Home / General / Would Captain America Approve of Punching Nazis? (YES)

Would Captain America Approve of Punching Nazis? (YES)

/
/
/
2 Views

Displaying captain america punching featured.png

At the risk of starting up this debate again, here is another essay about how our politics and our comic books are bleeding into one another…

As would surprise absolutely no one who’s followed my People’s History of the Marvel Universe series, I’m a strong believer in the idea that our pop culture is both influenced by our political culture and can have a strong influence on that political culture. Thus, it’s a major problem when the author of both of Marvel’s current Captain America comics gets all pearls-clutchy about whether it’s ok to punch Nazis.

would-cap-approve-of-punching-nazis-1(credit to Shop5)

While people who’ve followed this spat on comic book twitter are familiar with this particular debate, allow me to clarify for everyone else: Captain America, as a pop culture icon, was designed to punch Nazis. And not merely in a cheeky, subversive symbolic, let’s-make-fun-of-Hitler way; the first Captain America comics were very clear in their argument that Nazis were a real threat to the United States both abroad and at home (with Jack Kirby and Joe Simon calling out real organizations like the German-American Bund, the Silver Shirts, and the America First Committee), and that we should go and fight them now (a year before Pearl Harbor). Nazis didn’t like this argument and they didn’t like Captain America as a pop culture icon – hence why they sent death threats to Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, threats that Jack Kirby met by being ready to punch Nazis at a momentís notice.

Current Cap writer Nick Spencer’s stance doesn’t show a great understanding of the characters heís working with or the spirit in which they were created, but that wouldnít be so much of a problem…except that Spencer’s online conflicts with critics and fans are starting to bleed over into his comics, denying people a useful symbol for resistance in an era in which we really need them.

NaziCap and the “Alt-Righting” of HYDRA

Now, I’ve already talked about why NaziCap is a terrible idea: not only is it deeply insulting to the creators of Captain America and the various writers and artists who worked for decades to establish Steve Rogers as a consistent character, not only does the whole story only work by leaning on played-out non-mind control mind control gimmicks that relied on outright lying to your customers, but so far the only up-side is that Nick Spencer gets to write stories for months on end where Steve Rogers becomes a straight up supervillain:

would-cap-approve-of-punching-nazis-2

Now, it would be bad enough if Spencer’s problematic story resulted only in bad writing. But the problems go far beyond that, because Spencer’s Steve Rogers has an undeniable and inescapable political line. Take for example, Cap’s extended speech in Civil War II: The Oath:

would-cap-approve-of-punching-nazis-3

Let’s be clear: this is not just a comment on Marvelís Civil War II; this is a blatant copying of post-2016 election hot takes blaming liberal coastal elites for the election of Donald Trump due to their lack of empathy for Trump voters in the heartland, bootstrapped into an anti-superhero and pro-HYDRA rant. Now, leave aside for the moment that this whole scene is jarring and awkward in the extreme in that Captain America is completely contradicting himself from Marvel’s first Civil War event – and remember, Nick Spencerís non-mind control mind control retcon means that Cap still did and thought everything he did and thought in that series. (After all, Civil War II is absolutely cluttered with examples of characters from Tony Stark to Carol Danvers forgetting what they thought and did during Civil War I and before.)

The bigger problem is that Spencer is trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, he’s constantly riffing off of the rhetoric and imagery of present-day white nationalist and neo-Nazi movements to elicit controversy and give his story some “subversive” heft. On the other hand, Spencer constantly runs away from the implications of his own ideas by trying to de-Nazify HYDRA (which not-coincidentally prevents Steve Rogers from crossing a line that might harm his value as a brand):

would-cap-approve-of-punching-nazis-4

Once again, let clarify the comic book history: HYDRA was created as a Nazi organization, as part of an argument by Jack Kirby that the true believers in the Third Reich were still out there, ready to strike back against their enemies in the name of Nazism. HYDRA’s leader, the Red Skull, isn’t just a COBRA villain who hates freedom, equality, puppies, and sunshine in a generic Saturday morning cartoon way. From the beginning, the Red Skull has been not just a Nazi but a personal acolyte of Adolf Hitler:

would-cap-approve-of-punching-nazis-5

Indeed, the Red Skull is such a massive racist that he was once successfully distracted from his master plans by the fact that Peggy Carter was in an interracial relationship with another SHIELD agent:

would-cap-approve-of-punching-nazis-6

Likewise, the Red Skull’s chief subordinates in HYDRA were quite emphatic about the fact that they were actual and current believers in Nazi political ideology.

Now, Spencer isn’t the first person at Marvel to try to de-Nazify HYDRA: Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Warriors story about HYDRA being an ancient organization that dates back to the Third Dynasty in Ancient Egypt set the pattern for fandom arguments that HYDRA wasn’t “really” fascist. But in the current political environment, it is especially tin-eared for Nick Spencer to “alt-right” HYDRA: we live at a time when we have actual Neo-Nazis in the White House working references to America First into Inaugural Addresses and dog-whistling to their fanbase by removing references to Jews and anti-Semitism from Holocaust Memorial addresses, all the while trying to use weasel-words to rebrand themselves as members of the “alt-right” so that they can normalize themselves in the media and the broader political culture. Indeed, Richard Spencer (who led crowds in throwing Nazi salutes at the alt-right’s election celebrations in D.C) was giving an TV interview about how the “alt-right” werenít neo-Nazis when he got punched.

Sam Wilson as Sockpuppet and SJWs Are the Real Threat:

At the same time that Spencer has mired himself in a political quagmire in Captain America: Steve Rogers, we’re starting to see some of the same problems crop up in Captain America: Sam Wilson, which I used to enjoy because the book seemed to be grounded in a sincere love of Captain America comics from the 70s through 90s, what with Cap-Wolf and the Serpent Society showing up almost immediately. But given the tight-rope walk that always comes when a white writer is writing a highly political comic by speaking through a character who’s a black man, it’s a very bad sign when Nick Spencer’s twitter fights over the right and wrong ways to protest start coming out of Sam Wilson’s mouth:

would-cap-approve-of-punching-nazis-7

Leave aside that portraying Sam Wilson as the “both-sides-do-it” moderate clashes with the book’s raison d’être of Sam Wilson as the more militant political version of Captain America. Far worse is the actual content of the issue, which presents as its villains a group of campus left terrorists who use bombs to enforce “safe spaces”:

would-cap-approve-of-punching-nazis-8

Now, all of this would in normal times be painfully awkward, what with the white guy in his late 30s trying to do Tumblr-speak. But to push the idea that campus leftists are the real danger at a time when anti-fascist protesters have been shot by fans of neo-Nazi Milo Yiannopoulos, who deliberately targets critics for harassment and deportation, and when campus recruiters for the “alt-right” turn out to have past form for burning down black churches, comes across as pushing “alternative facts.”

Conclusion:

So why should we care, why does all of this comic book stuff matter when compared to the real-world political side of things?

As I said at the time, the “subversive” reimagining of Steve Rogers as a fascist was never ok, but there is far less leeway for it in a world in which Donald Trump is president. We have actual Neo-Nazis at the very top of the Federal government, directing government policy to enforce religious bans on Muslim immigrants, refugees, and permanent residents, to build border walls and prepare new offensives against young formerly undocumented immigrants given legal status and low-income immigrants. The “contrarian” fantasy of NaziCap has been lapped by reality and thus no longer serves any satirical purpose.

But on a more serious note: far from being emboldened by being punched in the face, Neo-Nazis are already emboldened by the fact that they have one of their own in the White House. Hence the burning of mosques in Texas and the Quebec mass-shooting , hence the constant drum-beat of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers, hence the rise of hate crimes and random incidents of aggression from racist assholes who think that Trump has legalized bigotry.

