It’s no secret that the 1990s were incredible – especially for comics. Giant muscles, costumes with an unnecessary amount of pouches, and beach-ball shaped boobs made that decade the most glorious time to be alive. Amidst all the timeless artwork and NFL SuperPros, a unique hero assisted Captain America in the fight for our right to play with Pogs.
Jack Flag was such an enormous patriot, he dyed his hair red, white, and blue. Unfortunately, he and his star-spangled scalp appeared infrequently and the hero would disappear from comics for years at a time. However, I believe that Jack Flag was simply a character full of unused potential. This month, it’s time to welcome the grand-old and high-flying Jack Flag to the D-List.
Jack first appeared in Captain America #434 in 1994. Created by Mark Gruenwald and Dave Hoover, Jack’s first appearance on-panel was epic – he carried a boom box that could shoot lasers, and used it to stop two members of the Serpent Society from robbing a bank (no amber waves of grain for villainy). Sadly, that epic boom box would never be seen again.
While Jack was quite an extravagant character, Gruenwald did his best to grant the hero a legitimate origin during his first appearance (by legitimate, I mean slightly less ridiculous than boom-box lasers). Jack Harrison and his brother, Drake, were volunteers for Captain America’s hotline network, and even fought local crime. Unfortunately, the Drakes were forced out of their home because of a scheme conducted by the Serpent Society. Initially, Jack didn’t have any superpowers, so he lifted weights and trained in the martial arts in order to exact vengeance on the evil group.
Jack attempted to trick the Society’s leader, King Cobra, into letting him join the villainous team. King Cobra did not believe that Jack truly wanted to join the Serpents, so he sent Flag on a suicide mission to retrieve something from Mr. Hyde. Jack and Hyde fought, but the hero was knocked into some chemicals that Hyde conveniently left on a nearby table. Hyde’s chemicals granted Jack super strength, and he swiftly defeated the villain. Although Jack returned victorious, King Cobra unleashed his Society on the hero. However, one of Captain America’s sidekicks, Free Spirit, arrived and helped Jack escape. Jack Flag frequently teamed up with Free Spirit, and the sidekicks worked quite well together (she was the dandy to his Yankee Doodle).
Sure, Jack Flag punched some bad guys, got a few bruises, and did so looking like a 4th of July fetishist, but as quickly as Jack Flag appeared, he disappeared for years (hit the road, Jack). Patriotic sidekicks may have seemed too cheesy and obvious to utilize within Captain America comics, so subsequent writers likely had no use for Jack. He reappeared a decade later, however, in a very badass capacity.
Jack was living in an apartment with his girlfriend when they overheard some local jerks harassing a young woman. Jack put an end to their intimidation, but the hooligans contacted the authorities regarding the unregistered superhuman in their building; Jack refused to register during the “Civil War” storyline. Jack put on his costume and readied himself for battle – the Thunderbolts arrived outside of his apartment, and the ensuing fight was amazing to watch.
As someone who, until this point, seemed like more of a joke than a serious combatant, it was incredible to watch Jack Flag singlehandedly fight the Thunderbolts and do as well as he did. He broke Swordsman’s helmet and sword, kicked a piece of the sword into Venom’s chest, threw a broken rim into an airborne Songbird’s throat, and walked away from Penance’s blasts (all while gallantly streaming). These killers could not overpower this one, unpopular hero, until Bullseye ambushed Jack and stabbed him in the back. The villain paralyzed Jack from the waist down, and Flag was left in a Negative Zone prison.
The battle with the Thunderbolts truly proved that Jack Flag had the potential to be a powerful hero. The man refused to get rid of his costume, even after years of inactivity, because of what it stood for, and was ready to fight for what he believed in. That kind of dedication is truly heroic, and the skill that Jack displayed when he fought a team of killers was amazing.
Jack met Star-Lord in the Negative Zone prison when Blastaar attacked, and the two heroes were rescued by the Guardians of the Galaxy. Through the power of the cosmos and comic-book logic, the medical team on the Guardians’ base healed Jack’s paralysis and he was able to walk again. Unfortunately, his participation with the Guardians never amounted to anything substantial (little more than jack-shit, actually). Though I’m happy he was used throughout volume 2 of Guardians of the Galaxy, he never got the spotlight. Once this volume ended, Jack wasn’t seen again for quite a few years.
I understand that not every character in Marvel’s vast catalogue can be constantly utilized, but this guy was patriotic! Captain America couldn’t have made him an Avenger? There were no more space battles that warranted Jack’s attention? For the majority of another decade, Jack was absent from comics. Thankfully, when Captain America: Steve Rogers debuted in 2016, Jack returned…briefly. Goddammit, Marvel…
Although the circumstances weren’t explained, Jack returned to Earth, and both Flag and Free Spirit were assisting Captain America on missions once again. The trio were alerted to Baron Zemo’s location, but the villain tried to escape via plane as they arrived (the only thing deadlier than snakes on a plane is Zemos on a plane). Cap chased him, but Zemo gained the upper hand as they battled. Jack leapt onto the aircraft, knocked Zemo unconscious, and saved Steve. Although visibly upset and apologetic, Captain America pushed Jack out of the plane. Free Spirit found Jack on the ground with a weak pulse, and a medical team took him to a hospital where he remained in a coma.
Unfortunately, Jack’s survival was a liability to Captain America’s nefarious plans for world domination, so Steve prepared to end Jack’s life by poisoning his IV drip. As Cap was about to do so, Free Spirit entered the room and told Steve that she and the doctors decided to pull the plug; they didn’t believe that Jack was going to recover (so I suppose this was his twilight’s last gleaming).
Come on, Marvel! This guy tried so hard to help the popular characters around him, he deserved a better death than this (at least some rockets’ red glare, or maybe even some bombs bursting in air). While Jack Flag had an extremely simplistic origin, there was still plenty of potential to develop his character. Now that this D-List hero is dead, it may be years before a writer decides to revive him.
To my knowledge, Jack Flag has never appeared outside of the Marvel 616 Universe. While so many people have been angry about Nick Spencer’s treatment of Captain America recently, I’ve just been pissed that Jack was killed immediately after his first appearance in years. The ridiculousness of his initial appearances, the amazing battle with the Thunderbolts, his time with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and his recent return prove that Jack Flag is a timeless character. Until a writer brings him back into the Marvel Universe, forever in peace may you wave, Jack Flag.