Captain America is a Nazi and everyone is very, very mad. There has been a whole bunch of articles about Cap’s Nazification, some explaining it away as comics being comics, others taking a very real offence to the souring of Steve Rogers’ origins. Created by Jewish superteam Joe Simon and Jack Kirby as a way of taking out their frustration at America’s lack of involvement in WW2, it’s clear that this change has huge importance in our current climate.
Whilst I have argued elsewhere on this site that the intention an artist has for their creation isn’t sacred, I’m not going to take that approach here. I idolise Jack “I’m gonna punch some Nazis” Kirby far too much for that. Equally however, I’m not going to condemn it as a money-grab by Marvel. I find this criticism to be fascinating given that mainstream comics is an industry and making money is a part of the point. Nor will I reduce an important discussion about art by saying “it’s only comics.” I don’t want to undermine how important comics are to people or diminish the social issues they explore. But I do want to offer a consideration.
I think Nick Spencer (the writer of Secret Empire and the man responsible for the internet exploding) is somewhat of a dick and perhaps the embodiment of an out of touch, reactionary, privileged, liberal elite. That said, he has also made some excellent comics. Superior Foes of Spider-Man and its spiritual successor The Fix are outstanding. As is the part of this debate people seem to forget: Captain America: Sam Wilson.
I don’t want to undermine how important comics are to people or diminish the social issues they explore.
For non-true believers, Steve Rogers got old and the Marvel Universe needed a new Captain America. Rogers’ buddy The Falcon aka Sam Wilson took up the mantle (that’s a joke for you falconry buffs out there). Then, a cosmic McGuffin in the form a little girl reshaped the universe to make Old Man Rogers young again but also a Nazi. Hence two Cap titles: Captain America: Sam Wilson and Captain America: Steve Rogers. Up to speed?
Whilst Rogers was off hailing Hydra, Wilson was fighting for immigration and against a pasty cabal of rich white guys who really don’t like that a black guy is the Star Spangled Avenger. But enough of the recaps (another solid gag!) – go read it, it’s great.
It looks like Wilson is going to be the hero of Secret Empire, leading the resistance against a society that has accepted and adores a fascist white guy because he apparently represents the American dream. For those of you who haven’t already rolled your eyes at my complete lack of subtlety: Nick Spencer is writing a story about fascism and America.
Again, the repulsion that a character who knocked out Hitler over two hundred times supporting gaudy green fascists is understandable but I feel it’s also necessary to tell this story. Some would make the claim that the story could have had another hero be perverted by fascism but that simply wouldn’t have worked. The symbolic battle for the soul of America needs the symbol of America. No one Marvel hero encapsulates that more than Cap. If you want to discuss the New American Dream versus the corruption of the Original American Dream, you must first corrupt the latter. Steve Rogers as needs to be the lie sold as American ideals, for truth and justice to find their way.
In poetic irony, everyone is so concerned with the white guy’s role in this story that they have overlooked what the black guy is doing. The world doesn’t need a blonde haired, blue-eyed, soldier to fight evil; a black social worker from Harlem can do it. Probably better too. Once you accept the necessity of Rogers as a bad guy – and don’t forget he is the bad guy (I hope)- we can look at this story from Wilson’s perspective. A guy fighting against a system that hates him and an individual he thought he was close to. His best friend, the man who represents everything America stands for, is a Nazi, and Wilson needs to both stand up to him and stand for a new America.
In poetic irony, everyone is so concerned with the white guy’s role in this story that they have overlooked what the black guy is doing.
I know there is a glaring point the eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted but I very quickly want to address the subject of plot. I too, felt uneasy about the Free Comic Book Day reveal of Captain Nazi (Capzi?) wielding Thor’s Hammer. Given that the inscription on the latter reads “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor”, it does seem to suggest a Nazi can somehow be worthy. In spite of the horrible, Teutonic implications, this is plot not story. In fact, until the run is complete, the debate is all about premise and plot. The essential difference is that premise and plot are how and why things happen, not what the story means or intends.
Going back to intention and the glaring point I seem to have missed: Marvel, in the host vessels of Editor in Chief Alex Alonso and Nick Spencer, have said that this story isn’t political and is just a story about ‘good versus evil’. It was in one of the hyperlinks at the top of the article. Go on, have another look.
I admit this is baffling. Of course it’s political. That’s why everyone is angry. It’s the main thrust of not only this article but the entire debate. We can take Spencer and Alonso at face value and assume they don’t know what they’re doing; harsh but not entirely indefensible. Perhaps they are double agents avoiding the gaze of Ike Perlmutter. Or maybe they don’t consider resisting fascism a political matter, with no shades of grey or party alliance – maybe it’s just a matter of good and evil. We can only hope that they have good and evil the right way around.
Featured image © Marvel; art by Jesus Saiz
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