Just because you've created one masterpiece doesn't mean everything you touch is going to be gold (we're looking at you, seasons 2,3 and 4 of Heroes). For further proof, just take a look at the real and grossly ill-conceived follow-ups to some of these beloved classics.
6After Captain America: Fighting American
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were true visionaries: They created Captain America in late 1940, a full year before the U.S. got involved in World War II, and they had him punching Hitler in the face as early as March 1941. When Marvel Comics put out the first issue of Captain America, the character became an overnight sensation. Simon and Kirby were immediately flooded by fan mail and even death threats from Nazi sympathizers.
So when Marvel relaunched the character in 1953 without Simon or Kirby's involvement, they called bullshit. Similar to the creators of Superman, they felt they had been swindled and decided to do something about it. Unlike Superman's creators, they didn't even try to come up with a new character - they simply did a Captain America rip-off at another company. This time Simon and Kirby owned the copyright, so by their own admission, they "were determined to make the public forget about Captain America." Here's what they came up with:
Fighting American's origin story reads a lot like an extended sketch for The Colbert Report: a brave newscaster volunteers for a government experiment after his war hero brother is murdered by communists. The story plots were literally inspired by Senator McCarthy's anti-communist agenda:
Remember, kids: If you don't feed Freedom at least twice a day it could die, and we're not buying you a new one.
Communists weren't just criminals for Fighting American, they barely classified as human. In one issue, Simon and Kirby had the hero trapped between commies and actual demons, but you could hardly tell the difference between both sides.
Fighting American greets everyone by hoisting them over his head.
Simon and Kirby had previously found success by making Nazi-bashing comics, so they figured they could do the same thing with the Reds. The problem was that around this same time, Senator McCarthy's dubious methods were starting to raise some eyebrows in the American public. One Jack Kirby biography states that "public opinion veered so violently against McCarthy, Jack and Joe had to rush to change the direction of Fighting American's next issue."
So, from one issue to the next, the comic went from a dead-serious tale of Communist-bashing patriotism and political intrigue to a wacky parody of the exact same type of rhetoric, using the old "it was a joke all along!" excuse. Some sections seemed taken straight out of Mad Magazine:
Borscht jokes never get old.
During this period, Fighting American's villains became more culturally diverse. Now he also battled the monstrous Japanese...
...resulting in what might very well be the most xenophobic comic ever. Another troubling aspect of the series was the main character's problematic tendency to be depicted in bedroom scenes with his young sidekick.
Sales remained low and the comic was canceled after seven issues, but the character's undignified story continued decades later, when he was bought by a company paradoxically called Awesome Comics.
Who'd want to buy the rights to an obscure character that was the clear product of self-plagiarism? Another plagiarist, of course. In the 90s, Marvel Comics sued a former artist for infringing Captain America's copyright by "creating" a thinly veiled rip-off called Agent: America. As a way to justify the resemblance, the artist bought the rights to Fighting American and fused him with the other guy. The court fell for it, and Awesome Comics continued inflicting the character upon modern audiences, officially establishing the most pathetic reasons behind a character revival ever.