Saturday, May 28, 2016

This Captain America Hail Hydra Thing

A lot of people (including a lot of non comics readers!) have been asking me about this, so I'm addressing this here. For those of you not in the loop, Marvel put out a story that wants us to believe Captain America has been a Hydra Sleeper agent all this time.
First a disclaimer: Writer Nick Spencer is one of those new Marvel guys who I really like. His Superior Foes of Spider-Man was a fantastically inventive and witty comic that kept me going for 20+ issues.

And I fully realize that in this day an age, it's hard to come up with headline grabbing ideas for mainstream comics. New writers probably have to wrangle corporate agendas, event schedules and editorial directives that would make, oh, I don't know, something like Rich Buckler's Deathlok run an impossibility today.

With that said, I can't really wrap my mind over what a misstep this Cap story is. For one thing, we all know it can't be a real thing. It would be like a story where Batman saves his parents from dying.

Secondly, it seems to fly in the face of the fans of the MCU which Marvel has spent over a decade kissing up to. Don't get that last part? Well, look at the Captain America in the picture above. Does he look like the classic 70's/80's Captain America? Where are the wings on his mask? (like in this image below)

Oh, they got rid of those because, y'know, they didn't match the movie version. Which is all find and dandy, but then Marvel go and write a story that completely dismisses this contingent, and now over half the internet is flipping the fuck out because they don't know how to reckon with the zaniness that sometimes comes with traditional comics. This has led to some half ass attempts by Marvel to say, "...uh...wait and see. It's just a story...don't flip out..."
It's unfortunate that it's made so many people so upset, but I think the actual story that we're telling is something that we can stand behind. ~ComicBookResources
That's Marvel's SVP of Publishing Tom Brevoort sounding about 80% sure he's okay with this story. Then he goes on to explain how people shouldn't think the story has anti-Semitic undertones. That's always how you want to close an interview - dismissing accusations of racism.

Now, if we are honest with ourselves, this is ostensibly just be another shaggy dog Marvel continuity moment no one will remember in 3 years. However, I think what happened is that Marvel wanted to try and steal some of DC's Rebirth thunder, so they were originally going to hype the hell out of the issue, but then backed off. (I suspect they caught wind of some early backlash.) Unfortunately, pre-release chatter had them talking about this issue as the type of revelation that would have "long lasting repercussions." What we really have here is another Spider-Baby moment.

Unfortunately, Captain America's popularity is at an all time high now. So, writing a story that plays havoc with the MCU zeitgeist rightly gets a lot of people talking negatively about you. I don't want to come off as one of those Joseph Campbell Power of Myth sycophants, but that line of thinking isn't without some merit.

Sometimes, it's just enough to write a story where Cap wails on a bunch of Hydra guys.

Why is that so hard to understand?

- Jim


JP Cote said...

Not having read much mainstream Captain America stuff in a while, my first reaction was that I'm pretty justified in not starting again anytime soon. Reading up on the story line, since a adolescent cosmic cube is involved everything will probably be put down to a childish prank at some point and regular Cap will be back within 12 issues.

Now if this is all a real, long term commitment, congrats to them for having the courage to do it. It must be tough writing new material for any character these days with 50+ years of stories already told. But if this is shock for the sake of shock, lazy storytelling, etc, it's short-term payoff with a long term character. It won't go well.

It's really surprising considering that, as I was reading somewhere, Captain America is the new (read 'old') Superman or what Superman is meant to be: a happy instead of tragic backstory, hopeful, moral, righteous, etc. You see this in their movies and comics where Superman went off the deep end in terms of character while Cap has held firm to his 'stand up for the little guy', 'right and wrong', 'milk and cookies' image. Are there any true good guys left now?

And the cowl does look stupid without the wings in some form.

Jim Shelley said...

@JP Cote - you bring up a good point about how Captain America has become the new Superman. And unfortunately, just like Superman, writers seem to have a hard time with just writing his stories and just straight action, adventure tales with no gimmicks or "this changes everything" reveals.

I understand it's hard to come up with a story that hasn't been done in the last 50 years, but sometimes I ask: Why is that necessary? Why not just write a classic type of story with modern art and pacing and just go with it? Are we really to believe that all of the 20 somethings know every single Bronze Age storyline by heart?

Heck, I might argue that Bendis built an entire career from simply recycling older storylines and adding some modern dialogue and pacing to them.

JP Cote said...

@Jim Shelley - That's my wonder too. Why not just retell old ones? Who remembers anything from the 60s or 70s anyways? And if they do, a retelling/interpretation could be cool. They have retold original Star Trek episode with the new Trekverse and they have been pretty good. It's something I've wondered with James Bond as well. Why not remake Dr No with a good director instead of hashing together storylines?

Big Murr said...

I've been of the opinion that comic book writers (and not aiming at specific names...these guys are working with editors and marketing mandates) are essentially the kinfolk to those old-timey carnival hucksters. "Hurrah-hurrah-hurrah! For the insignificant price of a few dollars, you can see the Two-Headed Bovine Monstrosity! The Hirsute Woman! The Killer Ape of Kookamunga!"

And, of course, what the rube gets to see is nothing but malarkey and hokum.

Just once I'd like to see these "Cheap thrills for a buck" merchants up-end a character in another direction. They always stink up the true blue heroes. Have the Punisher become a social worker fighting for the rights of newly released convicts. Just make a dark and bloody character go pacifist. Give me a rest from the eye-rolling ennui and let the grimy fan-boys have bowel cramps for once.

Unknown said...

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Unknown said...
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