Captain America may not be back from the dead, but he's back — sort of.
Four months after Marvel Comics unexpectedly killed off the champion of liberty and the American way, he appears in a comic made exclusively for U.S. soldiers. He is seen on a videotape made before his death.
One million copies of "The New Avengers: The Spirit of America," the fifth in Marvel's series for the military, will be available free starting Saturday at military base stores worldwide.
The star-spangled Avenger's appearance is expected to create a demand for the comic, once word spreads among collectors.
"If you really, really want one, you need to know someone in the military," said Jim Skibo, director of support for the Dallas-based Army & Air Force Exchange Service, which is distributing the comic.
Captain America, whose secret identity was Steve Rogers, was felled by an assassin's bullet on the steps of a New York federal courthouse in a July issue after 66 years of battling villains from Adolf Hitler to the Red Skull.
Captain America is not being resurrected in "Spirit of America," said Bob Sabouni, Marvel's vice president of business development.
But when AAFES asked Marvel officials to include the hero in the latest military issue to be released before Veterans Day, they agreed because no other character better symbolizes the heroism and patriotism of the American soldier, Sabouni said.
The story begins with Captain America on a videotape asking his fellow Avengers to protect a soldier serving overseas and her brother, a National Guard member stationed in the U.S., from a terrorist organization.
Marvel Comics previously announced that another person will take over the mantle of Captain America early next year. His identity has not been revealed, and the costume will be revised, said Michael Pasciullo, Marvel's vice president of merchandising and communications.
Marvel Comics started the military series in 2005 after getting a call from a young boy, saying he could no longer afford to send comics to his two brothers serving in Iraq, Sabouni said.
Marvel sent the boy a box of comics but wanted to do more, so the company started working with AAFES to develop something just for soldiers. The military series has been very popular, with books selling quickly after their release.
"You have the fantasy aspect, but they're staying true to our culture," said Lt. Col. William Thurmond, an AAFES spokesman. "You can't ask for anything more if you're a comic book fan."