A small part of this is an attempt by Neo-Nazis to claim cultural spaces and symbols, whether weíre talking about fights over Twitter access, the appropriation of memes like Pepe the Frog, the appropriation of language from sexual subcultures, attempts to recruit right-wing anime fans, Gamergaters, and furries, and most worrying of all, the attempt to reframe anti-corporate works like They Live to fit anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. And it’s not like Marvel has been immune to this: “Hail HYDRA” and HYDRA iconography has been a favorite of Neo-Nazis online as a way to get around bans on outright Nazi imagery, and defenses of the HYDRA secret agent Grant Ward on ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD” have sometimes blended into defenses of fascism more generally.

In the face of all of these, people really need anti-Nazi symbols to inspire and rally them. Captain America ought to be one of these symbols, but he can’t be as long as Steve Rogers is a HYDRA agent and Sam Wilson is more worried about the campus left – i.e, as long as Nick Spencer is the lead writer of all of Marvel’s Captain America comics. So here’s my pitch to Marvel Comics: hire Brubaker, hire Rucka, hire G. Willow Wilson, all writers whoíve shown a grasp on both storytelling and politics, or hire someone new with fire in the belly, and give us a Cap who will fight for us.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Great piece. Note that the apostrophes seem to have been turned into the í character throughout for some reason.

  • CP

    Wasn’t happy about HydraCap, but I have to say that SJW-punching-Cap in the Sam Wilson comic’s been the biggest disappointment by far. Mostly because I freaking loved the first Sam Wilson Cap – it was a pretty spot on metaphor for the burden of being the first black man in the White House, which managed to mix utterly zany comic book escapism, a fondness for the source material, and current-day social commentary on everything from the rise of anti-immigrant racism to Wall Street immunity.

    Doubly aggravating is that Cap’s been through this kind of thing in the sixties before as noted in the “people’s history of Marvel universe” reviews last year – Cap is a guy who ran into a clash between cops and protesters, thought “well, the cops don’t need any help, but those kids do” and then jumped in. Turning that guy into an anti-SJW icon is about as tin-eared as it gets.

    • That was very much in the back of my head while writing this.

  • catbirdman

    Urgh, people are into what we’re into, but whenever someone dives this deep into comic books and their meaning my main reaction is to be thankful I never saw them as anything more than diversions for little boys. (Although, admittedly, the superhero CATBIRDMAN would look amazing and have awesome superpowers!)

    • Dilan Esper

      I try to respect art I am not into. Taste is taste.

      Just as I will come on to one of the music threads and defend popular music tastes, or progressive rock, against declamations that such music is “terrible”, I am quite open to the idea that comic books are an art form, that they can contain great art (one of the few works in the graphic art genre that I do know about is “Maus”, and it is brilliant), and that there’s nothing wrong with being into comic books and analyzing them in the way OP does.

      (By the way, one of my very earliest cases as a lawyer involved a First Amendment claim against the California state board of equalization by a comic book artist.)

    • Little Chak

      I don’t know. The radicalization and mobilization of the gaming, comic book, “nerd” community, or what have you, against feminism and progressive thought; and the efforts to push women and progressives out of the community, is a real and important phenomenon.

      ETA: Writing comics off as “diversions for little boys” is not a good way to keep those little boys from falling in with the wolves, and it’s also dismissive of the progressive women, progressive women of color, etc. who would like comics to speak for and to them.

    • rm

      Urgh, people are into what we’re into, but whenever someone dives this deep into Shakespeare’s plays and their meaning my main reaction is to be thankful I never saw them as anything more than boring required reading in high school English.

      (My point, to be clear, is not that comics are Shakespeare, but that comics are culture, and culture is worth investigating seriously, and if that is not your cup of tea, I’m not sure why you are bothering to comment).

      EDIT: What Little Chak says above is exactly why this discussion is worthwhile.

      • Philip

        And speaking of comics and the Bard, I’m firm in my belief that Sandman is one of the great modern works of art.

      • catbirdman

        In our era everything is “culture,” so your point (rm) seems to be that nobody who reads this page should ever express even minor annoyance with any cultural focus that we consider overblown. If you want to equate Captain America with King Lear (and then deny that’s what you’re doing) have at it. Doesn’t mean I have to buy what you’re selling.

        Just to reassure you that I’m not on the highest of horses, I’ll admit to having more interest in Real Housewives than I would wish upon myself — but I’ll spare everyone my in-depth analysis of what’s really going on between Kyle and Kim because I don’t think it’s overly important.

        Anyway, apart from registering a brief opinion, I was looking to gauge how far out of mainstream culture I might be in my leeriness about comic books as important cultural touchstones. The generally tepid responses suggest to me that there are probably quite a few others who feel at least somewhat similarly, but who would rather not be labeled as cultural bigots. I can live with it.

        Oh, and BTW, I hope nobody’s taking what I wrote to suggest there is not or can’t be great art in graphic novel format. I realize there can be and is — “Maus” and apparently “Sandman” being examples — I was really reacting to the old-school comics that I grew up with, such as Captain America, that are now the being taken so seriously.

        • Dilan Esper

          In our era everything is “culture,” so your point seems to be that nobody who reads this page should ever express even minor annoyance with any cultural focus that we consider overblown. If you want to equate Capt. America with King Lear (and then deny that’s what you’re doing) have at it. Doesn’t mean I have to buy what you’re selling.

          There’s truth to this. Just as in the music threads, a popular indie rock band is not really in the same league as Mozart. As my father always says, don’t trifle with the greats.

          But a comic book doesn’t have to be in the same realm as one of the central works of Western literature to have relevant things to say, and to speak to people. As much as I totally hold to the notion that Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony is a far greater work than a Taylor Swift pop song, that doesn’t mean that a Taylor Swift pop song can’t speak to a person going through a nasty break-up and carry great meaning to that person and really capture how that person feels.

          And that’s why you really have to be careful about being snobbish about art.

          • catbirdman

            There’s certainly a school of criticism that says we MUST be snobbish about art to help keep an edge on culture. Everyone tiptoeing around worried that their frank opinion might singe someone else’s tender soul is part of the problem, IMO. I think a vibrant culture benefits from a bit of friction, although I agree with the sentiment that one ought to avoid writing off entire genres as being unworthy of consideration.

            Since you mentioned pop songs, there are countless that meant/mean more to me than perhaps they ought to, but I respect anyone’s right to critique them, or to mention that they personally feel that too much attention is paid to certain acts. I’ve rethought my opinion about who/what made the Smiths so dear to me over the years — shifting away from Moz and solidly in the direction of Johnny Marr. Part of the reason is from reading what others have written about the band and its members, positive and negative. Not a perfect analogy to what I’ve written here, but my larger point is that positivity is not the only propellant for a healthy culture.

            • veleda_k

              If someone wrote a post about resistance to and rebellion against police within rap music, and I commented that I don’t see rap as anything but a diversion for bored suburban teenagers, would you regard that as a particularly useful contribution?

              • catbirdman

                No, I wouldn’t. As a privileged white kid in the early 70s, I didn’t read Marvel comic books as a potent a form of social protest. From my perspective, they weren’t comparable to rap, which I did and do appreciate as an important art form for those marginalized by the dominant (white) culture. I realize that those old comics did address various hot topics, but for whatever reason I didn’t take Marvel comics very seriously. They just weren’t important cultural documents for me.

                Giving this a little more thought, I recall that I read tons of MAD magazines, and really enjoyed them. Cracked was okay, but not as good as MAD. Those satirical comics undoubtedly had some effect on my outlook. Later on, I enjoyed the work of R. Crumb, and consider the documentary “Crumb” to be a masterpiece. In recent years I bought and read his Book of Genesis, which is awesome. So I don’t discount the value of all comics, just certain ones that I didn’t find very interesting when I was a kid. I don’t know whether this counts as a valuable contribution — probably not, but I do feel like I’m learning something from the discussion.

