Captain America (1st series) #335

Issue Date: 
November 1987
Story Title: 
Baptism of Fire

Mark Gruenwald (writer), Tom Morgan (penciler), Dave Hunt (inker), Jack Morelli (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist), Marc Siry (assistant editor), Ralph Macchio (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Valerie Cooper and the entire Commission on Superhuman Activity observe John Walker - the new Captain America, and Lemar Hoskins - the new Bucky - in a training exercise, before meeting with the duo. Walker and Hoskins are then officially sworn in. Douglas Rockwell, head of the Commission, informs Valerie that he wants her to continue overseeing Walker and Hoskins, while appointing Adrian Sammish as the co-ordinator of their field activities. In the Southeastern United States, a group called the Watchdogs burn down an adult book and toy store - as part of their cleansing of the filth of society - but in the process, they purposely kill the store’s owner. The next day, Walker and Lemar are given their first mission - to infiltrate the Watchdogs and take them down. When Walker learns that the Watchdogs are against things like pornography, sex education, abortion and the teaching of evolution, he realizes that they have similar views to them. When Walker learns that the Watchdogs’ activities have been near where he grew up, Sammish tells him he can use it to their advantage, but Walker is worried that he may get recognized, or be forced to turn in somebody he knows. The next day, they arrive in Custer’s Grove, Georgia, with their plan sorted. Walker gets his hair cut by an old friend who is the town barber, and claims that he is back to get a wife and a job, as the rest of the country is not decent. Walker makes more enquires around the town and with his sister about the Watchdogs, but no one gives him any information. Three days later, Lemar is posing as a photographer in town looking for girls for the “Chicks of the South” photo spread in a magazine, when Walker crashes the audition room - just as his high school sweetheart is talking to Lemar. Walker and Lemar stage a fight as Walker tries to stop the audition process, as he thinks the photo shoot is degrading to women. They are arrested by the local police, and word spreads across town - Walker is freed by his barber friend, who tells him that the Watchdogs put up his bail and that they want to meet with him. Walker meets with the Watchdogs who offer for him to join their group. Some nights later, the initiation process goes ahead, with Walker being given a Watchdogs uniform, and is sworn is a member of the group. The group is about to go burn a library which has not disposed of 152 books they deemed as unfit for reading, when a captive, and drugged, Lemar is brought forward for hanging. Walker is troubled as to how to proceed - go with the Watchdogs or try and stop Lemar’s hanging, which is going to be done by the head dog. He leaves with the Watchdogs, hoping that Lemar’s augmented strength will save him. Walker also wonders whether the Commission had a hand in setting this up as a test for him. As the Watchdogs prepare to storm the library, Walker sneaks off and changes into his Captain America costume - then makes his presence known, attacking the Watchdogs, he succeeds in taking them down, using his new fighting skills. Walker prevents the library from being burned down, and the police arrive, enabling him to return to Lemar- who indeed survived the attempted hanging, and he also took down the head Watchdog. They take their prisoners and Walker thinks if the Commission did have a hand in this, it may have been why the original Cap left - because he couldn’t trust the Commission.

Full Summary: 

Fort George G Meade, in Maryland, ‘How you doing Bucky?’ John Walker a.k.a. the new Captain America calls out to his friend Lemar Hoskins a.k.a. the new Bucky as they race through a training room, while jets of fire rush out at them, and spiked metal balls are thrown towards them. Bucky replies that he hasn’t been nailed yet, but that he wished he had a shield to take some of the heat off him. ‘Whoa! Watch it pal!’ Walker calls out as Bucky ducks some fire, landing close to a spinning blade. ‘I’m watching! I’m watching!’ Bucky exclaims, when suddenly, droids with guns pop up from the floor and begin firing at the duo. Walker tells Lemar to stay behind him, as his shield can handle this - and the handsome hero lunges at the droids, destroying them all with the force of his shield.

‘Nice going’ Bucky congratulates John, before exclaiming ‘Front flip, quick!’ and the two men flip forward as a large mallet descends down upon them. Bars suddenly emerge from both walls, closing together - but Walker pushes through them with his shield, shattering them all. ‘All right - there’s the finish line! Just one more obstacle to go!’ John calls out, while up in the observation booth, Dr Valerie Cooper asks her fellows in the Commission on Superhuman Activity ‘How do they look to you, gentlemen?’ ‘Pretty darned good, Ms Cooper. Their teamwork is exemplary considering the relatively short time they’ve been training together’ one of the men replies.

