As the year winds down, it is common for wags to predict what is going to happen during the next twelve months. Quite frankly, I find these efforts to be almost always wrong and often ridiculous. However, that usually applies to politics and not to comic books, so this year I’m whipping out my crystal ball and I’m going to predict away.
Mind you, there is absolutely no effort behind this. Each of these are so predictable you wouldn’t be surprised to find them inside a stale fortune cookie. Which is my point. I thought I’d get that out of the way right quick.
I am going to restrict myself to Marvel Comics circa 2017. This is solely because DC Comics did the right thing and admitted The New 52 didn’t work, and Marvel has yet to own up to Civil War 2. Also, it’s about time ComicMix gave Dan DiDio a pass.
Even though they’re numbered, they are in no specific order. Ready?
Steve Rogers will be the back with his round shield and some close form of his historic costume.
Sorry, Sam Wilson, but you knew this would happen. Steve Rogers is Captain America, and that has nothing to do with race or age or even skill. Just as Dick Grayson will never be the permanent Batman, even though a couple hundred other people seem to be right now (sorry, Dan; old habits die hard).
Victor Von Doom will return to his tin can.
Action figures simply do not look good in Armani. I’m not saying Vic will return to his totally evil ways in 2017 – we might endure a Magneto-like moral ambivalence for a while. That’s kind of a shame as I’m enjoying the current storyline, such as it is. However, this will happen because…
Tony Stark will return to his tin can.
Of course he will. Maybe not until after the next Avengers movie, but Tony Stark is Iron Man and that’s that. The movies turned him into an A-list superhero, and swapping out the human inside the can won’t work. Besides, they already gave his teenaged replacement her own code name.
(A digression, common to ComicMix columns: why are they called “code names?” If you just said “Tony Stark” on an Avengerscom, both SHIELD and Vlad Putin would immediately know you’re talking about Iron Man.)
The Fantastic Four will get back together.
There are several reasons why this will happen. Marvel Master Ike Perlmutter can’t stay in his petulant frenzy forever, and his energy will be divided when the Republican Party finally decides his buddy Donald Trump is too much of a pain in the ass.
Also, The Thing is running out of super-groups to join. Everybody is in The Avengers, and everybody is in SHIELD. But only four people can be in the Fantastic Four (duh!) and The Thing always has been the most popular.
But… Ben Grimm just might move to Israel.
Doctor Strange will lose one of his monthlies.
Doctor Strange might just be my favorite Marvel character (Sub-Mariner gives him a run for his money in my fevered pantheon), but he has rarely been able to support one monthly title, let alone two. Or more; it’s so hard to tell these days. Yeah the movie was big (and great), but there’s no relationship between the number of titles a property can support and the long-term impact of a movie franchise.
Besides, there isn’t a Doctor Strange movie franchise per se. There is only the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, which may or may not extend to their many teevee shows. This is why you will probably pay to see the next Spider-Man movie but you will think twice about the next X-Men team movie.
O.K. These are truly no-brainers, supported by the overwhelming weight of history and a bit more logic than is safe to apply to the comics field. But comics are now acceptable and are big business, so the role logic will play in future decisions just might increase. Eventually.
We’ve been obsessing over the wrong Captain America stuff.
Last month, both Geek Culture and the “world at large” (they aren’t as different anymore, are they?) were outraged that Captain America, in the debut issue of his latest series, was revealed to be an evil Hydra operative. Marvel, to their credit, played it all with a straight face. Some devotees seemed eager, unlike The Who, to “get fooled again.” Fists were clenched and keyboards were angrily pounded as indignant fans expressed their extreme displeasure at the “bad guy treatment” given to a favorite fictional hero.
The Hail Hydra shocker inspired a kazillion hilarious parodies, too.
But in the second issue of this new series, Marvel revealed it was all an insidious brainwashing trick. “Oh, never mind,” sighed most outraged fans. However, some outraged fans broke into a victory dance, assuming that Marvel caved to their wishes and changed the story based on their expressed outrage. These fans don’t quite realize how far in advance comics, a very collaborative effort, must be planned before the publication date.
