CAPTAIN FLAME

Real Name: Frank Cortez

Identity/Class: Unrevealed (see comments) (1940s era)

Occupation: Soldier; former carpet salesman

Group Membership: "Crazy SUES" (Specialized Unit, Enhanced Soldiers) - Archie the Gruesome, Blue Diamond (Elton Morrow), Davey Drew and the Demon, Father Time (Larry Scott), Fighting Yank, Fin (Peter Noble), Robert "Flash" Foster, Invisible Man (Leonard Gade), Doug "Jap-Buster" Johnson, Albert "Slow-Motion" Jones, Merzah the Mystic, Moon-Man, Secret Stamp (Roddy Colt), Captain Bob Strong, Jim "Taxi" Taylor and T-Mech, Vagabond, Young Avenger (Bill Bryon)

Affiliations: American Ace (Perry Webb), Bucky (James Barnes), Captain America (Steve Rogers), Sergeant Byrd, Victory Boys

Enemies: Axis soldiers (in general)

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: "Betty" (as called by other Crazy SUES)

Base of Operations: Mobile

First Appearance: All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#1 (August, 2011)

Powers/Abilities: Captain Flame had the ability to absorb the heat and force of an explosion (from artillery fire, grenades, etc.), then redirect it back at an enemy to cause massive destruction; after absorbing a blast, his eyes would glow and he would usually manifest a luminescent aura around his body. When multiple explosions were occurring around him in the heat of battle, Captain Flame had difficulty containing so much energy.

   A closeted homosexual, Frank Cortez was plagued with self-doubt, and he was in constant fear of losing control of his power; he also found it difficult to cope with killing and the horrors of warfare (He seemed to suffer from what was known as "combat fatigue").

Height: 6' (by approximation)
Weight: 170 lbs. (by approximation)
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Blond

History: (All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#1 (fb) - BTS) - The past of Frank Cortez is largely unrevealed, but he had been employed as a carpet salesman. At some point under unrevealed circumstances (see comments), he developed his power and was given the designation of "Captain Flame".

(All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#2 (fb)) - During World War II, Captain Flame was recruited into the "Crazy SUES," a specialized military unit attached to the 101st Air Assault Division--these "super-soldiers" were minor heroes under the command of Sgt. Byrd and Captain America, and they would be sent on combat operations deep behind enemy lines. Captain Flame wore a standard-issue infantry uniform and he was armed with a standard military rifle (though, considering his power, he rarely had need of it).

   On May 13th, 1942, Colonel Nevins (see comments) of the U.S. military met with Timely Comics publisher Martin Goodman; although he praised some of Timely's comic books featuring the fictional adventures of various members of the Crazy SUES, Nevins requested that Goodman hold off on publishing any comic book adventures of Captain Flame for reasons of national security.

   On August 7th, 1942, Captain Flame and the other Crazy SUES were aboard a transport plane flying over the South Pacific.  During the flight, the racially bigoted Captain Strong was harassing "Slow-Motion" Jones, and Captain Flame warned Strong to leave Jones alone or else he'd make Strong's eyes boil from the inside out. Then the psychic Merzah introduced himself to Cortez and whispered that he understood the secret that Cortez was trying to hide (presumably his homosexuality), but Merzah assured Cortez that he would not share that knowledge with anyone.

   When the plane reached the jump-zone, the Crazy SUES along with Captain America and Bucky parachuted down to Guadalcanal to take on the forces of the Imperial Japanese Army. The Crazy SUES were taking heavy enemy fire, so Sgt. Byrd threw a live grenade at Captain Flame to activate Flame's power; Captain Flame redirected the explosive blast back at the enemy and ended the attack.

   Following the battle, Captain Flame sat alone, deeply troubled by the experience and the carnage he had wreaked; when his teammates checked to see if he was alright, Flame only replied that he'd never killed a man before.

(All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#3 (fb)) - On August 13th, 1942, Captain Flame and the Crazy SUES were still fighting the Japanese at Guadalcanal.  During a battle, Captain Flame had just absorbed the force of an enemy grenade, but he was having trouble containing the power with all of the explosions going off nearby, so he warned his teammates to stay away.  As enemy soldiers began advancing, Captain Flame could no longer hold the explosive energy and he released it--he stopped the enemy attack, but inadvertently killed "Jap-Buster" Johnson and disfigured the face of Davey Drew in the process.

