Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Captain America Assassinated!

Captain America was killed today, shot by an assassin while descending the steps of a courthouse where he was being tried for treason. Captain America? Treason?

It would be easy to dismiss this news as just an odd side story of the day, but it isn't. Superhero comic books are modern allegories and Captain America has been a prominent star since 1941 when he took on Hitler and the Third Reich.

The current story began in 2006 when Marvel Comics chose a story line called "Civil War". Joe Quesada, the Marvel Comics editor-in-chief, summarized the plot line to George Gene Gustines of the NY Times:

"Civil War" provides problems in spades. The story opens with a reckless fight between a novice group of heroes (filming a reality television show) and a cadre of villains. The battle becomes quite literally explosive, killing some of the superheroes and many innocent bystanders. That crystallizes a government movement to register all super-powered beings as living weapons of mass destruction. The subsequent Registration Act will divide the heroes into two camps, one led by Captain America, the other by Iron Man. Along the way, Marvel will unveil its version of Guantánamo Bay, enemy combatants, embedded reporters and more. The question at the heart of the series is a fundamental one: "Would you give up your civil liberties to feel safer in the world?"
"Civil War" was not written by Americans. Rather it was written by a Scotsman, Mark Millar, living in Glasgow. Millar said there would be a "seismic shift" in the Marvel heroes. "Before the civil war, the Marvel universe was a certain way. After the civil war, the heroes are employed by the government...Some people refuse to do it and those guys are performing an illegal act by doing so."

Millar explained that Civil War works on two levels. "At the core, it's one half of the Marvel heroes vs. the other half...The political allegory is only for those that are politically aware. Kids are going to read it and just see a big superhero fight."

And this is where we should really pay attention to what the kids will remember about the superhero civil war and what they will see in real life. We all learn to interpret the world around us through our experiences and the stories to which we are exposed. Superhero comic books are super powerful moral vehicles reaching vast numbers of children. This is serious stuff to kids trying to make sense of the world they are entering. It's also serious stuff to the adults who write the stories.

Synopsis for "Civil War":

The New Warriors battle a group of villains in Stamford, Connecticut while filming a reality television show. One of the villains, Nitro, explodes, killing more than 600 people, including school children and all of the New Warriors except Speedball. Public opinion against superhumans turns, giving momentum to the Superhuman Registration Act [Patriot Act]. Angry civilians attack Johnny Storm, the Human Torch.

After Captain America refuses to join a S.H.I.E.L.D. strikeforce created to fight all superhumans in violation of the act, he becomes a fugitive and forms an underground resistance called the "Secret Avengers". This team includes Hercules, Falcon, and Danny Rand, (who is acting as Daredevil). Luke Cage and the Young Avengers also join. Tony Stark (Iron Man), who supports the act [though not originally; he later supports the act and is appointed by the President as Secretary of Defense], organizes registered superhumans and makes plans to support the act with Reed Richards and Hank Pym. Spider-Man unmasks himself at a press conference at Stark's behest as a show of support for the act [even Iron man unmasks himself while saving a puppy from being run over]. The X-Men declare their official neutrality in the conflict.

A large battle between the two sides culminates in the appearance of a cyborg clone of Thor, who kills the Secret Avenger Bill Foster. Sue Richards, a member of Stark's team, defends the Secret Avengers from the Thor clone's lightning blast, giving them a chance to escape. In the fight's aftermath, several Secret Avengers leave to join Stark. Meanwhile, Johnny Storm and Sue Richards join Captain America. Stark, Richards, and Pym draft the Thunderbolts to their cause.

After contemplating the brutal death of Bill Foster and touring the Pro-Registration prison facilities
[Guantanamo Bay] in the Negative Zone, Spider-Man decides that he has made a mistake, and after a battle with Stark and the Thunderbolts, he escapes [with his family] and joins the Secret Avengers.

The Secret Avengers break into the Negative Zone prison, where Hulkling, who has been disguised as Hank Pym, releases the imprisoned heroes from their cells to join the fight. Cloak teleports the combatants to New York City, where Namor and an army of Atlanteans arrive to fight alongside the Secret Avengers, whereas the Champions, the Thor clone, and Captain Marvel reinforce Stark's team. As Captain America is about to deliver a final blow to Stark, police, EMTs, and firefighters try to hold him back. Realizing how much damage the fight has cost the very people he wishes to protect, Captain America orders his team to stand down, and he surrenders.

In the aftermath of the event, the President of the United States grants general amnesty to all those who opposed the Superhuman Registration Act (except Captain America who is sent to jail); Tony Stark is appointed as the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D., demoting Maria Hill to deputy status; the 50-State Initiative, which puts a superhero team in every state, launches; and the Mighty Avengers assemble as a new team. Some heroes choose to move to Canada (resulting in the creation of the second Omega Flight), and some stay underground, including the New Avengers.

