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.

26 Responses to Before “The First Avenger”

  1. Hammerknight says:

    Now stop holding back your true feelings about this, and let us hear what you really think. You got to think that all and all that Hollywood must of never read a comic book in their lives. Has there even been a costume on the big screen or the little on that has matched the comic book. The only one close is Iron Man, but I’m sure you can find something that doesn’t match. I have always been disappointed with Hollywood’s try at comics. Before the movies you never seen curse words in comics. I think it should be law that if something is going to be based on a comic that there should be people there that have read them. Not only that people there that have loved them and would do anything within their powers to keep them true to the paper books.

  2. William A. Peterson says:

    You know, Jeff, I had ALMOST managed to forget entirely about this!
    Thanks a lot!

  3. Gregg says:

    The worst thing about it wasn’t even the costume. It was how Captain America’s signature move (done at least twice in the movie, maybe more) is to get captured and tossed into a car, pretending to get sick so the driver pulls over, trotting off to pretend to puke and waiting for the driver to come check on him, and then sprinting back and stealing the car. There’s your American icon, folks.

  4. X-stacy says:

    I was wondering why the First Avenger has Captain America’s name as Steve Jones. And now I understand. After this–and the movie from the 90’s that featured the costume with rubber ears–he must be in witless protection!

  5. X-stacy says:

    (Should have added: No, not really. Although one of the gossip rags in the breakroom at work did identify him as Steve Jones, IMDb and every other reputatable source says Rogers.)

  6. John says:

    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.

    So true. So true, my brother!

  7. John says:

    …oh, and you forgot to point out the other bit of see-through-shield awesomeness: it wobbled.

  8. Jeff Hebert says:

    Oh yes, the wobbling. The incredible, plastic, see-through Tupperware lid that wobbled as it flew. At least Cap could see his death hurtling towards him just before it shredded his toy shield.

  9. McKnight57 says:

    Just be happy you don’t have to deal with what looked like a crappy Wonder Woman reboot.

  10. Joshua says:

    Oh Gawd…was this the “hippie” Captain America? I seem to recall reading about a late 70’s/early 80’s rendition of Captain America that producers hoped to distance from the recently ended Vietnam War. Heard he traveled from town to town trying to spread harmony and brotherhood; unlike Bixby’s Banner (…God, I miss that show) who has just cause to.

    Am I wrong about the plot, or did I pull this out of my ass ?

  11. Joshua says:

    Minor correction: Banner had to travel from town to town as a means of laying low, he didn’t travel from town to town trying to spread harmony and brotherhood.

    Unless you consider collateral damage, bruised and broken bodies, and a gamma-irradiated creature as a way of bringing people together.


  12. PCFDPGrey says:

    Oh come on, we all know that the reason he wears the helmet is because he’s “SPECIAL”.

  13. Niall Mor says:

    Jeff, it could be worse. I just finished listening to an episode of the old Superman radio serial from the ’40s featuring a guest appearance by Batman and Robin. Crossover! Cool, right? Wrong! Get this: The Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder are trapped far underground in a maze of tunnels filled with icy water. What is the Dark Knight’s daring plan of escape? How does the Ace of Detectives get out of this one? Stand there and YELL FOR HELP! Yes! I kid you not! Batman and Robin have to stand there and yell their freakin’ heads off until Clark Kent/Superman blunders across the trapdoor to the tunnel and shows up to rescue them.

    Not exactly “Bad Costume Wednesday,” but it could be the beginning of a new feature–“Piss Poor Plotting” or “Rotten Writing.”

  14. McKnight57 says:

    PCFDPGrey (12): Did this edition also drive a short bus as his mode of super hero transportation?

  15. Myro says:

    You know, as a wee Canadian lad, I always felt that I was missing out on some of the cool American television programs. And I also thought I had managed to catch all the super-based live action shows from the ’70s (Wonder Woman, a few episodes of Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, even pre-70s shows like Batman, Green Hornet, and even ’50s George Reeve Superman). But I seemed to have missed this one. And I believe I’m happy that I did.

    Still no real internet yet, although it should get fixed soon. I’m having to bum Verizon smartphones off my fiancee’s family in the mean time

  16. Me, Myself & I says:

    I’m right there with you regarding this show Myro. I often felt like I was missing a lot of the cool shows as a kid as well with my 3 channels and one of them being in a language I didn’t speak.

    I can honestly say that I don’t think I was missing out in regards to this show at least. Yay for “Peasant View”!

  17. Watson Bradshaw says:

    I missed out on this, But I do remember the horrid 90’s movie with rubber ears and an Italian Red Skull. The costume and shield looked better but the movie on the whole was a turkey.

  18. ajw says:

    Most anticipated movie for me this year. Even with nightcrawler’s dad azazel in first class, and possibly yellow lanterns in the green lantern.

  19. This brings back memories of Friday night family tv & pizza. The producers of “Captain America” were trying out-glam Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman.

    As for the 1990 movie, it did have one worthwhile scene. Captain America hitches a ride with a guy driving a Volkswagen with a Sony stereo. He flips because he thought that the Axis won the war!

  20. Mr.MikeK says:

    Hulu has lots of great shows, including the Bill Bixby Hulk series (the first three seasons). I am so grateful that this is not there. If it was, I would be forced to watch it for the cheese factor. This is why we should close the door on most 70’s television and forget it ever happened.

  21. Tool says:

    OMG thats crazy, I can’t believe some of the old shows. I use to watch the old spiderman, batman and later on knight rider, MacGuyver ( SPELL? ), or hulk and so on. So I remember so of the old shows. I think the new Cap movie will be cool but don’t know about the actor but we will see.

  22. Joshua says:

    *SIGH* All you really need to know can be summed up to perfection by this one clip. The 70’s music, the goofy costume, the “silence” switch on the bike, and the wobbly/transparent shield is all there for your viewing horror…er, pleasure.


  23. Myro says:

    Joshua (22): That was comic gold. I still refuse to believe that it’s really Captain America. I think it was some mentally deficient guy who read too many Captain America comics and watched too much Evel Knievel in the past. And I love how his wobbly shield that probably couldn’t stop a half-hearted punch somehow deflects a bullet.

  24. punkjay says:

    God this costume is so bad i can’t even try to think of words to give this unholy abomination. The motorcycle helmet looked like a middle school art project, the shield looked like someone made it in there basement, and to top off the whole freakshow is those awful glasses, and an uglier spandex costume. It just makes me sick. Even at his tender age Stan “the man” lee could probably kick this guy’s butt!

  25. Shade2075 says:

    Apparently they forgot to go through with the radical experiment that makes into the powerful super hero we all know.

  26. Dan says:

    Jeff, found another bad one for you. It’s a alternate reality version of Gambit. I saw it and knew it was one you would love. And by love, I mean want to vomit.