Some thoughts on Captain America

I’m a late comer to most of the Marvel universe. When I was a kid there was no Kamala Khan, no Carol Danvers, there was no Storm as a book in her own right. Because my choices were people like Tony Stark and Reed Richards, I found a clubhouse with a sign that said no girls allowed.

Let me back up. There’s a broader theme. I’m a late comer to superheroes. For most of my life the only way superheroes existed to me was in the pop-cultural zeitgeist. My Supermen were Christopher Reeve and Dean Cain. My Batman? On a serious day, Michael Keaton. But let’s be honest, Adam West will always be the first face that pops into my head when I say “Bat…”.

Growing up, the Captain America I knew was Steve Rogers, a kid from Queens (a borough of the most Jewish city in America,) who didn’t like bullies. The Captain America I knew had a cover so iconic they replicated it in the film that came out a handful of years ago…Captain America punching Hitler.

The Steve Rogers that was gifted to me, one of the few superheroes I knew at all, said to me that I was welcome in his world. He stood for the America I was told was all around me, an America with a space for a plurality of cultures and creeds. That Steve (which is, in many ways, the one brought to the screen in Captain America: First Avenger) was a representative of the idea that we were on guard against the brutality and hatred that often threatened to crop up.

So perhaps, as an adult, I should not be surprised that there are artists and publishers who do not hold that legacy dear to their hearts. We live in a time in which Donald Trump has become a serious candidate for the presidency, on a platform of xenophobia and violence. We live in an era in which those of religions outside the norm are seen with suspicion. We welcome the tired, hungry, and poor in this America…but only as long as we can exploit them. Only as long as we can vilify them.

And so it should not break my heart, I guess, the way it does that Marvel has decided to dustbin Captain America’s legacy of being better. Of being an example of what “America” is supposed to mean. The Steve that was surprisingly feminist in the 1940s, the Steve that fought Nazis, the Steve of even a few years ago who was jealous of Peggy “fondue-ing”…perhaps that Steve couldn’t live in a world where we report economists for doing algebra on airplanes because their skin happens to be the wrong color. Perhaps that Steve can’t live in a world where ordinary citizens have to Periscope the police lest they end up dead.

But I wanted better. I wanted the creation of two Jewish men to be stronger. I wanted this to be a protected legacy, to know that someone, somewhere believed that standing up against fascism and genocide was worth doing. Was worth believing in. I wanted to get a Steve who would always be a beacon to rally towards.

Even if it turns out this is a “twist” and that Captain America isn’t who this book is claiming he is, the legacy of that Steve, of the boy from Queens, is tainted now. There is no going back. There is no undoing. Now when we look at Steve Rogers, when we see that starred shield, we will always have to ask ourselves who he really is.

And we’ll never again be able to truly say we know.

Banner used with permission from: Go Make Me A Sandwich.

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