Down below, Johnny rushes to the finish line - when jets of flame emerge from the floor - but using his shield to protect himself, he simply leaps through the flame, and flips over. ‘Got it!’ he exclaims as he grabs the flag, completing the exercise. Bucky clutches his back and complains that it aches, while asking John if he wants to bet whether they set a new record for running that obstacle course. ‘I just hope we don’t get points off for demolishing so much hardware’ John replies as he leans over, catching his breath.

‘Bravo!’ Valerie calls out as she the rest of the Commission on Superhuman Activity go down to the training room floor. ‘Sounds like we didn’t do too shabby, Cap’ Bucky smiles. Walker points out that the entire Commission on Superhuman Activities seems to be smiling. ‘Most of them anyway’ he adds as the Commission approaches him and Bucky. ‘Let’s just hope he proves more cooperative than the original’ General Haywerth exclaims. ‘We have ourselves a good soldier this time, General. I know it!’ one of the exclaims. Henry Peter Gyrich remains to the back of the group, while Sgt Simmons, one of the officers stationed at Fort Meade stands with his hands on his hips and thinks to himself ‘Glory-boating so-and-so’s’. ‘Looking good, son’ someone remarks as they shake Bucky’s hand, and the head of the Commision, Douglas Rockwell shakes John’s hand, exclaiming ‘Quite a good show, gentlemen. You’ve come a remarkable way in a mere eight weeks’.

Walker asks if they are ready for a field assignment yet, to which Rockwell asks him if he is anxious. ‘I am eager to get going on the job you chose me for’ Walker replies. ‘You are a go-getter, aren’t you? Well, there’s one important thing you must do first’ Rockwell replies, before holding out a Bible. He and Walker both raise their right hands, and Rockwell asks him to repeat ‘I solemnly swear to obey the laws of the nation…to uphold the constitution…and to defend liberty, justice and the American way…’. ‘I shall carry out the directives of the Commission…to the best of my ability…in or out of uniform…in perpetuity…so help me God’ Walker concludes.

And soon, after Bucky has repeated the oath, Rockwell tells John and Lemar that they are dismissed and to report to the briefing room at 1300 hours tomorrow for their first field assignment. ‘Yes, Sir!’ Walker exclaims as he and Bucky take their leave. Valerie tells Rockwell that she was not aware they Commission had determined what their first assignment would be, to which Rockwell tells Valerie that she has done such a splendid job overseeing their basic training program, that he would like her to continue in that capacity with Walker and Hoskins’ further education. Rockwell turns to Adrian Sammish and announces that he will co-ordinate their field activities. ‘How’s it shaping?’ Douglas asks him. ‘I’ve set up one doozy of a mission for them’ Adrian replies.

Elsewhere in the training complex, Walker and Hoskins enter the locker room, with Lemar asking John what he thinks their first mission will be. ‘Something tough like stomping some super-dude?’ he asks. John replies that he doubts it will be anything too strenuous, as the Commission does not want them to fail. The men begin getting out of their uniforms as John tells Lemar to think of all the time and money the Commission would have wasted if the two of them struck out on their fist mission. ‘They’d be back to square-one - with no super soldier’. Lemar supposes that John is right. The two men enter the shower room, and Lemar asks if the Commission still intends to pass John off as the original Cap, pointing out that he doesn’t look or sound like the old guy. ‘Fortunately, there aren’t that many people out there who are experts on how Cap is supposed to look and sound’ Walker replies.

As the hot water pours down on their bodies and steam rises in the shower room, John soaps his muscular body up and explains that he thinks the plan is for him to make a few small public appearances, do some good deeds and establish a good track record. He rinses his hair under the water and adds that once he has won public acclaim, they will hold a press conference and announce that he is the new improved 1987 Captain America! Bucky declares that sounds like a good plan.

John wraps a towel around his wait and goes back into the locker room, with Bucky following him, exclaiming ‘Unless the real Cap tries to scorch it somehow. Wonder whatever happened to the old coot, anyway? We ain’t - uh - haven’t heard anything about him in the past eight weeks’, and he asks John if he thinks the Commission is withholding info on them. John begins to dry himself and replies ‘Maybe. Or maybe the old Cap has hone into hiding out of shame’. They get dressed into suits as John points out that the old Cap really shirked his duties to the country by refusing to go along with the Commission’s plan to co-ordinate his official activities.

