Because of recent events on the german messageboards I decided to take a brake from my reports of my first spanish comic convention ( and because I had a little case of writers block ) and write about my take on Captain America.
The reason why Captain America is discussed so intense on the german message boards right now is on one side the release of the Marvel Monster from PANINI with the first story of the Ed Brubaker run on Captain America. So far most people who read it were absolutely blown away, most of them commenting that they never saw Captain America as such a multilayered superhero and always had him pegged for nothing more than a propaganda machine. The other thing is that with the first three issues of CIVIL WAR also edited in german there is this whole discussion about " Whose side are you on ? " in full effect and a lot of people have discovered that Captain America is not the dull, one - sided character they thought he was. A lot of people experience that they side with a superhero they always found lacking personality and intelligence.
While I was participating in the discussion and even went so far as to search for pictures of the covers of individual issues to show which issues I was talking about and posting the first part of my column that was about Captain America. A few years ago the german comicsite COMICGATE was looking for writers to provide content and I wrote what was supposed to be the first of many installments in a new column. But my second essay got somehow lost and I never wrote a third. All this material about Captain America that I suddenly had in my hands made me think that maybe now would be a good time to post it in my own blog. Even though my column was written in 2003 some parts are still true. But more about that when we get to that part. Now I´m not going to talk about the events at the end and after CIVIL WAR. There´s still plenty of time when I write my big wrap up post about CIVIL WAR ( in two or three years ) to talk about the INITIATIVE. Let´s just say that in the USA there has also been a lot of discussion and remembrance where Steve Rogers is concerned.
So maybe this post is also interesting for my readers overseas and tells what I like to call " My Captain America Story " which is kind of like MY X - MEN STORY . This starts really early in my comic reading career. Which means the comics of Williams Verlag which was the publisher of Marvel Comics in Germany when I was still a little kid reading my first comics.
At that time that was Spider - Man ( die erstaunliche Spinne ), Thor ( der mächtige Thor ) and Avengers ( die ruhmreichen Rächer ) where Cap was at first an overwhelmed member and later on a reluctant team leader who over a period of time evolved into the best leader. Now while I found this whole aspect of a man out of his time very interesting I never sought out Captain America´s own book. Which might have something to do with the fact that it wasn´t edited in Germany. At that time my english was not very good and I had to take what was available. I think the first issues of Captain America´s own series that I got to read was a french reprint with Captain America fighting the statue of Abraham Lincoln on the cover.
Who knew they had Captain America comics in France ? I was there during
my school days as part of an student exchange but since the guy who was
my exchange partner was only interested in soccer I was mostly spending
my free time trying to find some interesting comics. The Captain America comic was from his whole soul searching period where he was trying to find out more about his past and his family. But since I never got any of the following issues they were quickly forgotten. The next time I encountered Captain America ( besides in the Avengers ) was in Spain. The same comic company that published Iron Man and other books like SHANG CHI MASTER OF KUNG FU or IRON FIST.
One of the issues was the one with Scarecrow and the others were of the DEATHLOK story. I only managed to find some scattered issues of Mike Zeck´s stint on the series.
Now in my opinion Mike Zeck is one of the All Time Greatest Comic Book Artists. His work on Shang Chi and Captain America is just absolutely brilliant. He doesn´t do much work anymore and I think the comic landscape is a little bleaker for it. On my list of artists who should do more work and who I really miss he´s in the top ten.
Now I never had many of the Mike Zeck issues and I sure whish Marvel would put those issues into an ESSENTIAL. The only version I have of the issues are the ones which were edited many years later in Germany in the Condor poket books where they reduced the text from two sentences to two words. And the reprint of the DEATHLOK story I bought a few years back. The next step in my comic reading career came when I was at the german railway company DEUTSCHE BUNDESBAHN becoming a car mechanic ( yes, they had cars too and busses ). Not because the job was my dream job but because it took place in Stuttgart and since I had a subway ticket I could go to the main station in Stuttgart. There was a newsstand where you could buy american comics and I read Walter Simonson´ THOR, Mike Mignola´s HULK and John Byrne´s FANTASTIC FOUR. Oh, that were the good days. At that time I was desperate for american comics and I bought any I could find. No matter what was inside or how it was drawn. And that´s the only excuse I have for buying this:
CAPTAIN AMERICA 306 really looks as bad inside as on the cover and I only remember that the story had something to do with Captain Britain and Mordred. I have managed to forget almost anything about the issue and after years of therapy the nightmares don´t come as frequent. Now while this was in itself bad enough it didn´t scare me off the title completely. I have no idea why. But what followed wasn´t much better.
Okay. Now I bought this comic out of sheer curiosity. I mean what was Daredevil doing in his old uniform ? Why was he built like Hulk and why was he trying to beat up Cap ? And who the hell was Demolition Man ? This comic introduced me to D - Man but otherwise didn´t do much to put Captain America high om my reading priority list. But that all changed with the very next issue I got my hands on.
Captain America 322. The start of a storyline that turned the title into a must - read book for a whole generation and built up the foundation of the character for me. The superhuman rights comission tried to bribe Steve Rogers to take his orders straight from them only to have Steve hand them his uniform and tell them where to stick it. He outright refused to be their lapdog and showed real backbone. This was crazy ! This was cool ! And it was totally unexpected. For me it presented the character in a whole new light and I started to think more about the character. The unfolding story had me hooked and I couldn´t wait for the next issue. Because now that Steve Rogers had quit there was one question burning in everyone´s mind.
At that time I didn´t know it but between the time when Captain America was frozen in a block of ice and when the Avengers finally found him there were two other guys who had played the role of Captain America. And the army being the army they didn´t even consider the possibility that maybe there was more to being Captain America than having the strength, the training and the uniform. So they went looking for a replacement and found an old enemy of Captain America called Super - Patriot of all things ( in Germany often confused with Superman ).
