Fighting American has one of the strangest publication histories of any Golden Age superhero. Created in 1954 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby while they were on the outs with Captain America publisher Atlas Comics, Fighting American was one of the few creator-owned comic characters at a time when nearly everything was owned by a syndicate.
Lasting only seven bi-monthly issues, the series still found time to shift gears following the fall of arch-conservative Joseph McCarthy. After that, Simon and Kirby turned Fighting American into a parody of the jingoistic superheroes of the time. Alas, the market was in no mood for satire so soon after the formation of The Comics Code Authority.
Apart from a 1966 special and an unpublished story by Simon which was included in a collection of comics from the 1950s and 1960s, there would be no more Fighting American comics. Rob Liefeld attempted to licence the character in 1997, prompting lawsuits from both Marvel Comics AND Joe Simon. An attempted 2009 revival at Dynamite Entertainment fared little better.
There is no small irony then that the license for Fighting American, thanks to the mutual agreement of the estates of Simon and Kirby, has gone to Titan Comics – a British publisher perhaps best known in The United States for their Doctor Who comics. Not exactly who you’d expect to be putting out a book called Fighting American. Then again, if there’s anyone who is qualified to administer some good-natured ribbing about Yankee hyper-patriotism, it’s our friends from across The Pond.
Besides, we still owe them one for the Constantine movie.
This first issue opens in the thick of it, with Fighting American and his faithful sidekick, Speedboy, having just jumped forward in time to the year 2017. They are in hot pursuit of Poison Ivan – a Russian super-villain who stole the time-travel technology of their boffin buddy, Professor Dyle Twister. Unfortunately, “subtlety” is just another word in the dictionary to Fighting American and hilarity ensues as he completely fails to heed The Professor’s warnings about not attracting attention among the people of the future.
Those expecting a serious Captain America pastiche will be sorely disappointed. Gordon Rennie’s script stands firm to the satiric ideals of Simon and Kirby, playing the titular hero with the same straight-edge as Adam West’s Batman. Indeed, Fighting American admonishes Speedboy at one point for addressing him as “F.A.” and using “loose beatnik-talk.” Fighting American reminds him, without a trace of irony, that “… shortened-down words lead to shortened-down thoughts and morals.”
Artist Duke Mighten (who, with that name, could be another obscure Golden Age superhero) wisely doesn’t attempt to emulate Jack Kirby. Instead, his art parodies the anti-Communist propaganda comics of the time, with all of the villains depicted in a manner so exaggerated as to almost be offensively stereotypical. Poison Ivan in particular stands as one of most hideously misshapen characters this side of a Dick Tracy comic.
It remains to be seen if book this will prove more popular in this day in age. I can easily see the joke going over the heads of many readers. Still, those who appreciate the satirical edge of Judge Dredd will find Fighting American an enjoyable read.
Fighting American #1 will be available for purchase on October 11, 2017 (on Joe Simon’s birthday!) from your local comic book store (Don’t know where that is? Here you go.) or digitally via Comixology.com.