John puts his shirt on and remarks that he still cannot figure out what motivated the original Cap to toss in the towel. ‘Ego, I guess…couldn’t handle taking orders’. He adjusts his tie and exclaims ‘Well, enough of him. He’s the past and we’re the future!’ Bucky smiles as he exclaims that tonight, after two months of mess hall chow, they are going out to dinner!

That night, somewhere in the south-eastern United States, several men clad in matching purple and orange uniforms run from an adult book and toy store. ‘Move it, Willie! We got enough TNT to blow that joint to kingdom come and back!’ one of them shouts, while another tells his comrades not to look, as it will blind them. An instant later, the adult store goes up in flames. ‘Yee-hah!’ one of the men shouts. ‘Filth and perversion are a blight that can only be cleansed by fire!’ one of the men shouts. ‘Amen to that!’ another exclaims as they stand over the remains of the adult store.

Suddenly, one of the men is shot by a rifle, and cries out in agony. The other men spin around and see a short tubby man approaching them. ‘You gol-danged arsonists! I sunk every cent I had into that store! It was my only way of making a living!’ the man exclaims. ‘What gives you suckahs the right to -’ he begins, before the leader of the group exclaims ‘Watchdogs! Firing positions!’ Instantly ten of the Watchdogs get into their firing positions - while one of them thinks to himself ‘Oh, man…blowing up a building is one thing…but gunning down a man in cold blood? What am I gonna do?’

An instant later, the Watchdogs all fire - and countless bullets strike the man, knocking him to the ground, where he lay in a pool of his own blood. ‘Deader than a doornail, Watchdog One!’ a member of the Watchdogs calls out as their leader approaches them. ‘Hope nobody noticed I aimed high when we all shot! Not that it makes a difference to this poor geek…’ the Watchdog thinks to himself. ‘Let me see him’ the head Watchdog exclaims as he kicks the limp body of the man.

‘Satisfied now, smut merchant? When you offend the morals of this nation you must face the wrath of the Watchdogs!’ The head Watchdog tells his dog-brothers to toss the carcass of the filth monger into the fire. He kneels down beside the Watchdog who was shot and asks him if he is unhurt. The Watchdog replies that his vest stopped the bullet, but he had the wind knocked out of him, while another Watchdog watches and thinks that if Monty had been killed, Head Dog would have tossed him into the fire as well. As the fire burns, the Watchdogs all turn and run back to their vehicles. ‘Man-o-man I didn’t think it’d be like this when I joined’ one of them thinks to himself. ‘Excellent work. Another resounding blow has been struck against the forces of indecency’ the head Watchdog booms.

1300 hours, the next day, Walker and Bucky sit at a table, opposite Adrian Sammish and some administrative staff. An recording of fire-fighters putting out the fire at the adult book store plays on a screen behind them as Mr Sammish announces that the latest incident brings the total number of acts of vandalism and arson to twenty. He adds that last night’s burning of the adult book store 25 miles outside of Huntsville, Alabama was the first such incident with a casualty - the store’s proprietor.

Mr Sammish tells everyone that the local police have been little help, leading some ot believe that the Watchdogs have some friends in high places, and reveals that the FBI has been on their trail for the past three months. Mr Sammish declares that the Watchdogs believe themselves to be arbiters of the public good, that they are against pornography, sex education, abortion, the teaching of evolution - anything they believe to be immoral. ‘Hmmm…I’m against those things too!’ a pensive Walker thinks to himself.

Mr Sammish remarks that every citizen or group of citizens has the right to their opinions, of course, no one is entitled to commit vandalism, arson or murder. ‘So Bucky and I are supposed to go out and stop these guys somehow, right?’ Walker asks. Mr Sammish explains that they want Walker to infiltrate one of the local chapters of the group, learn who its ringleaders and financial backers are, then arrange to catch them in the act. ‘Whew!’ Johnny gasps, reading a large set of papers. Mr Sammish tells Walker that if he examines the dossier in front of him he will see all the intelligence they have on the Watchdogs to date.