He already had gone toe to toe with Steve Rogers so they thought : why not recruit him ? At least he has a more patriotic attitude and we can whip him in shape. So the new Captain America was Jack Daniels. Or Johnny Walker. Or Jim Beam ? Heck, I can´t remember because he changed his name so often. I only remember it was something alcoholic and it wasn´t Southern Comfort. Although that was not too farfetched. The writer was definitely drinking too much to come up with the names. Or not enough.
They even made one of his old drinking buddies from his last superteam into the new Bucky. The one line I clearly remember ( and my brother will back me up on this ) is when they make fun of the new Bucky : Buck - buck - bucky has chick - chick - chicken legs. Yes, spandex is not for everyone. Anyway, the fact that the black guy was the sidekick and not the hero caused much controversy inside the story and outside.
Adding fuel to the fire was the next issue where Johnny Walker ( I´m going to use one of the many names randomly from now on ) has to go on his first mission. In the last few issues the reader had learned how difficult is was to step into the shoes of Captain America through the training for the new Cap. Instructed by the Taskmaster and going through a grueling training he still didn´t manage to use his shield as efficiently as the old Cap. So still a bit shaky he had to go to a nice little town to go undercover and end a radical rightwing group called THE WATCHDOGS. The only problem was that Jim Beam didn´t find their ideology that dangerous since it was really close to his own thinking. So he hesitated and almost got his partner lynched by the costumed version of the clan.
While the story unfolded with Steve Rogers adopting the identity of THE CAPTAIN and uncovering a secret conspiracy a new artist took over the title : Kieron Dwyer. He slowly evolved as an artist and storyteller which is something that always appealed to me. In the end Steve squared off against Jim Beam in the big 350th anniversary issue reclaiming the mantle of Captain America.
Jim Beam took the uniform of The Captain but was from this moment on known as the U.S.Agent. Later on Johnny Walker began to exhibit manic tendencies that ranged from stlghtly crazy to outright psichotic. Like the death of Superman many years later this story showed what was unique about Cap and made me much more interested in the character.
I came to appreciate Steve Rogers not only for being a natural born leader, a seasoned soldier who got his experience fighting in the trenches and one of the best fighters in hand to hand combat. I also began to admire his integrity, his resolve to right the injustices of the world and his absolute resolve to never give up and to keep fighting till the end.
By the way : in the storyline about the new Cap Steve Rogers clashed with Iron Man. At that time it was because the ARMOR WARS but it is interesting how history repeats itself. Maybe they just love to fight. Iron Man was sporting the red and silver armor which is still the best armor there ever was. It really looked like somebody was inside the armor without it looking to bulky. Heavy but also streamlined. He had a backpack where he could transport stuff and he could attach various techno gadgets. And the best of all were the shoulder pads. Of course this was also the armor he wore the shortest amount of time since it was the best he ever had.
After a few issues dealing with Steve´s return to the role of Cap ( including this awfully drawn one with Mother Night
whose skintight robe lead to many phantasies not suitable for minors )
began THE BLOODSTONE HUNT a six - part story that introduced CROSSBONES one of the best characters of Captain America lore. His striking visual, his recklessness and a costume that was a cross between pirate and punisher he quickly became a fan favorite.
Now I don´t know if I already had a pull list or a steady comic dealer at that time but I have some gaps in my collection. I didn´t read the story linear and only found some of the issues years later. I have some of the ACTS OF VENGEANCE issues but right now I don´t remember which ones.
I remember the next big storyline was STREETS OF POISON in which Captain America inhaled a lot of drugs that were vaporise during a warehouse explosion. These drugs reacted with the super soldier formula and sent Cap on the worst trip ever. So this is the second time Cap turned into a maniac. So that´s no novel idea.
The new regular artist was Ron Lim who is a special favorite of me. He had a spectacular run on Silver Surfer and took over the INFINITY franchise after George Perez left the first miniseries. For the last years he hasn´t done much work but this year he did a AVENGERS NEXT miniseries and is doing an upcoming FANTASTIC FIVE miniseries. I´m a big fan of the Marvel2 universe especially when Ron Lim is doing the artwork like in Juggernaut2.
During STREETS OF POISON Captain America went on a rampage fighting friends, foes and teenagers and in the end had to purge his system from the super soldier serum. He lost his additional strength and had to train again and make much more effort to mantain his usual performance levels which turned his confrontation with Crossbones into a trial by fire.
Another storyline that came out of the BLOODSTONE HUNT was Steve´s romantic involvement with Diamondback and the storyline with the Serpent society. I slowly lost interest in the title and only had some scattered issues.
There are some issues which I would truly have liked to read like this one where Captain America meets Paul Bunyan and other american myths and persons of the american history.
Or this one that is especially interesting for german comic readers.
With other comics I was glad I haven´t read them especially the issues with MODAM. As if MODOK was not bad enough someone at Marvel had to go and make a female version. I think MODOK was Marvel´s first superdeformed character.
The last issue I bought was this one with Thor ( or was it Eric Masterson ? )as a guest star sporting his stylish new armor. In the story they were in this " haunted house " full of goo. The less said about it the better.
So I missed such brilliant issues like the one with Capwolf.....
and even more MODAM.....
or Cap´s garish new armor. You just have to love it when you can see how much influence the marketing ( in this instance the toy manufacturers ) has on a company. I mean who came up with this ugly sumbitch ? I would not be caught dead in this flytrap. Which probably was Cap´s problem anyway. Oh no, where is your " the pain " sticker when you really need it ?
This was the reason I missed the first issue of Mark Waid´s Captain America run. Within two issues he managed to turn the lagging title that was moments away from cancellation into a must - read title. Starting with the death of Captain America he brought the Red Skull back one of Cap´s best villains who in the end battled with Cap for a cosmic cube.
