Well folks, it’s the Fourth of July, and you know what that means. It’s time to talk about some buck-wild Captain America stories! And, as you maybe can see, I’m breaking tradition this year and not talking about Captain America’s interactions with werewolves, because unless I’m missing something, I’ve discussed all of the Captain America stories where he interacts with werewolves. Which, was a very depressing discovery. I’m still keeping my eyes peeled for any more stories that fall into that incredibly specific niche, but it seems like that well may have run dry. I suppose we could switch over to the surprisingly deep well of “Captain America vs Vampires” stories, but that’s kind of getting too close to my Halloween tradition of talking about Dracula. So, I set out to find another wonderfully weird Captain America story to discuss with you all this Independence Day, and in the process decided to leap headfirst into the reliably insane world of Jack Kirby’s Captain America comics. Last year we talked about Kirby’s insane Bicentennial story that featured Captain America journeying throughout time to witness various historical events firsthand. But, as luck would have it, at the same time Kirby crafted a story where Captain America didn’t just witness a historical event, he recreated it. With aliens! And a weird society of magical mentally ill people! Kirby was insane!
The story begins with a relatively normal robbery, with a strange little man breaking into a toy store to steal a bunch of Captain America and Falcon toys. He talks to himself, mentioning how the “Night People of Zero Street” are in dire need to a superhero of their own, and figures that stealing toys is better than nothing. Unfortunately, as the little man is busy stealing toys, a police officer notices the disturbance and comes to investigate. The little man, Brother Dickens, begins to panic, until a flood of other strange little people come to his rescue, ganging up and beating the crap out of the cop. These are the aforementioned Night People, and they are quickly ripping through this department store, ready to steal as much stuff as possible, since they appear to be on some sort of time-table.
And they don’t just stop with toys. The Night People start running all around New York, stealing things such as dogs, food, clothes, antiques, globes, and camera equipment, basically stealing anything that isn’t nailed down and beating up anyone who comes in contact with them. Which, you would think would raise some attention from the superhero community. But, it turns out that Captain American and the Falcon are a little busy dealing with the aftermath of their latest adventure, the famous Mad Bomb story. Which means it’s time for them to head back to their hotel room and awkwardly hang out while Steve takes a bath with the door open like a real creep. And, while Falcon does everything he can to avoid eye-contact with America’s Ass, he gives a call to his girlfriend, Leila Taylor.
Leila is very thrilled to hear from Sam again, and immediately starts filling him in on the whole Night People crimes, which have been apparently all the people of New York have been talking about. Unfortunately, while Leila and Sam are talking she starts teasing him, talking about how he’s her own personal superhero. Which, she probably shouldn’t have been saying next to an open window, because it turns out some of the Night People are lurking outside her house. And, since they seem desperate to get their hands on a superhero, they decide they should kidnap Leila to draw Falcon towards them. Sam hears Leila being abducted, and jumps to the conclusion that the Night People have taken his love, so he suits up and abandons the wet Steve, who has to just stand by and wonder what’s going on.
Falcon goes soaring through the air of New York, trying to get to Leila as quickly as possible, which leads to some disastrous, but easily avoidable, consequences. Because while flying Falcon doesn’t appear to notice a rapidly approaching airplane, which ends up hitting him. But, instead of recreating a substantially more gory version of the Sully plane crash, he just kind of crashes into the wing and gets stuck, holding on for dear life until the people inside the jet get desperate enough that they open the door and drag him into the safety of the jet. Not really doing a great job with the superheroics, Sam.
Which is a shame, because at that same time Leila is being brought to the inner sanctum of the Night People. They drag her along some musty old corridors of a dilapidated building, all while chattering insanely about their need of a superhero. They decide to take Leila on her word that she knows a superhero, and call for the help of one of their members, Brother Wonderful, who has some sort of device that’s able to track the Falcon. They indeed see that he’s travelling towards them, but he’s having to take a slight detour with the whole plane thing. Luckily, Falcon has been picked up by an eccentric oil magnate named Texas Jack Muldoon, who is more than happy to help Falcon get back to his lady love, just proud to be involved in some superhero shenanigans. However, as soon as Falcon starts to fly away, he suddenly seems to vanish into an invisible portal, right in front of Texas Jack.
