Some plot artifacts simply refuse to die.
Consider the case of Johnny Walker. Walker made his comics debut in Captain America #323 (November 1986) as the Super-Patriot, a morally shady up-and-comer out to usurp the Star-Spangled Avenger’s role as the costumed embodiment of America.
Super-Patriot’s brand of reactionary and telegenic patriotism reflected contemporary trends in which political rhetoric had increasingly taken on the character of pro wrasslin’ smacktalk. As such, Walker served as a direct contrast to Captain America’s subtler (as much as wearing swashbuckler boots and wings on one’s head can be considered “subtle”) dedication to the American dream at a time when the Living Legend otherwise known as Steve Rogers was experiencing a crisis of conscience.
After political interference and self-doubt forced Rogers to quit the role of Captain America, the government passed the mantle onto Walker and his pioneering high-top fade hairdo. Walker’s tenure as the government stooge interation of Cap was troubled by both the shadier aspects of his Super-Patriot days and Walker’s mental instability, which blossomed into full psychosis mode following the death of his parents at the hands of a right-wing militia group.
As it turned out, Walker’s failure to live up to his predecessor’s example was preordained by Red Skull. The Nazi mastermind had infiltrated the highest levels of the Reagan Administration in order to destroy the symbolic power of his longtime nemesis from within. (Other Reagan era policy decisions influenced by the Red Skull include the classification of catsup as a vegetable, Iran-Contra, and the Great Communicator’s visit to the SS graveyard in Bitburg.) The fascist fiend’s plot was eventually uncovered and derailed by Steve Rogers — sporting a red, white, and black variant of his old togs as “The Captain” — who was then given his old job back by an understandably embarrassed secret government commission.
As an unsavory counterpoint intended to re-energize a flagging franchise, Walker fulfilled his narrative function to a “T” and generated the best (and longest) plot arc of writer Mark Gruenwald’s Captain America run. Instead of consigning the character to a well-deserved retirement in the junk drawer of continuity, however, the temptations inherent in having a “spare” Captain America and a spare costume design proved to be too much for the scribe.
Following a faked assassination and short period of mourning, Johnny Walker re-emerged as the mighty USAgent…
…the Hero Nobody Called For.
To help Walker make the leap between “violently psychotic failure” and “bad-ass antihero,” Gruenwald resorted to the tried and true cliche of reconstructive mental conditioning in which the character’s former life (and history of setting people on fire and/or snapping their necks) was wished into the cornfield with a few strategically placed lines of exposition. Thus was Johnny Walker obliterated and replaced by — no lie — “Jack Daniels” (presumably because “Jim Beam” and “Sun Tory” were both taken).
Despite being made of remaindered plot parts, USAgent has managed to sustain an inexplicably durable career over the past twenty-odd years including stints with both the West Coast Avengers and the WCA’s “extreme” (as in “this comic is terrible in the extreme“) offshoot Force Works…
…before shedding the final vestiges of his Cap-inspired costume in favor of something a little more Dredd-ful for the Maximum Security miniseries…
…not to mention (because no right-minded person would) more recent appearances in New Invaders and Omega Flight. When it comes to career trajectory, USAgent is truly the C. Thomas Howell of the Marvel Universe.
For this reason, among many others, I have decided to honor the former Super-Patriot’s service to the cause of shitty comics by designating USAgent as this week’s Nobody’s Favorite. While he may currently be limbless due to recent events in the Siege crossover, I have no doubts that we’ll be seeing Ol’ Johnny fully recovered and back to being the Joe Estevez to Captain America’s Martin Sheen in no time.