It’s like Marvel reads my posts. One minute I publish an article claiming that Steve Rogers as Captain America exemplifies anarchist principles, the next minute he’s being clumsily outed in the comic books as a fascist this whole time. Under deep cover. Under such deep cover that he has been fighting Red Skull, and also was able to pick up Mjolnir, and has done so many other things directly counter to being an undercover Hydra agent this whole time (since BEFORE HE WAS PICKED OUT FOR THE SUPERSOLDIER PROGRAM????) that it’s just not worth getting into. It doesn’t work, and we all know it. This is bad, bad writing. It’s gimmicky crap in the worst tradition of gimmicky crap comic book plot twists.
Having a character suddenly turn around and do the opposite of what they normally do because they’ve been lying this whole time is the laziest way of redefining a character.
Having a character suddenly turn around and do the opposite of what they normally do because they’ve been lying this whole time is the laziest way of redefining a character. Looking back at all the backstory and character arcs that have gone before and saying “ok but what if…none of that?” is not interesting. Not unless it’s been given precedent, foreshadowing, previous hints, or at the very least, some vestige of an iota of a ghost of a glimmer of a speck of a whisper of a possibility of plausibility. Especially not when it negates the work that was laid down by countless other writers to work with the character before. It’s like if someone was participating in a round robin story-writing thing and began their portion with “Suddenly, all that other stuff never happened. Once upon a time…” Only on a better-part-of-a-century timescale. That’s a jerk move. Even if some of those previous writers were also jackasses.
Actually, let’s compare a previous shitty, hypernationalistic take on Captain America to what’s being done now. Mark Millar famously wrote a very bad comic that contained a very bad panel in which Captain America, in an effort to indicate that he was not planning to surrender, screamed, “you think this letter on my head stands for FRANCE?” It was, as I may have mentioned, bad. It was also completely out of character, not only because Steve is not generally depicted as a knee-jerk nationalist, especially not to the extent of putting down other countries for not following along with Bush and Cheney’s foreign policy, but also because, from his perspective, Steve was probably fighting alongside the French Resistance like, last month. It made no sense, it was ugly and mean-spirited, and no one liked it. But what it did NOT do, was imply that, back when Steve was fighting with alongside the French Resistance, he was secretly trying to undermine them, because he thought they were a bunch of cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Because that would not only have made even less sense, it would have negated previously written storylines. Which is disrespectful to the work of other artists and writers in a way that just shouldn’t fly when constructing a fictional universe. A writer you don’t like can write something terrible, and we can all make fun of it and choose to disregard it because of how badly it fits the established canon. Or, if you like, our personal preferred canon.
For example, in my mind, Steve has always, rather than a raging patriot, been politically left, bisexual, and committed to guilting America into being what he thinks and believes it could be. I am aware this doesn’t fit with all the established canon, which is why, when I encounter stuff that doesn’t fit how I see Steve Rogers, in the words of Nick Fury, I have elected to ignore it. I certainly don’t argue that my interpretation of the character is “right.” It’s just the one I like. And that’s fine. The character has been written for so long, and by so many people, that there is no single unified personality that is “Steve Rogers.” Every writer, and every fan, has their own version, and every version is sometimes contradicted.
We do this all the time, with folklore. Your version of ghosts may be the restless souls of people with unfinished business to attend to, other people’s ghosts may be unbaptized children or have risen from their graves to protest the disturbance of their burial site. Your vampires can turn into mist, hers can turn into bats, his can turn into wolves, and theirs can’t enter a house without an invitation. Pop culture takes on a folkloric quality as well, as stories get told, and retold, and different details added or changed. But certain aspects have to remain constant, or we’re talking about something completely different. A ghost has to be in some way, the spirit of a dead person, or what we’re talking about is something other than a ghost. A vampire drinks blood, or what you’ve got there isn’t a vampire. Sometimes he shoots web directly from his wrists and sometimes he designs technological web shooters, but Peter Parker was bitten by a mutated spider, and his Uncle Ben was killed. If that’s not in his backstory, then that’s not the Peter Parker fans recognize as Spiderman. Sometimes he can fly, and sometimes just leap tall buildings in a single bound, but Superman is from the planet Krypton.
And Steve Rogers fights Nazis.
Steve Rogers fights Nazis. This isn’t just fundamental to how he’s been written, it’s fundamental to WHY he was written.
This isn’t just fundamental to how he’s been written, it’s fundamental to WHY he was written. The first Captain America comics were created by two Jewish American men in the 1930s to voice the then-controversial belief that it was time to punch Adolf Hitler in his fucking face. They got death threats over this. Nazis showed up at their offices. It is not remotely cool to turn around and make their character a Nazi. I am using the phrase “not remotely cool” here in its less commonly utilized sense of “gross, manipulative, badly written, and dismissive of the cultural context that produced the original work.”
I would be less critical of this recent re-writing of Steve Roger’s motivation if I felt there was any potential for this storyline to go somewhere interesting. If we could see Steve Rogers be genuinely seduced by a populist fascist ideology, or give in to xenophobia out of desire to protect “his country,” I could potentially be on board or at least interested to see what the writers did with that. Because, for the record, THAT is what’s scary about fascism, and therefore worth exploring through a story of a corrupted hero. Fascism doesn’t sneak around via undercover secret societies, walking among us while hiding what it is, only to suddenly betray everything it claims to stand for. Fascism has loud, public, flag-waving rallies in which it promises to restore this country to its former mythological glory. Fascism is in your face, demanding to know if you’re some kind of traitor for not agreeing with it. This secret, sneaky version of Hydra and the two-faced Captain America has more in common with the famously fabricated Protocols of the Elders of Zion than with any actual history of the rise of fascism.
And look, I know it’ll be retconned. I know that a bad comic book isn’t the end of the world. But I want to make it clear that my dislike of this decision isn’t based on “I like Steve and you made Steve do a bad.” I would be fascinated to see a well done comic series in which Steve starts to compromise on his ideals. I’m mad because this lazy piece of writing does nothing interesting, and a lot that’s upsetting, as a cheap-ass gimmick to move towards a “grittier” storyline.
Oh, and also HAIL HYDRA I WAS A HYDRA AGENT THIS WHOLE TIME FOR SOME REASON HAHHAHAHAHAHAHA GOTCHA!!!!!!!