Classic Tales of Two-Fisted, Jingo-tastic Derring-Do: Meet FIGHTING AMERICAN : Monkey See First there was Captain America, then there was Fighting American. A new trade paperback collects the adventure of this weirder, darker hero of the Cold War era, who faced off against such dastards as Hotsky Trotsky and Poison Ivan.
NPR logo Classic Tales of Two-Fisted, Jingo-tastic Derring-Do: Meet FIGHTING AMERICAN

Classic Tales of Two-Fisted, Jingo-tastic Derring-Do: Meet FIGHTING AMERICAN

From the chilliest depths of the Cold War comes FIGHTING AMERICAN, upholder of justice, defender of freedom, puncher of mutant Commies. Titan Books hide caption

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Titan Books

Meet Fighting American, a superhero created in 1954 by writer Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby. (Yes, that Simon and Kirby, who'd created Captain America 13 years prior.) His adventures are collected in a new trade paperback from Titan Books, in stores this week.

Fighting American was a philosophical successor to Cap, adapted to fit the Cold War era. His origin shared many similar elements (frail patriot, secret government project, boy sidekick), albeit with a weirder, darker twist:

Jingoistic war-hero/news personality Johnny Flagg (yeah, I know) gets killed by a buncha dirty Commies. His milquetoasty younger brother Nelson Flagg takes part in a secret government program called "Project Fighting American" (oh, shut up) which reanimates and powers up Johnny's corpse; Nelson transfers his mind into his brother's buff body and becomes the masked Commie-smasher Fighting American — and assumes his dead older brother's identity in the bargain.

Few superheroes of the time built quite so much "eew" into their basic conceptual DNA, but Simon kept things light. Over Fighting American's brief career (lasting only 7 issues — the trade paperback also includes several issues that were never published) his adventures grew decidedly jokier.

With his sidekick Speedboy and the brilliant Professor Dyle Twister (heh), he faced off against such deadly foes as Hotsky Trotsky, Poison Ivan, Rhode Island Red and the Ginza Goniff.

See above, in re: "decidedly jokier."

Jack Kirby's art, here, boasts none of the swoony cosmic techno-psychedelia it would soon attain — which makes sense, given Fighting American's street-level, two-fisted action. But his characteristic dynamism is already firmly ensconced (lots of Kirbyesque foreshortened limbs hurtle out at the reader) as is his character work.

Kirby seems to regard the belief in a Worker's Paradise as a potent full-body mutagen; his Commie villains are monstrous, deformed creatures from some pit of Hell in which class distinctions have disappeared and the old conditions of production have been swept away by force.

It's crazy, beautiful, crazy, powerful and downright crazy graphic storytelling.

It's American comics, writ large.

And CRAzily.