Concerned, Walker announces that some of the Watchdogs’ activities are in the vicinity of where he grew up. ‘Precisely. That should give you an advantage. Being familiar with the area and the people should enable you to infiltrate relatively easily, right?’ Mr Sammish asks. ‘Uh…yes, sir!’ Walker exclaims. Walker and Bucky prepare to leave as Mr Sammish tells them that how they proceed is entirely up to them, and that if they need any special materials - like false credentials, they know how to reach him. ‘Good luck, boys. Make America proud of you!’ Mr Sammish exclaims. ‘Yes, Sir!’ Walker and Bucky exclaim in unison.

Walking down a corridor, Bucky tells John that he thought he figured they would give them something easy for their first mission, as this looks tricky. John replies that he figured wrong. Bucky smiles and pats Walker on the back as he exclaims ‘Well, what they hey? Buck up, pal. It won’t be that tough. I’d rather fight a bunch of nuts with guns than one guy like Doctor Doom or the Red Skull! How about you?’ Frowning, Johnny replies that he just wished it didn’t have to be his old stomping grounds, as there is a much greater chance he will be recognized. ‘…or be forced to turn in somebody I know!’ John thinks to himself.

The next day, in Custer’s Grove, Georgia, ‘So this is where you grew up, Johnny?’ Lemar asks as he drives down a street. John replies that he grew up on a farm fifteen miles from here, and that this was the nearest city. “City” mocks Lemar. ‘I had more people living in my building than live here!’ he exclaims. They pull up outside a barber, and John gets out of the car. ‘Well, here’s where we split up. You go to the newspaper and palce the ad. I’m going to renew some old acquaintances…do some snooping’ John announces.

He enters the barber shop, thinking that it is so weird being here on a mission, before calling out ‘Hey! What’s a guy got to do to get a hair cut around here?’ A barber steps forward: ‘John Walker! What’re yew doin’ back in the Grove? I heard yew was in California!’ the barber exclaims. John shakes the barber’s hand, before hanging his jacket up and replies that he was in California, but did not fit in out there. ‘Man, the service sure made a he-man outta yew! Look at them arms!’ the barber exclaims as he admires Johnny’s arms.

After John sits down in the barber chair, the barber begins cutting his hair, and asks him what really brought him back to the Grove. John addresses the barber as Harold and informs him that he was thinking of settling back down in these parts - get a job and find a wife. ‘Far as I’m concerned, the rest of the country just isn’t a fit place to raise a family. Down here folks aren’t afraid to make a stand for decency’ John exclaims, to which Harold asks John if he heard about the Watchdogs. ‘Yeah. Aren’t they something to be proud of?’ John replies.

Soon, sporting a staunch crew-cut, John leaves the barber shop, and tells himself that he is not very proud of himself for fibbing to an old friend hoping to get information. ‘Didn’t even get a lead. So much for beginners’ luck. Now where should I try next?’ John wonders.

That night, in a hotel room, Lemar reclines on his bed as John stands in a doorway. ‘I gotta tell you, John. The people here don’t take too kindly to fellows of my persuasion. I thought the lady who took my newspaper ad was going to call a lynch mob!’ he tells his friend. Walker replies that they are good people, only just a bit provincial in some ways. John tells Lemar that he checked with most everybody he knows, including his sister and her no-account husband. ‘Talked up the Watchdogs…but so far no one admits to knowing anything about the Watchdogs. It’s possible the group hasn’t recruited in real small towns yet’ John exclaims.

Johnny removes his shirt and tosses it onto a chair, while Lemar announces that if the scam they have planned doesn’t bring the Watchdogs out of the woodwork, he doesn’t know what will. ‘Me neither’ John remarks, before announcing that he has to shower and chance, as his sister is having him over for dinner.

Three days later, at a hotel room outside Rome, Georgia. The corridor is lined with several young women. ‘Golly, I’d do anything to be one of those fancy-dressed models!’ one of them thinks to herself. ‘Two hundred bucks if I’m picked - oh please!’ another tells herself. ‘Wonder if he makes us show what we got?’ another wonders, ‘Your name, missy?’ Lemar, dressed in a white suit and wearing sun glasses, asks. ‘JoBeth Tucker’ a woman replies inside the room.

Several women later, Lemar asks a young woman called Tammy why she wants to pose for Looker Magazine’s “Chicks of the South” photo-spread. ‘Wahl, my Daddy always said, if you got it, flaunt it!’ Tammy exclaims. Soon, Lemar asks a young woman called Mary-Lynn if she has had any modeling experience. The young woman replies that she hasn’t, but that she is sure she could hold any pose anybody else can. ‘You sure you wouldn’t mind men drooling over your picture?’ Lemar asks. ‘I - I don’t think so…’ Mary-Lynn replies.

