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Captain America is dead.

The star-spangled avenger's life was cut short by a sniper's bullet in the latest issue of his Marvel comic book. But the real triggerman may have been the Bush administration.

The popularity of the patriotically themed superhero has always been inextricably linked to our nation's sense of unity and pride.

The character debuted in March of 1941, less than a year before the United States would find itself embroiled in the second War to End All Wars. Readers met the Captain's alter ego, Steve Rodgers, as the typical 97-pound weakling who was transformed into a human fighting machine after being treated with Dr. Reinstein's super soldier serum. (The fact that Rodgers was depicted as a blond, blue-eyed man seems a little creepy in retrospect. The fictional Reinstein's work echoes the real-life eugenics work going on in Germany at the time.) It's no small irony that the blond-haired, blue-eyed Rodgers would have been considered a perfect specimen of the Arian master race. Captain America's adventures led him to combat fascist and totalitarian governments both in the US and abroad. Some of the depictions of the villains (particularly the Japanese) would induce cringes in today's more enlightened readers. Still, there is no denying that he was a timely symbol of America's unity and purpose in fighting the axis powers.

Marvel's history of Captain America says that he disappeared late in the war when he and his sidekick, Bucky Barns, were lost trying to stop a German rocket launch. In Marvel's continuity, subsequent appearances of Captain America which occurred through the mid-1950s were attributed to a series of patriotically themed mystery men who donned Cap's distinctive costume. Marvel writers explained that the US government wanted to keep Cap alive as a propaganda tool.

But in real life Captain America's popularity waned as the nation entered the Red Scare of the 1950's. In a nation deeply divided over the nature of freedom there seemed to be no place for a superhero who offered only one vision of what US democracy really means. The Kefauver Commission's investigation into comic books and Fredrick Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent merely helped hasten the crime fighter's demise.

But a great hero like Captain America couldn't stay gone forever. With the nation unified and reinvigorated by John F. Kennedy's New Frontier, Captain America rose again. Readers learned that Captain America hadn't died stopping that German rocket after all. Instead, he dropped into the sea and became encased in a chunk of ice. His body was discovered by members of the Marvel superhero team The Avengers. Ironically Cap's survival came in a comic book dated November of 1963 – the same month that JFK would be killed in Dallas.

But many of JFK's policies were continued under President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Cap was reinvented as a super heroic cold warrior.

By this time, of course, Cap and Steve Rodgers were both something of an anachronism. Much had changed in American society in the two decades since Captain America had disappeared. Yet Steve Rodgers stubbornly held on to the populist and progressive democratic ideals he'd always stood for.

As a youngster, I appreciated those ideals. Let other kids wear a red towel around their neck and pretend to be Superman. I preferred the Captain's method of felling bad guys by throwing his indestructible shield like an oversized Frisbee. The lids on my parent's garbage cans never fit quite the same.

Even as Steve Rodgers was making a new life for himself, he found himself once again a patriot in the middle of a country divided. The unpopular war in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal combined to make Rodgers briefly give up the red, white and blue costume. Only as President Gerald Ford began the process of national healing would Rodgers don the familiar costume – thankfully, in time for the nation's bicentennial.

And so Captain America had soldiered on these many years as a vital hero in a country that knew relative peace and prosperity.

And then came the 2000 election.

Despite the current President's claims of being "a uniter and not a divider," the Bush administration has embarked on a systematic campaign to erode liberties that Steve Rodgers would have taken for granted. Rodgers would have viewed with dismay America's lowered standing on the world stage.

And so the Bush administration helped create a climate were Captain America couldn't exist. There is a possibility that Captain America may return someday. Captain America fans have noted the existence of what seems to be a clone of Steve Rodgers.

But odds are that clone (or whatever it is) won't see the light of day until late January of 2009.

Originally posted to Left of Calvary on Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 09:26 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  No... (8+ / 0-)

    ...but he may very well be responsible for America's death.

    "A triviality is a statement whose opposite is false; a great truth is one whose opposite is another great truth." -- Niels Bohr

    by Autarkh on Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 09:28:39 PM PDT

  •  Interesting diary... (5+ / 0-)

    ...but I have no background from which to comment on its accuracy.

    I didn't read comic books growing up.  Instead, I played computer games (which, ironically, seem to have taken the place that comic books once held as the boogyman corrupter of American youth).

  •  I Blame Nader For The Green Lantern. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Trix, kestrel9000, Rex Manning, dsjwriter

    Damn that Green Lantern, lanterning or whatever for seatbelts.

  •  And here I thought... (5+ / 0-)

    ...that Tony Stark was the villain!  

    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

    by Jay Elias on Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 09:38:19 PM PDT

  •  The fact that Captain America is blond (4+ / 0-)

    is interesting, now that you mention it. There are very few blond  guys in comics in general. Cap was actully the only blond superhero I can think of from the Golden Age (30's and 40's). Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvell and the Sub Mariner all had black hair.
    In general, their are very few blond male superheros, few females too now that I think about it. For the most part, it's because drawing blond hair for comics is boring to most artists. It requires very little detail, and artists don't like that. The penciler (main artist) draws everthing, sends it off to an inker (basicky a tracer) who then sends it off to the colorist. Since the penciler dosen't finish his own work, a picture wouldn't look right to the artist drawing a detailed character and giving them hair that only has a few thin lines. Dark curly hair is the best to draw since it requires a lot of detail.  