Aided by the fantastic art of Ron Garney Cap was one of Marvel´s cashcows again. Super stories with super art. Comic readers loved it. Comic critics loved it. Comic writers envied it. So normally it couldn´t last longer than ten issues. When Marvel had the brilliant idea to " image " - size their books Captain Marvel was one of the titles that should get the special treatment of Rob Liefeld. So one month we had this.
And the next month we had this. Somehow Marvel thought it would be a great idea to let image guys relaunch four of their books. Fantastic Four was cool artwise - as long as Jim Lee was drawing, Iron Man was also interesting artwise because of Whilce Portacchio and had some good story too. The other two books were done by Rob Liefeld and while Avengers had some perverse interest Captain America got the brunt of the negative reaction.
And that´s no wonder. Rob gave us a Cap with an eagle on his forehead instead of the traditional " a ", magic boots that changed from panel to panel but most importantly he gave us the infamous.....manboobs. I don´t know what he was thinking but....
He also gave us a female version of Bucky that ended up in an alternative universe or whatnot. It´s difficult to remember the whole HEROES REBORN fiasko. At least it didn´t last more than a year and after it the old books returned.
Now I have to say that I read the issues. Yes, I did. I got them with a package deal and they were cheap. What´s even worse is that it´s not the worst story I´ve read. There are other stories that are far worse like John Byrne´s SPIDER - MAN : CHAPTER ONE.
The story is about Steve Rogers a guy who discoveres that he used to be Captain America but they somehow wiped his memory. He finds out about a secret conspiracy and ends up fighting Hydra agents in Washington and stuff. The story used all the usual elements but with modernized versions of Red Sjull, Baron Zemo and the Falcon. Nothing really new and just your basical espionage, sci fi / spy flick but quite entertaining.
Mark Waid and Ron Garney returned to Captain America and the book
regained it´s position at the sales charts. From all the relaunched
books this was the only one who really didn´t need it. All Marvel
achieved in the end was to piss off fans because they cancelled their
book and replaced it with one that was basically ....crap. For a whole
year they had to suffer but in the end Steve Rogers returned.
In the story Mark Waid again examined the character of Steve Rogers. A whole year had passed since the events of ONSLAUGHT in the Marvel universe and the heroes who vanished while defending earth were believed to have died. So when Cap returns he surpasses his status as living legend and moves closer to the second coming of Christ or if people found out Elvis was still alive. He has to deal with his new superstar role something Hawkeye finds amusing to no end. Issue 2 is one of the best issues of the whole run because something happens that sets in motion a whole storyline : Cap loses his shield.
Now it´s almost impossibel to picture Cap without his shield. It´s like Batman and Robin, Stan and Ollie or Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. And what´s even worse is that in the issue Mark Waid spotlights the shield throughout the entire issue till it becomes as important as Tonto to the Lone Ranger. He shows the reader how magnificient it is as a weapon, a shield or as a distraction. On the final pages Cap looks naked without it. So he had to get a replacement.
For the next few issues Cap used his old shield which was not as resilient as his old shield. I think they made a new version of it which he then used. Sadly Ron Garney left the book very quick but after a few issues Andy Kubert took over the art chores. And he provided fantastic artwork.
Now all the while his old pals Namor and Iron Man were trying to find the shield at the bottom of the sea. But when they finally retrieved it the remnants crumbled between their fingers. Tony Stark felt so bad about the whole mess that he gave Cap a spiffy new toy.
The new shield was activated through a powerglove and could morph into different shapes and weapons. Like the scarf in Kevin Maguire´s BRAVURA series STRIKEBACK. In the story Cap went up against Nightmare ( who´s theme are dreams and which dream could be greater than the american dream )
the Red Skull ( which should be obligatory for every run complete with cosmic cube and all )
and even Korvak who had to be introduced especially to the german readers when the story was published here since the Avengers storyline THE KORVAC SAGA never was released in Germany.
The story culminated in a battle of an totally out numbered Cap taking on an almost allpowerful Claw with nothing more than the battered and bruised remains of his old shield that are only held together by duct tape.
In a last attempt to stop him Cap´s shield takes the full brunt of Claw´s sonic shockwaves which together with the vibranium of Wakanda ( where the final showdown takes place ) leads to an unexpected result - restoring Cap´s shield.
Now this is what I call writing. I want to mention that because the next thing on the book was Dan Jurgens and a thing I like to call " Superman with a shield ". Now I´m a big fan of Dan Jurgens who in my opinion has written some of the best Superman stories like THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN. The problem was that when he left Superman his heart stayed on the book. Which means that while he may be writing other books in his mind he is still trying to write Superman. Now that was not as obvious on other titles like THOR were he was writing Superman with a hammer. But in Captain America the difference was so big that even WIZARD caught up to it and speculated that he was rewriting unused Superman scripts. Cap behaved reckless, endangered civilians and even stopped a missile.
The whole thing ended in a ridiculous story in the Savage Land with Ka - Zar, Zabu and some weird shit with mutated dinosaurs. Which would have been a good idea for someone like Grant Morrison. Anyway, Dan Jurgens also took over the art and I left the title. Till September 11th. That´s when the most controversial run on the title started and which also led me to write the text you will find directly under this whole story.
Under the Marvel Knights banner John Ney Rieber and John Cassaday relaunched the book with a big emphasis on the political and ideological aspects of Captain America. The first storyline that dealt with terrorism caused quite a ruckus. The second one called THE EXTREMISTS was more interesting because it was Trevor Hairsine´s debut in the big comics. After doing the art for the first issues of CROSSWAR that became an overnight success this was his first work for a bigger comic publisher. ICE was the name of the next story. With Jae Lee on art it posed the question if the United States knew that Steve Rogers was captured in a block of ice during the end of the second world war. What´s more, did they deliberately leave him in the ice to prevent him from stopping them when they nuked Japan ?
