ABC celebrates Marvel’s Captain America: 75 Heroic Years in prime time on Tuesday, January 19. The cultural icon created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby debuted in 1941, just as America entered the Second World War — a move which would result in the 20th century being known, right or wrong, as the American Century. A sort of combination of Superman and Uncle Sam, Captain America is the only comic book superhero tied to a nation — and he bears the large symbolic weight (geopolitical fluctuations) of that role.
Captain America was such a powerful symbol that the great rock songwriter Ray Davies used the character as the central figure in the Kinks enduring 1979 single Catch Me Now I’m Falling. The US was at a low ebb with the Iranian hostage crisis and gas crisis dovetailing when Davies wrote his strong indictment of the global community for failing to rally around the US after all it had done for its allies during WWII and after. The lyric said, in part:
Now I’m calling all citizens from all over the world
This is Captain America calling
I bailed you out when you were down on your knees
So will you catch me now I’m falling
With his inextricable link to the US, Captain America’s role and reputation has shifted more than any other Marvel hero. Thirty-seven years ago Ray Davies called on US allies to be more like The Avengers, to team up to face down their enemies. They’ve at least promised to go see American hero movies. Captain America: 75 Heroic Years airs January 29, 8pm ET on ABC.