Captain America #275-279 (1982-1983): Helmut Zemo becomes Baron Zemo


This story really begins with the rise of Neo-Nazis in the U.S.  Of course, because Steve Rogers is dating a Jewish woman, Bernie Rosenthal, it’s her temple of worship that finds itself vandalized by the hate group. Captain America investigates, but first there’s an extended dialog between Steve Rogers and some of Bernie’s friends attempting to balance protection of minority religions and the Nazis’ First Amendment rights.  It’s kind of silly (and almost offensive), given that desecration of a temple is not speech—and given that Nazism in general is unprotected hate speech—but it’s a nice way to show how Cap puts the American ideals of the Constitution before his love life or anything else.  At the same time, it gets ridiculous and, again, offensive, when Cap equates Jewish worshippers with Nazis who are intent upon killing them.

During this story, Bernie finds herself at a rally where Cap shows up to protect protesters from the Nazi group (eerily similar to recent events in the U.S.) and finds his voice familiar to her boyfriend’s voice.

Eventually, and inevitably, we find the Nazis are supported by supervillains: Baron Zemo and Arnim Zola, who free Vermin from captivity at SHIELD, and we a big Cap versus the enemies story. 

You’d think that this would lead Cap to conclude that he was wrong, the Jewish people and Nazis are not the same, but we don’t get any real insight or character development from him on this point.  Disappointing.

 This is also the issue where the Baron is unmasked and shown to be horribly scarred by his last battle with Captain America. We also learn that the character is not the original Zemo, but his son, carrying on the mantle of his father.

There’s a lot more that happens here, and it’s interesting but it’s not terribly consequential.  Cap’s gay pal Arnie’s boyfriend is killed because he has been mutated by Zemo and SHIELD kills the mutates not knowing that some are innocent victims.  

I continue to be impressed with the way Marvel handled this gay relationship–easily the most intimately detailed homosexual relationship of its time.

There’s also a shapeshifter in the mix named Primus.

Implied homosexuality?  Anyway, Primus goes to Bernie’s apartment and tries to bang her….


We find out later that she didn’t give up the booty for him.  The shapeshifter, Primus, also goes to Avengers Mansion so Iron Man gets a guest star tag.

Also, Sam “The Falcon” Wilson is running for House of Representatives, which offers an opportunity to talk about his criminal past.  It’s nice character work.

Overall, it’s not a bad story, and Zeck’s art is great, it’s just a little tone deaf on the Nazism issue.

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