        • rm

          catbirdman, several things:

          Margaret Atwood beat you to it: Angel Catbird is already on the shelves.

          I was not equating superhero comics to King Lear, not even implicitly. I was putting pop culture and High Culture in the same gigantic sphere of Things That Can Reward Careful Reading.

          I don’t think you are a cultural snob — I just think if you see a post on a topic that makes you roll your eyes, why in the world don’t you skip that post? Or go ask for a refund.

          Superhero comics are an inherently limited genre. I know. But so are most movies, TV shows, and novels. They can be important and influential without being High Art. Roll your eyes all you want.

          At their absolute best, superhero stories deal very directly with metaphor, archetype, and fable. That kind of stuff is often for kids. But J.R.R. Tolkien and Northrop Frye might point out that it is not always so juvenile. I think you could put them in Frye’s category of Romance or Myth. That’s why they can have influence and be widely-understood symbols in a culture.

          Regarding great art and comics — I would equate Chris Ware and the best of the experimental Modernists. Like everyone else, I think Maus is a great work. Poetry comics is becoming a thing. There is more interesting, and maybe great, stuff in the medium than I can keep up with, and as someone who was the Campus Comics Snob in the 1980s, this makes me feel both old and young.

          I do have a prejudice for comics that do something innovative with the medium itself, rather than just tell great stories in words+pictures. But, of course, there is nothing wrong with telling an important story using the established grammar of the medium. Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez are both masters of comics composition, but the value of their work is more in their actual characters/settings/plots etc. than in the way they put the panels together. Fun Home is a great work, but I think it could have been a great words-only memoir if Bechdel had preferred to write it that way (and that’s probably why it makes the transition to Broadway so easily).

          • the_next_prescott_niles

            Opinion-based quibbling—the best kind!—but still: (1) A great deal of the value of Jaime Hernandez’s work resides, I’d say, in his all-universe-level linework and figure drawing—that’s definitely what got me in the L&R door back in the 80s campus-comics-snob days; and (2) who knows, obviously, but personally I wouldn’t guess that Fun Home would have made nearly as great a words-only memoir: Bechdel has (to my ear) a slightly nerdily over-literal conception of how ideas rhyme, mirror each other, etc.; the comics medium gives her an efficiency, a quickness on her feet in the way she puts ideas together that I don’t think she could have achieved using words alone. (And: I realize this may be a minority opinion, but I didn’t think the play worked very well, precisely because the staging couldn’t keep up with the way Bechdel exploits comics’ natural advantages in juxtaposition.)

            • the_next_prescott_niles

              (OK, partly because the staging couldn’t match the efficiencies of Bechdel on the comics page; partly because the songs weren’t much good.)

            • rm

              Yeah, I was trying to admit that I do not have a good basis for admiring the experimental comics artists more than the ones who are merely great masters of the form.

              Of course, Chris Ware is both. Art Spiegelman is both.

          • catbirdman

            Thanks rm — Angel Catbird looks amazing! I didn’t realize that Margaret Atwood was, like me, a cat-loving bird conservationist, or that she had done this topical series. Thank you so much for pointing it out — I may have to pick it up!

            To answer your question, I do usually skip past posts that don’t interest me that much. It’s not normally my style to get involved in something that doesn’t really interest me. I think that today I tossed in a brief, catty remark because I feel a general irritation about certain comics that other educated people find much more meaningful. I gave the comments a tweak and see where all you brilliant people would go with it. I’m not being sarcastic at all, by the way — I’ve been very gratified by the erudite and passionate responses to my opinions and provocations. I realize that I’m the outlier in this conversation — thanks for being sincere and patient with me.

    • Eh, for several reasons:

      1. If you want to know how a culture is responding to a change (whether that’s political, economic, etc.), you want to look at everything, not just “high” culture.

      2. Likewise, a good scholar can tease out meaning from anything, from the impressively dirty graffiti at Pompeii to, yes, diversions for little boys. (Although 46.6% of comics buyers are women, so that’s going away too.)

      3. Catbirdman would be awesome.

      • catbirdman

        All very valid points, especially the last one! I do get that comics are serious business now, although I will admit that I did not realize that women were so involved. That was definitely not the case the last time I read a Captain America graphic novel. I vehemently support your right, and everyone else’s, to tease out meaning from Marvel comics. I will be happily teasing elsewhere.

      • tsam

        I was never really into comics, but I’m a rabid fan of MCU’s most recent string of movies.

        One thing that makes me so very happy about a comic or movie is when a simple little sentence says a million more things than the words alone.

        Captain: “I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t like bullies; I don’t care where they’re from.”

        Also Wonder Woman: “What I do is not up to you.”

        To call this stuff children’s entertainment alone is silly and dismissive.

        • As the Jesuits say, “Give me a boy until he is seven, and I will show you the man.” Children’s entertainment is important; it’s how we teach people to be human (or not).

        • catbirdman

          Tsam: The lines you quoted don’t resonate for me the way they do for you. I always admired the art in Marvel comics but not really the writing. Obviously much has changed in the four decades since I stopped reading them. I will say, though, that I enjoyed the DVDs of Captain America and other heroes a few years ago when my kids were very young. I thought they were very entertaining, but was never tempted to view them as much more than a good way to keep my kids entertained (and culturally aware) while introducing them to the perpetual struggle between good and evil. I also introduced them to DVDs of the 1960s Batman tv shows, which I always preferred to the “seroous” depictions of the caped crusader. I regard humor as an integral part of fighting evil, and found some of the comics and movies too earnest for my taste. My kids liked them all, though, whether serious or silly. My eight-year-old still loves to play with his dozens of characters, and it’s quite possible that he’ll always be into comics. I wouldn’t mind, but it’s just not for me.

          All of this may say more about my limitations than it does about the true cultural importance of these comics and characters. Just being honest with my opinion and seeing where that puts me in relation to the rest of you. I think LGM has the best front page and comments section on the Internet and I respect your thoughts.

          • tsam

            Indulge me for a minute..

            The Cap quote above was Steve’s (pre-serum process) answer to “So, you want to kill Nazis, eh?”.

            If you dig a little deeper into the statement (and you’re about to get a look inside my brain, so buckle up), he says he doesn’t WANT to kill anyone. There’s an implied “but I will” bulging at the seams of that statement. Speaking for myself, I’d just as soon see all fascists completely exterminated than punched or tolerated. Now there are millions of problems with that attitude, and it’s frankly pretty stupid, but it’s what I am. So this line tempers my attitude with a pacifistic attitude and is probably the best way to express the objectively correct sentiment regarding Nazis. It probably doesn’t resonate with most people who don’t harbor murderous urges when it comes to fascists, but there is definitely more going on here than the plain text alone. As to it appealing to kids, well, it’s a plain, concise, simple statement that sends a pretty clear message.

            The Wonder Woman quote is just simply the most perfect single sentence summation of feminism I’ve ever heard. Again, it works on young people because of the simplicity. It’s an important building block for human development.

            • rm

              Bruce Banner to Cap: “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.” Encapsulates the character’s struggle on a literal level, and also all of the (not exactly subtle) metaphoric levels of the Hulk. Anger must be controlled, but it is also necessary and can be righteous — part of Bruce’s problem is that he thinks the Hulk will only cause destruction, but the Hulk tries to protect and save people in his simpleminded way.

              Steve Rogers is the only supersoldier who does not become a monster because he is what you discuss — “a kid from Brooklyn” who remembers being the scrawny misfit, and doesn’t like bullies. That’s how he can work as a symbol of the better angels of our nature — power can follow a moral compass, or we hope it can. (I don’t know where I read it, but some fan on some comment section pointed out that the choreography of Cap’s fight scenes in his movies is the same as the in the TV show “Agent Carter.” That is — she taught him to fight like a girl, like the weaker combatant. He learned to fight when he still was weak and small. And he stands for the weak against the strong. And the filmmakers are smart enough to represent this in the stuntwork.)

