ROAD TO THE AVENGERS: Writing Captain America - Exclusive Retrospective Interview

With The Avengers coming to Blu-ray, we've decided to look back at some of the films leading up to its release with exclusive, never-posted interviews, beginning with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley, writers of Captain America: The First Avenger.

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By EdGross - 9/10/2012
Interview conducted by and copyright Edward Gross

This interview with the screenwriters was conducted a few months before the film was released.

Although the fantasy and comic book genres are not their first love, writing partners Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely certainly seem to have made themselves comfortable there. For starters, the trio adapted the Chronicles Of Narnia film series from the works of C.S. Lewis, and they’re represented on screen with the adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Captain America.

In the following exclusive interview, the duo detail how the project came together from their point of view, the strengths of Captain America as a character and then postulate on Cap’s place in the modern world.



SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: How did you prepare for the project in terms of research?

STEPHEN: We went to the comic book store and read 70 years of comics.

CHRISTOPHER: And after that, you face the main first question, which is are you going to do this modern day or are you going to do this period? I think very early on period seemed advisable. [laughs]

SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: You laughed when you said that, and I’m just curious why you thought period was the way to go.

CHRISTOPHER: Some superheroes aren’t particularly identified with a nation, so it doesn’t matter when their creation is set. Batman can be set any time, because, you know, bats are timeless. Dressing up as an American flag? Well, you’ve got to be a little… tactical… when you decide to have a person do that. If you have a person do that in the middle of Vietnam, he’s one guy. If you have him do that in 2012, he’s a completely other guy, and if you have him do it in World War II, it’s almost the last time where it would be completely undeniably good.

STEPHEN: That’s a bit of a controversial statement.

CHRISTOPHER: America became sort of split from the Korean War on in terms of foreign policy. There were plenty of people who were not in favor of the various things we’ve done since then. World War II – “Greatest Generation” – was the pinnacle of everyone in the universe thinking we were awesome except, perhaps, for the Axis Powers [laughs]. And it fits in with his character in that you can’t just have a guy decide to be Captain America in 2012….

STEPHEN: Context is everything.

CHRISTOPHER:… because it would remove all of his distinguishing characteristics, which is man out of time. He has the morals and rules of another time, and if you just have that guy now, he becomes sort of an oddball as opposed to having any justification for the way he is.



SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: Doesn’t this guy have to be colored by what he experiences? Admittedly this is not Schindler’s List, but dealing with those enemies and the atrocities going on at that time, is there ever a struggle for this guy who’s trying to be a true-blue hero facing this pure evil all around him?

STEPHEN: The thing we struggled with a little bit is do you have to remind people why so many guys wanted to go to war in 1942. Right now, if war broke out it would really depend on the enemy, but we wouldn’t all get in line to get over there. But in ’42, we did! The movie tries to put that in some context so that he’s not crazy for really, really wanting to do his part and sign up for his country. And he’s not square for doing that; he’s much like everybody else in the States was at the time.

CHRISTOPHER: I think the key to him and the key to most heroic soldier figures is that they’re doing it because it needs to be done; they’re not doing it because they love fighting. The more he fights, the more I think, in his heart, he’s going, “It will be nice when this is over,” because this is not pleasant. I think at the end of the movie he’s certainly weathered; he’s certainly seen a lot more combat and a lot more leadership than I think he would have ever factored in at the beginning.

STEPHEN: Again, it’s not Schindler’s List and it is a summer movie. Looking into the heart of darkness there will be light touches [laughs].

SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: You mentioned earlier that Captain America would come across as a wacko in today’s world, but what’s the opposite of that? How would Captain America look at the cynicism of this world?

STEPHEN: You’re asking us to speculate completely. What we did was we said, “We spent two years making sure we got Cap in 1942-1945 right.” Joss Whedon is the one who gets the first crack out of what the man out of time thinks of 2012 in The Avengers.

SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: At the same time, you guys have “lived” with this character for the past few years, so you must have some thoughts on it.
CHRISTOPHER: I imagine that to a certain extent, if you’re just working on the surface, if you got jumped from 1945 to 2012 without knowing what happened in between, you might think you lost the war [laughs].

