Who is Captain America

May 27, 2016 | Opinions

You know, I don’t like ranting. Sometimes it’s cathartic, but mostly it’s just venting because, once again, the world has turned out to be a crappy place that I wish would just get its shit together. Which brings me to this new insanity: the latest Captain America comic has pulled a twist in which it turns out that Steve Rogers is a Hydra agent, has always been a Hydra agent, and he threw a supposed ally to their death.

Some background, in case this is very new to you – Steve Rogers is Captain America, a comic book character who was created by two Jewish guys way back when to fight the Nazis. His first appearance on a comic book cover showed him punching out Hitler. For decades, he has served as a symbol of justice and freedom in the Marvel universe in a way that no other character has, and he’s proven to be immensely popular in the new movies.

Captain America was always my favorite Marvel character. That’s not really saying much, considering how comics lost me a long time ago, but I’ve always thought fondly of him in a way that I never did about, say, Spider-man. You see, Captain America was something more than a superhero. The goofy, overly-patriotic name aside, the character of Captain America was always distinguished by what made him exceptional.

Superhero characters are, by and large, made exceptional by their powers. Superman is exceptional because he’s an alien with strength, speed, and all that. Batman is exceptional because he has access to gadgetry and he’s a great hand-to-hand fighter. Spider-man has his spider-like powers, the X-Men have their mutant abilities, Wonder Woman is the daughter of a god. They stand out because of what they have that ordinary people will never have; to a large extent, they are defined by their powers, such that the removal of those powers is a Major Issue(tm).

But Captain America is something different. His powers – strength, endurance, the whole super-soldier schtick – are almost an after-thought. He is exceptional, and someone greater than those around him, because he holds the deepest and most powerful conviction of truth, justice and freedom above all. He believes it in a way that almost no other superheroes do, and he lives and breathes it every day. He is always true to his ideals, even when no one’s watching, even when it doesn’t matter – and he himself still thinks that he’s just a man, that he’s not unique or unusual. Not for nothing do many superheroes carry weapons, and he alone carries a shield.

You can’t imagine Steve doing something as mundane as making a tasteless joke.

The thing about Captain America is that he’s aspirational in a way that no other superhero is. We can dream about being able to fly, but it’ll never happen. But being Captain America… that’s possible. That’s something to strive for. He makes you think that you could be that hero, that believing in truth, justice and freedom is worthwhile. The world doesn’t need even one Superman, but it would be immeasurably improved if people tried to be just a little bit like Captain America.

That’s who he is. That’s the character, the symbol, the man, that has come to mean a lot to many people over the last sixty years. That’s sixty years of stories, of a man who said this:

Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country says that something wrong is something right.

This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world–

“No, you move”.

Now, consider this…

The latest idiotic clickbaity bullshit to come out of Marvel has effectively retconned Captain America to him always being a Hydra agent (i.e. a member of the Marvel Universe’s stand-ins for the fucking Nazis) playing a long con or something. They wrote a story where he threw someone to their death. They made him a bad guy.

Times like these, I’m glad I never got into comics, because this is the most egregious, cynical betrayal of a fanbase for the sake of sales that I’ve seen in at least a year. A fanbase that has been built over decades, for gods’ sake; a fanbase that has a deep and emotional connection to Captain America because he is human, and like us, in a way that Superman never will be. I can’t even call it bullshit. That’s not strong enough of a word.

I mean, there’s everything about it that I personally find offensive, and then there’s the absolute fucking INSANITY of taking a character that was created by a pair of Jewish guys as a reaction to the Nazis, who was created and exemplified by his opposition to the injustice and genocide committed during the Holocaust, and having that character secretly be a pseudo-Nazi. I literally can’t even parse why anyone would think that that was a good idea, unless they’re the most tone-deaf dipshit this side of Jupiter.

But Marvel did it. Quoth the writer:

This is not a clone, not an imposter, not mind control, not someone else acting through Steve. This really is Steve Rogers, Captain America himself.

I can’t even… You know not what you do. I say this as a writer, above all else: we strive to forge that emotional connection between story and reader, to have them feel with the character. It is not to be taken lightly. It is not to be used cheaply, for sensationalism, to generate buzz or to sell more comics. To treat it with anything less than the highest care is be deserving of the inevitable backlash.

I have not the slightest hope that those involved with this particular comic will learn anything from the negative reactions to their badly-thought-out dumbfuckery, but I stand in solidarity with the people hurt by this. I pledge that I will be better in my own writing.

It’s the kind of thing that Cap would have wanted.