Home / General / You Mess With Steve Rogers, You Mess With Me (X-Posted from Graphic Policy)

You Mess With Steve Rogers, You Mess With Me (X-Posted from Graphic Policy)

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captain america steve rogers 1 featured
Oh hey, there’s a new Captain America: Steve Rogers comic book out today. Why does this fill me with incandescent rage?

Find out below the cut!

As long as there have been comic books, there have been retcons. For all that they have acquired a bad reputation, retcons can be an incredibly useful tool in comics writing and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Done right, retcons can add an enormous amount of depth and breadth to a character, making their worlds far richer than they were before. Instead, I would argue that retcons should be judged on the basis of whether they’re additive (bringing something new to the character by showing us a previously unknown aspect of their lives we never knew existed before) or subtractive (taking away something from the character that had previously been an important part of their identity), and how well those changes suit the character.

To give some Captain America-based examples: Ed Brubaker’s “Winter Soldier” storyline was a great use of additive retconning, turning Bucky Barnes from a rather mawkish attempt to ape the popularity of teen sidekicks in the 1940s into a compelling Manchurian Candidate-inspired  anti-hero who has become the dominant vision of the character to this day. And it works incredibly well in no small part because of how it uses the silences in the text, the white space in between the panels if you will, to explain why a twelve-year-old was allowed to hang around a US Army Base and to show us what could have happened while Captain America was frozen in the ice.

Unfortunately, Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 is one of the worst examples of subtractive retconning imaginable. In this comic, we learnt that Steve Rogers is a HYDRA agent and has always been one (indeed, the comic goes out of its way to say that it was HYDRA that inspired Steve Rogers from the beginning):

CapHYDRA

And lest anyone be confused about what’s going on, the comic makes very clear what this revelation entails – not only is the Red Skull going around recruiting HYDRA suicide bombers using real-world white nationalist rhetoric about the refugee crisis in Europe, in case anyone was confused whether HYDRA is a racist organization or just generically totalitarian, but we see Steve Rogers cold-bloodedly murder a fellow super-hero and SHIELD operative in the furtherance of HYDRA’s agenda.

Now, the comic does go out of its way to provide some background here – many pages go into exploring how Steve and his mother joined the organization back in the early 30s when a HYDRA recruiter rescued his mother from her abusive husband, how the organization used the social and economic dislocations of the Great Depression to recruit desperate people and give them a sense of purpose. (There’s a slight problem about all of this in that this is basically Red Skull’s origin story, as set out in Tales of Suspense #66) On the surface, this seems like a rather slick and cynical way to grab the readers’ attention and make us wonder what we really know about Steve Rogers. Phrased less politely, this is trolling meant to serve as click-bait.

Because the problem with this reading is that it undoes everything that comes before it. If you enjoyed watching Steve Rogers fight to his very last breath to protect Kobik from Crossbones, only to be brought back to his youthful prime just in the nick of time? Too bad, Steve Rogers is a Nazi. If you’re now wondering why a HYDRA agent would spend 75 years stopping every last HYDRA plan for world domination and/or destruction, that cognitive dissonance is the price paid for this kind of subtractive retconning. And if you’re wondering why Marvel would decide to turn their billion-dollar-grossing hero into a Nazi, so am I.

And this is my problem with Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 – this retcon works against the very concept of the character. Ever since 1940 when Jack Kirby and Joe Simon dreamed him up, Steve Rogers has been an anti-fascist, someone who was so convinced that fascism was an existential threat to his ideals that he signed himself up for a dangerous experiment that could have easily killed him in order to fight back:

CapNotFascist

Turning Steve Rogers into a fascist shorts out the character by negating his origin story, his entire back catalogue, and his political ideology – essentially telling the reader that the Captain America they’ve been reading about for 75 years never existed. In the same way that turning Superman into a villain sounds like a clever concept on paper but doesn’t work as a long-term story vehicle, because once he’s a villain there’s only one story left to tell, this kind of storyline just isn’t going to work.

Now, it may be the case – as many fans have already speculated – that HYDRA Steve Rogers is in fact a false memory implanted in his brain as part of some sinister plot. If that’s the case, it’s still not a very good idea. To begin with, it means starting off a new series with your protagonist acting like a Nazi until the reveal, at which point both Rogers and the readers will be stuck with the memories – not a very promising foundation for getting your audience to root for their hero.

Moreover, there’s still a bunch of plot holes that are still there even if you pull off the reveal: why didn’t any HYDRA agent use these embedded memories before, in any of the myriad scenarios in which doing so could have won them the entire world? If Steve Rogers’ body (which includes his brain) was essentially re-created by Kobik, why did the HYDRA conditioning stick? Given that Steve Rogers has spent quite a bit of time around telepaths, why didn’t any of them notice that the Sentinel of Liberty was thinking like a fascist? Unless Rogers is also a world-class actor, how exactly did he maintain a close friendship with a politically-engaged black man like Sam Wilson without slipping up?

But most importantly, it’s still a twist that doesn’t fit the character. In the comics, Captain America has repeatedly fought off false memories and other forms of mental conditioning implanted in him by HYDRA agents like Doctor Faustus. It’s part of his character – the same sheer determination that made him keep fighting the Red Skull even when the Cosmic Cube gave the Red Skull the powers of God allows Captain America to resist psychological stresses that would break anyone else.

So yeah…if Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson are supposed to be the new Peter Parker and Miles Morales, this is an incredible misstep. I don’t think I’ll be picking up any more issues of Captain America: Steve Rogers, and I’d recommend the reader pick up Captain America: Madbomb instead.