Falcon flies straight through this mysterious portal, and ends up crashing into the headquarters of the Night People, who are eagerly awaiting his arrival. Because as soon as they see him they gas him with some sort of knock-out gas before tying him up and dragging his unconscious body towards their meeting room. Falcon is then brought before their leader, along with Leila, and is informed that they are in eager need of a superhero, despite the fact that they hate the outside world, and consider it heretical to their way of life. But, they can simply fix that by “cleansing” Falcon and Leila. And, before they can raise any worries about that ominous saying, the Night People slam giant metal helmets onto Falcon and Leila and activate them, knocking both of them out while their machine reprograms them.
And, while all of this is going on, Captain America has been searching for the Falcon, and is shocked to hear that a witness saw him fly into a magical portal and vanish. So, Cap races towards the headquarters of Texas Jack, who is of course the witness. Texas Jack is absolutely thrilled to be meeting another superhero, and sits down with Cap to talk about everything that’s happening. Which, isn’t much. Jack doesn’t have much more information than the fact that Falcon vanished, and was looking for the Night People. But, he decides to help out a different way, and uses his vast wealth to hire some sort of computer analyst to figure out where the Falcon went.
Meanwhile, on Zero Street, we see that the Night People are very happy with their recent addition. We oversee two members, Brother Inquisitor and Brother Wonderful discussing how the reeducation of Falcon and Leila is going, and are pleased to announce that it has worked perfectly. Both of their memories have been partially erased and changed, so that they are now fervent fans of the Night People, and are willing to help them in any way possible. Which, is going to be helpful, because there’s a very specific and strange problem that the Night People have to worry about.
You see, all of their hoarding and all of their searching for a superhero has been for one cause. To fight off a giant monster that’s been harassing them. And, you might wonder why the average superheroes of Manhattan haven’t noticed a giant monster attacking a bunch of insane people, there’s a very simple explanation for that. Zero Street isn’t on Earth. The Night People do not live on Earth. They live in some sort of parallel dimension, inside a condemned mental hospital that has somehow slipped out of our reality and onto a small planetoid floating in the voice, basically the size of a city block. And, there’s only one other inhabitant of his planetoid. A giant fire-breathing rock monster. And they’ve brought the Falcon here to fight it.
Falcon has been successfully brainwashed by the Night People, and agrees to this insane request, suiting up and flying off to do battle with the giant monster. Which, frankly goes better than you’d think it would. Falcon doesn’t really have any offensive abilities other than punching people, and this is a monster made of stone, but he actually does fairly well against the thing, using his agility and flight to swirl around the monster, avoiding its flames and keeping it off balance. But, after a drawn out fight he’s unable to avoid he monster indefinitely, and ends up getting swatted out of the sky, landing in a puddle of water before being picked up by the savage beast.
Meanwhile, Texas Jack’s man has compiled a bunch of information, and thinks he knows what’s going on. He brings Cap and Texas Jack to a run-down neighborhood in the city that appears to have an entire building and some surround land missing, just leaving behind a mysterious crater. And the building that used to stand in this place was an old asylum for criminally insane people, including a nuclear physicist named Dr. Abner Doolittle who had wild ideas about teleporting things to other dimensions, and was declared mad. So, it seems that Doolittle created his device and sent the citizens of Zero Street into this other dimension, and that they’re the ones who stole the Falcon. Cap thanks them for this information, and decides to just hang out at the crater of Zero Street, hoping to get some answers. And, strangely enough, some time later another mysterious portal opens up around the asylum, and Cap decides to just leap on in.
