Above, we see Captain America punching out Hitler on the cover of the first issue of his new comic book.
It’s an image that we’ve all seen before. It’s often held up as a perfect piece of wartime propaganda, as well as an answer to question of what should be done to anyone who wants to follow in Hitler’s footsteps. However, the most important thing about this cover is often overlooked.
It was published in December of 1940.
In 1940, America was officially neutral. Europe was at war and, while the U.S. was on the side of the Allies, the country still hadn’t entered the conflict. Due to the trauma of World War I, many American voters and politicians were still “isolationists,” saying that it was not America’s place to get involved in a conflict taking place on the other side of the world.
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, however, disagreed. Kirby and Simon were both first-generation Americans and they understood what was happening in Europe. As Jews, they understood the evil that Hitler represented and, Simon later said, they both felt helpless whenever they heard reports about what was happening from the members of their family who were still in Europe. In one of his final interviews, Joe Simon said that he and Kirby created Captain America to serve as the antithesis of Hitler. And, with this cover, Simon and Kirby left no doubt where they and Captain America stood on the issue of neutrality. What is often forgotten today is how much courage it took to take that stand in 1940. At a time when comic books were viewed as being for kids and avoided taking a stand on anything beyond being anti-crime and also when there were any who still defended Hitler and shared his anti-Semitic views, Simon and Kirby took a stand and, to his credit, publisher Martin Goodman took that stand with them.
When this issue first came out, it sold a million copies. At the time, that was an unheard of amount. Though it would be another year before the U.S. officially entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Simon and Kirby took an early stand and created a great moment in comic book history.
Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:
- Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance”
- The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
- Crisis on Campus
- “Even in Death”
- The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
- Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
- Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
- Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
- The Death of Dr. Druid
- To All A Good Night
- The First Appearance of Ghost Rider
- The First Appearance of Werewolf By Night