Armagideon Time

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.

Related posts:

  1. Nobody’s Favorites: The man without a fanbase
  2. Nobody Else’s Favorites: Quantum dynamic
  3. Nobody’s Favorites: Less than stainless

17 Responses to “Nobody’s Favorites: Government surplus”

  1. Sallyp

    Excellent choice. Man I really can’t stand this character. I can’t think of a single redeeming feature.

    Bleh!

  2. Dan Wallace

    I always kind of liked him. He struck me as Marvel’s attempt at creating a Guy Gardner.

  3. Your Obedient Serpent

    I had a Facepalm Moment during SIEGE, when Normy told Walker/Daniels that he couldn’t be the USAgent and wear that costume anymore, because it was the property of the US Government.

    But… but… but… that was CAP’S costume when the government told HIM that he couldn’t wear HIS WWII-vintage togs anymore!! That was the whole POINT!

    Was that deliberate irony or just oblivious writing? I CAN NEVER TELL ANYMORE.

  4. Mike Zeidler

    Sadly Mr. John Walker was somebody’s favorite, as Ultimate Captain America’s overall disposition is better suited to U.S.Agent than Steve Rogers.

  5. stavner

    shedding the final vestiges of his Cap-inspired costume in favor of something a little more Dredd-ful for the Maximum Security miniseries

    Judge impersonation–thirty years, creep!

  6. LCB

    The thing that strikes me is that most of the entries in “Nobody’s Favorites” have been left to languish in well-deserved obscurity, doomed by their ill-conceptions or by being too tied to half-assed fads and trends thought by comic writers to be hip with the kids, yet with USAgent we have not been so lucky. Nobody I’ve known has liked this Cap-wannabe with his stupid hair and total weiner personality but writers keep bringing him back, foisting him on the readers.

  7. bitterandrew

    Serpent:

    Rogers traded the rights to his black costume to the government as part of the deal that reinstated him as Cap…

    …and as my brother has pointed out, it was a bit sleazy on Cap’s part, considering the costume was made for him by his buddy D-Man, who had gone missing and presumed dead a few issues prior.

    (Okay, Greg? I mentioned it.)

  8. Tim O'Neil

    I call shenanigans! I always liked US Agent, even if he hasn’t always been used well. He had a very nice character arc in the last half of Avengers West Coast, even if that arc has been mostly forgotten over the last couple decades. It’s still cool to see him show up now and again, and I thought he was written very well in Slott’s Mighty Avengers.

  9. Adam

    I like US Agent and enjoyed his recent stint in the Mighty Avengers if for no other reason than I really like his costume. Actually, I like it more than Cap’s. Yeah, I said it.

    Plus he has a lightsaber.

  10. bitterandrew

    Tim: You could be no more objective about that period of Marvel than I could be about the RADNESS of Jack of Hearts.

    Adam: I liked the costume, too. When Steve Rogers wore it.

  11. Kris

    I think the costume is the whole reason this guy has stuck around.I mean,it is a pretty cool costume…like Cap’s but all “dark” & “edgy”.They should probably just put a new guy in it if the last one had his limbs hacked off.They could name him Evan Williams.

  12. Kid Kyoto

    Meh, he’s a lot like Captain Atom, he can’t support a series on his own but when you need a goverment hero/thug he’s kind of your go to guy.

  13. Frowny

    So, in a lot of ways he was Proto-AzBats.

  14. Rob S.

    Man, that’s eerie. I just watched a movie with Joe Estevez in it a couple days ago.(Well, an MST3K of a movie with Joe Estevez in it.)

  15. Meekrat

    I read a short story once where the Trapster was trying to go legit, and he was doing infomercials. However, someone got wind that the Trapster was a super-villain, and USAgent was called in to deal with him. Despite the fact that he was doing nothing wrong. This led to a scene where USAgent just smacked the living daylights out of the Trapster and everyone booed him.

  16. Hooray for Gooba!

    Late comment!

    I have always liked USAgent as a member of a team. He provided the appropriate jerkass quotient to the West Coast Avengers, providing a similar ornery opposition to Hawkeye that Hawkeye provided to Captain America back in the day. So, it was kind of neat seeing that come full circle.

    I still enjoy seeing him show up from time to time as a guest star or a member of a team, so while he’s not a favorite, I do like him.

  17. Sumguy

    I think it’s a good demonstration of just how lame this guy was, when in the famous trophy room scene in Future Imperfect, you have Cap’s shield hung on the wall and still pristine, and USAgent’s shield sitting in a pile under it and badly damaged. Even back in the 90s, when his ilk were arriving every alternate week, people knew he wasn’t going to be getting much of a legacy.

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