CAP LIVES ! was a neat story that started as a " what if " - story and than became a possible prologue to Cap´s liberation from the ice by the Avengers. In the story Cap is freed from the ice by Nazis who have won the war. Of course Cap quickly becomes the new leader of the resistance in a world without superheroes. All the Marvel characters appear but without their superpowers. Beautiful rendered by the much underrated Lee Weeks ( have you noticed how many comic pros have the name Lee ? Maybe I should change my name to LEEZERO ) I really enjoyed this story.
Which was one reason why I jumped ship again for the Chris Bachalo story. Now I was a fan of Chris when he started out on titles like CHILDREN´S CRUSADE and X - MEN UNLIMITED. But somewhere around STEAMPUNK his artwork evolved into the graphic equivalent of a cryptogramm. Really. His composition wakes me confused and the art gives me headaches. I spend whole days trying to figure out where one person ends and where the next one begins. What is foreground and what is background. I really love his issues of GENERATON X especially the ones co - starring Wolverine but I just can´t read his new stuff. The last effort on this incarnation of the title was the story by Kirkman the genius behind INVINCIBLE, one of the best superhero books noone is reading ( the other being SAVAGE DRAGON ). Now this proved that even a genius can have an off day since it was a really bad story. Scott Eaton does his best on the artfront to make it worthwhile for the readers but the story is just kind of blah. Even an appearance by BATROC THE LEAPER didn´t save the story.
Now it´s funny how popular Batroc the leaper is with the writers of Captain America. John Byrne used him, Mark Waid used him and even Dan Slott included him in GREAT LAKE AVENGERS. He is like DIABLO over in Fantastic Four who seems to be obligatory when a new writer or artist comes to the title. He was in the first issue of John Byrne´s Fantastic Four, he was in the first issues of the much underrated run by Carlos Pacheco and even in the two issues Tom Grummet did. And wasn´t he somewhere in the JMS run ? Now while in the beginning Batroc was a dangerous foe with his wild savate fighting style he quickly evolved into more of an inside joke. Maybe he gets a little more respect the next time around. So I left again and eventually the title was relaunched ( yet again ) to what future generations will refer to as one of the definite runs on Captain America by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting.
Speaking about Steve Epting : before working on Cap Steve was over at CROSSGEN on such fantastic titles as CRUX and EL CAZADOR. In many discussions about the reasons for CrossGen´s bancrupcy I have heard that they had bad art. Well, the strange thing is that Marvel was very quick to grab all of their artist and set them on their best books. Steve Epting on Captain America, Jim Cheung on Yonug Avengers, Greg Land on Ultimate Fantastic Four, Paul Pelletier on Exiles ( and now on Fantastic Four ) and Steve McNiven on Ultimate Galactus and just recently on CIVIL WAR. Yep. Makes total sense. The artists were so bad they had to give them Marvel´s best books.
Here as promised the english version of the text. For all my readers who can read german and english I want to say, yes I have taken a few liberties in the translation. But it is my text so I can decide how to adapt it into another language. And you always write different in different languages and use different expressions. The content is still the same.
Well, I once wrote something for Comicgate that showed my point of view concerning Captain America. That was always easy to link to. But apparently it was not worthy to keep for posterity. The only version I still have is the one from an e - mail and I don´t know if this is the first try or the final version. Now when I wrote it in May 2003 the first chapters of John Ney Rieber´s and John Cassaday´s relaunch of Captain America had just been published and my reason for writing it was that I was just pissed about all the crap that was written on german messageboards about Captain America by people who had little or no knowledge of the character. Having read the book for a long period of time I wanted to clear up a few things. It seems that history really has a tendency to repeat itself and four years later the circle has ended. So without further ado ( this introduction is longer than the german version since I don´t have to explain what was going on in the german comic scene at that time ) here is the text :
Captain America - Marvel´s most important hero
If you have just read the title and your right hand ( after making a loud, slapping sound ) is positioned on your forehead you are probably thinking right now : " That guy must be nuts. Captain America is dullsville. That´s only propaganda. "
If that is not the case and you are thinking : " Hey, Cap´s my favorite too. " than I want to congratulate you. You are part of a minority within the german comic readership that has seriously examinated the persona of Captain America. And I want to say two things before you all start crying and moaning screaming bloody hell and damnation : Firstly. That most german readers don´t care much for Cap is not something I am imagining. It´s something that I had to learn the hard way in dozens of discussions be it on messageboards, in comic shops or at comic conventions. And neither is it just a passing fad caused by the constantly rising unamerican climate of the last few months because this phenomenon happened long before September 11th. I don´t understand this whole negative attitude that seems to have subjugated the entire population. On one side America is bashed because you allegedly can´t utter any critique about the Bush administration ( a theory that was refuted during this year´s Oscar night ). On the other side while the freedom of expression is nice and all try to say something pro - bush. That´s when you can show your running skills. But that´s a topic for a separate column.
Secondly. Who am I to defame the german comic readers in such a way ? What makes me a comic expert and what´s more a specialist for germanism ? I don´t want to defame german comic readers ( that´s something they achieve themselves quite well ) but it is a fact that in no other european country ( that I know ) Captain America has such a bad image. And to the topic of germanism I have to say that you see Germany with different eyes if you receive the german citizenship ten years after your birth in this country. If you have to learn everything about german culture it has another importance. Someone who has to learn german as a foreign language will always have better grades in school than someone who never had to make a conscious effort. At the least the pressure that one experiences is on a whole different level. But back to topic. Captain America and the germans. I don´t know what it is but despite the fact that the dominant color of Cap´s costume is blue to most readers it seems to be a red flag. They only need to hear " America " and that´s all she wrote. " I don´t like the country and I can´t stomach that guy neither. Parading around wearing the american flag - how can it be anything than american propaganda ? "
Is Captain America american propaganda ? Definitely not ! Let´s take a closer look at the character. And I don´t mean how he looks superficially at a first glance but what he represents. Because contrary to popular belief that are not the United States of America or the politics of the current legislation. It´s the dream, the ideal of America. The ideas that are attached. Not America how it is or used to be but America how it is supposed to be. How the founding fathers envisioned it during it´s conceiption. No mere Utopia much more the vision of America. That may sound very propagandistic right now but why don´t you dispatch this thought for a moment ? The ideals that define the character of Captain America may be seen as unrealistic or hogwash by some people or they just don´t care much for the idea of ideals in general in our cynic and mercyless times. But those ideals and beliefs don´t sound very american.....much more universal.
