The late Marvel Comics writer Mark Gruenwald had a rare talent: an encyclopedic knowledge of old comics. Gruenwald was apparently the only man who could beat Mark Waid in a comic book trivia contest about the Justice League…which, of course, was published by DC, not the company Gruenwald actually worked on.
As a result of this, Gruenwald, during long runs on series like Captain America and Quasar, would much prefer to resurrect long forgotten characters for story lines rather than create new ones. He even did the most mature Justice League story ever when he used the Marvel knock-offs versions to tell what many consider the first mature readers comic book storyline with the fantastic Squadron Supreme mini-series, a story showing the Squadron taking over their Earth as benevolent dictators, unmasking in public, and all the eventually horrible repercussions that came with that. Not only does this story predate Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns, but Gruenwald told a story with mature themes without anything that would have gotten the book censored by the Comics Code. That’s right, folks: his mature story had no nudity, sex, or swearwords.
But he did create a few characters too, and into that mess came the unfortunate example of Hauptmann Deutschland.
First off, if your German is weak, or as in my case non-existent, his name translates to Captain Germany.
That makes a certain amount of sense. The character originally appeared in a back-up story Gruenwald inserted into the end of a six issue Captain America story he was writing during the annual two week shipping schedule Marvel used to do in the summer. The story was actually a Red Skull story. The Skull and his closest evil confidants were captured by Hauptmann Deutschland and his team of two other German superheroes, with the idea the group of them would be put on trial for various war crimes and such and then executed. Obviously that plan failed when the Skull’s one associate, an android who could transfer his intelligence to other machines, unlocked the team’s shackles, and then Arnim Zola sent off some temporary Avengers doubles to scoop the Skull and his party up and escape.
Look, everyone reading along knew the Skull wasn’t going to be killed. The guy’s got more near naked kickboxing to engage in.
Hauptmann Deutschland wasn’t fooled for long, so he followed the Skull back to the States where he and Captain America got into a brief fight before they found the Skull apparently dead of a gunshot to the head. Again, it was a Zola clone, but it was good enough to get both guys off the Skull’s back for a while.
Did the good Hauptmann have any powers? Yes, he did actually! He could absorb kinetic energy and use it to increase his own power.
But wait a minute…I said Hauptmann Deutschland had a team. See, therein lay the problem. Actually, Hauptmann Deutschland himself is a problem, so bear with me.
See, it is entirely understandable why Gruenwald would make a Captain Germany. There was a Captain America and a Captain Britain. The Ultimate universe even had a couple other European Captains. Why not a Captain Germany?
Well, because that sort of nationalism makes Germans a wee bit nervous. It reminds some Germans of a time period that wasn’t that long ago when a guy with a funny mustache was in charge. Factor in the other two members of Hauptmann Deutschland’s team, the Schutz Heiliggruppe (“League of Protecting Angels” in English), were named Zeitgeist and Blitzkrieger. The former is based off an English language expression and doesn’t really mean much to Germans. The latter is even more Nazi-ish than Hauptmann Deutschland.
Heck, Zeitgeist didn’t even have time-based powers. He turned invisible and wore a lot of clocks on his costume.
The point was, Marvel had to change Hauptmann Deutschland’s name for German translation and eventually just renamed the guy Vormund, which translates to “Guardian”.
What happened to the others? Well, it turned out Zeitgeist was an American super villain named “Everyman” who murdered the electrically-powered Blitzkrieger before being taken out himself by the newly-renamed Vormund. These days, Vormund, or whatever name he chooses to go by, may pop up here and there, but it may take another Gruenwald to remember him and revive him the way Gruenwald used to for so many forgotten characters.
Noteworthy Issues: Unstoppable Doom Patrol #2 (April, 2023)
Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #432: Nebula
Noteworthy Issues: Green Arrow #1 (April, 2023)