              • the choreography of Cap’s fight scenes in his movies is the same as the in the TV show “Agent Carter.” That is — she taught him to fight like a girl, like the weaker combatant. And he stands for the weak against the strong. And the filmmakers are smart enough to represent this in the stuntwork.

                I hadn’t noticed this before, but I suspect I’ll never be able to unsee it. Thanks for pointing it out.

                I absolutely agree with you on the power of both Cap and the Hulk as symbols.

                • rm

                  I actually almost tear up at that Bruce Banner line. Maybe because that attitude that anger is always wrong, and I am not allowed to get angry, was ingrained in my youthful self by my dysfunctional family. So I actually cannot get angry, consciously, but get depressed or passive-agressive instead. The idea that anger has a positive function is as hard for me to grasp as it is for Bruce Banner to accept the Hulk as part of himself.

                • It’s a really powerful line, and definitely one of my favourites in the entire MCU. Anger gets an almost universally negative stigma in popular culture, but it can be a constructive motivator and can be channelled into positive outcomes. The Hulk is one of the few cases in popular culture where this is actually represented.

                • ASV

                  There was a cheer at that Banner line in my theater. Maybe the best three words Whedon’s ever written.

              • tsam

                This is a fantastic observation. It gets at what I feel but maybe can’t articulate. I don’t trust myself with the power Rodgers has. He’s not a hero because he can beat all the shit out of a bad guy, he’s a hero because we can trust him to not abuse that power–at least for the most part. He’s a hero because he instinctively dived on a grenade to save the rest his platoon.

                • Yep. It’s the same reason Superman is also such a fantastic hero. It’s not merely that he’s powerful; it’s that he uses his power to protect the innocent and weak, and rarely if ever violates his ethical compass. This is also why the Snyder version of the character is such a grave disservice – and, for that matter, it’s a major reason that HydraCap is so problematic as well.

        • Hogan

          Back in my Usenet days someone posted a question in a comics group. He was looking for comic-sourced quotes like “With great power comes great responsibility” that he could compile into a book for his son, who was about to go off to college.

          The very first reply was “Your metal weapons are useless against Magneto.”

          • catbirdman

            Love it!

          • tsam

            Yeah! See? Comics can be very insightful.

            • catbirdman

              Let me just say thank you for your thoughtful and sincere responses to my provocations.

      • rhino

        Perhaps it’s just a fluke, but I am wondering if this 46.6% statistic is ‘marketing research’ in the same way that push polls are actual polls. Sure, there have always been girls and women who read comics, but most of the comics are being bought and read by guys….

        This is pure anecdata, but while I know at least a dozen men who buy and read comics, I only know one woman who does so. Mostly stuff like Tank Girl, Maus, Sandman, Love and Rockets and decidedly not Captain America.

        • ASV

          This is pure anecdata

          The question answers itself.

    • veleda_k

      If you see Sandman and Watchman as diversions for little boys, then you know some very sophisticated and intellectual little boys. (Also, girls have cooties.)

      • Or From Hell, or V for Vendetta, or Arkham Asylum, or All-Star Superman

        • veleda_k

          Saga, Bitch Planet, Alias…

  • rhino

    Starting to like this twitter thing.

    @TheCaliNerd @nickspencer Captain American had no problem punching Nazis. Maybe they need a writer for Dennis the Menace?— c (@jadedrhino) February 6, 2017

  • CP

    And also this:

    Now, all of this would in normal times be painfully awkward, what with the white guy in his late 30s trying to do Tumblr-speak. But to push the idea that campus leftists are the real danger at a time when anti-fascist protesters have been shot by fans of neo-Nazi Milo Yiannopoulos, who deliberately targets critics for harassment and deportation, and when campus recruiters for the “alt-right” turn out to have past form for burning down black churches, comes across as pushing “alternative facts.”

    Jesus Christ, the “real threat is the radical left” double standard never fucking ends.

    • Yep. Say what you like about the UCB folks, but none of them shot anyone.

  • Little Chak

    So here’s my pitch to Marvel Comics: hire Brubaker, hire Rucka, hire G. Willow Wilson, all writers whoíve shown a grasp on both storytelling and politics, or hire someone new with fire in the belly, and give us a Cap who will fight for us.

    Hear, hear. Ta-Nehisi Coates has been doing great work in the comic world, as well.

    When I first saw that “Consider this your trigger warning!” page, I remember feeling a bit flabbergasted that someone who writes a major comic for a major studio could write something that intensely schlocky and just … bad.

    Nick and Dick Spencer: peas in a pod.

    • Coates has been doing great work…I should do a post on his Black Panther run when I’ve had a chance to do some back-issue brushing-up.

      • Little Chak

        No rush, but I look forward to it. One of my first spats with someone on Twitter was a guy trying to hold his ground that he was acting “in solidarity” by begging/demanding that Coates get back in the fight by writing more “serious” essays, and stop doing comics.

  • @iaindavis100 @RichardBSpencer My Captain punches Nazis pic.twitter.com/ZtBkTyQBol— gocart mozart (@HarryTuttle11) February 2, 2017

  • Gareth

    The Hydra-Cap story did approach an interesting idea – a Hydra organisation that’s just as politically odious, but currently non-violent. If it was around at the same time as the actual Captain America and was facing some kind of violent resistance, he’d be forced to protect them. Not because he’s a secret Hydra agent, but because they have a right to free speech and peaceable assembly. Extrapolate that into the real world, and yes, he’d stop Richard Spencer from being punched.
    Changing the subject, I just watched “The First Avenger”, and I was amused to see that there are no swastikas in the entire movie. Even the conventional Nazis have turned their armbands around so you can’t see them. Probably just a German market thing.

    • Non-violent? HydraCap tossed a superhero out of a plane in his first issue.

      • Gareth

        I mean the version from his childhood, which is essentially the Elks.

        • As personified by the woman who beat his (drunken, abusive) father into a pulp?

    • rm

      Also, “Agents of SHIELD” has made it clear that Hydra is an ancient organization that is always growing new heads, and Red Skull among the Nazis was just one of those heads. However, in the show they are never less than evil, plotting world domination and devoting themselves to an eldritch god that hates humanity. When they take down SHIELD following the “Winter Soldier” movie, the Hydra agents really hate getting called Nazis. I didn’t know enough about comics in the last few decades to know this was an element from them, but it makes sense it was.

      I suspect that fan love for Grant Ward was a “Draco in leather pants” phenomenon, not the writers’ intention.

      Conclusion, I guess, is to agree that there are rich possibilities for political symbolism being muddled and wasted in this material, on TV as well as in the books.

      • AoS and the whole Ward clusterfuck are a pretty good example of how Marvel’s problems with Hydra stretch much further back than HydraCap, and even infect Winter Soldier, which is otherwise one of the better and more politically astute MCU entries. It’s very clear that the show, like the movie before it, wanted to get mileage out of dubbing its enemies Nazis, but had no real idea what that means and entails. So you end up conflating apolitical-but-evil characters with Nazism, and thus dilute what the term actually means. Meanwhile, the good guys – who are good, in part, because they stand in opposition to Nazis – espouse opinions that are, at the very least, fascism-friendly, steeped in reflexive xenophobia and thoughtless authoritarianism.

        HydraCap is basically the distillation of this approach, and as Steven points out, it plays into the alt-right’s hands, because it allows them to rebrand themselves as motivated by economic and cultural concerns.

