Tag Archives: Captain America

The Character Assassination of Sam Wilson by the Publisher Marvel Comics

Captain America Is Old, Long Live Captain America

In July of 2014 it was announced on The Colbert Report that a momentous event would be occurring in the Marvel universe. The blonde, blue-eyed Steve Rogers would be stepping down as Captain America due to rapidly aging, with the mantle passing on to his partner [not sidekick] Sam Wilson aka The Falcon. As is typical for the industry the cover for Captain America #25, in which the event takes place, promised some level of mystery with a white silhouette asking readers to guess who it would be.

Captain America #25 (Vol. 7). Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Carlos Pacheco.

As Sam himself states in the splash page on the right [I realize that the text is far too small for you to read]:

“You guys all knew it was me, didn’t you?

There’s literally no drama left in this reveal.”

The words are particularly tongue in cheek, with the writer himself acknowledging that even without the announcement on national TV it had always been fairly obvious who would be the next character to bear the shield. Captain America and The Falcon had been compatriots since the late 60s [even sharing a title], so there were few more deserving individuals than Samuel “Snap” Wilson.

Now I was, and still am, all about this. To have as high profile a role as Captain America, a title that represents an entire nation, be given to a Black man is enormous. I’d also always been a fan of Sam as The Falcon. I added the title to my pull-list immediately.

I’ll Justify the Title, But First, This Week’s Events and a Rough Thesis

Now just this past Tuesday, roughly a year and a half after the original announcement, Marvel released the news that Steve Rogers would be returning as the ol’ Shield-Slinger.

This isn’t to say that the book on the left, Captain America: Steve Rogers, would be replacing the currently running Captain America: Sam Wilson. Instead the publisher’s plan is to release both side by side. They will also be penned by the same writer, Nick Spencer, a move which there has been plenty of precedent for [Jonathan Hickman on both Avengers  Avengers and New Avengers, Brian Michael Bendis on All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, etc.]. Oftentimes both titles will act as separate halves of a larger story, though that hasn’t been confirmed in this case.

This announcement was met with a similar lack of surprise across the internet, largely because Captain America: Steve Rogers coincides with the release of the summer blockbuster Captain America: Civil War. A number of changes have been made to the comic books to have them fall more in line with what happens up on the big screen, and slapping an “A” back on the forehead of the face most of the world knows and loves is generally seen as a solid business move.

Now I am fully aware of how incendiary the title of this blog post is, and hope to justify it by explaining how the existence of two Captain Americas is not similar to the same being true of other heroes, with the reason for that largely being founded in the character’s recent publication history. It’s in the exploration of that latter point that I truly hope to rationalize the words “character assassination.”

As with every article I write, I’ve done my best to make this accessible to both those who do and do not regularly enjoy comic books. If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to drop me a line in the comments far below. Continue reading

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Why I Like Captain America vs. Why Other People Do

I’ve been wanting to do a post about Captain America for some time now, and with the breaking news that the Star-Spangled Avenger will be taking over the presidency of the United States, what better time than now?

To backtrack for all you non-comic-readers, this will be taking place within Earth-161, or the Ultimate Universe [the standard canon is Earth-616]. This is also the universe in which Spider-Man is black, so things are very, very different.

Captain America is my one of my favourite heroes. As a Canadian, I love the fact that he exists as a character that exemplifies the ideals of a country but does not in fact represent all of its actions. He’s neck and neck with Superman as being comic books’ most wholesome, and the words “boy scout” are used to describe him more than just a little.

The character, as he exists in the Ultimate Universe, is none of the above. Someone on the Marvel subreddit put up an image a few months ago in honour of the Fourth of July, citing it as their “favorite Captain America line.” Blown up, for your viewing convenience, is that image:


Clicking on the image will bring you to a fuller version in which Cap yells the question “SURRENDER??!!” Compare this to the 616 Captain America who stars in the following panels:

I could leave those two images to sum up the difference between the two heroes, but there’s more. Ultimate Cap has an affair with a married woman. Ultimate Cap is a bully. Ultimate Cap has no qualms whatsoever when it comes to killing his foes, and in fact brutally murders Azerbaijani superhuman the Colonel at the climax of Ultimates 2 Vol. 12.

Abdul Al-Rahman had once been a scrawny teenager enraged at the invasion of Iraq by American super-soldiers, who as the Colonel later led a group known as the Liberators in an invasion of DC. After he has been literally disarmed by a shield thrown by the Hulk he is knocked into the fountain of the World War II memorial and impaled by Captain America with his own weapon.

