And Captain Freedom appeared hot on the heels of a similarly star-spangled officer-of-same-rank: The hugely popular Captain America, whose first issue was published in March of ’41, via Marvel predecessor Timely Comics.
There is a name that appears in the credits of Speed Comics #13: Franklin Flagg.
While all too obviously a pseudonym, there’s no information about the real person behind it. Most golden age comic book aficionados have relegated truth in the matter to the waste paper bins of history.
Yet while a mokiker (even a fake one) like Franklin Flagg comes across stalwart and punchy, Captain Freedom, it would seem, lacked the same self-assured convictions.
During a six-year period in which Captain America only swapped shields and slightly amended his mask, Captain Freedom underwent a swathe of wardrobe design changes.
When first he appeared (page 61 of the aforementioned Speed Comics #13), Freedom wore a red skullcap without a mask, he had a circle of stars on his chest, and Captain America’s red-and-white stripes on the waistline at the front of his blue tunic. He also had yellow shoulder pads, bore no sleeves or gloves, boasted blue hot-pants without trouser-legs, and simple brown boots.
Four issues later, in 1942, our hero adopted a V-shaped star formation on his chest, red gauntlets, and a cowl that covered the top of his face, with a star on the forehead—making him more like Captain America than ever. By #19 he’d lost the peck-stripes, the gloves were yellow, while the star was on top of his head. By the final publication of Speed Comics (#44 in 1947), which wrapped-up Freedom’s career, the man had lost his pants again.
Art restorer Harry Mendryk, one of those involved in the Simon and Kirby hardcover collections through Titan Books, convincingly put it that the duo worked under the alias of ‘Jon Henri‘—the name on the cover for Speed Comics #17 (April, 1942). It’s further contended that Simon did the Captain Freedom artwork inside that issue (along with possibly others as well) and that Simon, again with Kirby, composed the striking cover for #22.
While Captain America went on ice for a couple of decades—at least in the reinvented Marvel Comics scheme of things when Kirby and Stan Lee brought the character back in March, 1964 in the pages of The Avengers—Captain Freedom sank without trace after Speed was cancelled in 1947… prior to being temporarily rejigged, with different powers and a gaudy new costume, by AC (Americomics) in the early 1980s.
In Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? the original golden age comic book character is back—to a degree.
The good cap’n has been promoted to major, and ‘freedom’ given the flick in favour of ‘patriot’. But the spirit of Franklin Flagg’s creation gets space to live a little, and Uruguayan artist Maan House caught this spirit perfectly in his caricature for the book.
While superheroes bearing jingoistic national symbols — think Captain America (iconic for the USA, obviously), Vindicator (Canada) and Union Jack (the UK)—were huge influences on the development of my character Southern Cross, way back in high school, Captain Freedom played no role at all.
That is, until last year when I stumbled across his profile on some obscure website and saw the light.
At that point he took on a life of his own, in the context of the yarn I was writing, and left Captain America in the shade. At least until re-reading Ed Brubaker‘s brilliant 100-issue handling of ol’ winghead.