    Just when they think they know the answer, I change the question. -Roddy Piper

    by McGirk on Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 10:20:59 PM PDT

    •  I can think of a few blonds (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dopper0189, dsjwriter

      The ones who most come to mind are Susan Storm Richards and Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four, blond siblings and star superheroes from Marvel's "First Family" of superheroes (and probably the lead-off book of the Silver Age). There is also Ms Marvel, Carol Danvers, a blonde female superhero. The new leader of the X-Men (and I can't remember her name) is a blonde female superhero. And of course Spider-Man's first real love, Gwen Stacy, comes to mind as another blonde. (Although we all know that a certain vivacious redhead eventually stole his heart.)

      Also the Sentry, whose tower sits on top of the Avenger's headquarters, is a blond male superhero. I'm sure there are quite a few more. Oh yeah, isn't The Flash blond? At least I know he used to be (I don't follow DC that closely).

      It's more interesting to me that they came up with a blond guy, an Aryan type, to represent America. Nothing against blonds, but to me that says a lot.

  •  Bush killed Superman... (5+ / 0-)

    ...when he stifled stem-cell research.

  •  not that's something i believe... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rex Manning, dsjwriter

    I became a superhero fan from watching Chris Reeve in "Superman" when I was a young child.

  •  The Guardian beat you to it... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rex Manning, dsjwriter, truthbeauty

    Damian Fowler blogged about it here.

    "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

    by chingchongchinaman on Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 10:27:54 PM PDT

  •  Captain America will be back. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dopper0189, dsjwriter

    Comic Book characters die all the time. If people are interested, they will come back. That's the funny thing about comic book characters' death, it often causes a ho-hum response. If it is a minor disposable character, people just don't care, and if it is a major character, people just expect them to come back anyway.

    Sometimes a temporary death for a character gives time and space for the writers to re-think the character. Maybe a little rethought is what Captain America - and America itself needs. I think America needs a good reminder that the American government is not America itself.

    It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.

    by A Citizen on Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 10:45:08 PM PDT

  •  Bush and comic book heroes (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    don't belong in the same thread. Comic book villans, yes. So who is Bush/Cheney? The Red Skull?

    I'm a linguist, licensed to use words any way I want to!

    by MakeChessNotWar on Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 11:34:46 PM PDT

  •  Iron Man would kick NeoCon ass... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...all day long if he were around.

    Where the hell is he?

  •  His death is one of (4+ / 0-)

    the most poignent and intelligent political critiques in mass media today.  I don't know if anybody has been following it, but for the last eight months the marvel universe has been at war with itself, in an admitted alloegory of the current situation.  It's strange these things don't get more play.
    Tony Stark represented the military industrial complex, orchestrating a war for his own financial gain, building a massive prison in a parallel universe to permanantly detain heroes who refused to fegister their identity, and hiring some of marvels most notorious villains to hunt down his former friends.  Captain America represented the true spirit of America, unyeilding to cede personal liberty for false promises of security.  Spider-man, as the every-man, unmasked himself under Iron mans tutelage, but realized the error of his ways and went fugitive.  The whoe thing was quite brilliant, and as would only be appropriate, the good guys have lost, at least for now.
    There is definately a diary to be written in the lowbrow medias response to this presidency.

    •  I've been following "Civil War" too (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      idiosynchronic, dsjwriter

      And I completely concur with your comments even though I can't believe Spider-Man would be dumb enough to unmask himself - not after what the Green Goblin did to Gwen Stacy, just to mention one incident from his past.

      Great diary.

      •  Peter and Tony (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I've been reading Joe Strazinski's Amazing Spider Man for the last couple of years - Joe had been really working the idea that Peter had tied 'mainstream' superhero acceptance (like membership into the Avengers) into Tony's mentorship.  And Tony certainly worked and fed that 'father-figure-sponsor' relationship to the hilt.

        When Tony revealed himself to be Iron Man, since Peter was literally in his employ and under his umbrella of protection, there was no doubt that Peter wasn't going to be pushed to do the same - especially when the Registration bill was passed.  It was clearly written to be a conflict between Peter's deep need for a secret identity to protect his family and his loyalty to someone who was filling a male-parent-figure  in his life.

        Now, considering events that Peter quit registration, his ID is public, Aunt May being shot by Kingpin-hired sniper, and he's got no visible means of support - he's really fucked.  Out of all the Marvel craziness, that's about the only title I'm actually interested in.  JMS is really trying to  remake Spider-Man into an adult character with new challenges other than the whole 'I'm a super-hero with no normal life' ethos that's been Spider-Man since the 1960's.

  •  A bit more information (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My blogwhoring link

    I touched on some of this and then added addtional details talking about identity and the tense relationship of Captain America and the government since the 1960's.  It's not coherent, but it does give readers a bit more understanding why Captain America is a liberal symbol. (And why Cap in the Marvel Ultimates storyline is a conservative.)

  •  Yes and no.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    OK first of all, it's Steve "Rogers", not "Rodgers".

    Whew, now I got that out of the way....

    You do mention the time when Cap put aside the uniform to become Nomad - I think it says a lot about the character to have fought in WWII yet able to throw away the costume when his ideals didn't match that of the government he was supposed to be a spokesperson for. Being true to your beliefs as opposed to just being true to the current elected leadership is an important message, one that if anything is as relevent today as it ever was.

    As for Captain America not existing any more, I really doubt that will happen. If anything we'll most likely see some "pretenders to the throne" step up (as happened with the death of Superman), fail, and in the end, Rogers will be back.  In point of fact we never actually see Rogers declared dead, only a body under a sheet in Cap's uniform. I'm going to bet Steve Rogers is up and at 'em again before the year is out.

    (Oh, and I'm also going to bet there's no Cap clone. The fans went berserk at the Thor clone a couple issues earlier, they'd set fire to the Marvel offices if they went for the same plot device two months later.)

    Insanity: Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. -Einstein

    by pakaal on Thu Mar 15, 2007 at 12:51:59 PM PDT

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