(All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#4 (fb)) - At some point, Captain Flame and the other Crazy SUES were aboard a transport plane headed to Europe--by then, the men started to call him "Betty" because they figured he was like a "Bouncing Betty" landmine, liable to go off at any second. After reaching the jump-zone, the Crazy SUES parachuted down near the Normandy village of Sainte Mere Eglise. After landing, Flame accidentally released his power and partially destroyed an abandoned house.  He was found by "Slow-Motion" Jones, and Cortez tearfully admitted to Jones that he wasn't suited for combat, he feared losing control of his power, and he didn't know if he was more afraid to die or more afraid to live. Jones consoled Cortez and assured him everything would be okay.

   Later, during a celebratory get-together with the Invaders and other military personnel, Cortez met the Human Torch (Jim Hammond); Cortez admiringly told the Torch that he really enjoyed his comic book, and that it was "kinda swell" that they both had the same type of  powers--he was overheard by his teammates (who were unaware of his homosexuality), and they snickered and made teasing remarks amongst themselves ("I think Betty's in love."). Then Cortez told the Torch that he would really like to visit him after the war was over; the Torch (naively unaware of what Cortez was actually proposing) suggested to Cortez that he set it up with the military and they'd see what they could do. Disheartened by the Human Torch's rejection, Cortez next met the glance of American Ace--the two began a conversation and felt a mutual attraction for each other, so they sneaked away from the party, but their departure was noticed by "Slow-Motion" Jones, who secretly followed them. As Captain Flame and American Ace went outside and kissed in an alley, they were unaware that they had been seen by Jones.

(All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#5 (fb)) - On July 7th, 1944, Captain Flame and the Crazy SUES were planning battle tactics with Sgt. Byrd in a barn on a farm near Bretteville-sur-Laise, France--American Ace had accompanied the group, so Captain Flame's usually somber mood was noticeably brightened.

   Meanwhile, on July 12th, 1944, "Taxi" Taylor, T-Mech, and Captain America were at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah, and Cap spoke privately with Colonel Ledford; Ledford  mentioned that the military was greatly interested in the sustained progress of Captain Flame, and Cap was told that for the sake of the country, he had push Captain Flame to his absolute limit.

   The Crazy SUES participated in the liberation of France, and by August 29th, 1944, Captain Flame and his teammates were celebrating their battlefield victories at an outdoor cafe in Paris, France.  When the men went off to pursue some local women, American Ace said he wasn't interested, mentioning to Jones that he was a happily married man--overhearing this, the shocked Captain Flame angrily walked away to be alone.

   Shortly afterward in a small town in Belgium, Captain America, Bucky, and the Crazy SUES were clearing the town of Nazis.  Moon-Man was shot in the throat by a sniper and fell wounded to the ground; Jones called for a medic to help Moon-Man, but the Nazis suddenly attacked in force, and Moon-Man was hit several more times where he lay.  As a Panzer rolled up, the remaining Crazy SUES scattered for cover, but they were greatly outnumbered.  The terrified Captain Flame was in hiding and overcome with fear when he was discovered by Jones; Jones threatened Flame, telling him that he'd tell everyone that Captain Flame was a homosexual unless he pulled himself together and stopped the tank.  Emotionally shaken, Captain Flame used his power full force and destroyed the Panzer, but the betrayal of Jones (and presumably, coupled with the information he had overheard about American Ace) would have lasting traumatic psychological ramifications for him.

(All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#1 (fb)) - On December 6th, 1944, Captain Flame and the Crazy SUES were in Saarlautern, Germany.  Jones came running to warn his teammates of an approaching Panzer; Captain Flame (now, a nearly cataleptic shell of a man) destroyed the tank.  Standing with a blank expression on his face, Captain Flame had apparently been wounded during the encounter with the Panzer, and with an emotionless voice, he said he needed a medic; Merzah ran up to Captain Flame and told him that he would get him to a medic, but there were more Germans close by they had to attend to.

(The subsequent events during World War II for Captain Flame and the Crazy SUES remain unrecorded at this time (see comments), but Captain Flame was known to have died at some point by the end of the war under as yet unrevealed circumstances--Albert Jones felt responsible for the death of Captain Flame)

Comments: Created by Paul Jenkins (writer) and Carmine Di Giandomenico (artist)

All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes was supposed to be an 8-issue mini-series, but it was cancelled with the fifth issue due to low sales, so unfortunately the story was never completed, thus the full details of Captain Flame's origin and death were never revealed.

