Joe Simon and Jack Kirby are the Morrissey and Marr of comic books.
Their unique chemistry created the essence of the Golden Age and gave the world so many incredible characters, not the least of which was Captain America. One of the less recognizable heroes to spring from their creative minds was Fighting American. Though largely dismissed as a Captain America clone, Fighting American was a charming and action-packed ride that did a lot more in the seven issues it had than some comics do in a ten year run. Titan Books has released an amazing collection of Fighting American containing not just the seven issues released but also six unpublished ones.
Fighting American tells the story of Nelson Flagg, the timid and weak younger brother of football star and war hero Johnny Flagg. Johnny becomes a famous newscaster and is killed before he reveals a plot to overthrow the government by the Communist Party. Nelson makes a deathbed pledge to find Johnny’s killer. Thanks to a super technology titled “Project Fighting American”, Johnny’s corpse is brought back stronger and more powerful. Nelson has his mind transferred to Johnny’s body through “life force probers” and takes on not just Johnny’s identity but also that of Fighting American. How can you top that? Life Force Probers? The genius of this is hard to even calculate. Let’s not forget Speedboy, Fighting American’s young assistant. His presence makes no sense but yet completely works for every story.
These days’ comics are rooted in how much gritty realism they can muster, how many epic story arcs they can aspire to and how many event series can be shilled through them. Fighting American comes from a time when comics were there just to entertain, to take heroes and their readers on adventures featuring right against wrong. Simon’s gift with writing was his dialog and his ability to take bizarre notions and add them into any plot. In one story, Fighting American rescues a meek but brilliant scientist from a creepy circus. At the end, our hero helps the scientist get strong by teaching him push-ups. Another story has Fighting American up against two thugs hidden by invisible paint. You open this collection to any page, start reading, and you’ll be hooked instantly.
What can you say about Jack Kirby’s art? Brilliant? Incredible? These words just don’t do justice to what the man does with a pen. Kirby’s work explodes out of each panel. His ability to create movement and action is still surpassed by no one. Remember, these are the days of standard left to right panels on a page. Kirby creates all of this momentum with no weird panel layout or computer tricks, its all talent. There is also nothing like a Kirby human form. Anatomically, it shouldn’t work and yet it’s always a thing of beauty. His grizzled, hardened faces, the structure of the body and the movement. Nobody can even touch his ability to show power in a fistfight. Anything and everything going on in comic book art for the last sixty years owes a huge debt to Kirby and his revolutionary style.
The Fighting American never saw the fanfare it deserved, ending after only seven issues. This glorious and painstakingly restored collection (much respect due to Harry Mendryk for the restoration) finally gives a platform for people to view Fighting American in all his glory. There’s a wonderful intro written by Joe Simon himself, which helps put Fighting American in its historical perspective. Whether you love the Golden Age, Kirby art, Simon writing or just comic books in general, you must add the Fighting American collection to your buy list immediately.