Friday, July 20, 2018

Having "Smash" across his chest may have a different connotation nowadays...

We blogged the second appearance of Flag-Smasher some years back, and the character had a lot going for him: his own terrorist organization, ULTIMATUM; thematically perfect costuming and accessories--black and white, like his anti-nationalist viewpoint; and a mace in case that was too subtle. But he would soon hit some setbacks: ULTIMATUM had secretly been sponsored, and largely controlled, by the Red Skull. He and his faceless goons would get forgettable beatings, like faceless goons, in books like Marc Spector: Moon Knight and Ghost Rider. And his message was too often muddied or outright dropped by the wayside, because his violent pursuit of a unified world might not have been real thought out anyway. All of which pales next to his redesign today! From 1999, Captain America '99, "Full Court Press" Written by Joe Casey, pencils by Pablo Raimondi, inks by Walden Wong.

Two cub reporters for the Daily Bugle are put on a story, starting with a suspect's arraignment for a break-in and murder at the United Nations: three men had been attempting to get some information, but their fourth killed a guard and spray-painted "NO MORE DISUNITY--ANTI-NATIONALISM NOW" on a wall. Said fourth man also had an almost negative color scheme, and the word "SMASH" on his chest. After the reporters' initial story is published, they're dismayed when their notes are taken, thinking J.Jonah Jameson was pulling them off it; but confronting JJJ, they meet Captain America! Cap had asked to see the notes, in case there was anything that didn't make print, since "the slogans found on the wall set off some alarm bells for me." Cap's already pretty sure this was Flag-Smasher, but what was he doing...?

The reporters keep on, following leads to the Brand Corporation, which had been a crooked subsidiary of crooked corporation Roxxon. Which is, of course, using Flag-Smasher as a living weapon. A kind of low-end one, though: Smashy didn't have super-strength or anything, and was in fact largely brain-damaged after a long dip in icy waters. But he was controllable with drugs, and it might help that Roxxon's president shares his anti-nationalist views. (I doubt Flag-Smasher would have been as virulently predatory capitalist, though.) Having the two spies involved in the break-in killed, the president sends Flag-Smasher after the one in police custody: I get the feeling the president just liked his new toy and wanted to use it, but it doesn't seem like the best tool for the job there. He also gives an interview with the reporters and is straight-up Monty Burns style evil; but that seemed like he was old and wanted to show these kids how things really worked, like their naiveté or dumbness was just too tiring for him.

Disguised as a prison guard, Cap keeps an eye on the jailed spy; at least long enough to overhear his conversation with the reporters; he's shanked the next day. (They don't use the term "shanked," which seems a missed opportunity: I love it, it's so descriptive.) Since it's down to the reporters word against Roxxon's, they might be in danger, but Cap gives them a pep talk to stick it out. A really long pep talk. JJJ backs them as well, so the Roxxon president sends Flag-Smasher--in a monstrously heavy looking turbine jetpack--to the Bugle to kill them. Cap saves them, after a fair amount of property damage. The implicated president resigns, collecting the usual "golden parachute" severance. At least one of the reporters is a bit crestfallen, but Cap puts him back on track; except I was distracted since I swear that the reporter looked like the pot-smoker from those "Fast Lane" inserts.

This is from that golden age before anyone threw the term "fake news" around; although the president tells Flag-Smasher he "will not tolerate more lies in the press," even though the story was pretty accurate. Not a high point for Flag-Smasher; but I'm not sure he ever got back to his old look: per Wikipedia, he might've been killed, possibly off-panel, by Domino of all people.


Dale Bagwell said...

You know I usually don't find myself feeling sorry for guys like Flag-Smasher, but damn.....crappy resign that would NOT fly in today's culture, basically becoming a stand in for Nuke, and basically becoming some evil corporation's bitch.

Seems like a fair fate and on some levels it doesn't.

Didn't the Punisher kill 'Smasher off after Civil War?

googum said...

There might even be a second Flag-Smasher, but that might be less due to design, then not realizing they killed off the other one...

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