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Captain America – the more things change…

by Matthew Price Modified: April 22, 2013 at 2:17 pm •  Published: April 7, 2008

One of my favorite writers is Mark Gruenwald, who wrote “Squadron Supreme” for Marvel and handled the adventures of Captain America for over 100 issues.   I’m sure part of why he’s my favorite stems from his being the writer of my favorite character when I was a youngster, but I think a lot of his writing holds up, and, sadly, is for the most part not available in trade paperback format. 

Gruenwald died in 1996 at age 43 from a heart attack.  Marvel has a page about Gruenwald’s accomplishments at Marvel.com.

My favorite storyline by Gruenwald — and one of my favorite storylines of all time — is the “President Fires Cap” storyline from “Captain America” 332-350 (with seeds to the storyline going back as far, perhaps, as issue No. 321.)

Gruenwald talked about this storyline with “Amazing Heroes” in 1988, in issue No. 146.  (This is one of the issues I was most excited to get from my fanzine find at Planet Comicon.)   He talks about the only surefire “gimmicks” to revive interest in an ongoing superhero comic.

“Number one, kill somebody important in the book, preferably the lead character.  That’ll get the book looked at.   Short of that change the character dramatically. A new uniform might do it. Or get him out of uniform and replace him.  Or change his life in some other major way: Get him married off or whatever.  So, I did three of the above.”

It was interesting to read that, because it’s very similar to what Ed Brubaker did with his run on the book as well, which succeeded in bringing lots of interest to the character.  Brubaker had written 24 pretty great issues of “Captain America,” but when he killed Cap off in issue No. 25, sales skyrocketed.

“Why is the book being read by fairly significant numbers of new readers?  Once they started looking again, they must have liked something they’d seen, because they kept up with it,” Gruenwald said in the interview.

Gruenwald said he got hate mail from people who didn’t read the book complaining about the changes he made.

“And I say if you’re not a regular reader, that’s why we replaced him.  Just so you’d be a regular reader.”

– Matt Price

by Matthew Price
Features Editor
Features Editor Matthew Price has worked for The Oklahoman since 2000. He’s a University of Oklahoma graduate who has also worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern for the Dallas Morning News. He’s...
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