STEPHEN: Why do you say that?

CHRISTOPHER: Well, because that version of hometown America is so wholesome, clean, homogenized….

STEPHEN: Right, and we make fun of it now.

CHRISTOPHER: And to come here now, where it’s more polluted, noisier, it’s got 200 times more buildings and people…I don’t think you’d think the Nazis won, but you might think, “This isn’t what I was fighting for in someway.”

SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: So the attitude would be, “Something went wrong here”?

CHRISTOPHER: Not that something went wrong, but you would have to then go out and re-find what’s good.

STEPHEN: It’s also specific. The story of Steve will be the story of people and the very specific people that he lost; the relationships that will come back or he regrets or culpabilities or whatever. I can’t really speak for how Steve is going to feel at the mall, but I can speak about how Steve feels about his experiences with Bucky in World War II.

CHRISTOPHER: Even Captain America, who is completely consumed by symbolism, in a way, is like everybody else, fighting for specifics; for what is specifically important to them, which makes him a good character as opposed to a cartoon.

STEPHEN: That’s the approach that you have to take, I think. You can’t write Captain America, you have to write Steve Rogers.


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22 Comments
TheAmazingSpiderMan47 - 9/10/2012, 2:31 PM
i liked captain america ... but the song in the middle was a little too cheezeh for my taste
EdGross - 9/10/2012, 2:32 PM
I think it was supposed to be. Definitely captures the era.
TheAmazingSpiderMan47 - 9/10/2012, 2:33 PM
^ i get that, just not my cup of tea
opencurtain - 9/10/2012, 3:39 PM
I wonder what the next costume will look like ?
Jollem - 9/10/2012, 3:49 PM
imagine if someone incessantly crapped on captain america for over a year every chance they got
Ragnaroknroll - 9/10/2012, 4:22 PM
@TheRedHood, to each his own. Those were some of my favorite lines. I thought Evans nailed it.
EdGross - 9/10/2012, 5:17 PM
TheRedHood, to me those were a couple of lines that - as corny as they are - absolutely sounds like they would come out of the mouth of someone from the 1940s. Same as when Tony comes hurtling out of the portal, and Cap looks up and says, "Son of a gun."
Luminus - 9/10/2012, 5:20 PM
@TheRedHood: I agree about the god comment. I wonder what Cap is going to think, when the Guardians start showing him what's really out in the universe. What, exactly, will he think of the Living Tribunal, for example? Will he say there is only one god, then?
UrbanKnight - 9/10/2012, 5:39 PM
Cap is WIT da business! He don't give a [frick] if you a so called "god". Lol.
He'll be all up on yo ass if you do wrong.
Luminus - 9/10/2012, 5:59 PM
@Stigmartyr: That "The One Above All" entity has only shown up twice (once to the Fantastic Four and another to Spider-Man). Then there's this:

"When Thor once compared himself and Odin to various other gods and abstract beings in terms of power, he notes: "...and 'tis said that a being, called the Living Tribunal—the final judge—hath the power to enforce his will 'pon any cosmos he doth judge! And 'tis said his power is supreme in all the Multiverse. Even I, son of one of the mightiest of all gods, find it impossible to conceive of such levels of power! And 'tis a humbling thought to consider how much greater the Creator of all Universes must be than that of all of His creations combined!" – The Mighty Thor Annual #14 (1989), Marvel Comics

