War Stories (Part 1): Cap Meets Logan, Fury, & the Howlers

This post is part of an on-going series, The Odyssey of Captain America, which follows Steve Rogers’ life and times as the Living Legend.  This segment continues to look at modern-era, retro-continuity stories that relate Cap’s earliest WW II experiences.

James “Logan” Howlett is certainly one of the most enigmatic figures of the MU. His pre-Wolverine past, shrouded in mystery, includes late 1941 encounters with Cap that were first revealed in X-Men #268 (1990) and then in a story arc in the Wolverine: Origins series in 2007. The two first meet sometime before November in the southeast Asian city of Madripoor, where Logan was living at the time. In this story, they wind up working together to rescue Natasha Romanov, a child at the time, who’d been kidnapped by Nazis (led by Baron Strucker) working with the Hand.[1]

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_268   Wolverine_Origins_Vol_1_16Uncanny X-Men #268, Jim Lee Cover              Wolverine:  Origins #16, Marko Djurdjevic cover

After recalling the story of Natasha Romanov’s rescue, Logan turns to a second meeting between the two, which took place in November 1941. “Operation Blueboy” was a secret mission in North Africa that is presented as Cap’s first experience leading soldiers in the war (which the U.S. has not yet even joined!). There’s still more of Steve Rogers than Captain America in this Cap, whose recently-adopted symbolic image and costume are initially off-putting to the “real” soldiers he’s meant to lead. Logan observes that this costumed character still needs to “earn the men’s faith as a leader.” When Bucky erupts in violence and profanity at one point, Steve chastens him: “James, let’s watch the temper, okay, pal? And the language.” (“Yeah, he really said that!” Logan adds in an ironic aside).

Wolverine: Origins #17-18, Marko Djurdjevic covers

This story is significant on a number of levels beyond depicting the first Cap-Logan meeting. The fates of these two old soldiers are poignantly contrasted, and Logan is shown simultaneously ridiculing Steve’s image and inexperience while marveling at his noble character, physical prowess, and growing command of respect. Sgt. Nick Fury is introduced in what appears to be another “first meeting” (until this, their first meeting has always been presented as taking place in 1942 in Europe).[2]

Bucky’s “darker side” as a high-trained commando is established, and he’s shown pursuing solo aspects of the mission under separate orders he tells Steve, “you just can’t be privy to,” meaning the symbolic CA image must be kept above reproach. (In another aside, Logan reflects, “Bucky . . . had what it took to get the job done. Any job. He was like me.”). Finally, Steve and Bucky meet Baron Zemo (already wearing his signature hood) for the first time—the Nazi scientist who will orchestrate their demise at the war’s end.[3]

Cap and Bucky are also shown to be in North Africa with Nick Fury and his Howling Commandosjust before Christmas, 1941” (they also meet up with the Howlers after the mission (as Steve & Bucky) in a hotel in Casablanca). They are assigned to a new mission with the Howlers, but en route over the Atlantic their transport plane is shot down. Bucky saves cap from drowning, but has to cut his shield away in the process and it sinks to the bottom. The group manages to make it to shore, where Namor appears from the sea and flings Cap’s shield with a thunderous “Imperious Rex!” “One of our allies,” Cap remarks to an incredulous Fury. “Uh-huh,” the Sarge replies. “What’s next? That Human Torch fella gonna roast s’mores with Dum Dum?”

The only way out from the beach is up a sheer cliff, and after an arduous climb the run smack into Nazis. Captured. Wherever they are it’s cold. There’s snow. They bide their time, then turn the tables on their captors, don their uniforms, and continue on to wherever they were being taken. They run into a beautiful women, “The Gypsy,” Fury informs everyone, “our contact in France. She’s accompanied by an odd ensemble of seeming circus performers. The make their way into Paris to discover the target of their mission: the Red Skull. Bucky, already seen as a “sidekick mascot” by the Howlers, begins to feel pushed aside by Cap’s increasing involvement with the resistance group (particularly Marilyne, “The Gypsy”). He goes off on his own to get the Skull, only to be captured and find him selves wired to explosives on the Eiffel Tower. Cap comes to the rescue, and on New Year’s Eve the duo receive new orders. Cap gets a good-bye kiss—his first ever! He and Bucky roar off together on a motorcycle. “So . . . didja kiss her?” “Yes.” “And . . . ?” “And a gentlemen doesn’t talk about these things.”[4]

[1] Uncanny X-Men #268 (Sept. 1990, Chris Claremont) and Wolverine: Origins #16 (Oct. 2007, Daniel Way). The latter is the first issue of a story arc, “Our War,” that extends through issue #20, depicting the two meeting again shortly after this in North Africa.

[2] The classic version of Cap’s “first” meeting with Fury and the Howlers was told in SFHC #13 (1964).

[3] Newsreel footage in CA #281 (May 1983, J.M. DeMatteis) depicts Cap and Bucky battling “militarists who call themselves the Defenders” on November 22, 1941, foiling their plot to murder President Roosevelt and take control of the United States.

Mike Zeck cover

[4] CA: White (5 issues, 2015), Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. The entire CA: White series is somewhat of a requiem for Bucky, narrated by Steve in the “present.” Shortly after this, according to Cap’s old war journal, on December 27, 1941, false memories about his past were implanted in his subconscious “to confuse the enemy” should he be captured (CA #247, 1980).

About Rick D. Williams

Teaching and writing have been my life's work for over two decades as a journalist and educator. My degrees in History were earned at Illinois State University, and I've done additional graduate work at Lincoln Christian Seminary and Urbana Theological Seminary. Over the years I’ve led conference workshops and authored articles and book chapters on topics ranging from religious education and international student ministry to state and local history.
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