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  • David Hunt

    Oh. My. God.

  • rea

    essentially telling the reader that the Captain America they’ve been reading about for 75 years never existed.

    Well, you know . . .

  • NYD3030

    I have followed the controversy surrounding Marvel’s comic storylines these last few years with some amusement. This is not amusing. This is hot garbage.

  • CP

    Now, it may be the case – as many fans have already speculated – that HYDRA Steve Rogers is in fact a false memory implanted in his brain as part of some sinister plot.

    My assumption was that he would eventually be revealed to have been a double-mole all around (psych! All this time I was HYDRA pretending to be SHIELD, but what I really was was SHIELD pretending to be HYDRA pretending to be SHIELD!) but that sounds hard to square with the murder of a SHIELD agent. The “implanted memory” sounds better. Either way, I can’t imagine that this is supposed to be taken at face value.

    If it is, it’s simply hands down the worst idea the Marvel universe has ever had. Far worse than Ultimate-Cap being a post-9/11 neocon, which was itself a pretty bad one.

    And if it’s a ploy as I suspect, it’s just stupid. Most of us, I suspect, don’t really believe he’s supposed to have been a Nazi all this time, so, what, the “reveal” is going to be something we all knew all along?

  • NonyNony

    (There’s a slight problem about all of this in that this is basically Red Skull’s origin story, as set out in Tales of Suspense #66)

    This is what we call a “tell”. It seems pretty obvious to me that this is going to turn out to be the Red Skull somehow messing with Steve Rogers’s head and has inserted a version of his own origin into Steve’s past – either via time manipulation shenanigans or something more direct (like brainwashing).

    Considering that he just came back to being young Steve Rogers due to the influence of a Cosmic Cube (a “magic wishing stone” for those who only know of Captain America from his non-comic book appearances) I think it’s pretty likely that there’s some kind of sci-fi influence here and not, actually, a retcon that is designed to stick.

    Actually I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s not a retcon that is designed to stick because, really? Does anyone who has read comics for more than maybe 5 years think that Marvel is actually going to have it turn out that Steve Rogers has been a Hydra sleeper agent since before he was Captain America? It’s nonsense from a corporate branding point of view.

    Phrased less politely, this is trolling meant to serve as click-bait.

    Yes. Or more basically, it’s how both Marvel and DC continue to sell comics to the same roughly 100K people who buy them in the USA week after week. They’ve made a corporate decision that characters are not allowed to have actual character growth but only the illusion of character growth, so you can’t sell people on the idea that they need to read a continuing saga of a character because they know that nothing is really going to change about that character regardless of what happens in this particular episode. To keep people buying week in and week out you have to give them SOMETHING to have a reason to shell out $4 a month for a funnybook.

    And that “something” is “make people angry”. Do something outrageous that will make people get mad enough to talk about it so that other people “have” to buy the book to find out what everyone is talking about. You call it trolling, I call it standard Marvel and DC marketing practices for at least the last 20 years. Trolling their obsessive fanbase is the only way they continue to actually make money on the comic books these days. The day that comic book fans stop responding to the companies trolling them is the day that the two companies finally close up shop and stop making comics.

    Because they could do other things to market their books, but that would involve investing money and effort into growing their market. And neither Disney nor Warner really have an interest in growing the tiny sliver of people who read comics into a slightly larger sliver of people who read comics. Both companies are basically going to milk the fanbases for cash until it reaches a point where making new comics isn’t profitable anymore and then they’ll just stop.

    • Yeah, I’d like to think that was a tell as well, but apparently not.

      You’re right about strategy. Which is annoying as hell.

      • NonyNony

        Eh – Spenser’s EW interview leaves open the possibility that this is the Skull messing with him via continuity implant or even via implanted memories. (He said no brainwashing or mind control, but if you’re being clever you can make the case that using a magic rock to wish a man to believe that he’d been a Hydra agent since he was a kid is not, in fact, mind control).

        Regardless – I stand by the belief that the writer can say whatever he wants. This is not a change that is actually going to have any impact outside of the next year or so of Captain America comic book stories and then it will be undone. He has to put on the act that this is a real true thing that is happening because comic book fans all agree to pretend like comic book events and obviously temporary plot twists like this are meaningful to a long term view of the character, but at this point surely everyone knows that that’s all what the wrestling fans call “kayfabe”, right? All of this is just a shared suspension of disbelief where when we discuss comics we pretend like this kind stuff will have an impact on the longer serial story but we all know that isn’t true anymore (if it ever was), right?

        • NYD3030

          The writers for marvel labor under extreme editorial meddling. They don’t write what they want, often they flesh out the dictates of management. Source, I know a guy who wrote for marvel for a number of years because they offered health insurance.

          • NonyNony

            Oh yeah – I know. I know guys who have written for both Marvel and DC and unless you’re a big name you’re essentially told what the direction is going to be and you do it.

            I don’t want to make it sound like I’m bagging on the writer here either – if he wants to get paid he’s got to toe the media line that Marvel wants him to toe. If that means that he gives interviews where he insists that this is the new status quo now and for ever pinky-swear cross my heart and hope to die, well, he’s going to do that. Because those interviews are as fake as pro wrestling and everyone is kind of supposed to know it at this point.