A government through the people by the people for the people. Free elections. All humans are equal no matter which gender, religion, race or sexual oriantation they may be. The believe in every man´s right to the pursuit of happiness and individuality. That people matter more than laws and not the other way around. Freedom of expression that works both ways. That everyone can achieve anything. Many of those beliefs are personal beliefs to me - does that mean I´m americanized ? You can find similar things in german law......the right to freely express your personality, that nobody should be discriminated because of the color of his skin, his gender, his religion or sexual preferences. Is german law americanized ? Should we throw it in the garbage bin ? Are those beliefs copyrighted by America ? I admit many of these ideas are not realized like they should be - neither in Germany nor in America. But that´s only one more reason why Captain America is such an important character. Captain America is no commercial for America, he is a constant reminder not to forget the american way of life. He shows America like it has to be - like it is supposed to be. He is dialog - even more - confrontation ! And that´s the reason why he HAS to wear the Stars and Stripes.
Not as advertisement but as a warning sign. Comics are a visual mass medium and people react stronger to strong stimuli. That is why you have to hit the reader right between the eyes with the american flag. Bang ! Deal with it. So that the reader instantly knows who is Captain America if he is standing between twenty other costumed crimefighters. So that he instantly thinks about things like Freedom, Liberty and Justice. And that´s the reason why he isn´t called American Eagle or Flying Patriot. No. CAPTAIN AMERICA. Not Americaman or Mister America but Captain America. Emphasis on America. Which may sound very patriotic. And that´s another problem many germans have with Captain America. Because it´s very difficult to define the difference between patriotism, nationalism and radicalism.
Many say Captain America is too patriotic but you have to keep in mind that we are talking about a person who volunteered for the experiments of a scientist he never heard about only to be in the army. Such a person is very patriotic per se. But what is a patriot ? A patriot is someone who is proud of his country and that is a big problem in Germany. Because that is something that you are not allowed to be - and if you are you better not speak out. Reasons for that may lie in the past of this country or in the fact that they prefer modesty to pride ( anyone who dares to be a little proud of his achievements is cut down to size mercylessly - but that´s just a sidenote ). But does someone who is proud of his country agree with everything that happens in his country ?
No. If you have a friend that doesn´t mean you applaud everything he does. Maybe he could loose some weight, shower more often or stop acting so embarrassing in public. And quite possibly you don´t agree on everything or have the same preferences. That doesn´t mean you stop being friends. Captain America is not blind. He knows very well, that even and especially in America there are injustice, corruption, racissm and crime. But he doesn´t close his eyes to the facts. Than he would be really blind. Moreso he tries to do something against that and to change the status quo. So that Amerika and the whole world becomes a better place.
Someone once said that to write about Captain America means to write about America. Because that´s what he is all about. Every story he tells is always a story about America and american history. An allegory and a discussion about America. You can see this exceptionally well in the comics of the 70s. At that time the american people were shaken and insecure. Old values began to loose weight and many things were questioned. Cap did the same and went on a quest. He began a search for the real America, for his role in society and lastly for his own identity. It isn´t easy to leave your familiar environment for totally unknown territory. Even moreso if you have been frozen in a block of ice since the second world war. With this element of " a man out of time " Cap has a unique perspective and insight into things. War is nothing foggy or far away that he only knows through his grandfather´s tales. He experienced the horrors of war himself and has fought for the liberties other people may take for granted. The results of prejudices and racism are not something he only knows from books, old newsreels or museums. He was at Dachau and Auschwitz. Cap has experienced mankind´s worst. But he still believes in man´s ability to do good and fights for it. Because Captain America is a soldier. Many seem to have forgotten this fact but it´s a big part of him.
The paradox thing with comic readers is that many think that superhero comics are all the same formulaic " beat them up " and that superheroes are interchangable. But when someone suddenly behaves different than your average superhero the average comic reader is shocked. And I don´t mean only german comic readers. There was a massive outcry of indignation that swept the american comic landscape when Cap killed a terrorist during the Rieber run. What had happened ? In the first storyline Cap kills a terrorist to prevent him from detonating a bomb and save civilians. " Hell, you can´t do that. Captain America can´t kill. That´s totally out of character. That´s not like Cap. " Sorry, but that´s absolutely " in character " for Cap. What did Cap do with the enemy soldiers during world war two ? Give them a spanking with his shield and than a lecture ? We are not talking about Superman who never kills. Or Batman who never uses guns. Cap was trained as a soldier and that means to defend your country and if necessary to kill to achieve that end. Like every good soldier he tries to avoid it if possible but he doesn´t hesitate to do it to save lives. As a soldier he tries to make the right decisions, the tough choices and takes responsibility for it. Being a soldier doesn´t mean to blindly follow orders without thinking. Anyone who has served in the military knows that it sometimes is the duty or better the obligation of a soldier to not follow orders or to ignore them. Sometimes you even have to refuse them. But the idea seems to be deep rooted that if you receive orders that means you follow them blindly.
