We started off this month of weird Captain America stories by looking at an absolutely bizarre little piece of vintage Jack Kirby that featured Cap sliding throughout time and reliving some greatest hits of American history, so what better way to continue the month than with another trip down memory lane. We’re heading back to World War II this week with a story from a very strange series that ran through the late seventies over at Marvel. For whatever reason they decided to revive the Invaders, a group of heroes from Timely Comics, the proto-Marvel, who starred in books during the actual war. The stories in this revival series actually took place in World War II, as if they were forgotten legends that we’ve just never heard before. They’re mostly forgettable stories, just cheesy little adventures involving Captain America, Bucky, Namor, and the rest of the old staple of characters. But, while I was tracking down some suitably weird stories featuring Cap to feature during July, I came across this delightful little story. I mean, just look at that cover. We’re talking about a Nazi Frankenstein’s Monster today folks. Because comics are our finest medium.
The story begins at the Invader’s headquarters with Spitfire, a peppy British hero with super-speed, looking through some souvenirs. And, she comes across an extremely large hat belonging to a Nazi Gestapo officer. She marvels at the size of the hat, and the person that it must have sat atop, and she ends up seeking out Captain America to tell her what the story was. So, Cap sits her down and starts to regale and insane story. It all began when Captain America and Bucky decided to fly to Switzerland to look for the Human Torch and his teenage sidekick Toro, who seemed to have gone missing. So, the duo hop on a plane that’s piloted by Namor, for some reason, and they fly off to Switzerland, where things immediately get weird. Because as soon as Cap and Bucky step foot off of the lane they’re approached by a gang of angry villagers who are immediately worried about the appearance of two oddly dressed people. The villagers threaten Cap and Bucky, until Namor hops into the fray and really escalates the situation, convincing them that oddity is afoot. However, Cap is able to defuse the situation, and ask the villagers what’s going on. And it turns out that there’s been a lot of strange things going on lately.
Things started with a series of peculiar grave robberies, and only of recently buried bodies. Then they saw a pair of flaming demons fly around their city before vanishing into an ominous old castle. We of course know that these flaming demons were the Human Torch and Toro, but it certainly makes sense for these villagers to be more than a little put off by their appearance. However, there was one final mysterious event that really cinched it for them. Because a strange lumbering giant came from the castle, killed a bunch of villagers, and then returned to the castle. So, it’s understandable that when the villagers saw a pair of garishly dressed people flying into their village in the middle of the night they got a tad defensive.
However, once their story is done Cap immediately starts condescending to them, telling the group that he doesn’t believe that a monster is living in a creepy castle. That’s apparently a bridge too far for him. And he doesn’t really bat an eye when they tell him that the man who owns that castle is named Basil Frankenstein. Nope, Cap just glides past all of that and announces that he and Bucky are going to go investigate Frankenstein’s Castle and track down their missing teammates. So, the two sneak up into the castle, get past some basic defenses, and find the place absolutely swarming with Nazi soldiers. The two start fighting the Nazis, something they’re quite good at, and start making short work of them. However, while they’re busy beating up Nazi grunts, they don’t notice heavy footsteps behind them as the Nazi’s secret weapon arrives.
Yep, a Nazi Frankenstein’s Monster! And Cap is not pleased to see it. He makes a Boris Karloff joke and then immediately starts beating the hell out of the monster that has shambled into the room. Unfortunately, it turns out the Nazi’s could build the hell out of a pile of corpses, and the Monster is able to easily beat up both Cap and Bucky. Cap obviously doesn’t give up, since he’s Captain Goddamn America, but before he can dive back into battle with the Monster things are ground to a halt with the sudden appearance of Basil Frankenstein and his assistant Kitty. They’re able to cause the Monster to snap to attention so that he can do a little monologuing.
He makes it clear that he has insidious plans for Captain America, whose body apparently passes some test that he’d had in his mind. Frankenstein orders the Monster to knock out Cap, but just to get him unconscious and keep his body in perfect condition. Bucky however can be beaten to death. It’s not really his business. However, the Monster doesn’t do that, he just knocks both men out and drags them off to a specially arranged dungeon. They chain Bucky to a wall, next to the Human Torch’s sidekick Toro who is being continually doused with water, and tie Cap up to a bed. He struggles against his bonds, worrying about the two sidekicks he’s now responsible for, when Nigel and Kitty come into the room to start explaining what’s going on.