            I remember a story from when Dan Slott was writing Superior Spider-man – a storyline where Peter Parker and Doctor Octopus swap minds and then Peter’s mind is in Doc Ock’s body when it dies leaving Doc Ock as Spider-man. Slott had to repeatedly insist in interviews that this was the new status quo and of course Peter Parker was dead and gone forever. He knew he was lying – he knew exactly how long the story was going to be and what the ending was going to be and how Peter was going to get his body back – but he still had to do those interviews. Because that’s how you sell comic books in 2016 when kids no longer read them and you’re relying on jaded 30-somethings to be the bulk of your audience I guess.

            • Quite Likely

              When did kids stop reading comic books anyway? I guess it’s the internet’s fault?

              • Hallen

                Partly. The general fragmentation of people’s entertainment options was certainly one factor–and the Internet would be included in that, although early console gaming fits the timeframe a lot better.

                Another reason is that comics kind of stopped being for kids in the 1980s. (By this I don’t necessarily mean that their content became too “adult”–that is, blood, swearing, and tits–although many people would say it absolutely did; what I mean is that things were being written for adults who could afford to follow line-wide continuity.)

                A third, even bigger reason was the collapse of newstand distribution in favor of the direct market. When only comic book stores sold comics, nobody but established comic fans bought comics. No new comics fans were made, and the plain fact is that most people can only stand to care about superhero comics, to the extent that they pay $20 a week for them, for a few years at a time. Eventually, it all collapses under its own contradictions and you stop giving a crap, even if you still enjoy the medium.

                But I just alluded to the biggest reason: the cover prices are too damned high. No one in their right mind would spend $3 (or $4!) on a comic book that, thanks to modern scripting and illustration styles, takes about five minutes to read. Comics are, almost literally, the single least efficient form of entertainment on Earth I can name. Movies are cheaper, on a per minute basis. So are books. So are amusement parks. Hell, so are most sex workers and most forms of blow, and I’m barely even joking.

                • Hallen

                  P.S. The above is based on generalizations of course. Some books are worth $3 or $4. Some books are formally interesting (J.H. Williams III) or narratively interesting (Alan Moore and Grant Morrison still, maybe?). Some books take longer than five minutes to read because they’re chock full of script and photocopied heads (Brian Michael Bendis). Etc.

                • NYD3030

                  You have perfectly described my history and current stance on comics. I spent a lot of money every Wednesday back when I had none and eventually the constant crossovers and hysteria generating retcons burned me out.

                  I did make a lot of my money back eventually, because I happened to start buying The Walking Dead at issue one. That was a lucky ass break.

                • Regarding the script: yeah, if you pick up any classic Stan Lee-authored book it’s just packed full of text — not particularly dense or difficult text, but enough to keep a child busy for a while. Superhero comics today seem to prefer much more terse, naturalistic dialogue. I wonder if anyone’s actually done a quantitative analysis of this.

                  I think the fundamental mistake is that Marvel and DC saw that the average age of the comics reader was increasing, and decided to consciously target that teens-to-thirties market. The problem is that adult comics fans come from childhood comics fans.

                  The Marvel/DC duopoly on superheroes meant it was essentially impossible for any other company to successfully pick up the market that the duopoly was starving out — although they did try; Archie Comics attempted some cape comics back in the day, etc.

                  The shift in content and tone is also connected to the end of the Comics Code Authority and the ’80s black and white boom. The rise and fall of comic book speculation also meant that crappy books with a dozen variant covers crowded out anything worth reading, and also drew in an older clientele.

                  Finally, there’s the eventual diversification of comics directed to kids away from superheroes. I think you can largely credit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for demonstrating that kids would buy action comics without capes. TV show and video game tie-ins became more popular, too — a lot of my generation grew up reading Sonic the Hedgehog comics from Archie. And then, of course, there’s manga.

                  All of these things have complex causal relationships with each other that I am not nearly informed enough to untangle, but what is definitely true is that it was a powerful, internally self-reinforcing shift over a few decades.

                • Hallen

                  “I wonder if anyone’s actually done a quantitative analysis of this.”

                  Of course, Chris Claremont would throw off the mean so badly we’d have not choice but to exclude about three hundred issues of Uncanny X-Men from that study.

                • Manny Kant

                  To be fair to Claremont, he’s super wordy, but he’s much better at writing characters who seem like actual people than Stan Lee. At any rate, the massive decline in the number of words in comic books mostly dates to after the end of Claremont’s (first) Uncanny X-Men run in 1991.

                • Brett

                  This reminds me of what happened to anime in terms of business models.

            • kped

              Often these stories are a result of big future corporate event series, and the writers have even less of a choice on what to do. If they tell you “we’re doing a big Hydra event, Captain America is on their side, we need you to establish that”, you’re going to do it.

        • The fact that it will revert doesn’t make it good writing, however.

          • NonyNony

            No, though depending on what Spenser is doing with the story between now and when the reversion happens, it could. The actual undoing of the retcon will be terrible, though, because they always are.

          • Manny Kant

            I don’t see how we can come to a judgment as to whether it’s a good story or not before we know what the story is.

        • Halloween Jack

          You have the situation in Game of Thrones where people in the show, most notably Kit Harington, insisted that Jon Snow was really and permanently dead, despite people instantly guessing that not only was he not, but the exact method of his resurrection. Ditto for “The Death of Captain America” several years back, although the exact method wasn’t revealed (I guessed that Arnim Zola would be involved, and I was right).

