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Captain America’s Jet Freedom’s Flight Story

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Captain America writer, Mark Gruendwald found me in one of my frequent visits to the Marvel Comics office and handed me a pile of Captain America reference. 

Captain America Jet Reference Captain America Jet Reference Captain America Jet Reference

As usual, his few images told me everything I needed to know. Artist Kieron Dwyer had cooked up a design of Captain America’s new jet. He apparently had based the look on the brand new, experimental airframe being worked on by DARPA and JPL, the X-30. This modern forward-swept wing design was a method of finding out the limits of computer-aided flight control. The wings going in the opposite direction to traditional aerodynamic thinking meant that without micro-second fast flight surface control, the plane would crash. Probably immediately.

I am indebted to the amazing work of Aerofax, Inc. publishing. Jay Miller, publisher and author puts together these utterly fascinating, ultra-dense books of information about individual craft. With several of the “Datagraph” specialist titles in hand, I am able to sound like a leading edge manufacturing engineer.

Right away, Mark’s reference told me that Captain America’s Jet was a “kitchen sink” plane. It did too much! It flew, it hovered, there were several crew and seating stations — plus I felt the need to at least mention a small lavatory — and it could perform all by itself! Too much! Well, I had cut my teeth on the Avenger’s Quinjet and knew how to cram engines and ducting into an airframe! DARPA, stand back!

Here, you can see the process I go through to arrive at a comic book technical page.

I start by essentially thinking out loud with a pencil. Proportions are important, the right angle to show off everything. How to communicate the most information without drawing every nut and bolt. I confess I often spend a lot of time figuring out how to draw less.

But this time, I felt Captain America — one of Marvel’s core characters, needed a little more. So I leaned into the piece, making it as “real” and usefull as I could. The final touch was reading about the F-117 Nighthawk’s fly-over of the reviewing stand on the day of its roll-out, which featured an American flag on that broad underside. I tried to do the same thing. The F-117’s all-wing shape allowed for a highly distorted flag, I went with a much more straight-forward representation, even if it meant chopping off, uhh… Rhode Island, maybe.

So I fussed and fiddled to get it all in there and wound up with a big page. Emergency equpiment and fold-out beds, chairs and tables. Communications equipment that Gruenwald wanted. Of all the things I hate to do is the “three-view plan.” To make sure all that stuff lines up and the lines are not too blobby. Ugh.

— Eliot R. Brown

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