Last week, we discussed some of the details surrounding the fan reaction to the Silver Age revival of Captain America in Avengers #4, cover-dated March 1964. But if you're a fairly knowledgeable Silver Age Marvel collector, you know that's only part of the story. Captain America actually returned for the Silver Age in the Human Torch story in Strange Tales #114, about four months prior to that… sort of. That Captain America was not the real Steve Rogers at all, but rather one of the Human Torch's villains named the Acrobat posing as Cap in order to commit crimes. At the end of the story, Stan Lee explains in a caption blurb: "You guessed it! This story was really a test to see if you too would like Captain America to return. As usual, your letters will give us the answer!" And while there are sadly no letter columns that give us a taste of the reaction to Strange Tales #114, it turns out that this issue was every bit as important as the subsequent fanfare about Avengers #4 would lead us to believe. There's a nice, high-grade example of the pre-return of Captain America for the Silver Age in Strange Tales #114 (Marvel, 1963) CGC VF/NM 9.0 Off-white to white pages up for auction in this week's 2021 August 8-9 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122132 from Heritage Auctions.
The return of Captain America for the Silver Age was a big enough deal that it garnered a tiny bit of media attention after Strange Tales #114 and before the release of Avengers #4. In a cover feature of sorts, movie magazine Screen Thrills Illustrated trumpeted "The return of Captain America, STI's exclusive scoop concerning a popular adventure hero's revival."
The fold-out feature article explained: "CAPTAIN AMERICA LIVES AGAIN… with the super-hero revival trend currently in full swing, it was only a matter of time until Captain America dusted off his shield and once again began polishing off evil-doers that defy description. This re-entrance took place in the November 1963 issue of Strange Tales, a book edited by that prolific writer of comics, Stan Lee, and the art was again by our old friend Jack Kirby. But there was a switch in that this wasn't the real Captain America! A re-kindled Human Torch battled Captain America in this walloping yarn; the gimmick being that CA was really a crook in disguise — out to use the good Captain's reputation in a get-rich-quick scheme! Naturally, he was roasted to a turn by the HT, but panels at the end of the episode invited correspondence as to whether or not readers would like to see the real Captain America return. Proof of the response to this appeal lies in the fact that soon to hit the nation's comic racks is issue number four of a magazine entitled "The Avengers." From these pages, the bona fide Captain America leaps forth to thrill readers today as he did a generation ago."
As a movie magazine, Screen Thrills Illustrated went on to recount Cap's film serial exploits, ending on a note that leads us to connect the dots on the background of Marvel's prior revival attempt for Captain America. The original Captain America serial was re-released under the new title "The Return of Captain America" in 1953, which coincides nicely with Marvel's previous attempt to revive the character (along with the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner as well) beginning in Young Men #24 cover-dated December of that same year. That revival was short-lived, but the 1963 "test" in Strange Tales #114 ultimately led to the character's incredible success over the decades since. There's a nice, high-grade example of the path towards Captain America's return for the Silver Age in Strange Tales #114 (Marvel, 1963) CGC VF/NM 9.0 Off-white to white pages up for auction in this week's 2021 August 8-9 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122132 from Heritage Auctions.
Strange Tales #114 (Marvel, 1963) CGC VF/NM 9.0 Off-white to white pages. Featuring the Human Torch. Acrobat appears in disguise as Captain America (first Cap appearance since 1954). First appearance of Victoria Bentley. Third appearance of Doctor Strange, whose series begins. Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers cover and art. Steve Ditko and George Roussos art. Overstreet 2021 VF/NM 9.0 value = $936; NM- 9.2 value = $1,450. CGC census 7/21: 44 in 9.0, 48 higher.