In the latest issue of "Captain America", the NY Times' Gustines relates how the title hero is shot in the shoulder and stomach as he stands on the courthouse steps. The alleged assassin is Sharon Carter, an intelligence agent who has had a romantic relationship with Captain America/ Steve Rogers. Apparently, Ms. Carter was under Manchurian Candidate-like control of Dr. Faustus, a supervillain, who is undisguisedly based on the Christopher Marlowe character, Dr. Faust, who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge and power.

Even in this brief, it should be obvious the "Civil War" President is an adaptation of George Bush, with Iron Man in the role of Donald Rumsfeld. The liberty restricting acts and the island located prisons are also obvious to the news savvy adult world. These parallels may not be so obvious to the younger reader who will probably remember the story line later when political consciousness begins. And who do you think Captain America will represent to these future voters? How will they envision one political ideology over the other? Captain America chose to take his fight to the courts and talk to his opponents rather than fight in the streets while his opponents chose to murder him on the doorsteps of justice. Is it now hard to see why Captain America is being tried for treason and who brought the charges? This is American History Propaganda 101, and it is no longer the winner who writes the history. These comic books are even now collectors items to be protected and lovingly cared for. These comic books are the history books of tomorrow - today.

Captain America differs from many other superheroes in that Captain America is an ideal, an idea, a mantle rather than an individual. Cap's shoes can be filled by any full blooded patriot of the American cause. In this sense, Captain America was not killed today. Captain America can never be killed; Captain America can never die.

Unless we dismiss these allegories as only silly comic books.

Addendum: In 2003, Michael Medved wrote Captain America, Traitor? for National Review Online. It's amazing this has been going on for so long and so few noticed. But iit really is just a silly comic book story, isn't it?

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.


El Jefe Maximo said...

I was going to blog on this...but I am glad that I did not, and that you have followed the morphing of Captain America, which I have not.

I find it repulsive that foreigners essentially took over the story and killed Captain America in this manner. Then again, since the left wants to put us in the hands of the UN and Europe, and a part of our economic elites seem to want to let them -- I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

Gayle said...

Of course the danged liberals have infiltrated the comic book industry. What better way to brainwash our youth, Indigo Red? Millions of kids, and probably more adults than I'm aware of, love comic books.

Did you see the last Superman movie? For the first time Superman didn't say that he fought for "truth, justice and the American Way." To my way of thinking that ruined the entire movie. Superman always said that! GRRRRR!

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Excellent, excellent analysis. Mine is kid-stuff, in comparison. I only heard about this last night, and did a quick Google, without fully researching. I used to collect comics, but haven't followed the evolution of Marvel characters since Peter Parker and Mary Jane got married.

"Would you give up your civil liberties to feel safer in the world?"

I think just the premise of that question, says it all, about in which direction the writers' sympathies will lie in. There's a prevailing assumption that The Patriot Act has robbed Americans of their civil liberties; that it has been a huge encroachment and sacrifice.

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

For those, like myself, who haven't followed "Civil War", here it is, summed up in 30 seconds.

Indigo Red said...

I hate linking to something important to the main thrust of a post, only to have that link be dicontinued after a few months. The "Addendum" link to the Michael Medved article is reproduced here. I just wish I'd seen this before I started writing the Captain America post.

April 4, 2003, 7:15 a.m.
Captain America, Traitor?
The comic-book hero goes anti-American.

By Michael Medved

As if Defense Department officials didn’t face enough challenges in and around Iraq, they must now prepare for battle without a celebrated component of past victories. Captain America, the patriotic superhero whose comic-book exploits inspired the nation in World War II, now feels uncertain about the nation’s cause; in his latest adventures, The Sentinel of Liberty seems disillusioned, embittered, and surprisingly sympathetic to terrorists.

This odd, unsettling direction for Marvel Comics comes at a time of maximum cultural influence. The company owns 4,700 characters, including classic figures like “Spider-Man,” “Daredevil,” “The Incredible Hulk,” and “X Men,” all celebrated in recent or upcoming movie blockbusters. This mainstream clout makes the radical rethinking of the company’s signature hero, Captain America, all the more unsettling.

In 2002, Marvel responded to the horrors of 9/11 with Captain America: The New Deal, a series featuring a terrorist named Al-Tariq who’s determined to punish the U.S. for its reckless misdeeds. After taking hostages in a small town with a defense plant, the militant addresses Captain America through loudspeakers, demanding: “Tell our children then, American — Who sowed death in their field — and left it for the innocent to harvest? Who took their hands, their feet?” A horrified hostage mother turns with fury on her own husband and shrills: “This is how you feed our baby? With bombs? You make bombs?”

No one in this comic (#3 of the series), neither Captain America nor any of the hostages, ever offers a word of rebuttal to the pro-terrorist tirade.

