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[Retrospective]Captain America 387-392: The Superia Stratagem

Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
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I don't think I can do justice to this one, but goldurnit I'm going to try.

Okay, first thing you need to know going in is that Captain America in the early 90s was a little weird. He had spent a good chunk of the 80s as "The Captain," there was A Very Special Issue dealing with a friend from Steve Rogers' childhood who turned out to be gay, Cap had to wear an exoskeleton at one point...don't get me wrong, Mark Gruenwald can write a good comic, and Cap mostly avoided the 90s nonsense until Heroes Reborn, but he was very much a fish out of temporal water in the 90s, and dealing with a resurgent Red Skull and having a new love interest in the sorta-reformed criminal Diamondback like he was playing a more Boy Scout-ish version of Batman. So naturally, crammed in to a six-month period in 1991, there's a storyline that almost brought us Captain America Rule 63.

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This issue confused young me, and probably launched many a secret fetish in overly hormonal young readers.

The second thing you need to know is that there was this thing in the Marvel Universe called Femizonia.

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It was a very typical Marvel kind of concept: in one future, women had basically taken over, formed their all-women nation, using advanced genetics to procreate and acquire Amazon-like superhuman physiques.

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Seriously, those are Kirby-esque hairstyles.

For reasons I can't bother to look up, they elect to send one of their number - Thundra - back into the past to defeat the world's strongest male. Sort of like if Wonder Woman did a face heel turn and decided it would be a better example to young girls if she put Superman into a sleeper hold until he passed out. This was a good excuse for her to beat up on a lot of Marvel's male-dominated lineup, but I'm fairly certain she got beat by the Thing and ended up largely palling around with various all-female supervillain gangs. But the idea of a possible female-ruled future stuck around in continuity.

So Gruenwald picked up this bit of continuity, and then basically raided Marvel's back stock of female supervillains. He...had quite a few to choose from.

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To be fair, some of those aren't technically villains.

The plot that unfolds is that a new character, Superia, has been inspired by Thundra (who is otherwise notably absent) to create Femizonia, gathering together all the superpowered female villains in her super hi-tech fortress/shopping mall (not even kidding, there's a shopping mall sequence) to be the core of her new Femizons. Also, she plans to co-opt all the males on the planet by turning them into women, starting with Captain America and the Paladin.

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Cap and Paladin are rescued by Black Mamba and the Asp, who they convince to wear their costumes. Yes, it's Cap in drag. Gruenwald could not resist.

I'm skipping over a lot of how Cap gets dragged into this plot. And maybe focusing too much on issue #391, which features both Cap almost getting turned into a woman and dressing up like a pre-Catwoman Selina Kyle. But that was the great thing about comic books back then: some of the situations are so absurd, you literally can't make this stuff up. Her full backstory (never really explained) involves a device called a "time probe" and getting a book from future-Femizonia - presumably they knew sending a flash drive back to 1991 wouldn't be super-helpful - and eventually Superia appeared again as a bigwig at AIM.

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Is there a moral to all this? Well, we've come a long way in 25 years. Jesus wept, has it been 25 years? Ghost I feel old. But seriously, you think about how women were treated in the 80s and early 90s - and this was, keep in mind, after all the women's liberation and equal opportunity stuff of the 60s and 70s - and this feels just really weird. Not terribly dated - except maybe the jokes; seriously, Cap in drag is going to linger with me - well, I take it back, it's really hard to look at this compared to today, when you have Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman being pushed as the premiere female characters...

Oh! That reminds me. Another Femizonia connection.

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Yeah, Lyra the Savage She-Hulk, one of the Hulk's progeny, is a time-lost spawn of Femizonia sent back in time! Ghost, I love how convoluted continuity can be. This is the kind of stuff I'm going to miss after all is said in done, I think. The Marvel back catalog was just so rich in random zaniness.

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