Summary: The comic book hero Captain America was created in 1940, while World War II raged in Europe. He was the first superhero specifically designed to fight Nazis, and his book proved immensely popular during the war years. Marvel Comics decided to revive the character in 1964, but a problem soon emerged—during peacetime, what is there for a superhero to do when he was originally created to beat up on America’s foreign enemies? Comic book fans offered plenty of answers, and the result was the so-called “patriotism controversy,” in which fans, writers, and editors debated Cap’s relevance in the 1960s and 1970s. The direction in which they ultimately took the character tells us a great deal about how patriotism came to be redefined as a result of the tumultuous events of the period.
John Moser is Associate Professor of History at Ashland University, where he teaches courses on U.S., European, and East Asian history. He is author of three books: Twisting the Lion’s Tail: American Anglophobia between the World Wars (New York University Press, 1999), Presidents from Hoover through Truman, 1929-1953 (Greenwood Press, 2002), and Right Turn: John T. Flynn and the Transformation of American Liberalism (New York University Press, 2005). He lives in Ashland with his wife, Monica, their daughter, Constanze, and their two yellow labs, Lotte and Ruby.