Let´s return to the storyline of John Ney Rieber. Many found the first issue distasteful because it covered the topic of September 11th. I would find it distasteful if this topic in particular were not covered in comics. Should comic professionals carry on like nothing happened ? Like it didn´t happen ? And who better to talk about it than an icon like Captain America ? Okay. There are people who say that comics should not have politic content. And without social or ideological commentaries. And even better without any signs of the personal beliefs of the creators. Sorry, but which comic should meet these criteria ? That doesn´t work on such titles like Mickey Mouse or Archie. Comics have messages. Good triumphs over evil and crime does not pay. The good guy who makes an effort is rewarded and the unsocial guy who takes the fast and easy road gets his just punishment. A peaceful solution is preferably to a violent one. If many band together they can achieve things they can´t achieve alone. Comics are personal because they are made by persons. That´s why you read comics. Especially where someone like Captain America is concerned you can learn a lot about the writer by looking how Cap is written. Which character traits are emphasized and which parts of the personality are in the background ? Every hero has his own topic and every writer interprets it in his own way.
And the topic of Captain America is America. The land, the word, the ideal. America, democracy, history and liberty - that´s what he´s about. He represents, confronts and poses questions. A constant dialog between past and present, between idea and reality. Like an onion revealing layer after layer he has a different meaning in every new context. And that´s why he is Marvel´s most important hero.
I don´t think much has changed since I wrote this. By the way for anyone who is interested in the reactions at the time they were exactly like I predicted in my column and the argumentation was the same I argued against in this text. Sometimes it just sucks to be right.
Here is the german version of my column about Captain America. I´m posting this for all my german readers and because it´s easier to cut and paste it than to translate all the text. Which I will be doing anyway but much later. Which will be kind of strange because the english version will be right above this version but only later. So for today this will be the only version. And in a few days, when I will have had the time to translate it this will make even less sense. So here is the first version which when you are reading it will be the second version. I´ll just shut up now and let you read it. By the way I´m not going to translate all into spanish.
Tja, ich hatte mal was bei Comicgate geschrieben was meine Ansichten zu Captain America ziemlich gut auf den Punkt gebracht hat. Das war immer sehr angenehm zu verlinken. Aber anscheinend war es nicht wert für die Nachwelt aufgehoben zu werden. Das einzige was ich noch habe ist der Text aus meiner e - mail wobei ich nicht weiss, ob es sich um den ersten Versuch oder um die endgültige Fassung handelt ( ist übrigens vom Mai 2003 ) :
Captain America - Der wichtigste Held von Marvel
Wenn du gerade den Titel gelesen hast und sich deine rechte Hand ( nach einem lautem Aufklatschen ) gerade an deiner Stirn befindet, denkst du wohl gerade " Der Typ spinnt doch. Captain America ist doch stinkelangweilig. Das ist doch nur Propaganda. "
Falls das nicht der Fall ist, und du denkst " Hey, Cap ist auch einer meiner Lieblingscharaktere. " dann möchte ich dir gratulieren. Du gehörst zu einer Minderheit innerhalb der deutschen Comicleserschaft und hast dich ernsthaft mit Captain America auseinandergesetzt. Und bevor jetzt ein großes Geschrei losgeht möchte ich zwei Dinge vorausschicken : Erstens. Dass die meisten deutschen Comicleser mit Cap nichts anfangen können ist nichts, was ich mir aus den Fingern sauge. Das ist etwas, daß ich in Dutzenden von Diskussionen, sei es in Internetforen, Comicläden oder Comicbörsen, lernen musste. Und das ist auch keine Modeerscheinung, die sich auf das stetig wachsende unamerikanische Klima in Deutschland zurückführen lässt da dieses Phänomen schon vor dem 11. September aufgetreten ist. Ich verstehe diese ganze negative Einstellung, die hier die gesamte Bevölkerung unterjocht zu haben scheint nicht. Auf der einen Seite wird gegen Amerika gelästert, weil man da angeblich keine Kritik an der Bushregierung äussern darf ( eine These die bei der letzten Oscarverleihung wiederlegt wurde ). Auf der anderen Seite, Meinungsfreiheit schön und gut, aber versuch mal was Pro-Bush zu sagen. Da zeigt sich ob du schnell rennen kannst. Aber das ist ein Thema für eine Extrakolummne.
Zweitens. Wer bin ich denn, dass ich die deutschen Comicleser so verunglimpfe ? Was macht mich denn zum Comicexperten und Spezialisten für Deutschlandtum ? Ich möchte die deutschen Leser gar nicht verunglimpfen ( dass schaffen die ganz gut alleine ), aber es ist nunmal eine Tatsache, daß Captain America in keinem anderen europäischen Land ( das ich kenne ) so ein schlechtes Image hat wie in Deutschland. Und zum Thema Deutschlandtum muss ich sagen, daß man Deutschland einfach mit anderen Augen sieht, wenn man zwar hier geboren ist aber erst zehn Jahre später die deutsche Staatsbürgerschaft erhält. Wenn man alles, was das deutsche Wesen ausmacht extra erlernen muss hat das einen ganz anderen Stellenwert. Jemand, der Deutsch als Fremdsprache erlernen muss, wird in der Schule immer bessere Noten haben als jemand der sich nie gross bemühen muss. Allein der Druck der auf einem lastet ist ganz anders. Aber zurück zum Thema. Captain America und die Deutschen. Ich weiss nicht was es ist, aber obwohl die überwiegende Farbe im Kostüm blau ist scheint er für die meißten Leser ein rotes Tuch zu sein. Da braucht man nur Amerika zu hören und schon ist es aus. " Ich mag das Land nicht und den Typ kann ich schon gar nicht ab. Der hat gleich verschissen bei mir. Der läuft ja sogar in der amerikanische Flagge rum, das kann doch nur Propaganda sein."
