Dennis O’Neil Wants Credit For Captain America: The Winter Soldier
You probably don’t know this because it almost certainly isn’t in any of the books about the comic book racket and it happened before most you were born — in the neighborhood of 50 years — and even if you’d been there, in the offices of Marvel comics when Marvel was part of a parent company, Magazine Management, you might not have known about it and if you did know about it you might have forgotten by now because we are talking a half-century here, but… I once wrote Captain America and I’m pretty sure I used fewer words than are in this sentence.
And — stand aside now and watch your head — I hereby claim credit for the current, and generally excellent Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a film now playing at a theater near you, unless you live somewhere that is seriously rural.
My stint as Cap’s biographer had little or nothing to do with scripting the monthly Captain America comic. I was never offered that job and I don’t know how I would have reacted if I had been. The character was created at the outbreak of the second world war, which everyone but the most ardent pacifists agrees was that rarity, a just war. The threat was real and even if it hadn’t been genuine, everyone thought it was. Patriotism was the virtue of the day. I don’t know if the slogan “my country right or wrong” was coined then, but it might have been.
My problem, had I been given the chance to have it, would have been that when I got to Marvel in the mid-60s, World War II was a memory and the world had changed. The nation was embroiled in another war, though it wasn’t called that, and this one might not have been so just. Although I had put in time wearing a uniform (badly). I was among those who thought we should get out of Southeast Asia. I associated Captain America with the World War II attitudes that prevailed when he first appeared, that country-right-or-wrong thing. I, and millions of others, thought Viet Nam was a terrible mistake. So, I don’t know…I needed the job and the income, but the chauvinism that, rightly or wrongly, I associated with the Captain America package might have been a problem.
But, for reasons I can’t remember, my conscience did not so much as stir when I was asked to do a Captain America… I don’t know what it was called. What it was was a tiny book, about the size of a postage stamp, that tumbled out of vending machines either in place of or in addition to the gum ball for which the customer paid. This was, probably my first or second month on the Marvel staff, maybe my first comics writing job, and I might not have wanted to be a nay-sayer so early in the game and at least my itsy-bitsy story didn’t have Cap in a military milieu. A lame rationalization? Okay. But it’s all you’ll get from me today.
About that movie connection: Recently, Representative Michele Bachmann said that although we can’t prove that Barack Obama had anything to do with the Fort Hood shooting, we can’t prove that he didn’t have anything to do with it, either. So, using the Congressperson’s logic: Although we can’t prove that one of the movie’s two directors, or a writer, or a producer, or someone in the Marvel organization, saw my gum ball substitute and was influenced by it and incorporated said influence into the film, you can’t prove that it didn’t happen, either.
Marvel knows where to send the check.