        • Simeon

          You don’t have to wish him to believe it. You can use the Cosmic Cube to wish it to be actually true, so that, as of today, Steve Rogers really was a Hydra agent back since he was a child in the 1930s (though he wasn’t one yesterday).

      • You know, in my day (when dinosaurs walked the Earth!), if you wanted to dramatically change a superhero, you used Red Kryptonite, like Nature intended! (Though how awesome would it be if the reveal wasn’t that Cap was a Hydra Sleeper agent, but had a Giant ant head or a Lion head, or could shoot mini-Caps from his fingertips?).

        Back in the day, if we wanted to be REALLY edgy, we told an Imaginary Tale!

    • Murc

      Considering that he just came back to being young Steve Rogers due to the influence of a Cosmic Cube

      Jesus god, really?

      I have a very, very low opinion of the comic-book Winter Soldier plotline, which I admit is largely heterodox, because I’m of the firm belief that if your story requires the Cosmic Cube to work, not just as a MacGuffin but as a magic wand you wave at a plot hole or an unsolvable problem to make it go awya, your story is bad and you should feel bad.

      I can’t believe they’re still going to that well.

      • It was actually pretty good. Basically, the Cosmic Cube was given sentience and took on the form and mind of a young girl. SHIELD then used Kobik’s reality-warping powers to build a prison for supervillains that would physically and mentally alter them into Norman Rockwell-types.

        It all goes wrong, the villains revert, and then Zemo goes hunting for Kobik to de-person her and revert her back to a cube so he can rule the world. OldSteve fights to protect her against Crossbones, and is essentially dying on his feet, and Kobik uses her powers to help the nice man who’s protecting her.

        • Murc

          Gosh, SHIELD committed a massive atrocity that backfired on them? I’m surprised as hell.

          That actually does sound like a pretty neat conceit. It’s much better than “wave cube at problem, problem goes away” at least.

    • And that “something” is “make people angry”. Do something outrageous that will make people get mad enough to talk about it so that other people “have” to buy the book to find out what everyone is talking about. You call it trolling, I call it standard Marvel and DC marketing practices for at least the last 20 years. Trolling their obsessive fanbase is the only way they continue to actually make money on the comic books these days. The day that comic book fans stop responding to the companies trolling them is the day that the two companies finally close up shop and stop making comics.

      I generally think Marvel is better than DC in this respect — trolling the readers is really all DC does anymore — but stuff like this is why I get really nervous about how Marvel is eventually going to screw over all my favorite characters.

      • NonyNony

        Eh, I think Marvel actually intentionally trolls their fans more than DC does. I think about 25% of the trolling that DC does is completely unintentional – they actually think they’re writing something good that the fans will want and then are genuinely surprised by the backlash.

        Marvel, OTOH, carefully plans out their trolling and makes sure to do things like get full page stories in USA Today or have interviews with the creators spouting trash talk released to coincide with the event that they’re trolling about. They’re a well-oiled trolling machine when it comes to marketing.

        Basically in the question of stupid vs. evil decision making, DC is almost always stupid while Marvel tends to be less stupid and more evil. The end result often ends up the same, but Marvel fans give Marvel more of a pass because it’s clear that Marvel is doing it on purpose while DC fans get annoyed because DC is just inept.

        • Woodrowfan

          Speaking of Marvel trolling their fans…..

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOyJqGtP-wU&spfreload=10

          “What are you going to do? Watch DC??”

          • Brett

            I think I’m becoming charmed by DC’s fuck-ups in their cinematic universe. It’s entertaining just to try and figure out what they’re going to do next.

    • brad

      I have read elsewhere that the Red Skull is currently in possession of the currently dead Professor X’s brain.
      Which is to say that it’s obviously crap.
      But hell, DC is getting so desperate that apparently they’re setting up a Watchmen vs DC regulars event. It’s all over the industry right now.

    • Alex.S

      It’s a flashback where everything is in muted colors… except for the bright red.

      I can’t picture it anything but Red Skull messing with Captain America’s memories. For the 3rd or 4th time?

      • Halloween Jack

        It’s like he’s got a loyalty card; the tenth mindfuck is free.

    • They’ve made a corporate decision that characters are not allowed to have actual character growth but only the illusion of character growth, so you can’t sell people on the idea that they need to read a continuing saga of a character because they know that nothing is really going to change about that character regardless of what happens in this particular episode.

      Film Crit Hulk argues that this is starting to happen in the MCU as well. Certainly the last few movies have convinced me that the MCU’s interconnectivity is only a thin gloss, and that the Marvel movies work best as standalones with faint connections between them. But since the team-up movies make tons more money than the individual character ones, there’s no way Marvel will stop stressing them.

      • CP

        This was probably inevitable. A friend and I got to speculating on how the MCU would end back when Avengers came out, and quickly concluded that they were obviously going to keep cranking out these movies until they’ve become so bad that they’re consistently failing to show a profit, which won’t be until after they’ve been bad for a while, probably quite a while.

        That pretty much precludes radical changes. They want the universe to stay as it is so they can keep coming back to it.

        • In fairness to Marvel, their plan for phase 3 at least indicates that they’re aware of the problem. All of the planned films are standalones, either introducing new characters (Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel) or taking place off Earth in a setting that doesn’t connect easily to those of other stories (Thor 3, Guardians of the Galaxy 2).

          On the other hand, the purpose of these films will probably be, in part, to set up Infinity War, and I’d be willing to be that at least some of them will feature (sigh) Infinity Gems.