Ist Captain America amerikanische Propaganda ? Definitiv nicht. Schauen wir uns doch mal den Charakter von Captain America etwas genauer an. Und damit meine ich nicht wie er auf den ersten Blick oberflächlich betrachtet wirkt, sondern was er darstellt. Entgegen landläufigen Meinungen sind das nämlich nicht die Vereinigten Staaten. Es ist der Traum, das Ideal von Amerika. Die Vorstellungen die damit verknüpft sind. Nicht Amerika wie es ist oder mal war, sondern Amerika wie es sein sollte. So, wie es ursprünglich mal gedacht war als die Gründungsväter sich das vorgestellt haben. Keine Utopie, viel mehr die Vision Amerikas.Das klingt jetzt sehr propagandistisch aber verabschiede dich doch mal ganz kurz von dieser Vorstellung. Die Ideale, die den Charakter von Captain America ausmachen werden von einigen vielleicht als unrealistisch und Augenwischerei bezeichnet oder sie können generell mit der Vorstellung von Idealen in unserer zynischen und erbarmungslosen Realität nicht viel anfangen. Aber eigentlich klingen diese Ideale gar nicht so arg amerikanisch sondern eher universell.
Eine Regierung durch das Volk, mit dem Volk und für das Volk. Freie Wahlen. Gleichheit aller Menschen ganz gleich welchen Geschlechts, Glaubens, Rasse oder sexueller Ausrichtung. Der Glaube daß jeder Mensch die Freiheit hat nach Individualität und Glück zu streben. Dass der Mensch über dem Gesetz und nicht das Gesetz über dem Mensch steht. Meinungsfreiheit in alle Richtungen. Daß jeder es ganz nach oben bringen kann. Vieles davon sind Dinge an die auch ich glaube - bin ich dadurch veramerikanisiert ? Auch im Grundgesetz finden sich viele ähnliche Dinge ..... das Recht auf freie Entfaltung der Persönlichkeit, daß niemand diskriminiert werden darf wegen seiner Hautfarbe, seines Geschlechts, seiner Religion oder seiner Sexualität. Ist somit das Grundgesetz veramerikanisiert ? Sollten wir es auf den Müll werfen ? Sind das etwa Dinge auf die Amerika ein Copyright hat ? Ich gebe zu viele dieser Ideale sind in der Realität nicht so umgesetzt wie es sein sollte, weder in Amerika noch hier. Aber das ist nur ein weiterer Grund weshalb Captain America so ein wichtiger Charakter ist. Captain America ist keine Werbung für Amerika, er ist eine ständige Ermahnung, den amerikanischen Grundgedanken nicht zu vergessen. Er zeigt wie Amerika sein sollte - ja sein müßte. Er ist Auseinandersetzung - mehr noch - Konfrontation ! Dies ist auch der Grund warum er die amerikanische Flagge tragen MUSS.
Nicht als Reklametafel sondern als optische Warntafel. Comics sind ein visuelles Medium, und wie bei jedem visuellen Medium reagiert der Mensch auf stärkere Stimulationen stärker. Deshalb muss man dem Leser die amerikanische Flagge vor den Latz knallen. Päng ! Setz dich damit auseinander. Damit der Leser, auch wenn zwanzig Superhelden beisammen sind, gleich weiss wer Captain America ist. Und gleich an Dinge wie Freiheit, Gleichheit und Gerechtigkeit denkt. Und deshalb kann er auch nicht American Eagle oder Flying Patriot heissen. Nein. CAPTAIN AMERICA. Nicht Americaman oder Mister America sondern Captain America. Mit Betonung auf Amerika. Das mag jetzt sehr patriotisch klingen. Und das ist ein weiteres Problem, das viele in Deutschland mit Captain America haben. Denn es ist sehr schwierig in Deutschland den Unterschied zwischen Patriotismus, Nationalismus und Radikalismus zu definieren.
Viele meinen Captain America wäre zu patriotisch aber man muss bedenken, dass wir hier über einen Mann reden der sich für die Experimente eines Wissenschaftlers zur Verfügung gestellt hat, nur damit er in die Armee darf. So jemand ist einfach sehr patriotisch. Was aber ist denn nun ein Patriot ? Ein Patriot ist jemand der auf sein Land stolz ist und das ist hier ein großes Problem. Weil das etwas ist, was man nicht sein darf - und falls man es doch sein sollte, besser nicht laut ausspricht. Gründe dafür mögen in der Vergangenheit liegen oder daran, daß hier Bescheidenheit dem Stolz vorgezogen wird ( zumal hier jeder der ein bisschen stolz auf seine Leistungen ist gnadenlos abgesägt wird – aber das nur am Rande ). Muss aber jemand der auf sein Land stolz ist alles gut finden was in seinem Land passiert ?
Nein. Wenn man mit jemanden befreundet ist, heisst das ja auch nicht, daß man alles toll findet was derjenige macht und tut. Vielleicht könnte er etwas abnehmen, öfter duschen oder sich in der Öffentlichkeit nicht immer so peinlich benehmen. Auch kann es sein, daß man in vielen Dingen anderer Meinung ist oder nicht alle Vorlieben teilt. Aber deshalb kündigt man nicht gleich die Freundschaft. Captain America ist nicht blind. Er weiss sehr gut, dass es auch und gerade in Amerika Ungerechtigkeiten, Korruption, Rassismus und Verbrechen gibt. Aber er verschliesst davor nicht die Augen. Denn dann wäre er wirklich blind. Er versucht vielmehr etwas dagegen zu tun, etwas zu ändern. Damit Amerika und die Welt mehr den Idealen entspricht.