In the next installment of the series (#4), Al-Tariq insists: “I am not a terrorist. I am a messenger-here to show you the truth of war. YOU ARE THE TERRORISTS!” Later, Captain America seizes an ID device from around his enemy’s neck — a “CATtag” used by U.S. intelligence. He later confronts the secretary of defense by declaring: “You tried to hang one of these around my neck...The terrorists I fought in Centerville all wore them — these CATtags.” In other words, Marvel Comics thoughtlessly recycles a notion that’s been lovingly nurtured by anti-American conspiracy theorists of all stripes: that our own intelligence establishment somehow orchestrated bloody terrorist attacks against U.S. civilians.

This idea of America the Guilty permeates other additions to the series, including #5 (October, 2002) in which Captain America visits Dresden to receive a history lesson on American war guilt — for World War II! The broad-shouldered hero goes through a searing reverie about America’s controversial fire-bombing of the city in 1945: “You didn’t understand what we’d done here — until September the 11th,” he tells himself. “These people weren’t soldiers. They huddled in the dark. Trapped...And while there was nothing left to breathe there in the dark, they died... History repeats itself like a machine gun.”

Captain America’s post-9/11 understanding of the destruction of Dresden suggests a moral equivalence between the Allied forces in World War II (in the midst of a bloody, all-out global war) and the al Qaeda terrorists who randomly attacked unsuspecting office workers. Especially in a comic book aimed largely at children and teenagers (and rated PG) the comparison (in the hero’s own voice) is both illogical and obscene.

The indictment of the United States becomes even more explicit in issue #6 (December, 2002) in which Captain America listens to yet another sympathetic rant from a terrorist mastermind. “Guerillas gunned my father down while he was at work in the fields — With American bullets,” the militant helpfully explains. “You know your history, Captain America...You played that game in too many places... The sun never set on your political chessboard- your empire of blood.”

To this verbal assault, The Sentinel of Liberty responds meekly, “We’ve changed. We’ve learned...My people never knew. We know now. And those days are over.”

In addition to making one-sided, damning references to controversial elements of American foreign policy, Marvel Comics recently highlighted totally invented atrocities to underscore the nation’s vicious, racist nature.

In January, 2003, the company published Truth — Red, White and Black, a prequel to the original Captain America story. That classic tale from 1941 focused on Steve Rogers, a blond-haired weakling who, after rejection for military service, volunteers for a secret government program. Scientists inject him with “super soldier” serum, producing a muscular fighting machine.

In the new addition to the yarn, we learn that the government first tested the formula on unsuspecting black soldiers, employed as human guinea pigs. The evil Army scientist in the comic baldly declares: “It’s necessary to see if our methods apply to the inferior races.” White commanders separate African-American GI’s into two groups, one of which speeds away on locked trucks (like Nazi train transports) to a secret laboratory, while the remaining soldiers face mass murder from squadrons of machine gunners (like Nazi Einsatzgruppen). The sadistic experimentation on the survivors (in the PG-rated series) includes horrific panels showing bodies exploding, and laboratory walls splattered with blood. The recent comic unequivocally suggests a heavy-handed analogy to the death-camp experiments of Dr. Mengele.

Joe Quesada, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, cheerfully acknowledges the holocaust echoes. “There are moments in our history that may not have been our shining glory,” he told me. “We’ve done things in our history that aren’t right to our own citizens.” He specifically cited the infamous Tuskegee experiment, in which medical researchers left syphilitic black patients untreated in order to study effects of the disease. “The beauty of America is that we can tell these stories and learn from our mistakes and move on.” The messages he hopes to convey to children who read the comics include “the need to learn racial tolerance and that peace is the best way to go, wherever possible.”

In a special introduction to the hardbound edition of Captain America: The New Deal, Max Allan Collins (author of the acclaimed graphic novel The Road to Perdition) praises Marvel for its edgy content. He cites the determination to “take this classic character of a simpler time into the smoky aftermath of September 11th” and “this story’s courage and ability to examine the complexities of the issues that accompany terrorism... specifically, not to duck the things America has done to feed the attacks.”

We might expect such blame-America logic from Hollywood activists, academic apologists, or the angry protesters who regularly fill the streets of European capitals (and many major American cities). When such sentiments turn up, however, hidden within star-spangled, nostalgic packaging of comic books aimed at kids, we need to confront the deep cultural malaise afflicting the nation on the eve of war.

— Film critic Michael Medved hosts a nationally syndicated radio talk show on politics and pop culture. This piece was prepared with the assistance of Michael Lackner as part of a research project for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a nonprofit, bipartisan think tank on terrorism.

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...


I had forgotten all about that article. I think I came across it when the Superman movie came out, that Gayle referenced. Did a post on that one, too.

Mike's America said...

I gave up reading my favorite Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics when they became permeated with political correctness crapola.

I still have an aging stack of the old Carl Barks editions that display the heart of America as it was and still is behind the crap which p.c. elites try and force on us.

bernie said...

Political correctness and sensitivity will eventually kill all the heroes off. Even humor will have to be done away with because someone is offended. To this I say, fuck you if you can't take a joke.