Nigel Frankenstein orders the Monster out of the room, and begins filling Cap in on his insane plan. And, it all begins with the fact that he is in fact the ancestor of Victor Frankenstein, who was a real person in the Marvel Universe. Which begs the question of if the book exists, and if it doesn’t, do people even know the story? That’s not tackled though. Instead he explains that he’s had to bear the crushing burden of being a Frankenstein, constantly mocked for being related to a man who made monsters. So, to retaliate, he decided to make monsters. And, he found a group of people who were down with making hulking monsters out of corpses. The Nazi’s!
Frankenstein was then paired up with Dr. Kitagowa, a famed Japanese surgeon, who helped him with his handicap. Their experiments are a joint project between Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan where they hope to build an army of Frankensteins to pummel the Allies into submission. They’ve only managed to create one Monster so far, but they have a lot of plans. And, in the process of making these plans, the two have fallen in love. There’s just one problem. Because Basil is paralyzed he’s been unable to have sex with Kitagowa. So, they’ve decided to take Captain America, remove his brain, and put Basil’s inside so that he can use Captain America’s body to satisfy his girlfriend. What?!
They then wheel Captain America into an operating theater, where they also come across the weird glass bubble that they’re keeping the Human Torch in. Inside the bubble the Torch can’t turn his flames on, and he’s been kept here for two reasons. First, to draw Captain America to the castle. And two, because Dr. Frankenstein needs “the Human Torch’s Android Energies!” What does this mean? No idea. Apparently Basil was able to bring a corpse back to life to create his Nazi Monster, but he wasn’t able to make it nearly as strong as his ancestor was able to. So, he’s going to use the Torch somehow to supercharge his Monster and make it massive.
And, in the process, he ends up activating a series of machines that make his castle start glowing like a beacon. And this draws the attention of the fearful villagers from earlier, who are still hanging out with Namor for some reason. Namor says that he’ll go investigate the mystery, telling them that they should just stay in safety. But, they refuse, and start forming a mob to storm the castle gates. Namor ignores them though, and flies up to the castle to try and save his friends. And, when he gets there, he finds a handy window that gives him a glimpse of the insanity going on inside the castle. He gets to see a tied up Cap, the Nazi Monster, and a dwindling Human Torch, and he figures that it’s time for him to burst in and save everyone.
A lot of stuff starts happening at this point. The Monster begins to rapidly grow in size while draining the Human Torch of his “android energies,” the angry mob arrives at the gates of the castle and start breaking in, and Namor just starts ripping random electrical equipment off of the roof of the castle, hoping it’ll accomplish something. And, while it doesn’t really stop anything going on in the castle, Namor is able to affect some change by throwing the massive machinery down into the room, shattering the weird bubble that the Human Torch is trapped in.
And, given access to oxygen once again, the Human Torch is able to flame on, and start flying around. The villagers manage to break into the castle at that point, and start beating up the Nazis, which draws the attention of Frankenstein and Kitagowa. The Torch is able to melt Cap’s bonds, and the Invaders get to work. They free Bucky and Toro and the group start attacking the Nazi Monster while Frankenstein and Kitagowa stand by in shock. The whole group start beating the hell out of the Monster, and he doesn’t really seem to care, until Namor lands the most powerful punch he has right in the thing’s face. The Monster then decides that this isn’t worth it, and decides to get his revenge. He grabs Frankenstein and Kitagowa, and races up to the parapet of the Castle, while the Invaders chase him. Unfortunately, they aren’t able to stop the Monster from throwing himself, and the villains, off of the castle and down into the valley below, committing suicide. And, for some reason, this really moves the Human Torch. He decides that he too is a man-made monstrosity, and declares himself the new owner of Frankenstein Castle. But, the Invaders leave before we can see whatever the hell is going on there, and they return home, with the big hat.
This story is delightfully weird. I still find the idea of creating a whole new series of comics, which went on for 41 issues, that just tell new stories set in World War II is a little odd, but this one at least is a lot of fun. I love Captain America, and seeing him in this time period with weirdo characters like Namor and the original Human Torch is a lot of fun. And, what better way to spice things up than by tossing in not only Nazis, but Universal Monsters too. The whole premise of this comic, that an evil descendant of Dr. Victor Frankenstein wants to build an army of Axis Monsters to take over the world is weird enough, but to then add in the completely insane wrinkle that he also wants to put his brain in Captain America’s body so he can have sex is what pushes this over the edge. I don’t quite know why comics from this time period were so insane, if they just decided to throw everything at the wall to see what stuck after more or less abandoning the Comics Code, but I love them. Plus, it’s always nice to see Captain America punching Nazis. It’s patriotic.
“Heil Frankenstein” was written by Don Glut, penciled by Chic Stone, inked by Bill Black, and colored by George Roussos, 1978.
Categories: Marvel Madness