|The Grand Director|
Art by Steve Epting.
|First appearance||Captain America #153 (September, 1972). (Captain America stories from Young Men #24 (Dec 1953) through to 1964 later ascribed to the character)|
|Created by||As Captain America:
As The Grand Director:
|Alter ego||William Burnside; legally changed to Steven "Steve" Rogers|
|Team affiliations||United States Government
|Notable aliases||Captain America|
Peak-level speed, agility, dexterity, reflexes, coordination, balance and endurance
Access to various forms of advanced technology
As Captain America:
Wears a chain-mail costume
Carries a bulletproof steel shield
Use of an "atom-blaster" weapon
The Grand Director (William Burnside), also known as the Captain America of the 1950s, is a fictional character in the Marvel Comics Universe. He was created by writer Steve Englehart and artist Sal Buscema in Captain America #153–156 (September–December, 1972) as having been a specifically different Captain America, the Captain America introduced in 1953 in Young Men comics.
In a later storyline, the character was given a new white costume and the title "The Grand Director" by Buscema and writers Roger McKenzie and Jim Shooter in Captain America #232 (April, 1979) and altered to be a villain, leader of a group of White Supremacists that included a brainwashed Sharon Carter. The character was killed off at the end of that storyline, and not used again until Captain America (Vol. 5) #42, returning to being active as the "Captain America of the 1950s" separate from the then-current Captain America, James "Bucky" Barnes.
A character with a complicated history, the Grand Director's origin lies in discrepancies that crept up in the history of Captain America.
As a character, Captain America had been continuously published from 1941 until 1949. He was then unsuccessfully revived in 1953 in Young Men #24–28 (Dec. 1953 – May 1954) by Stan Lee with Mort Lawrence and John Romita, Sr. These stories starred the original Captain America and Bucky in both their civilian and superhero guises and were clearly set in the 1950s, with the character prominently battling communism and a communist Red Skull. The character also made appearances in Men's Adventures #27–28 (May–July 1954) and Captain America Comics #76–78 (May–September 1954).
However, when Lee revived the Captain America concept a second time in 1964 he chose to ignore his own previous stories (in some interviews Lee claims to have simply forgotten the brief 1950s revival). When the character reappears in Avengers #4 (March, 1964) Lee reveals that the original Captain America had fallen in to a state of suspended animation after a battle he fought near the end of World War II in 1945.
The 1950s stories were thus considered outside of official canon until Englehart's 1972 Captain America storyline which attempted to resolve the discrepancy by revealing how an unnamed man and his teenaged student had assumed both the public and private identities of the original Captain America and Bucky as part of a government-sponsored program which planned to replace the lost heroes to combat the "red threat" (i.e., communism).
However, as Englehart's 1972 story reveals, the treatment, which made no mention of the vital Vita-Ray radiological component, which these individuals underwent to replicate the original Captain America and Bucky's abilities was flawed and as a side-effect they developed psychotic symptoms. As a result of this the government placed them in suspended animation in the mid-1950s only for them to be revived decades later in contemporary times to battle the original Captain America.
This complicated origin is the reason that some sources list Young Men #24 as this character's first appearance, when in fact that and subsequent 1950s-published Captain America stories were clearly created with the intention of depicting the original Captain America.
A 1977 story, What If Vol. 1 #4, (August, 1977), introduces two other, previous Captain Americas (William Naslund, appointed by Truman in 1945 to succeed the original Captain America, and Jeff Mace, who succeeds Naslund as Cap in the spring of 1946 after Naslund is killed in action). These versions of the character were created to resolve the discrepancy created by the Captain America stories which had been published between 1945–1949 in the newer, post-Avengers #4 continuity. Though depicted in an issue of the What If? series, this story was explicitly noted as taking place as part of the formal canon.
The 1950s Captain America was known for a time as Captain America IV. In later years, yet earlier "Captain Americas" were introduced, obscuring the numbering of the various Captain Americas, though most of these other later-introduced Captains are not formally part of the recognized linage (such as the Revolutionary War-era ancestor of Steve Rogers). Many recognize this character today with the specific terms "1950s Captain America" or "Captain America of the 1950s" and "Grand Director" to distinguish him from the World War II Steve Rogers. In 2010 the character's birth name ("William Burnside") was revealed in Captain America #602.
Fictional character biography
Having idolized the original Captain America to the point of obsession, William Burnside focused his life in an intense analysis of American history. He attains a PhD in American History in the early 1950s, with a thesis on the life of Captain America. Soon after graduating, Burnside further researches the secret "Project: Rebirth" and discovers private Nazi files revealing the true identity of the original Captain America as well as the lost Super Soldier serum.