          • CP

            In fairness to Marvel, their plan for phase 3 at least indicates that they’re aware of the problem. All of the planned films are standalones, either introducing new characters (Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel) or taking place off Earth in a setting that doesn’t connect easily to those of other stories (Thor 3, Guardians of the Galaxy 2).

            I do like that. I was skeptical of some of the new Phase 2 films (who the hell are the Guardians Of The Galaxy and Ant-Man, and does anyone care?) but I was wrong, they turned out to be very good things for the franchise.

            On the other hand, the purpose of these films will probably be, in part, to set up Infinity War, and I’d be willing to be that at least some of them will feature (sigh) Infinity Gems.

            My main question there is, what happens after Infinity War? They’re not going to just stop there, it’s too much of a cash cow. They’re just going to keep going. And while I probably won’t mind the new characters they keep introducing, I also can’t imagine that they’ll abandon their Avengers/”main story” continuity. Which, I figure, will remain in that comic book no-real-growth limbo.

            • Mike in DC

              It’s hard to do “no real growth” in a cinematic medium, because unlike the comics, the actors playing the characters will actually age. And film critics will be a lot more critical of plot rehashes.
              There are some decent villains and plotlines from the comics they could draw from for new Avengers films. Kang, unfortunately, was originally introduced in the Fantastic Four, as were the Skrulls, so he and the Kree-Skrull war are currently unlikely to be used. The Masters of Evil, Korvac and the Zodiac could be used. The Squadron Sinister/Supreme would be hilarious, mainly because the announcement would give Warner/DC an aneurysm.

              • Manny Kant

                That Kang belongs to Fox is absurd. He did not originally appear in Fantastic Four. He originally appeared in Avengers, shortly after Rama-Tut first appeared in FF. Ten years later, Steve Englehart retconned them to be the same character in am Avengers story. No idea why he would belong exclusively to Fox, when they share custody of the much more clearly x-originated Maximiff twins

            • Brett

              It would be a good idea to kill off a bunch of older legacy characters from earlier phases of the MCU in favor of new ones in Infinity War. Incidentally, that would help answer how to have character growth in these things – you’d introduce them, have character growth and real story arcs, and then have them either die or retire from superhero-dom in one of the “ensemble” movies down the line (conveniently also letting their actors move on to new projects).

              I don’t know whether they’ll actually do that, though. I swear at one point it was looking like Robert Downey Jr would be gone after Avengers 3, but maybe they offered him some insane revenue deal to keep coming back.

    • max

      You call it trolling, I call it standard Marvel and DC marketing practices for at least the last 20 years.

      Mid-80’s. Secret Wars. That was where they hit on the to solution to the Star Wars problem. ‘Kids want to watch this space saga stuff, what will we do?’ ‘I know! Let’s mess everything up in every comic and end it with a big lucas-style bang.’ ‘Genius!’

      It was astounding how badly written and abysmally drawn that was.

      max
      [‘Not coincidentally, that was where I got off the bus.’]

      • Falstaff

        Amusingly — at least to me — that’s where I came in.

        (I exited later, myself — during Infinity Crusade the first tame, and with finality circa 2006.)

    • NonyNony

      Not a dream! Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story!

      • Aaron Morrow

        It really is Captain America being a secret agent, pretending to kill Life Model Decoys (nigh-undetectable androids).

        Anyway, is there a straight line from Millar’s Cap to this?

        • Manny Kant

          Given that Spencer didn’t deny that at all, that seems most likely.

    • Halloween Jack

      Not to split hairs, but absolutely to split hairs: that doesn’t preclude the possibility of RS or someone else literally rewriting history with the Cosmic Cube.

  • Murc

    Thankfully, I am only reading three Marvel books right now, none of which involve Cap.

    This is a dumb idea. I mean… I remember back when “SHIELD is actually a Hydra front!” was the hot new storytelling tweest on the Marvel block, and even that was only barely believable in the context of the 616 universe. (It works deliciously well in the MCU; in the comics, it required us to be all “Wait, what? Then why have they let Nick Fury dominate the hell out of them for the past half-century if they’re secretly his boss?”)

    I have no doubt that this is some sort of false flag thing, because come on, but it is still a bad idea for all the reasons Steve outlines. Especially because this is comic-book Hydra, which is a lot more openly disgusting than movie Hydra.

    • Captain America: Sam Wilson is actually pretty good.

      • CP

        I just read the one where he takes on the Sons of the Serpent (I tend to wait till they show up all collected at Barnes & Noble rather than reading them issue by issue as they come out). That one was good.

        I can’t decide if my favorite bit was the Serpent giving a speech about America and then “Also, the fact that you people made me PRESS ONE FOR ENGLISH? That is something I will not ABIDE!”

        Or the media pundit commenting on the end fight going “so, as we see all this carnage in the street, I think the question every American is asking himself is… How will this affect the stock market?”

        • It keeps getting better. The next arc is Sam vs. the Serpent Society as evil corporate consultants, which is hilarious because they always were even back in the 70s.

      • Murc

        Captain America: Sam Wilson is actually pretty good.

        I’m sorry, but it doesn’t involve Squirrel Girl, Kate Leth, or Loki. :) I don’t think I can justify adding it to my pull list.

        (My pull list these days largely consists of weird indie stuff published by Boom Studios, and Monstress.)

  • CP

    I do love the idea of HYDRA as a transnational movement handing out pamphlets and spreading white hate messages back in the 1930s. That, you could make a pretty good story out of (especially since the parallel to modern nativist movements in the context of the refugee crisis just write them goddamn selves). It even sounds similar to what Steve was doing in his beginning comics, stopping Axis infiltrators on the home front.