Suddenly, the door to the corridor slams open, ‘All right! Where’s that scuzz-bag trying to corrupt you fine women?’ John asks angrily. ‘Ohh’ ‘Ahh! ‘Who’s the hunk?’ the women exclaim. Lemar spins around: ‘Hey! What’s your problem, dude? I rented this room and I -’ he begins, while Mary-Lynn thinks to herself ‘John -? John Walker?’ ‘You dirty -’ John begins, before he sees Mary-Lynn, and recognizes her. ‘Mary-Lynn Norfolk! I took her to the senior prom! She’d fall for this?’ he thinks to himself. ‘Oh, I’m so embarrassed. What must he think of me?’ Mary-Lynn wonders.

‘Filth peddler! Get your black butt out of here - NOW!’ Walker exclaims, shaking his fist. But Lemar exclaims ‘Hold on, Mr Mouth! I know my rights! Now get lost before I call the cops!’ But Walker lunges at Lemar, and pushes him back so that they break the coffee table. ‘The only thing you’re going to be calling for is your mama!’ Johnny shouts, while whispering to Lemar ‘Let’s make this look good, pal!’ ‘He’s crazy!’ one of the women in the corridor shouts.

‘Insult my mama, will you?’ Lemar asks, smashing a chair over Walker’s back. Walker gets up and tosses Lemar across the room: ‘Here’s one man who won’t let you make harlots out of decent women!’ John shouts. ‘Ever hear of free will, blondie? No one forced them to show up here!’ Lemar replies as he dodges a punch, before picking up a sofa and slamming it down on John, who shouts ‘You’re a tempter! A corrupter! An agent of Satan!’ John moves out from under the couch and punches Lemar in the face, while Lemar tells him not to get carried away.

Lemar falls over the broken sofa, and rubbing his jaw, asks how long they have to keep up the horseplay. ‘Till the police arrive!’ John smiles. ‘Hope they get here soon. Even with augmented strength, a fella could get hurt around here!’ Lemar exclaims.

An hour later, John and Lemar are in the local police station, standing in opposite cells. ‘Why do I get the feeling that the first Cap and Bucky didn’t get themselves thrown in the slammer on their very first case’ Lemar mutters. Walker replies that he hopes this gambit pays off, and he doesn’t get a criminal record in his home town for nothing. ‘Shh! I hear someone!’ Lemar exclaims, as a police officer enters the cell area, accompanied by Harold the barber. ‘Heya, Johnny-boy. Back in town less than a week an yer already in the hoosegow! Ain’t yew a fine piece of work!’ Harold exclaims, before announcing that he paid the two hundred bucks bail. The police officer opens the cell, telling John to get out.

Soon, walking down a sidewalk, John tells Harold that he really appreciates this, and assures him that he will pay him back as soon as he is on his feet, before asking ‘How’d you hear I was arrested?’ Harold reminds Johnny that word travels fast in these parts, before informing him that he has some friends who really stand behind what he did. ‘They’re the ones who got yer bail money up. They’d like to met with yew, if you’ve a mind to’ Harold declares. ‘Oh, yeah?’ John replies, while thinking to himself ‘This could be it. Harold must be talking about the Watchdogs!’

That night, in the basement of the local chapter of a nationwide men’s club. John sits inside the sparse room, at a table, while the head Watchdog sits at the other end of the table, accompanied by two other Watchdogs. ‘It’s them! I’ve lucked out!’ Walker tells himself. The head Watchdog states ‘You seem like our kind of man, Mr Walker. Not many people would make a stand for decency the way you did. We were planning to take care of that miscreant ourselves once night fell’. He then asks John if he is interested in joining their fraternal; order to rid the community and eventually the nation of the elements that would corrupt them. ‘You bet!’ John exclaims. ‘Our next initiation assembly will be held this Thursday night’ the head dog reveals, handing John a card.

Thursday night, A fire burns in a field, and the Watchdogs are lined up in two rows. The head Watchdog stands at the top of the group, with John blindfolded at his side. ‘Dog-brothers, we are gathered here tonight to admit new blood into our ranks. Standing before us is a man who like each of us has had all he can stand of the filth and decay and depravity of our modern society…a man who wants to join the crusade for decency and righteousness! Brothers! I present to you…John Walker!’ the head Watchdog announces, as Walker’s blindfold is removed.