And while Cap is busy traveling between dimensions, Falcon is still grappling with the damned monster. He’s able to free himself from the beast’s hands, but realizes that there really isn’t much he can do to stop the thing. Until he notices that there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of gravity on this little planetoid, and just a bunch of swirling chaos outside of its reach. So, thinking fast, Falcon escapes the monsters clutches, and flies away from it as fast as he can. And, once he has enough distance between himself and the monster, he activates a device in his costume that allows him to reach a supersonic speed. And, with that active, he points himself at the monster and slams into him like a missile, launching the monster off of the planetoid and to its doom.
And all of this is much to the happiness of the Night People. They are thrilled that the horrible monster who has challenged their new home has been vanquished, and begin celebrating their invincible superhero. However, Brother Wonderful, the aforementioned Doctor Doolittle, has some words of caution to poop on this party. Because according to his calculations this dimension they’re in is absolutely full of planetoids just like theirs, and they all contain a monster just like the one that they defeated. And, what more, he thinks that they will now all start arriving to get vengeance for their fallen brethren. So, to take care of the war he just instigated, Brother Wonderful has opened up the portal to earth, hoping to draw in more superheroes. Which is how Cap was able to enter their world. And not just Cap, because Texas Jack saw the star-spangled Avenger leap into the void and decided to have himself an adventure too!
Captain America and Texas Jack then find themselves instantly teleported across several galaxies and into another dimension, and into the hodepodge laboratory of Brother Wonderful. Cap takes a moment to appreciate the technical ability on display, before dismissing it as the workings of a madman, before he and Texas Jack start planning what to do. Texas Jack just kind of wants to go in guns-blazing, but Cap preaches caution, figuring that they should maybe be a little more cool-headed about dealing with these Night People. But, while they’re arguing they’re suddenly approached by Brother Wonderful, who is not pleased to find two trespassers inside of his perfect utopia. Cap tries to talk him down, but Brother Wonderful quickly decides that Captain America is some sort of law enforcement figure, and that he’s here to send him back to another asylum, which he an’t abide.
However, before things get too intense, Cap starts trying to explain that they’re here to find two friends of theirs, which is enough to distract Brother Wonderful. He becomes less antagonistic, and decides to show his two visitors around, showing off the remnants of the asylum at Zero Street, which is really blowing Cap and Texas Jack’s minds. Because it generally looks like a rundown asylum, complete with grounds, but if you look up in the sky all they can see is floating planetoids, complete with monsters.
And, while wandering around the asylum Captain America finally recognizes Leila in the crowd, and goes running up to her. Unfortunately, the Night People’s brainwashing has really done it’s job, and Leila doesn’t recognize Cap at all. And, because a strange man in a brightly colored costume has suddenly appeared and started accosting her, Leila gets pretty freaked out, which ends up drawing the attention of Falcon, who comes swooping in to save his lady love.
Falcon starts attacking Cap immediately, who isn’t really expecting to have to defend himself from his best friend, so Cap gets pretty thrown off his guard. The two then start wrestling while the Night People gather around and gawk, Falcon doing his best to actually knock Cap out while Cap is focused on getting Falcon to snap out of it. But, Cap just doesn’t get any luck. What does end up stopping the battle is when Brother Wonderful comes up and tells Falcon to stop attacking Cap, because he could be swayed to join their fight. The Night People tell Captain America and Texas Jack that their lives will be sparred as long as they agree to become Night People, get their minds erased, and dedicate their lives to fighting monsters. Which, you know, isn’t exactly a sweet deal. But, while the Night People surround Cap and Jack and start pressuring them, they get a way out in a somewhat surprising manner.
That’s right! The monsters have arrived and have saved Cap and Jack’s hides. Cap is shocked by the appearance of this monster, but quickly understands that that’s why these people abducted Falcon. Especially when Falcon springs into action and begins attacking the monster, using his same method to plow into the thing and send it careening away from them. But, while the Night People are cheering, Cap and Jack notices something a little alarming. There’s a second monster already attacking them from the rear.