    • Agreed – the idea that HYDRA was organizing like the real-life Bund isn’t a bad one. The bad idea is that Steve Rogers isn’t punching them in the face.

      • CP

        And that’s the TL/DR on this announcement.

        Too bad, because I’d read the hell out of that other story.

  • Grumpy

    Sounds like somebody wanted to …

    Make Captain America great again.

    YEEEEEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

  • Alex.S

    Did Hydra even exist at that time? My general understanding was that Hydra was a WW2 and post-WW2 organization. Marvel wikis list a few proto-Hydras, but the proto-Hydras were not tied into Germany.

    • CP

      Yes, sort of. Hydra as originally written was the Marvel universe version of the ODESSA, made up of surviving Axis war criminals who’d escaped at the end of the war (and now still had nefarious plans for the world). Eventually, it was retconned so that Hydra was an ancient secret society from the dawn of mankind, which was involved in pretty much every bad thing that’s ever happened, fascism being only the latest incarnation. So the answer is “yes, but maybe not the way you think of them?”

      I’ve always preferred the original incarnation, myself. Yeah, “Evil Nazis” isn’t the most original idea for a villain, but it still feels more fleshed out than “Evil Illuminati,” at least to me.

      • Halloween Jack

        Wasn’t that Hickman’s retcon, along with making SHIELD much of the same, with Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton previous members? I always thought that that was an idea that sounds awesome if you don’t think about it for more than about ten seconds. The art was nice, though.

        • CP

          Don’t know, I never read the original story where they retconned that. I have read stories since then involving Hydra that state that it’s an ancient conspiracy and not just a modern fascist movement, so I think that’s the accepted new standard.

      • I remember well that 51 yrs. ago when HYDRA first appeared (Strange Tales #135 [Aug. 1965]) it was no more or less than a Marvel version of THRUSH or SPECTRE, no ex-Nazis or ancient secret societies involved. Indeed, it was run by that greatest of all evils, a “nondescript businessman”.

        • CP

          That HYDRA was supposed to be one of the many SPECTRE knock-offs of the era is obvious, but I thought the ex-Nazi origin story was there from the beginning. Wasn’t Baron Von Strucker their original boss?

  • socraticsilence

    I mean if you wanted to tell me that Steve attended a few Communist Party meetings in the 30s I could buy that as consistent with the characterization of CA (hell if he hadn’t be frozen it would have added a really interesting element of Steve vs HUAC).

    I could even buy going to a handful of Hydra meetings out of gratitude prior to seeing what it’s all about- but actually being a Hydra agent makes no sense whatsoever, you can’t hand wave it as “well he’d be an even better sleeper if he seemed to fight Hydra” because there are multiple instances where he didn’t just foil Hydra plots; he was literally the only thing standing between Hydra and world domination.

    Look at it from his handlers perspective– Steve being a symbol and stopping Hydra is worth it to sell the lie even up to the point of him actually doing the organization real damage– that equation shifts pretty rapidly however when Hydra is one step away from Global Domination and the only thing stopping it is Captain America, then maintaining the cover is completely nonsensical.

    • CP

      I could buy Steve attending a few Communist Party meetings, but that’s because he’s a fairly left wing character, growing up in a city and an era when left wing radicalism was probably at its most popular in the U.S. So yeah, I could see him trying out the CPUSA for a few meetings before realizing there’s something wrong with these guys. Lots of people did that.

      A fascist organization – that’s not his corner of the political spectrum, and I think you’d need a lot more explaining.

      The most I could see is something like this – Steve’s very first foray into politics comes with a fascist organization that tries to recruit him, and he attends for a little while before realizing just what horrific people they are, which in turn plays a big part into turning him into the character we know with the values we know. (Something like that is basically the story of my political awakening as a teen, substituting “right wing blogs” for HYDRA). But, as you say, the idea that he’s been one of them all along is just silly. They’re setting us up for a twist.

      • socraticsilence

        Right, I didn’t mean he’d become a Hydra member more that I could see it as a “sure Mom, I’ll go to the meeting” type of thing. I mean as soon as it became clear that Hydra was more than just say a “community activism” organization any normal conception of Steve Rodgers would be revolted.

        Actually if you’re going to go with the offensive revisionism trope, a Non-culturally Jewish Magneto who joins the Hitler Youth as a kid until he learns that he’s different too would work better– it’d still be character assassination but I could buy the whole “no ones as zealous as a convert” aspect.

    • Yeah, pretty much.

  • Mike in DC

    What are your thoughts on the burgeoning #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend movement?

    • Just_Dropping_By

      And break up his decades-long relationship with Bucky? (Linked video is highly relevant.)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udQVKCTgETo

    • After reading tons of 70s-era “Captain America and the Falcon” where Steve and Sam are undressing in the same room all the time, sleeping shirtless in the same room all the time, and getting jealous about the other one’s girlfriends…

      You don’t exactly have to cite death of the author to argue that Cap as bi is actually the better fit for the canon than Cap is straight.

      On the other hand, wrt to the burgeoning internet wars about which boyfriend he should have, be it the BBC’s Stucky shipping or Sky’s Stony shipping or the more canonically-foundational Steve/Sam Wilson pairing, I am remaining studiously neutral.

