Captain America has become one of my favorite superheroes, mostly due to the way the Marvel Cinematic Universe has handled his character. They've done an amazing job in making this character into a very compelling character that has managed to become the moral compass of the MCU. It's not the only reason I am drawn to the character. I have a thing for "super soldiers." The trope is one I use in almost all of my fantasy and science fiction work. With that in mind, I've delved deeper into the character, reading several collections about him over the last few years. While most of my opinions are based on what was done in the movies, I'm aware of other aspects of the character as well. (Brubaker did probably the best Cap work, IMHO.) But Marvel did something pretty controversial that kind of set me off into a tizzy, so much so that I felt a blog post was necessary.
I'm going to avoid some of the political wrangling of CIVIL WAR (the movie and comic arc) for a moment. There's some interesting paradoxes that happen as I think about it, especially the #teamcap/#teamironman hashtag wars, because while I am firmly on #teamcap, my actual politics are closer to #teamironman. Anyway, I digress. Back to the original argument.
I should also mention that I am not a regular comic reader. It's not that I don't enjoy them, it's just a space/time/cost issue. I catch up on most comic book via collections at the public library. That being said, I am aware of what's going on in the world of comics. I was among the excited that Steve Rogers passed the mantle of Captain America to his good friend Sam Wilson (Falcon) and thought it was a great move. It changed character dynamics without changing the characters themselves. But I can't help but feel like Marvel really dropped the ball on their latest arc.
For those of you that don't know, and how could you not, here's a link:
Now, I railed pretty hard about this yesterday on Twitter and said something on Facebook as well. One of my friends made a comment about "letting the story play out," and normally I'd be with him, especially as a writer. I mean most of us honestly had all kinds of questions about Snape, didn't we? This is an effective trope, especially in comic books. But it doesn't feel this way, it feels all wrong. And Marvel has made it clear that this isn't some use of popular comic book tropes. This is a retcon that shakes the entire Marvel Universe. It's misuse of tropes on an almost grand scale, all for the sake of mentions on social networks. In that way, it worked. But as a story, it doesn't.
Making Captain America a Hydra agent is just lazy writing. You've retconned a story that didn't need retconning and did it for one reason: shock value, a pointless reason to change a story. Part of the character is who is he and where he came from. The sacrifices that he made to get where he is. In a few panels, Marvel has undone that for no reason other than that they wanted to make a change that was going to get people talking about it. There were a million different directions you could have taken the character. This isn't the direction you take it. Ever. This isn't some simple mind control or clone of Steve Rogers gimmick either (and the writer and editor have confirmed this), this is taking a character and changing his fundamental nature....for no other reason than being shocking.
Captain America was created by two Jewish men as a symbol against the Nazis and the geniuses at Marvel decide to MAKE Cap a Nazi. (Don't make the argument that Hydra isn't Nazis either.) I mean at least wait until Trump wins the election to make Cap a Nazi for crying out loud. He didn't need fixing. His conflict was always going to be him being a man out of time and someone with a rigid set of beliefs that were unwavering despite the things that surrounded him. Some of the best Cap stories were the ones that tackled this head on.
Change is a good thing. I get it, moving a character into a new direction is important, but this wasn't the change that Cap needed. I can think of at least a dozen different directions you could have taken the character and the arc you could have given him. I think the "Give Cap A Boyfriend" angle is far more interesting and compelling. Let me just sidebar this by saying that I was firmly against the Cap/Bucky shipping for a long time. The exploration of platonic male relationships is a motif in my own writing and there was a lot to study in Cap/Buck, so I always felt that they needed to be bros, but I have a better understanding of the reason people ship them now. It gives the character a new angle while not changing who they are, fundamentally. I also feel this way about a lot of other comic characters. Making Peter Parker African-American doesn't change his character in the least but making The Black Panther or Luke Cage white would. (I'm not discussing the Miles Morales Spider Man for this piece for a few reasons, my lack of knowledge about him as a character being one of them.) As a matter of fact it adds layers to the character, which would be a welcome change.
Lazy writing drives me nuts. It's everywhere these days as writers look for the most shocking ways to get our attention. One of the reasons I hatewatch the movie Prometheus so much is that I hope that this time the SCIENTISTS make decisions like SCIENTISTS not surfer dudes that found the Tiki Cave. The reason I can't engage in The Walking Dead is that having characters make stupid decisions for the sake of the story is lazy. It does nothing for the actual story except put characters into the situations you want them to be in for the consumers (viewer/readers) to be "shocked" when what happens to them happens.
The writers of Game of Thrones, a book series and TV show I adore, have been lazy at times, but they nailed it this last weekend with the Hodor revelation. In a powerful moment of what good writing can do, they unraveled one of the great mysteries of the series in one of the most emotionally fraught sequences in recent television. This wasn't fundamentally changing a character for the sake of change. This was unraveling a mystery in a completely satisfying but emotionally draining scenes that I can remember.
If you want to "fix" Captain America (not that he needs it), hire Myke Cole to write him. Myke Cole, with only a little hyperbole, is Captain America and can get inside Steve Rogers's head like few writers would be able to while staying completely true to the character. I've said that I don't read comics on a regular basis. Marvel, you get Cole to write him, I'm going to my comic store once a month to buy his iteration of Cap. Seriously.
Why am I so passionate about this? I'm a writer. I see things a certain way and this bothers me. These are our myths and legends. A long time ago, people sat around a fire and told stories as away to explain what was going on around them. We still do it today: in books, on the television, movie theaters, comic books, video games and the performing arts. These things matter to me.