We recently spoke with Captain America co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. They explained Cap's relationship with the Starks, how war vet experiences inform the movie, and whether Steve will get to really fight Nazis in the sequels.
io9: One of the big references you have to the other Marvel movies is bringing in Tony Stark's father, Howard Stark. How much of a temptation was there to just make Howard a 1940s version of Tony?
McFeely: We did not know how to do it exactly. Do you make him the opposite of Tony, a straight-laced guy so that Tony is reacting to an oppressive household or something? He's a little closer to Tony…
Markus: I mean, he's Howard Hughes, and we all know where Howard Hughes went. We don't know if Howard [Stark] went quite that far, but when he becomes John Slattery [in Iron Man 2], he's clearly lost some of his sense of humor. So I like considering the evolution of that character. What really fascinated me in the back of my head as we were writing it is that, OK, Steve is fighting alongside this guy, next year he's going to be fighting alongside his son, who is going to appear to actually be older than his father and older than Steve. None of that is in the movie [explicitly], but it's all extra gravy.
And, of course, looking at the comics, the conflict between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark has been a huge driving force over the last few years. Is that something you wanted to allude to or build into Captain America?
McFeely: We definitely wanted Steve to have a relationship with Howard so that, if Joss [Whedon] chooses to use it, Steve can turn to Tony and say, "I knew your father, and I have this opinion about you, I have this opinion about him." So if they have a conflict later that there's a resonance there.
Markus: I have no idea – literally - whether we're headed for Civil War or anything like that. They're just a great contrast. Tony Stark is never going to wave a flag.
McFeely: It's safe to say that in The Avengers they certainly have friction.
This movie plays down the Nazis in favor of Red Skull and HYDRA as the primary antagonists. If a later movie return to the 1940s, is there a chance of a more direct confrontation with the Nazis?
Markus: Certainly, with HYRDA already up and running and knowing the basic plot of how he fought HYDRA, you have the option of having [the sequel villain] not be HYDRA because it doesn't fit into that. So you can do a World War II plot that is at least part of Captain America 2, it could be just the Nazis. Theoretically, Steve could go to the Pacific. I don't know that he ever did, but you could do it. So it does free you up to go elsewhere.
McFeely: For this movie, we wanted Red Skull. The question came up earlier as to why he doesn't punch Hitler, and that's a different movie. If you put Hitler in, then Skull takes a step down in terms of villainy. And we don't want to do to that.
Markus: And, as evil as Hitler was, even I could punch Hitler and it would have some effect. You want Cap to go up against Cap's opposite number. But there really is a fascinating underlying thing when he does go up against the Nazis is that he's a genetically engineered, blond-haired, blue-eyed super-man. He's everything the Nazis wanted, and it's up to him to show exactly how wrong they are.
You managed to work the original Captain America into this movie by having Steve wear it at a USO show. Would you like to similarly allude to some of the more offbeat parts of the Captain America mythos in future Cap movies, like say the fifties era replacement Cap and Bucky?
Markus: It's on the table. Everything's on the table. Marvel's done a great job of taking things that could have been sidesteps or even mistakes at some point or another and working them into the mythology. The fifties Cap and Bucky being one of the best examples….they've taken that so far from what it might have been. But it gets really confusing. I don't know if the cinematic universe will ever be as complicated as the comics universe.
How is it different now that you're working on the sequel and you're writing a Captain America who is a man out of time?
McFeely: Oh, it's different, yeah. In some ways, we wrote the Cap that most people don't know. We mostly know him as the Stan Lee and on character when Namor finds him and brings him back, and he's the man out of time and that's his biggest characteristic. So this movie was a challenge in that way. Now what we're looking forward to is the guy just back from the war, essentially…
Markus: You know, in a really pleasing way, Steve's story is like any soldier coming home from a war. The whole world has been rendered alien to a lot of guys who have been out, you know, killing people for six months and are expected to come back and play with their kids in the park. It's probably as surreal as Steve waking up seventy years later, so I think Steve is relatable to a veteran's story.
McFeely: And everyone he knows is gone, everyone he knew is either dead or 90 years old. There's a lot of stuff to play with now that he's here.
So, I guess here's the big question - will Captain America be the only person to come through from the forties? There's a lot of characters in the comics who come back.
Markus: That's the thing. You could really have overload. That's why you don't have a forties Nick Fury, because it's just too many guys.
McFeely: Everything is possible. By design. We like that Brubaker run a lot, and we like the Winter Soldier a lot. So whether or not, we can do it, whether or not it makes sense to do it, I don't know. To be very honest here, we're still talking with Marvel about all these things. So everything is on the table.