        (For the record, I’m pretty sure that AoS had no idea what to do with Ward from one season to another. The end of the first season seemed to be setting him up for a redemption story, but the writers seem to have been scared off by how violently he split the fandom, so they ended up being stuck with a character who served no purpose. This is, of course, a separate issue from the way the show reinvents itself and its premise at least twice a season.)

        • Agreed, and the Grant Ward thing is an excellent example of trying to have your cake and eat it too.

          Winter Soldier is an interesting case, and I can’t wait for the ebook that contains my essay about it to come out so that I can just link to it already.

          • Gareth

            I couldn’t help noticing that Grant Ward displays no interest in Hydra’s ideology – it’s all personal loyalty for him.

            • CP

              They’re pretty much going the route of making Hydra a SPECTRE-like villain with no ideology, no nationality, no affiliations, no beliefs other than a few ridiculously broad “evil” notions like “mankind can’t be trusted with its own freedom” and generically villainous behavior.

              (The fact that they take offense to being called Nazis is something I’d consider spot-on as a commentary on the “alt-right” types who embrace the ideology but resent the label because of its negative implications… Except that the way AOS is built, it’s clear that it’s actually true).

              • Yeah, it’s a weird bit of line-toeing.

              • Dalai Rasta

                In its initial appearance, Hydra really was a SPECTRE counterpart, headed by an American businessman. The “Baron Strucker/Red Skull is the REAL head of Hydra” retcon and the explicit Nazi coding were added in subsequent appearances.

                • Dalai Rasta

                  In fairness, though, the leader of Hydra in its initial appearance was styled “the Imperial Hydra”, which suggests an organization much closer to home.

          • I still maintain that Ward could have been handled well, and used to make some pretty powerful political statements, if the show had had the courage of its convictions. But that would have required acknowledging a) that Ward was a product of SHIELD’s complicity, and perhaps even tacit approval, of Hydra, and b) that he embodied SHIELD’s core faults, chiefly its lack of self-awareness and tendency to blame others for its own failings. Basically, the question “can Ward be redeemed” should have been the same question as “can SHIELD be redeemed” – which doesn’t mean they had to have the same answer, since redemption is something you work towards, not something that is done to you, but acknowledging the similarity was the only way for the show to proceed honestly from the premise left to it by Winter Soldier.

            Instead, the show chose to go the “eek! Nazis!” route with Ward, again without actually knowing what that means, which coincidentally allowed it to let SHIELD off the hook for its own failures because, hey, the bad guys are Nazis.

            • You raise an excellent point – a lot of the bad writing stems from a lack of willingness to grapple with a story post-twist, to really follow through on the implications rather than trying to rubber-band back to status quo.

              • Murc

                Right?

                I mean… SHIELD is back now, operating openly, without a lot of evidence that they’ve really learned anything from their time in the wilderness. They’re still deathly allergic to things like oversight and accountability.

                For that matter, Phil Coulson’s mug has been splashed across live TV a whole bunch of times now. Why haven’t a lot of really fucking pissed off Avengers descended on him angrily demanding explanations for the grotesque emotional manipulation inflicted on them?

                • They’re still deathly allergic to things like oversight and accountability.

                  I don’t watch the show anymore, but I catch up with its storylines every now and then, and I just gave a huge belly laugh when I read about a recent one where Daisy – who went rogue and was using her powers to rob banks and the like – is caught on camera working with SHIELD. Reporters want to know why SHIELD is working with a known criminal, so the new director announces that she was actually undercover the whole time.

                  I mean, does no one involved with the show realize how bad this makes the characters look? Is this really anyone’s idea of heroic behavior – it doesn’t matter how many illegal things you do, if you’re in with the right people, they’ll all be smoothed over and you’ll experience no consequences for your actions?

                • Murc

                  Agents of SHIELD has actually been getting progressively better every season. The Ghost Rider storyline was great, the LMD plotline they’re currently doing is great, the Inhumans stuff had a rocky start but is consistently getting better. (Daisy’s congressional testimony was outstanding.)

                  It’s not without flaws but its much better than it once was.

                  I confess I’m not too perturbed by the undercover thing. It’s super dodgy, yeah, but on the other hand I’m not sure SHIELD wants to establish the precedent of “when you stop a bunch of crime and then save the world, we’re going to put you in bracelets.”

                • I think I’d be more persuaded by that reasoning if it weren’t par for the course for both this show and the entire MCU. It’s never “on this one extreme occasion, the fact that you saved the world is going to be treated as a mitigating circumstances.” It’s that the expectation that our heroes will never experience consequences is baked into the structure of the story, which provides them with opportunities for heroics specifically for that purpose.

                  Or, in other words, how Infinity War is going to sweep away all the consequences of Steve’s actions in Civil War.

                • Murc

                  It’s that the expectation that our heroes will never experience consequences is baked into the structure of the story, which provides them with opportunities for heroics specifically for that purpose.

                  Well, I mean… yes?

                  “Captain America does five to ten every time he goes rogue” is very, very boring. It means either Cap can never go rogue, or he can never face consequences for it, pick one.

                  Batman doesn’t face consequences for his actions either. Neither does Superman.

                • wjts

                  Batman doesn’t face consequences for his actions either.

                  The AV Club’s review of the new Lego Batman movie informs me that Commissioner (Barbara) Gordon describes Batman as an “unsupervised adult man in a bat costume karate-chopping poor people.”

                • rm

                  The “heroes don’t face consequences” thing is pretty much identical to what happens in cop shows and movies, where Our Action Hero Detective goes rogue and blows up a bunch of stuff on his way to exposing that he was framed, and catching the real bad guy. Once the Big Bad is caught, everything the hero did is automatically forgiven.

                  It’s a limitation of genre.

                  I actually liked AoS a lot more when it was mediocre with violent shifts in quality from one episode to the next. There was a charm about that, maybe because it was Star Trekesque in its unevenness.

                  Now it is consistently entertaining TV, but is a bit too much like a CSI franchise. I am glad, however, that Ward is Really Most Sincerely Dead.

        • Murc

          For the record, I’m pretty sure that AoS had no idea what to do with Ward from one season to another. The end of the first season seemed to be setting him up for a redemption story, but the writers seem to have been scared off by how violently he split the fandom, so they ended up being stuck with a character who served no purpose.

          Which is baffling, because if I were going to design a character to split the fandom, I would design… Grant Ward.

          I have to give Brett Dalton credit, he worked well with the materiel they gave him.

    • There is no way to non-violently espouse genocide, and no way that Cap would defend people who do so because of some free speech fanaticism. Cap probably wouldn’t let Richard Spencer be killed (and I suppose that neither would I), but if the only thing on the table was punching, he’d at the very least stand aside.

      • Gareth

        There is no way to non-violently espouse genocide, and no way that Cap would defend people who do so because of some free speech fanaticism.

        I think we have conflicting definitions of “violence”. The Silver Shirts were openly facist, advocated violent overthrow of the government, and had their leadership imprisoned for sedition. But I can’t find any examples of literal, physical violence from them.

        • Look up Teamsters Local 544 ’round about 1938.

          • Gareth

            Plenty of bloodthirsty rhetoric, but the actual violence was just punching a few photographers, who punched back.

            • Murc

              Plenty of bloodthirsty rhetoric, but the actual violence was just punching a few photographers,

              Which is, in fact, actual literal violence, which meets your criteria as espoused above.

              If the photographers had punched first, they’d be in the wrong, but would at least have a colorable case. Nazi’s have the same rights to stand around opening their vile mouths as anyone else does, but when they start actual violence you’re completely justified in breaking out not just fists, but bricks and baseball bats.

              And I say that as someone who regards the wholehearted endorsement of “physically attacking people because of what’s coming out of their mouths is great” as immensely disgusting and deeply shameful.