This man who did that has apparently been inducted as President of the United States.

It’s difficult for me to understand how Marvel got away with publishing Ultimates 2. It’s even harder for me to understand how fans were okay with the Living Legend becoming a xenophobic jingoist, and how some even liked it. At the heart of the character is something that the film made abundantly clear: Captain America is a good man.

“Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing: that you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.” -Dr. Abraham Erskine

The fact that the image of Ultimate Captain America pointing at his forehead and slamming an entire nation is cited by more than a few as being their favourite Cap moment is, well, disappointing. Especially when panels like the following, from the Marvel Civil War event, exist:

Nolan, Jefferson, and The Batman

Keep on reading, this’ll make sense.

In the year 1820 Thomas Jefferson shared with a number of his friends a book
he had put together entitled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. It was, in essence, the four gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John] in chronological order. What truly differentiated it from the Bible was the omission of all references to angels, prophecy, references to Jesus divinity and resurrection, and miracles.

In the year 2005 Christopher Nolan’s film Batman Begins made its way into theatres, spawning a trilogy and getting the ball rolling for dozens of “grim and gritty” remakes. In an interview with The Guardian the director said that he “[tried] to do it in a more realistic fashion than anyone had ever tried to [do] a superhero film before.”

The parallel I’m trying to make should be obvious to any Batman fan, either of the comics or the animated series. Having finally seen The Dark Knight Rises this Tuesday and finishing the trilogy, I can finally say this with confidence that Nolan has done to the Batman canon what Jefferson did to the Bible.

These two men have something against the improbable.

To make things clear, I like Nolan’s Batman movies. He took a concept as seemingly ridiculous as a vigilante crimefighter who dresses up like a bat and somehow grounded it. On top of that he forced us to accept the fact that comic book movies can be more than entertaining, they can be awe-inspiring as well.

An issue that I had with Christopher Nolan and his films was the staunch inability to embrace anything even vaguely fantastical. The problem with that being that the concept is, as I just mentioned, a vigilante crimefighter who dresses up as a bat. With that in mind, maybe the imagination can be stretched just a little more to accommodate a psychopath whose makeup can’t wash off, or a badly scarred man with a deeply split-personality.

Furthermore, by thinning the line between reality [that of the audience] and art [the film being watched] questions are forced to arise. If this is the real world, why didn’t the kidnapping of a Chinese national from his homeland spark an international debacle [The Dark Knight], and <SPOILERS> how is Bruce able to make the jump to escape the prison given the damage in his legs [The Dark Knight Rises]? The films lower our suspension of disbelief, and with our guard down we become quick to ask why.

In his film Captain America fought pseudo-Nazis with energy weapons and tanks as large as houses. The audience never questioned this because although the film had some sort of anchor in a real-life event [World War II], we still understood that this was a world with one foot in the fantastic. If we can believe that a scrawny kid from Brooklyn ingesting a “super solider serum” can help the Allies win the war then we can just as easily believe that Hitler’s “deep science division” is led by a man whose face looks like a red skull.

Taking the “magic” out of the Batman mythos was no easy task, and Nolan threw a lot out when he decided what his approach to the canon would be. Scarecrow’s fear gas got the go-ahead, but not the Joker’s laughing gas, or the Venom that Bane uses to grow stronger. Batman could be called by name, but not Catwoman. Batarangs can be seen, and used, but the Batmobile must be free of any visual associations with the character.

Nolan was free to pick and choose what he wanted, and in many ways simply used Batman and his world to tell the stories that he wanted to tell. This is somewhat lost in the third film due to its connections to actual events in the comics [Knightfall and No Man’s Land, though that’s a post for another time], but for the most part he co-wrote the stories and screenplays for all three films. In another interview he states that “I don’t think our Batman, our Gotham, lends itself to that kind of cross-fertilization,” in response to a question about heroes co-existing between films akin to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Having stated that, I must admit that I have to view Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films as- something else. Something not Batman. Batman would never kill purposefully [letting someone die, Batman Begins], accidentally [tackling Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight], or not react to the deaths of others [all throughout The Dark Knight Rises]. I guess I view them as Batman movies about as much as I view the apocrypha part of the Bible. They can be good, and even beneficial, but ultimately miss the mark somehow.