The Living Tribunal has virtual omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience. I don't know about you, but you can't get more omnipotent than omnipotent, i.e., the Tribunal is a god by the very definition. This "The One Above All" is something else entirely.
Luminus - 9/10/2012, 6:35 PM
You're an idiot. We were having a good conversation, until your idiotic comment. I'm done with you.
Grimfoe - 9/10/2012, 7:05 PM
In any case. It was a great line and exactly in keeping with Captain America's character. Very much like the scene in the Ultimates where he beats the crap out of Giant Man for being a woman beater. Cap is what this country was when it was great and what many of us think this country should be. Cap shows us that there is still a right and wrong and that things aren't as complicated as people make them out to be. He's not a shades of grey type character. He's very black and white, right and wrong. I know that's not what many of you want, so I suggest you read X-Men comics......or Punisher
Grimfoe - 9/10/2012, 7:06 PM
I mean no offense, I'm just trying to say, "to each, his (or her) own."
Ragnaroknroll - 9/10/2012, 8:26 PM
@Grimfoe - well said
Grimfoe - 9/11/2012, 3:01 AM
@Unibeam: I'm not so sure about that. I liked seeing that "side" of Cap. Over the years Marvel did a lot to make Cap into a pacifist. Kind of odd, given that he is a soldier. I'm not saying that I want him to have a super hard edge, but I don't want to lose sight of the fact that he is a soldier. I liked the way the movie portrayed it. He as a reluctant fighter, but still a fighter. He doesn't hesitate to do the right thing. he also knows what the right thing is. I agree that kicking Banner in the face was a little over the top for me (although it was funny as hell when I first read it.)

Anyway, I'm not sure we disagree all that much, you've obviously read a lot of Cap comics, as well. I just like the decisive nature of the hero. I don't think he was looking for vengence on Pym as much as trying to make sure he wouldn't hit her again. With that rationale, I think it works for him.
lokibane2012 - 9/11/2012, 4:32 AM
CA-TFA was one of the best Phase one films. Certainly better thanIM2, Hulk, and Thor. On par with IM.
Ragnaroknroll - 9/11/2012, 8:22 AM
I'm not a fan of the Ultimates either. When Cap kicked Banner that really bugged me. That's when I realized Ultimate Cap is a d*ck. The scene with Pym I was torn about. Pym was really slimy and unlikable and I do feel a more relatable version of Cap from the 40's would have been utterly indignant at the way a woman was treated especially one he cared for. So you're a real tough guy eh? It showed Cap wasn't perfect and had emotions but also old school values. All said, I much prefer 616 Cap. He truly is the more inspirational character. Millar went for edgy/gritty but in the end I feel what makes Cap was lost.
Ragnaroknroll - 9/11/2012, 8:30 AM
CA:TFA had a tough job. Not only did it have to introduce Cap without being cheesy it had to get him quickly through the 40's origin into the modern era in time for Avengers. No way you can show everything and you want to hint that there is definitely more you missed. The montage leaves a lot of room for flashbacks in future films to flush out the WWII backstory. CA:TFA is one of the best Phase 1 films and had a lot of heart. I like it more and more every time I watch it.
Ragnaroknroll - 9/11/2012, 8:36 AM
@UniBeam11, you said it. No I can't see Evans doing that at all. The movieverse has cross pollinated elements from both Ultimate and 616 but I'm SO glad Evans embodies traditional Cap. I swear every time I see Avengers I want to jump out of my chair and cheer. I can't wait for the next time we see him again. I'm cautiously optimistic but I really hope CA:TWS rocks.
Ha1frican - 9/11/2012, 9:36 AM
IDC what people say the chorus line bit was funny and catchy as hell. Also th lines about "one god" and the hitler thing was funny as well it was clear it was all in good fun
Grimfoe - 9/11/2012, 11:13 AM
You two aren't wrong. I don't want a return to the Namby Pamby sissy version of Cap that Marvel was peddling for quite a while. You know, the woe is me, the world has done me wrong version. But I think that I may have enjoyed Ultimate Cap a little too much. I liked the way he handled himself with Pym and even Banner (although that was a departure), but maybe that's more how I would like to handle that situation and not how Cap would or should. I don't know. In both of those situations, Cap was somewhat justified in what he did. If I remember correctly, didn't Banner purposefully transform out of jealousy and insecurity? I could see Cap thinking that Banner had that coming. Pym certainly did. Hm. YOu've given me something to think about. I know I like that version of Cap (at least in the first series, not so much after) but now I'm not sure I should like it.
DarthMarenghi - 9/11/2012, 1:05 PM
You should like it, Grimfoe. I love Ultimates Cap, so glad he had an added dimension and not nearly as idealized as the 616. Actually interesting to read (though I love Brubaker's version of my favorite character as well).

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