Returning to the United States with this information, Burnside legally changes his name to Steve Rogers, then approaches the FBI offering the Super Soldier serum as leverage to become the next Captain America, in hope of being used as a symbol during the Korean War. While Burnside undergoes surgery to assume the physical appearance and voice of Rogers, the situation in Korea changes. Feeling that introducing a symbol of national pride would be unwise in the political climate of the time, the FBI cancels the project.
The FBI set up Burnside, as "Steve Rogers", at the private preparatory Lee High School in Connecticut as a teacher. While there, Burnside encounters an intense advocate in James "Jack" Monroe who shares his obsessive fascination of the original Captain America. When the communist Red Skull attacks the United Nations in an elaborate scheme, Burnside injects himself and Monroe with a sample of the unproven "Super-Soldier" serum and confronts the Red Skull as the new Cap and Bucky. However, without the vita-ray exposure the original Rogers received to activate and stabilize the serum, Burnside and Monroe undergo a dangerously flawed application. Although initially accepted in the roles of Captain America and Bucky, the formula they ingested eventually gives them psychotic symptoms. The two became unreliable and paranoid, attacking innocents simply for their race or for holding opinions that differ from their own. They are arrested and put into suspended animation by government agents.[volume & issue needed]
Burnside is placed in the custody of psychologist Doctor Faustus for treatment. Faustus brainwashes Burnside, setting him up as "The Grand Director", the leader of a Neo-Nazi group called "The National Force". When confronted by the original Captain America, however, Burnside is horrified with the revelation of his manipulation against his former identity as Captain America, curls into a fetal position, and sets off a button on his utility belt engulfing his body in flames.
After the true Steve Rogers' death, Sharon Carter discovers that Faustus and the Red Skull have been keeping Burnside in suspended animation while he healed from his wounds, programming him to kill the current Captain America, James Barnes. After escaping Faustus and helping to rescue Sharon Carter from Arnim Zola, Burnside travels the country, considering his place in modern society. He is unimpressed with the current United States cultural view, instead reflecting a world view more in line with former US President Theodore Roosevelt from the Spanish–American War sometimes called "American imperialism".[volume & issue needed]
Eventually Burnside joins the terrorist group Watchdogs, and captures Barnes to force him to wear his World War II Bucky uniform and become his new Bucky. Burnside's plan involves blowing up Hoover Dam to rally other groups like the Watchdogs behind him. Barnes shoots him at the edge of the dam when Burnside threatens to detonate the bomb.
Burnside becomes a crimefighting vigilante.[volume & issue needed] However, his insanity makes him recklessly endanger innocent bystanders. The original Captain America intervenes and Burnside becomes disoriented and runs in front of a semi-truck. Rogers visits Burnside at the hospital and says that Burnside did a lot of good as Captain America before the serum destroyed his mind, and that Rogers did not hold him responsible. Rogers also explains that Burnside's death has been faked, that he has been given a military funeral with full honors, and that he is formally relieved of his duty and would be taken to a facility to repair his damaged mind and give him a new identity.
Powers and abilities
William Burnside has actual superhuman strength. His agility, dexterity, speed, reflexes, coordination, balance, and endurance are superior to those of any Olympic athlete, and his physiological functions operate at the peak of human efficiency. He is a trained boxer and a competent hand-to-hand combatant. As the 1950s Captain America, he wore a chain-mail costume (his 1950s version was distinguishable from the World War II Captain America's costume in that his 1950s costume torso stripes did not fully encircle the costume's waist) and carried a bulletproof steel shield which was destroyed. Following his first revival from suspended animation, he briefly used an "atom-blaster" weapon, presumably salvaged from a government lab. As a member of the National Force, he had access to various forms of advanced technology.
Burnside's current Captain America costume is an exact match to the first Rogers' primary current costume and complete with a new round shield that has survived blows from the "indestructible" round shield now used by Barnes. The exact composition of this new shield has not been revealed as yet.
- Captain America #602
- Captain America Annual #6, Captain America vol. 1 #285 (Sept. 1983)
- Captain America #155
- Captain America#153–156
- Captain America #156
- Captain America #236
- Captain America #232–236 (April–August, 1979)
- Captain America #37–38 (April–May 2008)
- Captain America vol. 5 #40
- Captain America vol. 5 #42
- Captain America #602–604
- Captain America vol. 6 #19
- Captain America Vol. 2 #5