              • Gareth

                I concede the point. It does show how feeble the Shirts were at actual violence. Never mind the armed, organised Teamsters, the Shirts came off second best in a brawl with unarmed photographers.

              • rhino

                Nazis not only don’t have a right to open their vile mouths, they don’t have a right to fucking breathe.

                There are some evils that should not be allowed to walk under the sky.

            • Metaphorical, abstract punches?

  • Fidalgo

    When we last visited this subject, at least one member of the “its always okay to punch a Nazi” community had modified their stance to “It’s okay to punch a Nazi who is actively advocated for genocide against you provide s/he is of a similar size to you or small and you use non-lethal force.”

    Unresolved are: 1) What if the Nazi is smaller/weaker than you?

    2) What if the Nazi isn’t actively calling for genocide, but has done so at some point in the past?

    3) Is there any relationship between the likelihood that the putative-Nazi might actually be able to participate in a genocide and his/her punchability? For example, a Nazi who calls for genocide on the internet but is confined to a wheelchair with MS. Punchable?

    • so-in-so

      Do you use a laser to split those hairs, or what?

    • Sorry, I don’t have truck with this angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin nonsense. I’m descended from people who met while chucking bricks at Nazis at the Battle of Cable Street. Turns out if you throw bricks at them, the Nazis stop marching in Jewish neighborhoods.

    • brad

      1. I wouldn’t hit a woman, myself, but aside from “leftist” I’m not really in a group directly threatened by Nazis.
      2. Being a Nazi is calling for genocide.
      3. Find a Holocaust survivor who also has MS to throw the punch.

      Would it help if someone coded a chatbot?

    • tsam

      Talk shit, get hit. Seems pretty simple. nazis deserve to die. Punching them is a fair compromise

  • Stephen Reineccius

    I’ve been hoping to see a Cap post weighing in on this from you, Steven. You didn’t disappoint. Thankfully, at least here in Chicago, the whole NaziCap had who wholely diespised. There was quite a number of Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers Cap Hates Nazis signs at the Women’s March and in the various comic ships I frequent. So stupid Nick Spencer hasn’t seemed to be able to completely ruin them as random resistance. But seeing all of the NaziCap just hurts. I guess I just want my escapism right now, and comics can’t really do that right now. Captain America should be the one making sure we remember why fascism is terrifying and should be resisted at all times. NaziCap just makes it look fun.

    • CP

      I guess I just want my escapism right now, and comics can’t really do that right now.

      It’s a ridiculously little thing to complain about given how many problems are on the horizon, but it really pisses me off that the teabagger/Trumpist mentality has spread so far that I can’t even crack open a freaking Captain America comic, of all things, without finding it there.

      • Stephen Reineccius

        That was my exact reaction when I first saw the “Hail HYDRA” panel last May. Like seriously? When the Civil War II vision of Steve getting killed by Miles Morales came up, I just thought, good, dead Cap is so much better than NaziCap.

        • Aaron Morrow

          I’m six months behind on Marvel Unlimited, so … will I get a splash page of Morales punching NaziCap in the face?

          Screw plot (well, it is a Civil War sequel), I want to see this.

          • Stephen Reineccius

            It’s a nice splash page of a Nazi impaled on a stake being held by the collar by a black/Latino kid. Good enough for me.

    • Glad you liked it! And yes, it’s a huge bummer, especially because now would have been a perfect time to go back and redo the Cap-motorcycle-road-trip/Nomad/finding-yourself-finding-America thing, but instead we have this.

      • Stephen Reineccius

        I would kill to see Steve in that glorious (terrible) Nomad deep v costume again!

      • CP

        Glad you liked it! And yes, it’s a huge bummer, especially because now would have been a perfect time to go back and redo the Cap-motorcycle-road-trip/Nomad/finding-yourself-finding-America thing, but instead we have this.

        I expect that at some point before Trump’s out of office we’ll see something like that – the Nixon, Reagan and Dubya presidencies all featured Cap rebelling against the system in some form or other. But Jesus Christ, I wish they’d get on with it. (And they need to fire the current writer, because he most definitely does not have the chops for that).

      • I suspect we’re going to get something like Nomad when Cap returns in Infinity War, but I also think that’s going to be a mixed blessing. Judging by Civil War, Marvel has essentially depoliticized Cap and his choice to engage in violence, which now happens primarily for vaguely-explained and not very appealing personal reasons. When “No. You move” is taken to mean “a US-based private army should have total freedom to engage in costly, destructive military operations on sovereign soil with no oversight and accountability, and if you disagree you’re either an idiot or a puppy-kicking villain”, it’s probably not in the cards for Cap to stand up for immigrants and minorities against a increasingly authoritarian government.

        I mean, IW is still a couple of years away, and I’m assuming that Hollywood is going to start filtering Trump and his ideology through its machines, but I wouldn’t expect anything too radical to come out the other end.

        • True, although in compensation, Chris Evans looks really good on a motorcycle.

          • Stephen Reineccius

            Amen to that!

        • Murc

          Judging by Civil War, Marvel has essentially depoliticized Cap and his choice to engage in violence, which now happens primarily for vaguely-explained and not very appealing personal reasons. When “No. You move” is taken to mean “a US-based private army should have total freedom to engage in costly, destructive military operations on sovereign soil with no oversight and accountability, and if you disagree you’re either an idiot or a puppy-kicking villain”, it’s probably not in the cards for Cap to stand up for immigrants and minorities against a increasingly authoritarian government.

          This is the weakest part of Civil War, which is otherwise quite a good movie.

          I mean… they could have really finessed the point more, I think. They do an excellent job with Tony’s position, which is the Tony Stark Classic of “doing the right thing for dubious reasons that relate more to his personal damage than to a strong sense of deeply reflected on morality” which is great! Tony has a strong argument. Tony should have a strong argument, which was one of the great weaknesses of the comic version of Civil War.

          The problem is that Cap’s argument needs to be equally strong, and it just isn’t. The strong counterargument is there, to wit:

          “The pitch for oversight and accountability would be much stronger if it were coming from someone who hadn’t sent death squads into Harlem to try and murder one of our friends, and if it weren’t putting control of what we do into the hands of such sterling luminaries of legitimate governance such as Russia and China. This isn’t even going into the fact that the U.S government hasn’t been de-Hydrafied to anything close to what I consider an acceptable standard. I don’t like being an illegal vigilante, but right now we don’t have good alternative options. Bring me some.”

          That’s an argument with very real problems but is at least as strong as Tony’s but they don’t really make it.

          I will give the filmakers credit; Steve’s outlawry in Civil War, in practice, is driven more by exigent circumstances than it is by him just being a dick. The security apparatus he’s being asked to be a part of sends a death squad after his friend and then laughs in his face when he demands Bucky be given a lawyer. And then he has evidence that there are like six more Bucky’s out there and nobody will listen to him, so of course he does something about it.

          • Agreed especially on that last point – one of the things I liked about the movie was that everyone acts much more reasonable and you can see multiple points where compromise could have happened if not for bad timing.

            • Stephen Reineccius

              I still think Civil War basically could have ended when Steve and Tony and back talking after Steve, Bucky, Sam, and Tchalla were apprehended. All it would have taken was a good, honest, adult 30 minute conversation.

          • Yeah, I mean, Civil War definitely teeters on the verge of working and not making Steve look like a fascist asshole. As you say, the handling of Tony is really good, which is impressive given how much he needs to walk back from Age of Ultron.

            I think a big part of why it doesn’t work is that it starts from the assumption that the Avengers are the superpowered CIA, and even by those standards, they are incredibly destructive and untrustworthy. I mean, once you start from the premise that your heroes, on a good day when they’re not being pressured by exigent circumstances, plot a large-scale military operation in the middle of a city with no real thought to moving the fight away from civilians, and of course no cooperation with local authorities, you’re really not going to be able to come back to the point that they should be allowed to operate with no oversight.

