Before “The First Avenger”

With excitement building for the upcoming release of "Captain America: The First Avenger", I think we need to take a step back and appreciate how far the cinematographic depiction of this iconic character has come. When I was a wee lad, not only did we have to walk uphill to school both ways*, but we also had to put up with this doofus on our tiny standard-def television sets:

For comparison's sake, check out the classic comic-book version of Captain America for an idea of what the uniform is supposed to look like:

Apparently the urge in the 1970s to wear a plunging Vee-Neck was so powerful, it could even destroy the symbol of America, because they eliminated the usual horizontal division of the tunic in favor of this vertical bifurcation of the stripes. The visual effect can only be described as the most patriotic suspenders ever. Wedged between them as if caught in the process of falling down the striped vee into his gaping man-well is a pathetic little white star.

I can only guess the star is fleeing from the even more pathetic, anemic "A" on his giant motorcycle helmet. Seriously, along with the painted-on wings, it looks like something a high school student would crank out ten minutes before shop class when he finds himself stuck with nothing but a bad cardboard template and the can of white spray paint he'd just been huffing.

And the helmet itself ... that enormous, sweaty, awful-looking helmet that turns him into a spandex-clad bobble-head doll ... I can only suspect that in this 1970s version, Steve Rogers suffered a Gary Busey-like severe head trauma while on his trademark motorcycle, causing him to a) wear this ridiculous outfit in the first place and b) cover his noggin with this even more ridiculous headgear instead of his usual mask.

Without the cover of the face mask, they had to have some other way to hide his identity. Because come on, if you were forced to run around looking like this, you'd be eager to hide who you were, too. Luckily the ultra-cool hep cats of the 1970s had the solution -- purple glasses! Not only does it reverse the usual covered portion (hiding the eyes instead of leaving holes for them like the mask did), but it has the benefit of providing a whole new color to the usual three present in the actual flag. Because nothing says "America" like red, white, blue, and ... purple. Oy.

Apparently by the time they were done turning the rest of his costume from "Patriotic Avenger" to "Suspender-Wearing Bobblehead" they were exhausted, because the best use they could come up with for all that wasted white material left over from putting his chest star on Slimfast was to slap them on his pointy red gloves. Something about them screams "Wonder Woman" to me, even though she doesn't actually wear gloves. Probably because 1976 Steve Rogers stole them, that's why. Otherwise she'd pull those bad boys on in a heartbeat. Or at least give them to Wonder Girl as a present.

Having completed the desecration of this beloved American icon's costume, finally the producers turned their attention to the most important part of the character design -- his shield. You would think you couldn't screw up a round bulls-eye American flag design, but you would be wrong. Sweet fancy Moses, how you would be wrong:

(I like to think that in this shot, he's saying "TAXI! Get me out of this pathetic excuse for a super hero show!")

Not only did they take his shield and make it plastic. Not only did they then make the white stripes see-through and turn the central star from white to blue (show me an American flag with a freaking blue star on it, I challenge you!). But they also forced it into double-duty as his motorcycle windshield! That's even worse than taking Superman's chest symbol and turning it into cellophane. I kept waiting for the episode where they'd find the enormous Tupperware container this lid came from, but alas, young bald Jeff was doomed to disappointment.

So when you're sitting in the theater waiting for the opening credits for "Captain America: The First Avenger", and as you thrill to the awesome spectacle of his kick-ass costume, take a moment to pity those of us who were forced to put up with this appalling spandex striped-suspenders with bobble-head motorcycle helmet incarnation. We've earned this new movie.

* In the snow. Yes, in Louisiana. Shut up.