Warning: This article will contain spoilers. You have been warned.
For my first article I wanted to cover something a bit different from what you may read on this site. While I respect that this is mostly a website for Gamers I thought I might try bring another angle from time to time. This angle will be in the form of literature. So, what better place to start then the recent controversy surrounding Marvel Comics?
For those not in the know, May 25th saw the launch of a new and welcomed sight to the pages of Marvel in the form of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1. Making this a second title to the already running Captain America: Sam Wilson. "Sam Wilson?" Some of you may ask. So, before I jump in, I will quickly jump back. During August of 2014 Captain America engaged in battle with an enemy called Iron Nail leading to the Super-Soldier serum within Roger's body to become neutralized. This, in turn, rapidly aged Cap into a man in his nineties. Unable to continue in his duties as Captain America, Steve passed the mantle onto his friend Sam Wilson otherwise known as The Falcon. Later, the aged Steve would become a key member of S.H.I.E.L.D until gaining his powers once again thanks to the sentient Cosmic Cube, Kobik.
Got all that? Awesome.
Back to May 25th, the date that welcomed the return of Steve Rogers in his own solo comic once again. However, within the final pages the unthinkable happened. Captain America, the symbol of all things hopeful, turned on his ally, Jack Flag (a rather small time Marvel hero), by tossing him out a plane before declaring "Hail HYDRA" to a bound and gagged Erik Selvig on the final pages.
Yes you read that right, Captain America, the man made for fighting Nazi's is, in fact, an undercover HYDRA agent. And, in an even more unnerving twist, he has always been one. Take a moment to let that sink in. In a single moment, lead writer Nick Spencer has taken an American Icon and turned him into an undercover Nazi. Before I get much further, for those of you reading who say HYDRA are not Nazi's, well
I'll give you all a moment to catch your breath at this news before going on.
Are you good? Wonderful, let's try to move on. As you may guess this created a bit of backlash within the comic community. Nick Spencer received countless death threats over Twitter for his choice and faced even more enraged fans with his remarks:
'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.'
Why? Well you see, at the core of the matter, the character himself was created as a symbol to fight back at the Nazi Party. Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, two Jewish men, Captain America was a way for them to express themselves during a time of war. If they could have gotten away with it at the time I am sure they would have made Steve Rogers Jewish himself. Since March of 1941 Captain America has been a symbol of patriotism, hope, valor, and justice (just to name a few things).
However, this won't be the first time something has happened before. Cap has briefly, through manipulation, switched sides before. Once during the original run when he succumbed to brainwashing and again during a run in the 80's. There was also a whole Werewolf fiasco back in the early 90's that many fans would sooner forget. But why did this "twist" hit so hard? Was it because we haven't had Steve Rogers in his own title in quite a while? Perhaps. Was it because of how well the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been doing, thus making the character more human than ever before? Perhaps. However, it is, in my opinion, that people were so outraged because of the current social issues plaguing not only the United States but the United Kingdom as well. Xenophobia seems to be on the rise, with politicians spewing hate and getting support, and the influx of racial tensions, global anxiety is on a rise. In comes Nick Spencer, who has a chance to give people a welcome reprieve of the Xenophobia of the real world only to see a symbol of hope embrace the values they are trying to escape from.
And that is really the heart of the matter. Through thick and thin, characters like Captain America are supposed to be a symbol of hope. A moral compass that should never waiver. Captain America falls into the category of heroes we feel should never waiver. While heroes like Spider-Man, Daredevil, Batman, Jessica Jones, and Iron Man are at their greatest when they are struggling with their own morality it is heroes like Captain America, Superman, and Wonder Woman that we cling to because they are the strong ones. Every other hero may falter, they may crumble, they may break but there are those heroes that will always stay strong. Strong for the comic world, and strong for their readers. These are the heroes that give us hope in times of need and right now, we have a need for them.
So when Spencer had Steve Rogers mutter, "Hail HYDRA" he took our hope. The hope that there is a symbol in this age of hopelessness. The outrage was understandable. I was beyond outraged. I took to social media and voiced my opinions. I was heartbroken. A symbol of hope had waived in order to sell more comics. Logically I should have known this was a ploy, that in a couple months this would all be forgotten. But will it?
This twist got so much media coverage that it will, undoubtedly, be a black mark on the history of a great character. One we may soon wish to forget, but a mark nonetheless. Nick Spencer has, perhaps, found a way to make the colors of hope bleed. While he may have put together a comic where Captain America could have combated the growing Xenophobia in our country, he instead chose to shock and awe us. He told us this was the Captain we have always known. That this was not a ploy, it was the new status quo. Of course by the second issue released on June 29th we would learn he, in fact, had lied to the public. Red Skull, long time enemy and head of HYDRA, is manipulating Steve Rogers through his manipulation of Kobik. Rewriting Steve Rogers history so he was always a HYDRA double-agent.
We should have all seen this coming. But in the final moments of the first issue I was brought back to memories of my grandmother. A woman who had lived through the horrors of World War II, a woman who never loved comics but would let me, when I was much younger, sit and read to her the adventures of Captain America. These are memories I hold on to now. Memories I cling to, and memories I refuse Nick Spencer to take from me. While this may be a ploy to sell more comics. Nick Spencer has taken a symbol of hope from us, at least for awhile.
While I do not condone people to sending him death threats, I understand readers fears and frustrations. I think as a society we need a symbol of hope to hold on to. The world is a dark place and we all desperately need a source of light. While Spencer may have clouded that light for a while, we cannot lose sight of the morals these comics have taught us for the past 75 years. Now more than ever, hold onto hope. While there are some in our country that may have forgotten the values we hold dearest:
'... 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!' '
These words, located on The Statue of Liberty, have seemed to become lost today. These are words that helped shape not just us as a country but Captain America as a character and moral compass for so many. While things seem dark now, do not get lost in it. Hold onto hope, this too shall pass. I leave you with the words of Captain America himself.
My Captain America.
Your Captain America.
Stay Geeky Faithful Readers.