As the fire blazes behind him, John wishes that they didn’t have to know who he really is. ‘If I make the slightest slip up they’ll all realize I’m Captain America’ he tells himself. Johnny wonders what choice he has, after all, he may not have been able to infiltrate so quickly without cashing in on his local reputation. ‘Let us all join together in our oath of allegiance’ the head Watchdog begins, as the others all raise their fists into the air. ‘I solemnly vow to walk the virtuous path…to safeguard society from the forces that would corrupt it…and to destroy the enemies of decency…of morality, and of the values upon which our country was founded!’

John takes in what is going on around him, and tells himself that this is weird, as he believes in the things their oath is about. The head dog holds out a Bible, ‘Okay, John Walker. Not it’s your turn. Repat after me: “I solemnly vow…”’. John raises his right hand and begins to repeat what the head dog has said, while thinking to himself ‘This is the second swearing-in ceremony I’ve been to in less than a week. I feel like…such a hypocrite!’

Shortly, John is handed his own Watchdog uniform, and the head dog tells him to put it on. As he suits up, the head dog tells John that tonight he will have his first opportunity to participate in their moral crusade. He reveals that their target is the county library which has refused to honor their petition to remove from its shelves 152 books unfit for reading. John smirks as he places the helmet and on his head, thinking to himself that he will then be able to catch them in the act tonight already. John knows that the only trick will be slipping away to change into his Cap uniform.

‘But before we go we have one other matter to attend to’ the head dog remarks, before shouting ‘Bring forth the pornographer!’ John looks shocked, ‘He couldn’t mean - he does! It’s Lemar! How did they get hold of him? Why didn’t he use his augmented strength to break free?’ John wonders as he sees his friend being dragged across the ground. John supposes that Lemar has been drugged, and wonders what the Watchdogs intend to do with him.

‘Dog-brothers, here is a man who entices good women to degrade themselves for the prurient interests of the morally bankrupt!’ the head dog exclaims as he holds a noose into the air, while Lemar is forced to his knees. ‘We can thank our newest member for his delivery into our hands!’ the head dog adds. ‘They…they mean to string him up!’ John realizes, while wondering if Lemar’s augmented neck muscles can stand up to the stress of strangulation. ‘What do I do?’ John asks himself as he watches as the noose is placed around Lemar’s neck, and the other end of the rope is thrown over a tree branch.

John looks worried, and tells himself that there is no way he can switch to Cap in time. He knows that if he raises his voice to protest, he will blow his credibility, and spoil his chance pf catching them in the act. John tells himself that this mission has been bad news from the start. ‘First it takes me to my own home town…then I’m forced to oppose guys whose moral stand I’m in basic agreement with! Then I find my high school sweetheart is ready to sell her propriety for a couple of bucks. After that I lean an old buddy of mine is in cohoots with the guys I’m gonna bust! And now I’m forced to do nothing as they lynch my friend! This couldn’t have been tougher for me if the Commission planned it!’

Suddenly, John wonders if the Commission did plan it. ‘Maybe they arranged for all this! Maybe this is a test! But if it is…what’s more important? Lemar’s life or the mission?’ But before John can act, one of the Watchdogs whispers something into the head dog’s ear. ‘Eh? Yes. Of course!’ the head dog exclaims, before telling his dog-brothers that he has been reminded that some of them have to get up for work in the morning. ‘If we want to torch the library, we’d better leave at once’ He the announces that he will see to the lynching.

John looks on as the Watchdogs all turn and leave for the library. He wonders whether to stay here and try and save Lemar. ‘It’s like the Commission wants to know if I’m willing to risk a friend’s life for the sake of a mission! Those blasted -’ he is interrupted by another of the Watchdogs, who calls out to John and tells him that he will have time to watch plenty of lynchings in the months ahead. John realizes that is Harold. ‘Then he is one of the Watchdog’s I’ll have to bust!’ John tells himself, before praying that Lemar can handle this, as the preparations for the lynching begin behind him.