  • Of all the many reasons this is a terrible idea, it’s surely at least in the top ten that this is an obvious crib from Agents of SHIELD. And even there, that was a storyline that a) only worked because the character in question had been deathly boring in his “good” iteration, and b) stopped being interesting within half a dozen episodes. The shocking twist that one of the good guys is a bad guy has a very short half-life, and then you have to figure out what to do with the character. AoS never really did (given what they ended up doing with him, I don’t see why they didn’t just kill Ward at the end of S1), and it’s obvious that the only thing Marvel will come up with for Cap is to retcon the hell out of this development.

    • socraticsilence

      Right and while it works with a mid-level agent like Ward it doesn’t work at all with someone who quite capably foiled multiple Hydra plots where he was the only thing standing between them and their goals.

    • You’re right on the money with the half-life thing. Bad guys exist to be defeated, period. Not that many stories there.

  • wjts

    I don’t have anything of substance to say, so I’ll just note that anyone passing out fliers for a secret meeting with the words “SECRET MEETING” written in large red letters on the top has badly misunderstood the idea of a secret meeting.

    • libarbarian

      LOL.

      Go ask Roosh V about his supposedly planned “Secret Meetup”

      By the way, do you know where the pet shop is?

    • Mike in DC

      THERE’S A SECRET MEETING?

      HEY EVERYBODY! GUESS WHAT I JUST HEARD ABOUT!

      • The Temporary Name

        Concerned citizens are welcome, so, you know, tell your friends and come on down.

    • so-in-so

      Plus the skull motif, that always brought in Mom, Pop and the kids.

      • socraticsilence

        It does bring to mind the “Mitchell and Webb Report” sketch about Nazis and the Death’s Head Insignia.

    • Nepos

      To paraphrase the second greatest line from The Wire:

      “Are you passing out fliers at a criminal-fucking-conspiracy?”

      • so-in-so

        Of course the governor of Texas was quite sure that a super-secret Federal plan to subvert his and neighboring states started out by publishing a map…

      • +1 to you!

      • Matt Stevens

        “Do the chair know this make the Avengers look like punk-ass bitches?”

  • libarbarian

    HULK SMASH THIS RETCONN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • CP

    Question to the floor: is it HYDRA or Hydra?

    Related: now that Agent Carter’s been killed off, I want an Arnim Zola show.

    • Mike in DC

      Hydra. It’s not an acronym. Cut off one head, two more shall take it’s place. Burn the stump with fire…uh, yeah, that’ll work. Crap.

      • I think a lot of people type HYDRA just because of SHIELD, which is an acronym.

        • Manny Kant

          Except in Hickman’s S.H.I.E.L.D., where it’s the Brotherhood of the Shield, or whatever. Is that ever going to be finished, btw?

    • I’ve seen both.

    • leftwingfox

      It’s not an acronym, but its members do tend to CAPS RAGE AT THEIR FOES!

  • ASV

    I suspect this is likely to be terrible no matter how it turns out, but the post-hypnotic triggers or whatever need not have been there this whole time. Given the Red Skull’s history with cosmic cubes, it’s entirely possible Kobik added it when she magically deaged him.

  • Downpuppy

    Kurt Busiek on The Twitter has some perspective.

    • I find that response (which I’ve seen elsewhere as well) pretty condescending. There is literally no one reacting to this story who doesn’t realize that it will be rolled back somehow. That just makes it worse. To drag a beloved, long-running character through the mud is bad enough. Doing it just for a short-lived gimmick is far worse. And doing it in such a way as to make clear that you don’t actually realize what’s wrong about being a Nazi is simply appalling.

      • Halloween Jack

        I’m not sure that Busiek disagrees with you; I read the tweet as being “Yeah, this is a stupid idea.”

      • Manny Kant

        Maybe? Can’t we just withhold judgment until the story is finished?

    • I like Kurt Busiek, but I don’t know if I can agree.

      Then again, Busiek is biased when it comes to retconning, as he was the one who thought up the whole Dark Phoenix was a clone thing.

      • Manny Kant

        Busiek dedicated two entire issues of Avengers Forever to retconning 90s continuity he didn’t like. That being said, you know, maybe just hold off on the outrage until you have some idea where the story’s going.

      • LifeOntheFallLine

        I would probably save Kurt Busiek at the expense of some of my family…but I think he’s a wee bit biased here given that he thinks outrage over stories didn’t occur until “sometime in the 80s,” which conveniently corresponds with when he started writing comics full time!

        • Downpuppy

          Heh. That’s not entirely true:

          But then, I've also got friends who are still mad about stuff someone wrote in the 70s, and want to chew on it every time that creator's…— Speaker of the Kurt (@KurtBusiek) May 25, 2016

          • LifeOntheFallLine

            Hah! I didn’t see that. I was referring to this (I don’t know how to embed tweets):

            “Since the 1980s sometime, it’s like people more and more go ‘Agh! New permanent status quo! I am enraged!'”

  • kped

    It’s amazing how different the American comic scene is from the Japanese manga scene. Japan still finds a way to sell these to kids, and their bigger series sell millions a year…and eventually end. There you have something like “One Piece” which sells about 20M copies a year (although that’s by far the most popular, it’s sold 320M copies since it’s debut in 1997, which is also an insanely long run).

    There has to be a way to reach kids, it isn’t like Japanese kids don’t have internet (and manga sells mostly to kids, despite some people impressions of Japan).

