Simon & Kirby’s FIGHTING AMERICAN Makes Captain America Look Like a Pinko

Joe Simon doodled the character that would ultimately become Captain America back in 1940. It was wartime and, with a few vociferous exceptions, America wanted to see some nazis and Japanese slapped around by a cornfed Brooklyn boy. Simon and artist Jack Kirby produced ten issues for Timely–each selling in the millions (millions!)–before moving on to other projects. By 1954, the war was long over and romance comics were the titles selling in the millions. Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes didn't have an ongoing to speak of. Joe Simon caught wind of Atlas Comics' plans to revive the character, and while Kirby was prophetically doubtful of Cap's relaunch, he agreed to join Joe for a new star spangled venture. 

Fighting American launched in April 1954 and its first volume outperformed and outlasted the new Captain America by four issues in its first seven-issue volume. Simon and Kirby would return in October 1966 for two more issues in a more humorous and satirical run. It was published not by Marvel or DC or any of their forbearers. This was a creator-owned endeavor from Crestwood Publications and Prize Comics. It was the 50s and Simon & Kirby literally owned this thing. You can read all of it–save for one page in the final adventure, lost to the ages–in a new collection from Titan Books, official publisher of the Simon & Kirby library. 

So who was Fighting American? He sure looks like Cap, and he even has a commie-hating young ward named Dan Sprite (Speedboy if you're nasty). It's kind of a bizarre origin, honestly. The hero known as Fighting American as actually a fusion of two brothers. It goes like this: Johnny Flagg was a decorated WWII hero, brawny and charismatic. A combat injury doesn't land him in a wheel chair, but he does have to use crutches in his post-war life. He becomes a celebrated "Station U.S.A." TV journalist in the style of…let's say he's a super-patriotic Walter Cronkite. A right-leaning Edward R. Murrow if that makes a lick of sense. His mousy little brother Nelson Flagg writes some copy for him.

When Johnny is murdered by secret communists, Nelson agrees to take up his fight. The government patches up and enhances Johnny's corpse, and Nelson swaps brains. The new Johnny Flagg no longer needs crutches, and as far as the world knows, Nelson no longer exists. Nelson leads the rest of his life as Johnny. When trouble breaks out, he rips open his suit to reveal the Fighting American within. 

His rogues gallery consists mostly of square-headed, invisible, or bouncing gangsters. As well as the latent commie hordes of 50s America. Also bulls, space monsters, and alligators. Speedboy is an altogether normal studio page boy. But the kid's got moxy. As for the Lois Lane analog Mary Ward…she stresses that she merely writes about women's issues for the Johnny Flagg show. So modest. 

Simon claims he wasn't writing a full-on pastiche of Steve Rogers or what Timely/Atlas/Marvel was doing, at least not in the beginning. The roast of the superhero genre doesn't really kick in until later in the series. But Fighting American truly functions like a super soldier created during the Cold War. That makes for a compelling difference. In reading through this volume, the initial stories feel like typical golden age comics with phenomenal Jack Kirby brawl scenes. Fighting American isn't even encumbered by a vibranium shield, so he can dive into the action more like Namor, fists flying.

The tonal shift happens more gradually as Fighting American and Speedboy become a ham-fisted 60s era Team America: World Police just a fatally headshot Vietnamese prostitute away from Watchmen's Comedian. They even take issue when some magenta-toned aliens invade the TV station. "A little black and blue to go with the RED!" It's not so much that the series veers into outright racism (though I winced when the duo booked passage to Mexico for a mustache mystery). What's refreshing is that the satire is pointed inwards at boisterous conservatism and xenophobia. Fighting American turns into a bit of a brick, and you start reading his word balloons as if he were Patrick Warburton. Linking Speedboy to David Spade is entirely optional. 


Fighting American is at its best when it goes all out wacky. The patriotic duo swinging on jungle vines or getting the wool pulled over their eyes by that pesky Invisible IIrving. Its greatest value is in its service as a document of its time, as in this exchange with Scarlet O'Haircut in that sword and sandal yarn, "The Sneak of Araby." 

"You won't put a hand on his royal neck, you gorgeous mass of yankee muscle!" 

"If you shoot one of us, the other will get you, Lady Red!" 

"Then I'll switch the odds! Shashlik! Alikhan!"


Two hulking warrior emerge. Turbans. Scimitars. 

"Easy with that pastrami-slicer, mister!" 

"Young brother of an [sic] Afgan hound-dog! And you, oh wearer of flashy underwear…You shall die — NOW!" 

"You're too clumsy to kill me, oh, two-bit student of slow-motion!" 

Happy 4th of July. 


  1. Agent Steve’s recent SHIELD costume reminds me of fighting american… Happy 4th!

  2. i have this trade, it’s fantastic, like Captain America on patriotism steroids… and the kirby art is gorgeous 🙂

  3. I think I will pick this up.

  4. nice piece of history but I mean, like Captain America its laughably redundant 

  5. Pesky Secret Communists, always making it hard for people to keep their brains inside their own skulls. Better re-animated brother than Red I suppose.