            And an even bigger problem is that the film doesn’t actually discuss this issue. It immediately introduces Bucky as the crux of the problem (and as you say, creates a set of circumstances whereby Steve is constantly forced into illegal actions), and never comes back to the question of “are we OK with the Avengers treating Lagos, population 5.2 million, as a staging ground for a superhero fight?”

          • David Hunt

            That’s a good presentation of some Pro-Cap arguments. Let me add another:

            “The Sokovia Accords say that we can’t take action without U.N. Approval. If we’d been operating under those restrictions when NYC was invaded or when Sokovia was turned into a dinosaur killer, then Humans would no longer be the dominant life form on this planet. The Avengers will be needed again at some point to act quickly and definitively in order to save the Human Race (again) and the current setup of oversight insures that this cannot happen.”

            That’s the argument that sprang into my head immediately while I was sitting in the theater watching the movie.

            • Why would we assume that the UN would refuse to grant authorization to act in the case of the Chitauri attack on New York? For that matter, at the time the Avengers were operating under the auspices of SHIELD and the World Security Council, which, while obviously not without their problems, were practically begging them to take the field.

              As for Sokovia, that’s an odd example too, since if the Avengers had been under UN control during the events of AoU, Tony would probably never have gotten permission to create Ultron, and the problem wouldn’t have occurred in the first place. (And if he had and it did, again, I don’t see why you’d assume that the UN wouldn’t have given the Avengers the green light to protect Sokovia.)

              • Murc

                Why would we assume that the UN would refuse to grant authorization to act in the case of the Chitauri attack on New York?

                Because they’d have been incapable of doing so, being as how it takes a long time to get the UN together and to make a decision when the UN isn’t being shot up by aliens?

                For that matter, at the time the Avengers were operating under the auspices of SHIELD and the World Security Council, which, while obviously not without their problems, were practically begging them to take the field.

                … this is the opposite of what happened! When Fury informed the World Security Council that the Avengers were taking the field, their response was “Fuck the Avengers” and an immediate order to launch nukes.

                I don’t see why you’d assume that the UN wouldn’t have given the Avengers the green light to protect Sokovia.

                Again, they’d have been unable to act quickly enough.

                Having said all that, the reasonable response on the pro-Accords side would be “Yes, you’ve made a strong point. Obviously a hypothetical Avengers organization would be empowered to act quickly in those situations, subject to oversight after the fact. They just wouldn’t be allowed to run ops like the one in Lagos, where time isn’t a factor, on their own.”

                That is probably the deal Tony and Steve would have made eventually if not for Zemo.

                • David Hunt

                  Thank, Murc. I wasn’t clear in my response. I was, indeed, pointing out that the Avengers often need to move at a moment’s notice to save the planet and waiting for a committee to give them the go means that it will be too late to deal with the threat.

                  This was the first problem I saw with the Accords: the logistics of the setup simply made them impossible to work as stated.

  • brad

    If they weren’t busy fucking things up with HydraCap this would be a fertile time for storytelling with Rodgers and Wilson. Rodgers should be going Nomad for a while, working underground in the middle of the country to fight invigorated homegrown fascistic terrorism. Make a new Super Patriot as the big baddie.
    Wilson should be facing the challenge of a new Admin which basically loathes all he stands for and pens him in, forces him to act in ways contrary to his what should be unquestionably SJW instincts, and makes him find ways to resist and not become part of it without giving up and joining Rodgers on the road.
    The stories could practically write themselves. Instead, this convoluted and just awful misuse.

    • I swear I didn’t see this before I wrote the comment above about Nomad.

      But yes, absolutely.

      • brad

        And there’s even the inevitable crossover element to it. Rodgers would, presumably, be mostly defending refugees and immigrants and Muslims in the heartland, Wilson could be pitted against a revolutionary group acting out against the restrictive policies of the new Admin. Easy to see it leading to Rodgers vs Wilson at some private contractor detention camp.
        Meh.

        • Murc

          Rogers. His name is Steve Rogers.

          • brad

            Oops. I haven’t read the books in a long time. My bad.

        • brad

          And the Super Patriot is, of course, actually a White House official of dubious position but enormous influence. Who’s actually also the leader of the group Wilson is opposed to, using both sides of the coin to manipulate public opinion and a malleable President.

          • rm

            This brainstorming session is actually getting close to some ongoing plotlines in the current season of “Agents of SHIELD.” But printed comics have a lot more freedom to make pointed commentary than a broadcast network TV show.

        • CP

          Rodgers would, presumably, be mostly defending refugees and immigrants and Muslims in the heartland

          You know what I’d love to see brought up? The fact that Steve Rogers is himself an Irish-Catholic inner-city immigrant from a time period when Irish-Catholics were as despised as Mexicans and Muslims are today.

          Steve is just young enough that he might not remember Al Smith’s campaign being greeted with burning crosses all over the nation, and he definitely wouldn’t remember the 1920s puritan/nativist hysterical backlash against his people and many others, but he certainly would’ve heard all about it by the time he’d grown up, and either way he would’ve lived in a world defined by that hatred. Steve is a white man (by today’s standards) who is in the unique position of being able to sympathize and empathize with today’s immigrants in a way that white men born after World War Two simply can’t.

          That’s what they should be exploring, if they really want to plug into his 1930s past and draw analogies with the Trumpian present. The fact that they don’t and have instead opted to make him a Hydra agent (even by Cosmic Cube) speaks volumes for how blinkered and out-of-touch the writers are, both with the modern-day issues that they’re trying to address and with their own source material.

          • Yeah, he would have been 4 (or 6, depending on the timeline) when the 1924 Democratic Party Convention (in Madison Square Garden) split over Al Smith’s anti-Klan plank while tens of thousands of the sheet-wearing bastards had a “Klanbake” across the river in New Jersey.

            But yes, I’m sure his mother would have reminded him.

          • rm

            Not only that, but on this very blog, if I recall correctly, we discussed how his background (from his earliest appearances in the ’40s) as an art student in NY in the ’30s guarantees that he has heard all the debates of the Socialist and Communist left wing in the Depression.

            • CP

              Oh yeah. He’s definitely rooted in liberal and left wing tradition. I’m just saying that his heritage makes him uniquely qualified to comment on the struggles of this particular time with immigrants fighting nativist populism – more so than, say, civil rights or feminism or anti war activism.

  • I think part of the problem is that we’re discussing the veracity of punching Nazis when the real enemy is more like Hydra :-)

    • rm

      The real enemy does seem to be opposed to every last good thing in the world, and to wish the destruction of humanity. Our real-life villains are cartoonishly over the top.

  • Murc

    One thing I’d like to add: The de-Nazification of HYDRA sort of really didn’t take hold in a strong way until the MCU came into it. (I know the article is about the comics mostly but it does touch on the movies and TV show.) Captain America: The First Avenger went to a LOT of effort to de-Nazify the Red Skull and HYDRA, to the point of having him kill actual Nazi’s who came there to rein him in and to bad-mouth Hitler. And after that they ran hard away from the Nazi thing in Winter Soldier, in Agents of SHIELD… anyone coming to HYDRA through the MCU instead of the comics would, in think, be quite surprised at the comic-book roots of it.

    I’m not quite sure why they did that; I expect it was to increase marketability, especially abroad, and also so that HYDRA could be cool villains people could ironically pretend to emulate, whispering “Hail Hydra” to each other at conventions and whatnot, and it is hard to do that if they are actual-factual Nazis. You can cosplay as Thanos or Loki and that’s no big deal, but you can’t put on a Red Skull costume if it requires you bedeck yourself with swastikas.