Cap and Jack attack this second monster while Falcon deals with the first, as they realize that these monsters are no longer taking it one at a time, and have decided to just swarm the place. Cap and Jack are able to kill their monster, while Falcon tosses his off the planetoid again, before they all meet up with some of the leaders of the Night People. They explain that this has always been their worry, and that they believe the monsters will now swarm the asylum, and raze them from their land. Which is when Texas Jack starts making Alamo comparisons.
While our heroes are talking and fortifying themselves inside the asylum, the monsters appear to be communicating somehow, clearly deciding that it’s time to invade. They begin congregating around the planetoid of the asylum, and begin marching towards Zero Street. The monsters have no interest in these strange little invaders who have shown up in their world, and will do anything to raze them from the planetoid, reclaiming their land.
Meanwhile, Cap has convinced everyone that they need to hide in the asylum, and even though brainwashed Falcon isn’t really on board with taking orders, even he falls in line and they begin guiding all of the Night People into the asylum while locking the doors, and standing guard to kill the first monsters who get inside. Cap, Falcon, and Jack begin defending the Night People as best as they can, killing the monsters that come pouring through every conceivable entrance, but they just aren’t enough. The monsters have started ripping the asylum apart, which is when Brother Wonderful comes up with a plan.
So, yeah, Brother Wonderful has decided that their little planetoid is worth fighting for, and he’s devised a plan to not kill all the monsters, but draw them toward his teleportation device so he can send all the monsters to Earth, so that they can destroy Earth instead of his new home. And, as you might have guessed, Cap isn’t really on board with this plan. He and Jack try to calmly explain to Brother Wonderful that they maybe could just use his device to return to Earth and leave the monsters here, so that everyone can be happy, but Brother Wonderful will not abide such foolishness.
But, Cap decides to try some manipulation on the little lunatic, and asks Brother Wonderful if he’s positive that this new iteration of the machine will successfully transport a living creature. Cap suggests that they maybe test it by sending Falcon and Leila through. Brother Wonderful agrees, and sends his prized hero back to Earth. Cap then suggests that Texas Jack should probably go too, before asking Brother Wonderful if the machine has some sort of self-destruct device in order to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. Wonderful scoffs at this, and shows off the self-destruct device, which is when Cap springs into action. He knocks Wonderful out, and throws him through the portal, before rushing all of the Night People through as well, just in time for him to leap through the void and destroy the machine, keeping the monsters from reaching Earth.
Hell yeah, Cap! Trick those loonies! This story does trickle into the next issue, with Falcon and Leila getting their memories restored thanks to SHIELD, but it then quickly switches to some new crazy adventure, so we don’t really need to get in to it. Rest assured, everything goes back to normal, you now, the whole “illusion of change” that serialized comics are predicated upon. But, as it stands, I think this is a really fun little story. I know that this is maybe a tad blasphemous, but I’ve never been the biggest fan of Kirby’s Captain America stuff, especially when the was writing and drawing it. I really like Kirby weirdness, but I feel like it often was a strange fit with Cap’s whole deal. However, a story like this where you get some world class Kirby weirdness, actually did work for me. The idea that there’s an asylum full of mental patients who have been transported to an alien dimension, and who have kidnapped the Falcon to become a champion for them is just such a wonderfully weird idea that I can’t help but love it. And, when you toss in Captain America and a strange rich cowboy following them in order to rescue them and fight a bunch of monsters, you know I’m going to be into it. Plus, I’m always into a story where Captain America will blindly follow his best friend into an alien dimension, because he’s the most loyal human being in the world. I mean, they’ve got to be close, they watch each other bathe.
Captain America 201-203 were written and penciled by Jack Kirby, inked by Frank Giacoia, lettered by John Costanza, colored by Phil Rache, George Roussos, and Hugh Paley, and edited by Archie Goodwin, 1976.
Categories: Marvel Madness