Today’s blog post is brought to you by the flu. Yeah, I’ve been stuck at home most of the week with a fever, congestion and coughing. I am so sick of being sick.
Anyway, with all this time on my hands, and with Valentine’s Day coming up on Saturday, I decided to do a follow-up to my piece from last year on Captain America and Diamondback.
To make a long story short, because one of these days I might want to devote another post to the subject… Captain America’s first major romantic interest of the Silver Age was Sharon Carter aka Agent 13 of S.H.I.E.L.D. She was introduced in Tales of Suspense #75 (March 1966) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby. Unfortunately, like many other female characters in the 1960s and 70s, Sharon was sometimes not especially well-written. Reading some of those stories today, they are very sexist.
Also, from 1977 to 1979 there was a definite problem of “musical chairs” on the Captain America series, with writers coming and going faster than you could keep count. The book abruptly changed directions several times. Along the way, Sharon was shunted off-stage and then brought back just long enough to die a rather unconvincing death in the pages of issue #237 (Sept 1979).
Sharon actually stayed dead for quite some time until she was finally brought back by Mark Waid & Ron Garney in Captain America #445 (Nov 1995) where it was revealed that someone had faked her death and she had gone missing behind enemy lines. We never got any sort of coherent, detailed explanation because Waid & Garney’s run was brutally cut short by “Heroes Reborn.” Thank you sooooo much, Rob Liefeld!
Whatever it was that actually happened, when Cap was reunited with his lost love she was now angry, cynical and suffering from PTSD. Quite obviously she and Cap did not simply pick up where they left off years before.
After the “Heroes Reborn” fiasco, Waid came back to write Captain America for a couple of years, and then left again due to disagreements with editorial. His replacement was Dan Jurgens, who several issues later also became the penciler. For most of his run he was paired with the talented Bob Layton on inks. The artwork by them was high quality.
I will readily acknowledge that I found Jurgens’ writing on Captain America to be hit or miss. Nevertheless, among the positive aspects of his time on the series, he mellowed Sharon Carter out. She was still a much stronger, confident, independent character than she had been for much of the 1960s and 70s, but without the bitterness that Waid had given her.
Waid started a subplot with Steve Rogers becoming romantically involved with an attorney named Connie Ferrari, and Jurgens continued that. Of course, under Jurgens’ pen, Connie became (with apologies to Dean Haspiel) a total “freak magnet.” She was a perfectly normal, everyday woman who just kept attracting strange people. Connie was already dating Steve Rogers without realizing he was Captain America. Jurgens then unmasked one of Connie’s major clients as the leader of a faction of the techno-terrorist group A.I.M. Jurgens also revealed that Connie’s brother David, who she believed had died years before in a military hazing, was actually a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who went missing on a covert op, and who had now resurfaced as the criminal mastermind “The Answer” who planned to blackmail the world with the threat of nuclear Armageddon.
(And what is up with S.H.I.E.L.D. losing all of these agents behind enemy lines? For the world’s top intelligence agency they seem to misplace a lot of personnel.)
Connie finally had enough with all this weirdness and moved out of NYC to start fresh, breaking up with Steve in the process. This left the field clear for Steve and Sharon, who had discovered they still had feelings for one another, to have another go at a relationship.
The scanned page of original artwork above is from Captain America volume 3 #50 (Feb 2002). It’s actually the very last page by Jurgens & Layton on the series. The story “To the Core” is really something of an excuse to have guest artists such as John Romita, Sal Buscema and Mike Zeck contribute pin-up pages that look back at various points on Cap’s eventful life. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it looks nice. And that final page by Jurgens & Layton is beautiful, a very romantic image of Cap and Sharon on a cliff by the sea looking at the sun rise.
I purchased this page of art from Spencer Beck of The Artist’s Choice who represents both Jurgens and Layton, along with numerous other talented artists. Thanks again, Spencer.
The rest of Captain America #50 was, well, just weird. In stories by other creators Cap is apparently killed fighting a cult of geriatric Nazi war criminals and there’s a big funeral held for him. That was it for volume three.
A few months later the series re-started under the Marvel Knights banner, with Steve Rogers visiting Ground Zero in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, with no explanation for how he had come back, or even an acknowledgment that he had been dead in the first place. And from that awkward start the Marvel Knight run stumbled along for the next two and a half years, telling some barely-comprehensible stories. But, again, that’s a subject for another time.
In any case, a lasting impact of Jurgens’ run on Captain America was that Sharon Carter was once more fully active in S.H.I.E.L.D., and she and Steve Rogers were again romantically involved. That was how things stood in late 2004 when Ed Brubaker came onboard as the series’ new writer. Working from that he and his artistic collaborators told some of the best stories to ever feature the characters.
So this Valentine’s Day, let us think fondly of Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter. After numerous deaths, resurrections, manipulations by mind control, times stranded in other dimensions, losses of powers, and assorted bizarre developments for both of them they’re still together. At least, I think they are. Okay, if they aren’t, just give it another reboot or two by Marvel Comics and I’m sure they’ll be a couple once again!
By the way, for those who missed it the first time, Dan Jurgens’ run on Captain America was collected into three trade paperbacks a few years ago. They’re worth picking up. They may not be the all-time greatest Cap stories ever, but they’re still fun, and the artwork is fantastic.