Half an hour later, the Watchdogs carry flaming sticks towards the library, when one of them asks ‘Hey, where’d the new guy go?’ ‘He said he had to answer the call of nature’ someone replies. ‘Excitement musta got to him!’ the first replies. But, just then, the Watchdogs turn their attention to the top of the library, ‘Look - up there!’ one of them shouts. ‘It’s that sooper- heero, Captain America!’ another exclaims. ‘What’s he doing here?’ another asks. ‘Evildoers beware!’ Johnny shouts as he lunges down at the Watchdogs.

‘Yeesh - that was corny! What is Captain America’s battle cry anyway?’ John tells himself, before deciding to keep his mouth shut if he cannot think of anything appropriate to say, less anyone will recognize him by voice that way. ‘He’s jumping! Get him! Get him!’ one of the Watchdogs shouts. ‘Relax! One goofball in tights can’t stop us all!’ another exclaims. ‘We’ll see about that’ Walker shouts, as he smacks several of the Watchdogs back with his shield. But John tells himself to be careful, for although the Watchdogs outnumber him sixteen to one, none of them has his augmented strength. But John tells himself not to get overconfident his first time out, as he punches another in the face.

John throws his shield - it smacks into the hands of several of the Watchdogs, knocking the torches out of their hands. ‘Ahgk! My hand!’ one of them cries, while the shield rebounds against a wall - and John catches it. ‘All right! It worked! I’m right in position to catch!’ he exclaims, while punching one of the Watchdogs in the face, before using his shield to knock four of the Watchdogs over. ‘All those hours of shield practice the past couple of months really paid off’ John thinks to himself.

Suddenly, ‘What’s wrong with you guys? Pile on him! Don’t give him room to do circus tricks!’ one of the Watchdogs shouts. ‘Smash him, or we’ll be behind bars!’ another exclaims. ‘We’re taking you down, traitor!’ another declares as several of the Watchdogs lunge at him, forcing him to the ground. John tenses as he tries to force them off. ‘Yeah - you boys took me down all right - but keeping me down is another story!’ he tells himself as he manages to rise, knocking all of the Watchdogs from him.

Minutes later, all of the Watchdogs lie at the new Captain America’s feet, as police cars screech down the street. ‘Finally - the police! I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have to lug all sixteen of those jokers to the station myself!’ Walker thinks to himself. As the officers run towards him, Walker informs them that the Watchdogs were trying to set the library on fire, and asks the police to take them into custody, he informs them that he will be down to the station to make a statement later on. ‘Hey - wait!’ one of the officers calls out, but John has already started to run off.

Fifteen minutes later, John is running back to the meeting site from earlier, ‘I’ve got t find - LEMAR!’ he exclaims as he sees Lemar, with the broken noose around his neck, standing before him, holding onto the head dog and the other Watchdog that were attempting to lynch him. ‘Me leave you stranded out here? Never!’ Walker replies. Lemar carries the unconscious men and Walker tells him that he knew he could handle the situation himself. But to himself, Walker thinks ‘Like blazes I did! I was gambling with Lem’s life! I just hope he understands!’

Lemar tells Walker that it was scary for a moment, but he snapped his cuffs and tore himself down. John tells Lemar that he thinks this whole thing was a set up by the Commission. He tells Lemar that the Commission didn’t invent the Watchdogs, but they infiltrated the group and placed key people in it to make it as difficult a test as they could for him. John and Lemar get into a car, and put the Watchdogs in the back seat, as John declares that it really rankles him that the Commission would go to such elaborate lengths to test him.

‘I’d really like to tell them how much it stinks!’ John exclaims, while thinking to himself that if the Commission knew he figured it out, that would probably invalidate the whole thing, and he will always have to wonder whether they would spring another on him. ‘I wonder if this is why the original Cap quit on them…he just couldn’t trust them…’.

Characters Involved: 

Captain America VI / John Walker

Bucky V

Dr Valerie Cooper, Henry Peter Gyrich, General Lewis Haywerth, George Mathers, Douglas Rockwell, Adrian Sammish, Orville Sanderson (all Commission on Superhuman Activity)

The Watchdogs including Harold, Monty, Willie and Head Dog

Sgt Simmons

Adult bookstore owner

Mary-Lynn Norfolk

Tammy, JoBeth and other women

Police officers

Story Notes: 

Johnny Walker / Super-Patriot became the new Captain America in Captain America (1st series) #333.

Johnny’s sister is Kate Tolifson. Her husband has never been named. They also have some children, who have also never been named.

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