Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My big Captain America post

Finally the SUBZERO has come back to Captain America ! Damn, it really doesn´t work in this case. Anyhow, time to get to the main event.

I know I probably shouldn´t post this again as I already got into a lot of trouble the first two times I posted this. When I first wrote this and it was first posted on Comicgate ( as I will explain a bit down the line ) the first chapters of John Ney Rieber´s and John Cassaday´s relaunch of Captain America had just been published, when I posted it on my blog the first MARVEL MONSTER with the first part of Ed Brubaker´s and steve Epting´s run on Captain America had just been published in Germany. That means in both occasions there was a lot of unqualified comments on german messageboards by readers who had just read their first GOOD Captain America story. Or even the first Captain America story in their whole life.

Being a son of spanish immigrants who was born in Germany and still had to apply for the german citizenship I had some firsthand experience how discriminating german law still is. Which is something most germans don´t see or don´t want to admit. As well as the fact that they do have prejudices - only in their case it´s what I call " reverse prejeduices ". Now you may ask yourself what the f - word that means. Okay. Here´s a simple answer :

Let´s take the example of black people. And I use the term because I don´t want to narrow it down to african - american people. I mean black people of all nations. So, according to the law black and white people should be treated equal. They are not.

It´s sad but as we have seen with the black / latino Spider - Man it´s still a big thing. The sad truth is that black people are still discriminated and a lot of people have prejudices about them - most often than not without any reasons.

Now, to improve the situation there are of course people who are working on changing that by raising awareness, educating people and passing laws. To overcome this a dialogue must be constantly maintained between all people. And that´s not a bad thing. The bad thing starts when laws that were meant to ensure that black and white are treated equal are implemented in a way that white people are discriminated.

I know, sounds weird but we had something similar in Germany with the female quota german companies had to have and which was ruled to be against the german constitution by the highest court in Germany. Because instead of simply stating that men and women have to be treated equal if they have the same qualification it forced german companies to have a certain number of female employees. Sounds good, I know, but it lead to cases in which companies were unable to hire a male person - no matter how good his qualification was - because the female quota demanded that they hired a female. Again, no matter how good her qualification was.

So in the end the german supreme court ruled that while treating men and women was a good thing the female quota was against the constitution because it did not treat men and women equal. Which, of course, wasn´t very popular with feminists in Germany but really, it´s their own fault for allowing Alice Schwarzer to become their leader and concentrate more on brainwashing women that sex is a bad thing instead of fighting for equal rights in workplaces and the society.

Of course there have to be laws that protect minorities or people who are discriminated. And it doesn´t matter if they are black, female, gay, handicapped or comic readers. But with laws there is a fine line between protecting one minority and starting to discriminate the rest. It´s like in the Avengers, when they were forced to accept a member just for being black : first with the Falcon and then with Triathlon. The absurdity of that was shown pretty good when Thor pointed out how ridiculous it is to choose heroes just based on their race or gender. To a nordic god those things seem unimportant and arbitrary.

And it´s also a fine line between helping black people and starting to discriminate white people. This is used as an example but sometimes there is the case that someone starts disliking white people which then turns into having a negative attitude against them and in the end he has prejudices against white people. Which is equally wrong as having prejudices against black people but since it´s not regulated by law it´s cool, it´s hip and it´s a sign that this person is very broadminded and has no prejudices. And that´s when you get " reverse prejudices ".

Sounds weird but I have often encountered people who think it´s a sign of being educated to discriminate the socially sanctioned and politically correct enemies.

Here in Germany it has sometimes reached such weird heigths that people who were openly bashing America stated they were being objective. I don´t know why the germans have this need to put down America, if it has something to do with an inferiority complex but is a fact that most germans don´t see. It´s a kind of " in the bubble - outside of the bubble " thing. As somebody outside of the bubble it has always been difficult for me to convince people inside the bubble how the world really is. And that can really get frustrating sometimes which is the part where you start writing a blog. And start writing about Captain America.

Wow, I think I just wrote the introduction to the introduction of MY BIG CAPTAIN AMERICA POST ( german version ) that comes after the introduction that was so long I had to split it into three parts ( 1 / 2 / 3 ) . Did I mention that I´m partially fond of introductions ? I would say without further introductions but it´s already too late for that. The baby has not only fallen into the well, it has grown itself gills and has come back as a grown up to wage war on all surface people. Instead I´m just saying : Let the shitstorm begin !

Originally written on Wednesday, May the 16th, 2007

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 :


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 conception. 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 merciless 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 without mercy - but that´s just a sidenote ). But does someone who is proud of his country have to 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 is 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, to save the lives 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.

All right, if you have just reached this point I want to congratulate you for reading this long post without getting bored. If you are reading this for the first time I hope it was entertaining and for those re - reading it, I hope it brought back some memories or maybe even made you see things different now. There are still a few things that haven´t changed as you can see by the media coverage of the CAPTAIN AMERICA movie in the german press but other things have improved a great deal as there are much more german comic readers who read Captain America and even have him as their favorite character.

Tomorrow I will be posting the german version and I guess that´s when my german readership will take a drastic downward spiral. As you have now read 80 percent of my big Captain America post you may get an idea why I felt the need to split it into shorter posts.

Today´s clip is from the CAPTAIN AMERICA tv series with Cap and his bike. Man, Cap just has to have a bike.

The worst part of the show was his costume ( although it´s better than Rob Liefeld´s costume ) and I have no idea why they changed it. It´s funny how Cap is so excited about tripping the guards that he almost forgets that he wanted to grill the science guy. Thank god Cap never looses track of the important things : " The girls. Where are they ? "

Where indeed.

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