Children of the 1980s certainly remember the old Saturday morning Captain N: The Game Master cartoon in which the dream of the Nintendo generation — to be sucked into the television in order to personally fight video game monsters alongside digital heroes — happened to Kevin Keene. Dubbed Captain N, Kevin teamed with Princess Lana of Videoland to battle Metroid's Mother Brain in an endless kid-friendly war of mostly nonviolence. As a cartoon for kids, Captain N didn't make the effort to understand its source material and certainly didn't tell any stories that made one think. Animation studio DiC had toys and games to sell, after all. Comic book publisher Valiant, on the other hand, wanted to go the extra mile when it got a shot at telling Captain N stories. 4thletter takes a look back at the short-lived Captain N comic book series from 1990 that explored some rather serious issues for a kids' comic. Plus: Samus Aran!
On the cartoon, there was a very loose love triangle going on between Kevin, Lana and Simon. Kevin and Lana – being a bland teenage boy and bland teenage girl – were suggested to be relatively into each other. I don’t think anything was ever said, but he’s the nice guy hero and she’s the princess and they’re in a videogame world, so that’s how it pretty much is. Simon, who tried to act competitively with Kevin, would constantly hit on the princess and bask in how handsome he is. He got shot down constantly.
What they ended up with was a semi-capable douche being annoying while the other two had a vague and uninteresting romantic connection. I’m not complaining how it should have been – what with it being a crappy cartoon show for kids – I’m just stating the reality.
That said, Samus turns that on its ear. There is no Simon or dynamic of two guys fighting over a girl. Now it’s two girls fighting over a guy, only with some drama that I actually find myself caring about.
All five issues of the comic are covered here along with a tease for the unpublished sixth. As a kid, I obsessively collected the various Super Mario comics that Valiant produced along with a handful of Legend of Zelda issues and the Game Boy mini-series, but I never picked up a Captain N book because I assumed it would be on the same level as the cartoon (which is to say, it failed to meet its potential even to my ten-year-old eyes). Looking back on it now, I missed out. The Zelda book told the occasional interesting story (look up the two-part story "The Power" and "The Price sometime), but Captain N seems to have been the unsung hero of the entire line. Now I'm kind of sorry that I missed out.