Saturday, May 28, 2016

Calm down about Hydra Cap

I don't think that anybody would argue the notion that I love comic books. I've been reading them regularly for nearly 30 years now, and I've never gone more than a month without a trip to the comic book store during that time. It's a basic part of my life, and to quit reading them to me would be as strange as it would be for some people to quit watching TV or attending sporting events. I'm always excited to talk about them when I get the chance, to the point where I do a whole lesson on comics and superheroes with both my freshmen and senior English classes. (And from the comments I get at the end of the year, that's easily my most popular lesson.)

With that said, I really can't stand comics fandom sometimes. I've already written about this once, but the recent brouhaha over Captain America has prompted me to return to my blog and give my two cents. For those who don't know, the controversy is over a recent revelation in the new Steve Rogers: Captain America series. It turns out that Cap is a member of the evil Hydra organization, and this has been true ever since he was a child. (Flashbacks show his mother being recruited by a Hydra agent.) The reveal came at the end of the issue, and we don't know much else.

And fans are freaking out. Many of them are saying that this completely destroys the character. Some of them are saying that it's a slap in the face to his Jewish American creators, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, since Hydra had ties to the Nazis. (In the sense that any fictional organization can have ties to a real organization.) Even those who aren't letting it upset them are dismissing it all as a cheap gimmick - merely a stunt to bring in new readers.

Here's my response:


Is it possible that this story will be a slap in the face to the character? (Funny how fans don't seem to lob this comment at Frank Miller, who craps all over Superman's legacy in his various Batman stories.) Sure, it very well could be. But as of right now, all we know is that he's been a member of Hydra all along. At least, it seems like that's what it is. We do not know the circumstances. Maybe he's trying to destroy it from within and has some kind of master plan? Maybe they're mind-controlling him? Maybe he thinks that by being part of the organization, he can somehow contain it? The point is, we don't know. The explanation may turn out to be really horrible, and later those fans will feel justified. However, there's also the possibility that there's a really good story behind this that will make Cap stand out as an even greater hero than ever before?

What about the charges of this just being a gimmick? I don't see why that's necessarily a problem. It certainly is a gimmick, but so what? It's bad if it's a gimmick and a poor story, but being a gimmick doesn't necessarily take away any artistic merit from a work. A lot of superhero comics are based on gimmicks in the first place because the publishers were trying to sell stories. What do you think inspired team books like Justice League of America and The Avengers in the first place? How is that NOT a gimmick? I even think that Paul McCartney would be the first to admit that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band was a gimmick, but that's one of the greatest rock albums of all time. Shakespeare wrote about what people wanted to see and no doubt employed what then would have been seen as a gimmick in his time. (He did make a living off of his art, ya know. I doubt he would have done that if he ignored what the masses wanted to see.)

Lastly, can we give the writer, Nick Spencer, a little bit of credit here? The man has shown that he understands Captain America's value as a symbol with the Sam Wilson: Captain America comic. I had said that I wouldn't be too interested in that series if they made Sam (The Falcon) the new Captain America and made it so all of America was fine with the idea of there being a black Captain America. Spencer went with that idea, with a whole lot of parallels to the national freak-out that happened when Obama became the Commander in Chief. He even managed to get the Fox News talking heads all discombobulated. In other words, he has earned the benefit of the doubt.

As for me, I dug the first issue, as there was a lot more going on than the "gotcha!" ending. And it should be noted that the art by Jesus Saiz is awesome. I'm looking forward to how this all plays out. If you are a comics reader and don't find it interesting, then that's fine. However, stop making sweeping judgments based solely on the first chapter of what will no doubt prove to be a lengthy saga. When it's all said and done, then let's evaluate it as to whether it's a highlight or a low point for the character. And even if it is a low point, the character will survive. If he could survive the cancellation of his series at the end of World War II, he'll get through this.

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who feels this way.

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