What If Steve Reeves Had Been Captain America?
Fictional account of a 1950s
Captain America television series starring Steve Reeves. Hope it
makes for good reading~
In May of 1953, Timely/Atlas approached NBC with the idea of a
Captain America television series that could rival the current hit
Adventures of Superman on ABC. The storyline was to begin with
Captain America taking the fight to Korea. In conjuncture,
Timely/Atlas had plans to reintroduce Captain America (as well as
the Sub-Mariner and Human Torch) in the fall. The idea was each
media production would compliment the other and make for a major
overall success. NBC was excited by the prospect and quickly began a
search for Steve Rogers/Captain America. Budget concerns lead them
to a newcomer Steve Reeves, who had only a few minor television
roles under his belt. Taking a queue from what was lacking with the
generic 1940s Dick Purcell Captain America serial costume, they
opted for an outfit that was both “modern” and emphasized the
physique of their lead actor.
NBC felt his looks and brawn would be a huge draw, especially in
contrast to the rather “doughy” George Reeves Superman. By the end
of May Reeves was brought in for both a screen test and costume
Timely planned to introduce this new costume into their upcoming
print adventures. Pleasantly surprised with their good fortune in
landing Reeves and buoyed with the costume tests, NBC committed to
the project and ordered a full pilot episode into production by
mid-June. World events intervened with the Korean Armistice signing
on July 27, 1953. NBC went back to the drawing board to remove the
references to the Korean conflict. They felt it would be
disrespectful to set stories in the just ended conflict. The planned
initial promotional items also had to be adjusted. Here is an unused
ad that was pulled.
This variation, which removed the Korean War focus theme of the ad,
was later used in the late September issue of TV Guide.
It’s not coincidence that the first promotional ad for Captain
America appeared in the “Superman” issue of TV Guide for the week of
September 25 – October 1. NBC had caught wind of the cover selection
prior to publication and felt it was the perfect vehicle to
introduce their coming rival production. Tucked away in the black
and white interior was the first visual heralding the exciting new
Production continued with a target date of a Thanksgiving, 1953
premiere. Stock location sequences were filmed, but little, if any
actual Reeves in costume footage were made. Not deterred by the
actual lack of progress, the promotion department continued to feed
stories to the Hollywood press as if the series had complete
episodes in the can. This includes a generally fake story picked up
by Modern Screen that focused on an apparent, but non-existent, feud
between the two costumed heroes of television.
Not having a recognizable supporting cast of characters like Perry
White, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen proved too much to overcome once
the war-theme was dropped. Bringing the Captain America series back
to the United Sates proved a major obstacle as NBC figured the
Korean War backdrop could provide years of action packed plotlines.
Writers generally resorted to same common thugs and gangsters that
routinely appeared in Superman. As production slowed and the target
date came closer, NBC officially pulled the plug in early November.
A disappointed Reeves went on to film success with
swords-and-sandals films beginning with Hercules in 1957. In a 1972
interview on the Mike Douglas show, Reeves lamented what might have
been with Captain America, “…the concept was great and really could
have rivaled Superman. Who knows? Timing was just not right. The
Korean War was integral to the initial season for sure, and once it
ended they just couldn’t figure out what to do with the character.
Seems they had tunnel vision with the war concept and didn’t have a
back-up plan. Perhaps if Ike hadn’t fired MacArthur in ’51 the war
might have expanded to China and I’d have had a lengthy TV
Timely/Atlas’s superhero print revival took a major loss with the
cancellation of the proposed series. Still they pressed on with
their plans and reworked art to keep the character in his classic
1940s outfit. Atlas’s Young Men #24 (December 1953) featured Captain
America, Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner and continued through
issue #28. Captain America also appeared in several issues of Men’s’
Adventure (#27-28) and the revived title Captain America (#76-78).
Success did not follow and in September of 1954 the future Marvel
Comics stars were shelved again to wait for their ultimate revival
and vindication in the early 1960s.