Jemand hat mal gesagt, wer über Captain America schreibt, muss über Amerika schreiben. Denn das ist es, worum es bei ihm geht. Jede Geschichte, die er erzählt, ist abgesehen von allem anderen immer auch eine amerikanische Geschichte. Eine Versinnbildlichung und Auseinandersetzung mit Amerika, was man sehr deutlich an den Captain America Heften der Siebziger sehen kann. Zu der Zeit war das amerikanische Volk aufgerüttelt und verunsichert, die alten Werte schienen zu bröckeln und viele Dinge wurden in Frage gestellt. Auch Cap tat dies und begab sich auf eine Suche. Eine Suche nach dem wahren Amerika, seiner Rolle in der Gesellschaft und letzten Endes nach seiner eigenen Idendität. Es ist nicht einfach, wenn man aus seiner vertrauten Umgebung in eine völlig unbekannte kommt. Umso mehr, wenn man seit dem 2. Weltkrieg im ewigen Eis eingefroren war. Durch dieses `Mann aus der Vergangenheit in der Jetztzeit ´ Element hat er eine ganz besondere Perspektive und Einsicht in die Dinge. Krieg ist nichts Fernes, Nebulöses, das man nur aus Erzählungen von Opa kennt. Er hat den Schrecken des Krieges am eigenen Leib erlebt und hat für die Freiheiten, die für andere selbstverständlich sind, selbst gekämpft. Die Folgen von Vorurteilen und Rassismus sind nicht etwas, das er aus Büchern, Filmen oder Museen kennt. Er war selbst in Dachau und Ausschwitz. Cap hat das Schlechteste im Menschen erlebt. Und trotzdem glaubt er an das Gute und kämpft dafür. Denn Captain America ist ein Soldat.Das scheinen viele vergessen zu haben, aber es macht einen grossen Teil seines Charakters aus.
Das paradoxe an Comiclesern ist, dass viele meinen daß Superheldencomics immer das gleiche sind und die Superhelden austauschbar. Wenn aber mal einer sich anders verhält wie der Durchschnittsheld sind sie total geschockt. Damit meine ich nicht nur die deutschen Comicleser. Der Aufschrei der Entrüstung, der durch die amerikanische Comiclandschaft ging, als Cap einen Terroristen tötete, war immens. Was war passiert ? In der ersten Storyline der neuen Serie tötet Captain America einen Terroristen um die Zündung einer Bombe zu verhindern und Zivilisten vor dem Tod zu retten. " Boah! Das kann man doch nicht machen. Captain America kann doch nicht töten. Das ist doch total out of character. Das passt doch gar nicht. " Entschuldigung, aber das passt haargenau. Was hat Cap denn wohl während dem 2.Weltkrieg mit den feindlichen Soldaten gemacht ? Ihnen einen Klaps mit seinem Schild gegeben und ihnen dann eine ordentliche Standpauke gehalten ? Wir reden hier nicht von Superman, der nie tötet, oder Bat-Man, der keine Schusswaffen benutzt. Cap hat eine militärische Ausbildung, und dazu gehört auch sein Land zu verteidigen und Notfalls dafür zu töten. Er versucht es nach Möglichkeit zu vermeiden, wie jeder gute Soldat, andererseits schreckt er davor auch nicht zurück wenn es gilt Leben zu retten. Als Soldat versucht er die richtigen, die schwierigen Entscheidungen zu treffen und nimmt die Konsequenzen auf sich. Dabei heisst Soldat sein nicht, blindlings und ohne nachzudenken Befehle zu befolgen. Wer schon gedient hat weiss, daß es oft die Pflicht eines Soldaten ist Befehle nicht zu befolgen und zu ignorieren. Manchmal muss man sie auch verweigern. Diese Vorstellung, daß man Befehlsempfänger mit blindem Gehorsam gleichsetzen kann scheint aber sehr tief verwurzelt zu sein.
Kommen wir doch noch einmal auf die aktuelle Serie zurück. Viele fanden die erste Ausgabe geschmacklos oder pietätslos oder was weiss ich noch alles, weil das Thema des 11.Septembers behandelt wurde. Ich fände es geschmacklos wenn gerade diese Thema in Comics nicht behandelt worden wäre. Sollten etwa die Comicmacher so weitermachen als ob nichts geschehen wäre ? Als wäre es egal ? Und wer sollte sich besser eignen etwas über das Thema zu sagen als eine Ikone wie Captain America ? Okay. Es gibt Leute, die sagen Comics sollten unpolitisch sein. Am Besten noch ohne soziale oder ideologische Botschaften. Und am allerbesten ohne eigene Meinungen der Macher. Sorry, aber welches Comic soll das sein ? Das klappt ja schon bei Micky Maus und Archie nicht. Comics haben Botschaften. Das Gute triumphiert über das Böse und Verbrechen zahlt sich nicht aus. Der anständige Kerl, der sich anstrengt, wird belohnt und der unsoziale Mensch, der den schnellen und einfachen Weg geht kriegt seine gerechte Strafe. Eine friedliche Lösung ist der gewalttätigen vorzuziehen. Wenn mehrere sich zusammentun können sie mehr erreichen als alleine. Comics sind persönlich, denn sie werden von Menschen gemacht. Deshalb liest man Comics. Gerade bei jemandem wie Captain America kann man viel über die Person, die ihn schreibt erfahren, allein schon daran wie er angelegt ist. Welche Charaktereigenschaften werden hevorgehoben, welche Wesenszüge treten mehr in den Hintergrund ? Jeder Held hat ein eigenes Thema und jeder Schreiber interpretiert es auf seine eigene Weise.
Und das Thema von Captain America ist Amerika. Das Land, das Wort, das Ideal. Amerika, Demokratie, Geschichte und Freiheit - auch das sind seine Themen. Er repräsentiert, konfrontiert und stellt Fragen. Ein ständiger Dialog zwischen der Vergangenheit und der Gegenwart, zwischen Vorstellung und Realität. Wie eine Zwiebel, die immer neue Schichten offenbart, hat er in jedem Kontext eine andere Bedeutung. Und auch deshalb ist er der wichtigste Held Marvels.
Hmm, ich glaube nicht dass sich in der Zwischenzeit viel geändert hat.
Now that´s my final word for now. Next on this comicblog more about XD fanzine and rantifuso.
I´m going to let today´s clips speak for themselves. It was difficult to find some that didn´t spoil the end of CIVIL WAR but I found some.
New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest
When Captain America throws his mighty shield.