There was also a hubbub about the new Captain America statue being erected in Brooklyn. Was it the “real” Captain America or just the cinematic version? Mike Gold explored this notion here when he talked about conflating the media version of a character with the original comic incarnation.
Others, like Teresa Jusino in this Mary Sue column, pointed out that in the original comics continuity, Steve Rogers, the everyman who would become the most popular Captain America, was born not in Brooklyn but in the lower East side.
Even with all that going on, the Captain America news we should be buzzing about is the story unfolding in Sam Wilson: Captain America #11. In this series, Captain America’s pal and partner, Sam Wilson, has graduated from his Falcon identity to become another Captain America. Hey it makes sense to me. Companies can have several Vice Presidents, why can’t our nation have more than one Captain America?
It’s a gorgeous looking comic with fantastic artwork by Daniel Acuna. This brilliant Spanish artist combines dynamic images with innovative composition and then he then wraps it all in a spectacular mastery of color.
I was astonished when I read this comic right after July 4th. To put it in perspective, this was the week our nation had been shocked and saddened by violence in Baton Rouge, Dallas and Minnesota.
Remember I mentioned comics must be planned and created months ahead of time in order to make the publication deadline? It seemed like Nick Spencer, the writer of Sam Wilson: Captain America #11, penned the story that very week. It had a “ripped from the headlines” feel, complete with a nuanced and balanced presentation.
In this story, the Americops, a sort of privately funded police force, are the villains. The creators didn’t waste the opportunity to show the difficult conflicts faced by several characters as they struggled, just like the rest of us, to make sense of the awful situation in this story unfolding in the comic as well as in the real world.
Kudos to all involved for adding texture, depth and hopefully a little more understanding to the national conversation.
Deep inside a bunker, equidistant from MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, and Univision, the remaining candidates vying for President of the United States secretly meet. Please note they do this every couple of days.
Lowly PA: Sirs, Madam, I wanted to bring this item to you, as you may be handed some softball opinion questions in the next news cycle. That is if Donald hasn’t spouted off something racist that needs to be covered.
The Donald: Not this week, you loser.
PA: Thank you, sir. May I have another sir? Anyways… So, Nick Spencer – a comic book writer – has penned a recent issue of Captain America wherein Steve Rogers has turned out have been brainwashed by Hydra for decades. This rewrites whole swatches of his origin, potentially. But I should note the story has only just –
The Donald: Weak! Pathetic! What a loser. I mean, look, are there some great yuge stories about Steve Rogers? Yes. But none by this guy. Who, not that I’m saying anything wrong here… but Spencer is a Mexican. I personally gave over 12 million dollars to Marvel to stop this. But I think they are being run by… well… the guy is named “Alonso.”
Hil-Dawg: *Cackling Laugh* Oh, Donald, you slay me! But I think we should all take a minute or two to come to a consensus about how we’ll react to this.
Comrade Sanders: Hilary, Donald… I think this is indicative of the fat-cat Wall Street Mickey Mouse Militia out to push an agenda to usurp more powah’ for the one percent! Furthermore –
Hil-Dingo: Just so you know, it actually doesn’t matter what you answer. I’ve already won. This opinion question. The nomination. And the Presidency. But I recognize your right to continue…
Bernie waves an angered hand from his rumpled Men’s Warehouse Special towards the Secretary of State.
Don Juan DiRacist: Look. I love Marvel Comics. Marvel Comics loves me. That they could let this baddy bad badness to occur is just another reason we can’t have Crooked Hilary or Crazy Bernie in charge. Steve Rogers should be a Trump University graduate who fights ISIS and beats them. You’ll see that when I’m President.
Hil-Django: It’s a nice thought. But just like tickets on Trump Airlines, I’m not buying it. I think the smart money says we stay conservative about this Captain America issue. When my husband and I were President in the 90’s, Captain America was an unwavering success. It’s clear that this is just another attempt by the GOP to get in the way of the rights for characters to have retconned background stories for the sake of new fiction.