The source of Captain Flame's power was never revealed, but it was somehow tied in with the mysterious Operation: Firefly (in present times, the elderly Albert Jones told Alyssa Bryon: "Captain Flame practically was Operation: Firefly."); since the series was cancelled, no details are available, so it's possible Captain Flame could have been a mutant, a mutate, or (considering that the Norse god of mischief Loki was somehow involved) he could even be mystically-empowered.

While the other Crazy SUES were actual Golden Age characters, Captain Flame was a retcon addition created for this series.

It was revealed in this mini-series that the Timely Comics of Earth-616 was working with the U.S. military to publish comic books of various costumed heroes who had been inducted into the military; these comics were basically used as propaganda, to convince Americans to support the war effort and increase enlistment.  It was implied that the reason so many of the minor Golden Age Timely characters had so few appearances was because they presumably died in combat before they could build up any readership (...which I guess is nicer than saying that some of them were just really lame characters).

In this series, Timely Comics was going to feature Captain Flame in the first issue of Super Hero Comics (not a "real" Golden Age title), where he was prominently shown on the cover wearing a costume, but there is no evidence that he ever had a career as a costumed crime-fighter prior to his recruitment into the Crazy SUES. For undisclosed reasons, the entire print-run of this comic book was destroyed before it was released to the public, and there were only two known copies in existence--one owned by Bill Bryon, and another in the possession of the Department of Defense. (which means it's about as rare as Purple Pig#1 (If you understand that obscure reference, consider yourself No-Prized, otherwise check out Iron Man I#72 for details)); however, there was an issue #2 of Super Hero Comics featuring Young Avenger on the cover.

And Colonel Nevins was probably named in honor of Jess Nevins, who had compiled an extensive list of all Golden Age Timely Comics characters.

In All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#5, Colonel Ledford states on July 12, 1944 that Captain America and the Crazy SUES were part of a unique and expensive project that began in 1940 ("four years" before 1944) called the "Silver Plated Project" and "Project Alberta." Both of these were in the real world aspects of the Manhattan Project, involving the development of the atomic bomb and the subsequent bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Project Silverplate
Project Alberta
Ledford also said that pushing Captain Flame to his limit and observing his progress was part of the project. Perhaps observations of the "flame powers" of Cortez were used in either developing the atomic weapons or gauging their potential by observing him in action. A mysterious man whom Captain America recognized in a limousine was part of the project. His obscured image indicates it could have been Howard Stark, whom Cap had previously met in April, 1944 (Captain America Annual I#9/2) and who was involved in the Manhattan Project (Iron Man I#257).
Operation Firefly was also mentioned in All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#3, but not much was explained about it. In the real world, Operation Firefly involved the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, an all-black airborne unit of the United States Army, during World War II. In the winter of 1944-1945, the Japanese unleashed fire balloons which dropped incendiary bombs against the US west coast. The 555th, or "Triple Nickels," participated worked with the Forest Service as "smokejumpers" in fighting the fires that broke out.
The Crazy SUES were probably not involved in these events, but perhaps here were at least two different and unrelated programs called Operation Firefly, one under the aegis of the Manhattan Project and another involving the 555th.
--Wolfram Bane

Profile by Ron Fredricks.

CLARIFICATIONS:
Captain Flame has no known connections to:

Opertion: Firefly has no known connections to:


images: (without ads)
All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#3, p6, pan3 (Main Image, Captain Flame using his power at Guadalcanal)
All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#2, p10, pan5 (Headshot, Captain Flame aboard transport plane, threatening Captain Strong)
All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#3, p15, pan5 (Captain Flame having trouble containing his powers (Sgt. Byrd in background))
All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#5, p20, pan1 (Captain Flame using his powers in Germany)
All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#1, p11, pan5 (Captain Flame's only comic book appearance (in costume) on cover of Super Hero Comics#1 (Bill Bryon's hands on left, Alyssa Bryon's hands on right))


Appearances:
All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes#1-5 (August-December, 2011) - Paul Jenkins (writer), Carmine Di Giandomenico (artist), Bill Rosemann & Alejandro Arbona (editors)


Last updated: 06/05/17

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