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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

A former Soviet general is threatening America in the pages of Marvel Comics. And who is going to fight this villain out of the Cold War era? It's a job for Captain America - except, he can't anymore, as I reported on this program almost a year ago.

(Soundbite of archived clip)

MONTAGNE: Sad news now about a superhero. Marvel Comics yesterday announced the death of Steve Rogers, also known as Captain America. He was shot by assassins on the steps of the federal courthouse in New York City.

But wait, Captain America is back. Steve Rogers is still dead. The form-fitting, star-spangled costume has been donned by his old sidekick, James Bucky Barnes.

Mr. ED BRUBAKER (Writer, "Captain America"): Bucky is kind of a very conflicted character who's trying to find some redemption. And, you know, his closest friend is basically taken away from him before he can really reconcile with him.

MONTAGNE: Ed Brubaker writes "Captain America" for Marvel Comics. He says the two characters had a lot to reconcile. Bucky and Captain America fought together in World War II. After the war, they took different paths. Captain America became an American hero; Bucky was brainwashed by the Soviets who turned him into an evil killer.

Thanks to a superhero intervention, Bucky is back with the good guys now. Still, he's no Boy Scout. Unlike the old Captain America, whose weapon of choice was a shield. The new Captain America, Bucky Barnes, carries a gun.

Ed Brubaker understands that some readers might have a problem with that. He says Captain America is one of those characters that Americans on all sides want to claim as their own.

Mr. BRUBAKER: All liberals want Captain America to be standing on a soapbox outside the White House bashing President Bush. All right-wingers want Captain America to be, you know, over in Afghanistan punching Osama in the face, just like in his first issue, on the cover, he's punching Hitler.

MONTAGNE: Ed Brubaker, for one, isn't taking sides. He says he writes about Captain America, the guy behind the mask, not just the icon. And the new issue of "Captain America" is out this morning. Read a page from that story and see the original Captain America at npr.org.

(Soundbite of song, "Captain America")

MOE (Singer): (Singing) Captain America said you gotta be like me or you're gonna wind up dead last. At the end of your rope, flat broke. Down and tired while you're sleeping, won't you go to bed. Let me run your life. Lies.

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