  • veleda_k

    This seems like a classic case of wait and see. I’m not claiming that it will all turn out great if everyone’s just patient. I have zero certainty there. But it’s the first issue, with a reveal that is blatantly and obviously over the top. I would be very surprised if Steve Rogers actually turns out to be a Nazi once the dust clears. (I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I’ll be very surprised.)

    Again not claiming that it’s a good story idea (not arguing either way), but “Captain America is really, truly Hydra, and Marvel will not take this back”? Nah.

    I do feel like I need to actually read the issue to discuss it intelligently. Which is just as Marvel planned!

    • RyanFischer

      I agree. People are making a lot of assumptions.

      My guess is that we’re going to see Steve’s mom involved in some sort of interwar lefty iteration of Hydra that influenced Steve, and that he’s bringing that somehow into the current conflict (the storyline does involve conflicts over the identity of the organization, which is ancient and mutable).

    • Duvall

      This probably would have been better received if it had been introduced as a mystery – Something Is Wrong With Steve Rogers – than Marvel marketing as a “permanent” change to the status quo.

  • Halloween Jack

    A Tumblr post from someone who seems to agree with you, and has a perspective on Spencer and Brevoort’s interview. (I tend to like Spencer quite a lot, generally–I thought that his Superior Foes of Spider-Man was a lot of fun.)

    • Good stuff.

      I also like Spencer’s work on Superior Foes.

  • Just another John

    BLEEEEEEEP! Those (*#$^&*$()*%s!!! This ticks me off as much as when Wonder Woman went from being created from clay and given life by the Greek goddesses to being just another female character with Daddy issues (ie. Zeus’ kid) for the New 52. And what was the reason that the actually very good writer, Brian Azzarello gave, you ask? Well, it seems that in a universe with superpowers, gods, super-science and other fantastical features; having a character being basically created by the gods wasn’t believable. No, seriously. That’s what he said in an interview. (Sorry, my Google Fu was weak and couldn’t find a link.)

    I realize that this is almost certainly basically trolling as Attewell writes and will be “fixed”, but it’s a real slap in the face. As far as I’m concerned, the powers what be that decided that this was a good idea can go have carnal knowledge of themselves. I will not buy a single issue of CA-SR until/unless this is undone.

    • Latverian Diplomat

      Not to be argumentative, but I was fine with that change. One of the ideas seemed to be bringing in more of the elements of Greek mythology, and making Diana a demi-goddess fit into that quite well, IMHO.

  • Latverian Diplomat

    This will probably start a trend. How long before it’s revealed that Bruce Wayne murdered his own parents?

    • Gareth

      I prefer Grant Morrison’s Bizarro World Batman – murdered by his parents as a child. There was also Wonder Woman, who was transformed into a clay statue.

  • I’m amused by Mrs. Rogers referring to the Sinclair woman as “Ms.” In 193X. Is this some sort of hint/clue, or simple historical ignorance?

    • “Ms.”, not spelled like that but pronounced as “Ms.” is, has been around in many American dialects for a long time, certainly well before 193X. (And the OED finds that “Ms.” in this sense was first proposed in 1901, by the Springfield Republican!)

      • Then it would be lettered “Miz”, not “Ms.” w/ a period, wouldn’t it? Proposed or not, “Ms.” wasn’t used then, certainly not between a housewife/mill worker & a fascist agitator.

        Vaguely related: My father (from the Texas Hill Country) lost all his Texas accent except for pronouncing “Mrs.” as “mizzers”, rather than “missis/missus”. (‘Though that may have been a specific-to-him idiosyncrasy; never heard anyone else pronounce it like that.)

  • Apparently the the writer of this book has been getting death threats on social media, goddamn.

    • Falstaff

      Can’t say I’m surprised. I mean, obviously it’s in no way appropriate to threaten anyone, but when a writer (almost certainly by editorial dictate, but still) transforms, however temporarily, an explicit antifascist symbol created by two Jewish men into an explicit fascist symbol working for an openly Nazi organization (that retcon is stupid, and I’m not surprised so few people remember it), people are going to get upset.

  • rachelmap

    Man… This is the kind of stuff writers pull out when they have no new ideas whatsoever. Next story up after the inevitable retcon: Cap is struggling across a sandy orange desert and finally–as he’s hallucinating as he dies of thirst–reaches an invisible barrier. We pan back to see he’s been shrunk to the size of a mite and has just spent the whole time walking around in a clear plastic bottle of Tang.

    Crap.

  • And if you’re wondering why Marvel would decide to turn their billion-dollar-grossing hero into a Nazi, so am I.

    They’re betting on Trump becoming Führer President?

  • If anyone is still paying attention to this thread…

    Where should someone who liked the Deadpool movie start with the comics?

    • wjts

      Start at the beginning with Rob Liefeld’s run on X-Force/The New Mutants? (Those are the only comics with Deadpool in them that I’ve read. Don’t read them. They’re awful.)

      • Thanks, I think?

        I was going to ask about Guardians of the Galaxy, but a friend already gave me a recommendation.

        • wjts

          I’ve never read anything even tangentially related to Guardians of the Galaxy, but I’ll take any chance to plug both the delightfully batshit original Doom Patrol and Grant Morrison’s even more delightfully batshit run on the series 20-odd years later.

          • CP

            Bendis’ entire run of Guardians of the Galaxy has been pretty good, IMHO.

            The “Guardians: Team Up” one has a bunch of short-story individual volumes each featuring one of them teaming up with someone from another part of the Marvel Universe, and Deadpool shows up in that one, if you’re interested – but I haven’t read that one yet so no idea if it’s good.

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