    Regardless of the reasoning, tho, that’s the direction Marvel moved with it. And that’s fine, except that they’re kind of fucking it up. If this is what they want they want to do, they need to take a clear editorial line: “Hey, we’re moving HYDRA away from their Nazi origins because Nazi’s aren’t Indiana Jones villains anymore, they’re terrifyingly real and that makes their use as escapist fantasy a lot less easy to do.” But they aren’t doing that. And it’s a huge clusterfuck for all the reasons Steven outlined in his article.

    You know, these days the only Marvel comics I’m reading are their peripheral books. Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, Thor, and after last month Wasp. Their mainline stuff has been turning me off for awhile and this is one of the reasons.

    • I’m not quite sure why they did that

      I honestly wouldn’t discount the influence of several decades of pop culture that treated Nazis as if they were Indiana Jones villains. I think at some point you get stuck in that mode, and it’s easier to adapt your Nazi villains to this new cartoonish standard than to figure out how to write a comic book movie that also gives proper credence to the full horror of what the Nazis actually were.

      Which might even have been OK, if Marvel didn’t, as you say, then turn around and try to plug the new, de-Nazified Hydra into overtly political storytelling in which their Nazi-ness is the entire point.

      You know, these days the only Marvel comics I’m reading are their peripheral books.

      Have you read Tom King’s run of The Vision? I really enjoyed it, both for its handling of superhero tropes, and as a well-done SF story. Plus, it made me interested in a character who left me completely cold in the movies.

      • Murc

        Which might even have been OK, if Marvel didn’t, as you say, then turn around and try to plug the new, de-Nazified Hydra into overtly political storytelling in which their Nazi-ness is the entire point.

        What’s really annoying is that they didn’t even make HYDRA into very coherent fascists. That’s doable! Part of the problem of fascism is that it is a seductive and terrifying political ideology. If they’d wanted to de-racialize that, fine, sure, go ahead, but if you do that you need to give them a stronger hook on the dystopian authoritarianism.

        Have you read Tom King’s run of The Vision?

        I need to pick up that trade.

        • CP

          What’s really annoying is that they didn’t even make HYDRA into very coherent fascists. That’s doable! Part of the problem of fascism is that it is a seductive and terrifying political ideology. If they’d wanted to de-racialize that, fine, sure, go ahead, but if you do that you need to give them a stronger hook on the dystopian authoritarianism.

          I’ve belatedly realized that part of the problem is that by definition, fascism’s prejudices are those of society at large – the Nazis were able to rise only because there was already fertile ground for antisemitism, the KKK was able to rise only because anti-black racism was a deeply entrenched prejudice, etc. This makes it, not impossible, but very uncomfortable for most people to talk about fascism in any meaningful way because once you start indicting your fascists, you’re also indicting your own society for its sins.

          Harry Potter is one of the few works of fiction I’ve read that seems to get this. It gives you the stereotypical evil enemy in the form of the Death Eaters, but it also makes it clear that “milder” forms of their prejudices are firmly entrenched in wizarding society. Part of the reason the Ministry is an unreliable ally against them is that it’s already infested with similar lines of thought, and that its leadership finds it more comfortable to persecute the weird and unpopular (i.e. the people Dumbledore hangs out with) than to face the real threat.

          Of course, that’s easier to do in a wholly fictional world than it is in real life.

          • I 100% agree about Harry Potter. It’s depressing how seldom fictional depictions of fascism get it right. Rowling’s treatment of the subject is one of the series’ biggest strengths.

          • This makes it, not impossible, but very uncomfortable for most people to talk about fascism in any meaningful way because once you start indicting your fascists, you’re also indicting your own society for its sins.

            This is, of course, the realization that Winter Soldier edged right up to, and then immediately scurried away from as fast as its little legs could carry it. The point of that movie should never have been “we’ve been infiltrated by secret Nazis!”, but rather “we allowed Nazis to infiltrate us because there was something about their ideology that appealed to us, and we need to be on the lookout for that from now on.” But because the MCU is ultimately rooted in authoritarianism and xenophobia, it makes no sense for its writing to actually condemn those qualities in its enemies.

            • CP

              Yep. Which goes back to the basic problem that, to quote you paraphrasing someone else, Nazi isn’t something you are, Nazi is something you do. And there are plenty of people who aren’t conveniently swastika-coded for viewer convenience but are basically running on the same worldview.

      • I second the recommendation, although I’d also call it a peripheral book.

        • Oh, absolutely. And frankly, to me that’s part of its appeal.

    • Gareth

      I expect it was to increase marketability, especially abroad, and also so that HYDRA could be cool villains people could ironically pretend to emulate, whispering “Hail Hydra” to each other at conventions and whatnot, and it is hard to do that if they are actual-factual Nazis.

      This clip would be a lot less amusing with actual Nazis.

    • Halloween Jack

      Gwenpool is also great, as it’s being written by Christopher Hastings of Dr. McNinja fame.

  • ThresherK (KadeKo)

    Here’s Spencer’s skin being gotten under. Cartoonist David Willis imagines a Captain America who wouldn’t punch a Nazi.

    • I saw that! David Willis is good at the harsh burn; he did a rather famous one on Frank Miller.

  • David Hunt

    I’ve been wondering about Cap the face-punching of Ricard Spencer (the real life Neo-Nazi) and whether he would have punched Spencer. I don’t think Steve would have done so. If he were standing near that human stain, he’d be standing up and arguing against his vile ideology. He’d do something like talk about his experiences liberating the death camps and make sure that people knew that this was where Spencer’s ideas lead. And because he’s Captain America, he’d win over any reasonable person in earshot. As Steven has said, Steve Rogers’ secret superpower is weaponized morality.

    I also think that if someone walked up to Spencer and punched him in the face, Steve would stand there, watch, and wish that he could do that. If someone pulled a knife on Spencer, he’d stop them.

    I haven’t read Cap in many years, but this is my view.

    I’m not remotely sorry that real-life Spencer got punched in the face except for the worry that using violence against him makes him look more sympathetic.

  • LondonKdS

    Something extra nasty I just noticed that will have passed over the heads of people who aren’t into current superhero comics – there’s a DC comic series called “DC Comic Bombshells”, which is very popular with the young, female audience and is a WWII alternate universe themed around “selected female DC heroes, who are mostly lesbian or bisexual even when they aren’t in main universe, beating up Nazis and the unspeakable occult creatures they foolishly allied with while looking cute and flirting with each other”.

    So Spencer, almost certainly deliberately, gave his evil fanatical Tumblr feminists the name of an actual Nazi-punching group of queer female superheroes popular with the audience often dismissed as “Tumblr feminists”.

  • Halloween Jack

    I think that what’s happening to Nick Spencer is similar to what’s happened to a number of other writers at Marvel: they’re promoted to writing jobs on flagship books/characters and basically act as the front men for controversial editorial mandates. Dan Slott went from a quirky, well-regarded writer on titles such as GLA: Misassembled (an extended, pointed piss-take on both Avengers: Disassembled and DC’s Identity Crisis and She-Hulk to being the head writer on the Spider-Man books, shortly after the editorial decision to not only end Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson but to have him make a literal deal with the devil to retcon it out of existence. Slott spent the next several years alternately baiting irate fans online and insisting that gimmick storylines such as having Peter and Doctor Octopus switching minds were permanent changes to the status quo. (Sound familiar?) You also have Charles Soule, who similarly did short but effective runs on Thunderbolts and She-Hulk, get put in charge of the different Inhumans books, which drew the wrath of X-Fans who felt that the mutants were being jobbed to make the Inhumans look better because Marvel had the movie rights to Black Bolt and Co. And thus with Spencer, who did a funny book called Superior Foes of Spider-Man (about Spidey’s B-list villains) that I quite enjoyed. All I can say is they’d better keep their hands off of Al Ewing.

It is main inner container footer text