Hot on the heels of the first peek of Andrew Garfield’s revamped Spider-man costume comes the release of the first teaser poster for another of Marvel’s three big releases this year, Captain America. I used to read Captain America when I was a kid, but he was never one of my favourites, and I gave up on him after he beat up a ‘villain’ called The Flag-Smasher. This guy just wanted to see all countries abolished in favour of a one-world government. I kind of liked that idea and resented Captain America for dealing so harshly with him. I was an intense kid.

Devised in 1941 as a propaganda tool during World War II (the first cover portrayed the Captain punching Hitler in the face), Captain America was the result of Government experiments to create the perfect soldier, using the Super-Soldier serum to turn scrawny Steve Rogers into the perfect human being. Leading the fight against the Nazi menace, primarily in the shape of the Red Skull, the Captain carries an indestructible shield and star-spangled costume. Eventually he ends up frozen in a block of ice in the North Atlantic, only to be revived in the 70s where he becomes leader of The Avengers.

Joe Johnston’s big budget adaptation has been kept under the usual veil of utmost secrecy during production, with fans salivating as nuggets of information have been thrown out of the window periodically. What most people wanted to see, of course, was how this new production was going to handle Cappy’s costume. Captain America is probably one of the most difficult superheroes to get onto the big screen without looking utterly ridiculous. I mean, the guy has little white wings on the sides of his head.

Most earlier productions have tackled the problem by simply ignoring it or making things worse. The 1944 serial ditched the head wings and shield altogether. In 1979 two TV movies were made, featuring Reb Brown as the Captain, sporting a crash helmet with wings attached to it. Needless-to-say it looked rubbish, and made Captain America look like he had an oversized head (imagine The Elephant Man in the role and you have it). Then, in 1990, another movie adaptation was made with Matt Salinger (son of J.D.) in the title role. Made with zero budget, the movie was pretty awful and proved just how dumb a completely accurate live-action version of the costume can look.

Captain America 1944 (top-left), no wings. Captain America 1979 (bottom-left), big head. Captain America 1990 (right), shite. The real Captain (inset) has seen enough.

Captain America 2011 has taken a far better approach to the problem by styling the costume around World War II uniform elements. Which makes sense, really. The mask is formed from a painted helmet (not a crash helmet) and the costume is more coloured fatigues than tight spandex. Thank God. First shots of Chris Evans in his outfit have received encouraging rumbles from the star-spangled faithful. This is more soldier than superhero and it works.

Captain America 2011. Normal size head and spandex-free.

What remains to be seen is how the movie will handle the more old school and, these days, rather naive patriotic elements inherent in a character born in much more black and white times, where the good guys were easier to distinguish from the bad. Shouldn’t be a problem since almost the whole movie is set during the time of the comic’s origin, but Captain America will eventually emerge into our time for the upcoming Avengers movie. How will Marvel handle the Captain’s arrival into a world where, in large parts, America is looked on with very different eyes than those of the 1940s? Judging by Iron Man’s (admittedly light) touching on the subject of Afghanistan, it’s clear Marvel likes to weave their stories around world events, if possible. How Captain America receives the world, and the world receives him, should be interesting.

We’ll have to wait until July to find out. In the meantime, here is the just-released teaser poster.

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