New edition of Jack Kirby’s “Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles” out this month, and there’s a bit of a mystery attached…

Later this month, Marvel will re-release Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles in an all-new Marvel Treasury Edition – but there’s a mystery a Jack Kirby fan out there might be able to solve…

First published in 1976, Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles was the Marvel Treasury Edition that celebrated 200 years of the United States of America, written and pencilled entirely by Jack Kirby, inked by artists that included Frank Giacoia, including the cover, along with John Buscema, Barry Windsor-Smith and Herb Trimpe.

Running to 84 pages, it could even be considered to be one of the earliest American graphic novels (as was Jack’s 2001: A Space Odyssey adaptation).

The story is a time-spanning adventure featuring Captain America on an incredible journey through his nation’s past — from the American Revolution through two World Wars…and more! Steve Rogers meets major historical figures, makes quite an impact on Benjamin Franklin — and takes inspiration from two centuries of American struggle and progress!

Some of Jack Kirby’s original pencils for a scene from Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles | image: Jack Kirby Museum
A published scene from Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles | image: Jack Kirby Museum

Reprinted in all its oversized glory along with suitably patriotic special features, this is one of the Sentinel of Liberty’s wildest adventures of all – and artist David Roach recently noticed that back in 1995, auction house Sotheby’s offered the eye-catching cover art for sale… but incredibly, it didn’t meet its reserve!

“It was one of several Kirby pages being sold by Roz Kirby [Jack’s widow], which failed to sell,” David noted, and, apparently, as it has never been seen since, where is it now?

“I bought this Treasury Edition at the time and I still feel the cover is rather thrilling”, David noted, and he’s not the only Kirby fan to think so.

A look back at Kirby’s original pencils reveals that at the bottom left of the art, he had originally included a boxing match which was subsequently replaced by some charging soldiers, quite possibly drawn by Gil Kane, inked by Frank Giacoia. Marie Severin is credited on GCD. although at the time, John Romita Snr was Marvel’s resident art editor.

Jack Kirby’s original art for the cover of Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles
The cover of Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles as originally published

Although the cover is featured among articles about Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles on the Jack Kirby Research Center web site, there’s no indication the art is still held by the family. However, there is plenty of conjecture as to why Jack’s cover was altered – a mystery in itself!

Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles Marvel Treasury Edition (2021) is available here from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link) | Original 1976 Edition here

Collecting Marvel Treasury Special: Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles (1976) 1, Mighty Marvel Bicentennial Calendar 1976

With thanks to David Roach, and Damien Harvey

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.

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4 replies

  1. The Boxer looks like John Sullivan. It says he was the last Bare Knuckle heavyweight champion. Are there any other missing pages? Cannot recall if Captain America met or fought him in that story. The one reason they might have changed this is because they might have had to get license to use his appearance. Perhaps not having been able to get it they changed it. This happens with celebrities in comics.

  2. Well he did appear in the story. So that cannot be the reason.

  3. It’s pretty simple why the soldiers are there–in the original version, NONE of the vignettes have anything visually to do with 1776…obviously the editor asked Marie Severin (who was always available for quick fixes in the Bullpen) to include some freedom fighters holding a 13-starred flag to make it a Bicentennial cover!

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