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Captain America #280: Review

Apr 1983
J. M. DeMatteis, Mike Zeck

Story Name:

Sermon of Straw

Review & Comments

4 stars

Captain America #280 Review by (December 13, 2014)
Review: On the plus side, this issue goes above and beyond the call of duty by making the rather silly contortionist/thief Scarecrow into a real menace. On the negative, the Coalition for an Upstanding America seems to be here merely as a pretext for J.M. DeMatteis to deliver some guarded criticism of the Moral Majority, a conservative group with similar aims that was active at the time. The critique is so general as to be pointless, especially since we aren’t actually shown the group behaving this way. The crowning irony is that the same criticisms could be leveled at the left-wing Political Correctness movement of our own era.

Comments: The Scarecrow started out as a professional thief with a flock of trained crows battling Iron Man in TALES OF SUSPENSE #51. His first encounter with Cap was in CAPTAIN AMERICA (1968) #158-159, followed by a brief appearance in CAPTAIN AMERICA ANNUAL #6. It is in this issue that he is reinvented as a psychopathic killer; later in the pages of GHOST RIDER he will be further revised into a supernatural being. The Coalition for an Upstanding America was introduced in issue #276 and 277; this is likely its last appearance.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Captain America #280 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro

Late one night, the sinister Scarecrow leaps across rooftops accompanied by his crows, gains access to an apartment building, and knocks on a man’s door. When the man answers the door, he is killed by the vicious crows….

The next day finds Captain America similarly swinging across the city and dropping in on a meeting of the Coalition for an Upstanding America, a political action group protesting the erosion of morality in America, especially in the mass media. The group has been using Cap’s image in its advertising and Cap tells the chairman James Winston McArthur that he wants it to stop. When McArthur questions their publicity director (who is his son James Jr.), the young man sheepishly admits they never bothered to get Cap’s permission. The Sentinel of Liberty represents all of America’s people and resents any one group trying to claim him for their own. When he learns that the Scarecrow has been killing members of the Coalition, he vows to stop the madman. Leaving, Cap decides to keep watch over the Coalition and the best way to do that is as Steve Rogers. He returns to the Bennett Agency where Arthur Bennett apologizes for the anti-Semitic remark he made in #275 and Steve accepts an art job to do posters for the Coalition….

That night, at a farm in upstate New York, the Scarecrow watches James Winston McArthur on television spout his defiance to the villain as he announces the group’s upcoming telethon. When McArthur refers to him as a madman, the Scarecrow erupts and destroys the TV, terrifying his servant Anthony, and he plots further atrocities….

Several nights later, Captain America is concerned that the villain has not made his move and he ponders the aims of the Coalition for an Upstanding America; while he agrees with their goals he opposes their bullying methods. As he heads to Bennett’s office he sees crows flocking into the executive’s window. He crashes in and engages the killer, driving him off and rushing Bennett to the hospital….

On the day of the big broadcast, Steve and a recovered Bennett are in the TV studio, calmed by the presence of several guards. As the telethon begins, James McArthur unmasks as the Scarecrow, and the guards as his henchmen. He produces the real McArthur and proceeds to denounce him on the air, the villain comparing him to his father, a hypocritical clergyman, whose abuse of his brother Anthony left him a simpleton. The Scarecrow then produces a tape recorder and replays a secret conversation in which McArthur admits that the Coalition is just a money-making scam. Cap arrives on the scene and slugs the villain, who folds under the threat of pain. Anthony reveals the Scarecrow’s greatest secret: everything he just said was a lie; their father was not a crooked preacher but a kindly farmer and Anthony was born mentally-handicapped—and his name is Ralph. Seems that the Scarecrow had gone mad in prison and concocted a fantasy tragic background for himself…and the victims died for some crazy lies. And Cap asks, “But whose lies…?”

Mike Zeck
John Beatty
Bob Sharen
Mike Zeck (Cover Penciler)
John Beatty (Cover Inker)
(Unknown artist) (Cover Colorist)


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