A damsel in distress. A fiend finishing off a gravestone just before performing the final act. But have no fear, it’s Captain America to the rescue. But wait, where’s Bucky? But wait again, that’s not Captain America! Captain Freedom was Speed Comics’ patriotic hero. In the hands of Jack Kirby, Captain Freedom would look even more like Captain America then he already had. It must have brought some satisfaction to Simon and Kirby that they could still show how Cap should be done.
Captain Freedom first appeared in Speed #13 with a cover date of May 1941. This was before Al Harvey was publisher for Speed. According to Joe Simon, Irving Manheimer (president of Publisher Distributing) did the publishing of Speed Comics then. The distributors loved comics at that time. Captain Freedom was created by Franklin Flagg, do you think that could be a pseudonym? Once Captain America become a big seller, copy-cat patriotic heroes became abundant. But even so, Captain Freedom seems particularly close in design to Captain America. Similar placement of red and white stripes, a circle of stars replaces a single star on the chest, and shoulder pads replace mail armor. The “skull cap” is similar particularly to the Cap in Captain America #1. And of course the rank of Captain is shared by both.
What makes the similarity surprising is the Captain America #1 was cover dated March while Speed #13 is dated May. According to Joe Simon, comics typically took about a month to create, a month to print, and another month to distribute. But that would put the creation of Speed #13 to at best a month before Captain America #1. So we seem to have a case of an obvious copy-cat patriotic hero created before the original hit the new stands. How was that possible? I think part of the answer lies in a adverisement on the back cover of Speed #13.
If you missed it, below is a close up of the comicscope. On the sides is a clear depiction of Captain America and Bucky. If maybe a little hard to notice because it is behind a star, but Cap carries his triangular shield. Further Cap is wearing his original “skull cap”, with his neck bare. Interestingly, Cap and Bucky are mistakenly depicted as wearing shorts, just like Captain Freedom. A similar ad, without Cap, was on the back of Speed #12. Cap and Bucky were crudely pasted over the original ad’s art, parts of which are still visible around the edges. With the placement of this ad in the same issue, and presumably with an explanation of who the hero was, Manheimer had advance notice of Captain America. He therefore could respond with the creation of their own patriotic hero.
But having answered what source Manheimer used to launch Captain Freedom, we now have to wonder how the comicscope ad could have known about Simon & Kirby’s creation? Comicsope was the invention of Bob Farrell, who was Victor Fox’s right hand man. According to Joe, Farrell got free advertisement for comicscope in Fox comics. That is Fox’s Samson that is being projected on the wall in the ad from the Speed #13. But according to Joe, he never saw Bob Farrell for a number of years once he (Joe) left Fox Publications. So how Bob Farrell got to see Simon & Kirby’s new creation before it was published remains a mystery.
This Speed #18 cover was primarily penciled by Jack Kirby.