antifa is paid for by the Democrat Party and they are far worse because riots and then I stopped talking to him forever, but I digress). I thought at the time that I definitely would have had a different take on the ending then than I do now, even before today, but you guys tackling that very question went a long way to helping me work through feelings about the fact that Nazis apparently live 20 miles from my parents.

    To end on a lighter note, I do love that Bernie figures out Cap’s secret by realizing that both Steve and Cap spited the same both sides-ism platitudes. That is canon.

    1. Jon,
      That’s an intense story. I’m glad you shared it. I think we are all coming to grips right now With the fact that racism is closer to us than we realized and that we have a responsibility to do more than just look the other way.


  11. I bought this off the stands. I liked Cap before this, but this run really started my Captain America phase. I might outgrow it after I outgrow my pulse. As others have said above, comics like this one genuinely influenced my understanding of right and wrong (family, church, school, Scouting, etc., notwithstanding). I haven’t had the opportunity to thank Jarrod Alberich’s good friends JMD and John Beatty for this run, but I have thanked Mike Zeck at a con. He seemed like a great guy, and I was proud to have met him.

    I actually got choked up listening to y’all. I mean, I’m a sensitive, 21st century bringer of chaos who’s in touch with his emotions, but I don’t often get emotional listening to Mountain Comics. Good job. If you want another experience of laughing and crying that hits on many of the same topics, I give my strongest possible recommendation to G.I. Jews — a PBS documentary on Jewish Americans who served in World War II. It includes memories from celebrities like Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner as well as men and women I’d never heard of, but should have. They told stories of suffering discrimination from prejudiced Gentile Americans and then watching those people get their eyes opened as the Nazi atrocities became clear. They also told of a heroic Jewish chaplain who went through Europe reconsecrating desecrated Torahs and rededicating synagogues. He even led a service at Nuremberg on the spot where Hitler held his rallies (after the Allies blew up the giant swastika overhead). G.I. Jews is literally wonderful and amazing.

    It makes sense to me that Cap would be this naïve about racism and particularly Nazis in 1980s America. He came out of the ice to a different reality. Many of the individual differences were jarring and even unpleasant, but he had to see the progress on civil rights — on America living up to the first sentence of its Declaration of Independence — as a wonderfully striking positive. If I go with Marvel’s sliding time scale, the armed forces and the schools are integrated, Jim Crow laws are gone, there’s been a Catholic President, and the Civil Rights Act is the law of the land. School children are taught about the Holocaust with the intent of ensuring it never happens again, and everyone knows that Adolf Hitler is a leading contender for most evil person in history. Even the episode with the art director is unusual for him, because the people who really know Steve Rogers would never think to say something like that in front of him. His character has an elevating effect on those around him. So while I agree 100% that his lack of knowledge of the Torah is implausible, I think his naivete is.

    I knew a little about the Torah and the reticence to even approach blasphemy by naming the deity before listening. In some English translations of the Bible, the word (please forgive me) Yahweh is translated as LORD (all caps) out of respect for this tradition. Yahweh is also said “Jehovah.” It is the name of God that means “I AM” in a special tense that is past, present, and future all at the same time. Still, Sean educated for me far beyond my previous knowledge of Torahs, and it was fascinating. Thank you.

    Regarding the Arnie and Michael relationship, I read a lot more of the run than you did, Rob, and I didn’t get it on the first go. It probably clicked when I reread it as a teen. You just didn’t have enough to go on here. DeMatteis’ writing was masterful in that he hid nothing, and yet wasn’t overt, either.

    Regarding the supporting cast overall, they were maybe the best in comics at the time. My only complaint was that we never saw enough of them. They were really heroes and survivors in their own rights, and I would’ve read an extra monthly comic that focused on them. This is why I always like the portrayals of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Alfred Pennyworth, etc. as people who fight for what’s right and are capable in their own right. I’ve been blessed to meet some real heroes, and their supporting casts are always quite impressive.

    On that point, I enjoyed Bernie’s very realistic realization at the end. Secret identities always seemed necessary for Steve Rogers, because he really needs that connection to the common American and mundane, but meaningful life — to the way of life he’s fighting for. But they’re also extremely difficult, because he’s terrible at duplicity. So writers have had an understandably hard time portraying this.

    Thanks for a great and thought-provoking episode, guys.

  12. You covering this issue at this time seems fated as I’ve been having a very DeMatteis fortnight. I recently retweeted an image someone had shared of Cap saving Arnie and saying “they can’t corrupt your love for Michael with their lies anymore than they can corrupt my love for Bernie. Do you hear me Arnie? They’re the pariahs, they’re the disease”. I @’d JM and explained how picking up the back issue in 1989 as a gay teenager really helped. This led JM to thank me.

    Can you imagine, JM DeMatteis writes stories that helped me, that helped Sean, that helped Martin Gray and, I’m sure, thousands of people and he’s thanking me. The man is a legend and a hero and he’s declaring his gratitude. When I grow up I hope I’m as good a man as JM DeMatteis.

    Then on Tuesday I get Greenberg the Vampire as my birthday present. My husband had asked me if there were many comics about vampires and I had mentioned Greenberg as being something I’d heard about but never read. This prompted me to spend my birthday vouchers on Mercy and Moonshadow. So I’ve lots of great DeMatteis to read.

    Plus I’ve been working on prepping the third episode of my podcast (Should I Love This Comic?) which is about Dr Fate number 7 and is a shameless rip off of the Mountain Comics template. So I really am steeped in JM at the moment and loved your analysis of an issue I’ve only read once on Marvel Unlimited when I decided to read the entire JM run about 6 months ago.

    I must say I found it difficult to imagine reading it in 1982 when I read it and the both-sides element really stood out to me. Some of it probably comes down to being British. Free speech is probably less central to our national identity than it is in the USA so Captain America seems less reasonable at the end of the story.

    Interesting to hear Sean’s description of the importance of the Torah to his Jewish identity. It was all stuff I knew on an intellectual level (I trained to be an RE teacher) but it’s always much more interesting to hear about real life experience through lived stories. Thank you.

    Interestingly I presumed I’d misheard “son” in the synopsis. I’m glad Rob discovered about Arnie and Michael.

    After all that serious stuff I sadly need to correct another error. You stated that John Beatty is the best inker for Mike Zeck. This is factually incorrect. Beatty did great work with Zeck but Bob McLeod is the best inker for Mike Zeck. Exhibit A is Kraven’s Last Hunt. The case rests.

  13. Oh, boy, I love Mountain Comics! Hurray for summer! If I had a job, I could take a vacation! If there was anyplace to go.
    I had stopped buying Cap at this point. I know that I’m in the minority, but I dislike Zeck’s work on the book. Nevertheless, what strikes me from this fascinating conversation is that, until I heard this podcast I had never heard the characters of Arnie and Michael. Just because I stopped actively collecting comics didn’t mean I’d abandoned the hobby entirely. Even before the age of the internet, I had friends who were reading, and selling comics. I would read the occasional Comics Journal and the like. Online, I’ve perused many, many comics blogs, but I don’t recall this couple ever being mentioned. Could it be that the majority of comics fans were accepting? Well, there certainly seem to be an untoward amount of loudmouths on social media who complain about any little thing that upsets their narrow viewpoints. Were Arnie and Michael completely under the radar? Not even my gay comics reading friends, or those online seekers of inclusivity, have cited them as positive role models. Good job, J.M. for creating this couple without having to shine a spotlight on them! A well-developed character is more than just one defining trait!

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