In March of 1941, Europe was embroiled in another great war. Many Americans, including many American legislators, wanted nothing to do with it. “Let Europe sort out its own problems.” Pres. Franklin Roosevelt, while maintaining America would remain officially neutral by law, if not at heart, found a way to aid our allies of the First World War. It was called Lend-Lease.
Lend-Lease allowed America to become, as Pres. Roosevelt put it, “the great arsenal of democracy.” The US would supply Great Britain, who at that point was virtually alone in standing against Germany, with tanks, ships, aircraft, weapons, clothing, and food. The tools necessary for Great Britain to sustain its fight against the Nazis and Adolf Hitler.
There were members of Congress who believed Lend-Lease gave the president too much power. The isolationists of America believed Roosevelt was trying to find a way to break our policy of neutrality and get our country involved in another bloody conflict over there. “Hadn’t we lost enough of our boys in getting Europe’s fanny out of the fire already?” That attitude may not have been shared by the majority of Americans, but it had a strong influence on America’s feelings toward another European war.
Timely Comics, however, took a bold stance. Lend-Lease may have put a big crack in the neutrality wall built around the United States, but the official American policy was to not get directly involved. And, yet, Timely made its non-neutral attitude known with one of the most legendary punches in comic book history.
The cover date is March, 1941, but issue number one of Captain America Comics hit the newsstands in December, 1940; three months prior to Lend-Lease becoming law and a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor. American isolationists may have been outspoken, but Timely wanted their opinion to be known, as well. So, they created America’s super-soldier.
The cover was done by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, with Simon sketching out the idea and then inking Kirby’s fleshed out pencils, the two artists wanted the world to know that America needed to get involved. Captain America can be seen delivering a powerful smack right in Hitler’s kisser on the cover of this debut issue. Talk about boldly stating their opinion! Not doubt about where they stood. This Hitler guy was an evil force that needed to be stopped, no matter what the we-shouldn’t-get-involved crowd said. A crowd that included some Americans who actually supported the German dictator.
The issue sold very well at close to a million copies and received mostly positive feedback. However, there were some Americans who objected and threats were made to Timely and the book’s creators. Threats that warranted police protection for a time.
The art itself is good, albeit a bit crude. And it delivers its message, along with that punch, loud and clear. It is because of the bold statement being made by Simon, Kirby, publisher Martin Goodman, and Timely Comics that this is a great cover. In fact, it may be one of the greatest cover book covers ever made.
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