After writing a slew of indie comics, Ed Brubaker's now writing Daredevil, Criminal, and Captain America (whose titular character was recently gunned down). His latest collection is Coward, an excellent crime story from the Eisner-nominated Criminal.

MERCURY: What's the appeal of writing crime fiction?

ED BRUBAKER: Even as a kid, I always liked noir movies and mysteries.... I can remember getting some weird crime comics from the '50s, and always thinking that they were totally cool. Like those "injury to the eye" kind of things, where like the guy is holding a woman's eye open and he's gonna stab her with a needle or something. These terrifying comics that you shouldn't read as a child, probably.

Yeah, but those are the ones that stick with you.

Yeah, exactly. My uncle was a noir screenwriter in the '40s and '50s in Hollywood. It was something that was just always around. I had been kind of a bad kid, and shoplifted and stolen stuff, and then as I got older, you know, got involved in some heavier stuff. That style of life kind of appealed to me—until I actually lived in it for a while, and then I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

It seems like there's a resurgence in Captain America's popularity, but it coincides with a record level of cynicism about America. But when Cap died, it was all over the news....

What I got from a lot of that [media attention] was that people seem to think that Captain America was like this real American icon that did something, that helped the troops or whatever. And I'm like, "He lives in a fictional Marvel world!" When we have the whole Iraq War going on, it's really hard to have Captain America be like, "Yeah, Mr. Bush! Everything's going great!" It is an interesting time. I've always tried to play [Captain America] as an independent-minded, middle-of-the-road kind of guy. I always thought he'd be kind of a tough guy, but with a serious heart and a lot of compassion. He appeals to the potential of what America is supposed to be, as opposed to what it often is.