'Punching Hitler right in the mouth': Case Western professor answers 'Who is Captain America?'

Patriotic superhero still has appeal

CLEVELAND - He's in print, on the big screen, in our stores and lately, on the streets of Cleveland. So who is Captain America?

Brad Ricca knows. Ricca is a SAGES Fellow and teaches a class in comic book hero mythology at Case Western Reserve University.

"Captain America was created in the early 40's," said Ricca. "He's one of the first Marvel Comics characters."

Although a superhero, "Cap" was never mistaken for a bird or a plane.

"He doesn't fly. He doesn't have heat vision. He doesn't have all these super powers," said Ricca. "He's just a guy with a shield."

But despite the fact that he had no super powers and could die, he was the only superhero, right from issue one, to take on evil villains sweeping over Europe during World War II.

"On the cover," explained Ricca, "he's punching Hitler right in the mouth. And it sold a million copies."

The super patriot soldier, who's comic life spans more than a century, was created by Joe Simon in 1940. The inspiration for his superhero may have come from James Hard. He, too, was a soldier--during the Civil War.

"He remembered this old and really bent down Civil War veteran coming to his class and saying, 'Come here. I'm going to shake all of your hands.' The whole class shook his hand and then he stopped and said, 'You just shook the hand of the man that shook Lincoln's hand,' and he said, 'I never knew this man's name.' But for some reason, this image of someone who was really old but extremely patriotic stuck with him."

Since then, Captain America has stuck with us for nearly 75 years.

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