Burning Man Sanders: Mista’ Trump? Steve Rogers is from Brooklyn. Like me. He fights for the 99%. Miss Clinton? In the 90’s, you’ll denote I wrote many a’ bill to try to stop things like Captain America’s laser shield, Heroes Reborn, and several other complete mishaps during the time President Clinton should have been reconsidering Glass-Steag –
Hilary pulls out an air horn from her purse and honks it angrily at Senator Sanders.
Lowly PA: Gentlemen, Mrs. Clinton… We really need to come to a consensus here. Meet the Press is going to ask each of your communication directors about your stance on this topic in just an hour or two! And the people of America are screaming bloody murder! Some people are livid that there would be such a retcon to a seminal staple of the American spirit. Others are just casually awaiting the arc to end before jumping to conclusions.
Drumpy-Dumpty: Nate Spicer is a Mexican. When I’m President, we’re going to destroy these copies of the book, rewrite the backstory, and make Captain America great again.
Feel The Burn: I think Mr. Spencer is a good writer. Would I have taken such a drastic step in the first issue of a long arc? Potentially. But I think it’s key that we hear the complete story, and work togetha’ to ensure that Captain America doesn’t allow Wall Street to be too big to fail!
Hilarious Clinton: It’s clear to me now, that I feel the same way as any woman would at a time like this. When the country needs to still be this divided over a male-centric issue? It’s a shame. And one that I’ve been fighting against for years. And I’ll fight it more… over the next four years. When I finally take my throne as promised.
The three candidates get up from their seats. They exchange pleasantries and perform the ceremonial secret handshake. Donald Trump then puts on his traditional Latverian tunic, finger-extending gauntlets, and sorcery-empowered armor. He seals his craggy orange facade behind the mask of Doom, and flies out of the cave, to an awaiting mass of white supremacists. I mean… Latverians. Hilary Clinton gets into her Goldman-Sachs’ LexCorp Power Armor™, hugs an awaiting Loki, and promptly teleports back to her secret Harlem think tank. Bernie Sanders tears away his Robert Hall Special revealing a more frumpy Mervyn’s, and plinks away at his 2005 Blackberry. He calls to ensure his greyhound tickets are in order, and takes the stairs towards the street-level shelter to await his bus back to California.
Nick Spencer remains secluded in his own private bunker while the baby boomers all get their death threats in order. He reminds himself that it’s just fiction, he does have an editor who approves his scripts, and, thanks to Doctor Doom, the compelling feeling that there really is no bad publicity anymore.
For all you mainstream comic fans, last week was a doozy. If you’re in that tiny minority of people that somehow avoided all the craziness last week, haven’t read the new Captain America or DC Rebirth but still plan on it, maybe it’d be best if you did before you read on. I’m totally going to spoil things.
Now that we’re all caught up let’s start with the less controversial DC Rebirth #1. Other than my own personal issues with it being far too heavy on the exposition through narrative (come on people, it’s a visual medium!) the most striking thing to myself and seemingly many others was the introduction of Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen fame into the main DC continuity.
Watchmen has been an odd property at DC ever since it premiered, never quite being in the DCU but also not being allocated to one of DC’s smaller imprints. Damn near very comics fan is at least somewhat familiar with Alan Moore’s falling out with DC Comics. People higher up in DC like Paul Levitz did try to respect Alan Moore’s wishes in so far as pushing back against others within the company from trying to use the property in other projects. However, after Paul was no longer corporate president, plans were quickly put in motion to capitalize on Watchmen’s success with Before Watchmen.
Before Watchmen was met with mixed reviews and comparatively disappointing sales. So after Before Watchmen flopped, why would DC want to try to incorporate Dr. Manhattan into the main DCU? Did they feel like they haven’t annoyed Alan Moore enough recently? Incorporating Watchmen into Rebirth seems like it’s not only a bad idea, but a bad idea with a recent proven track record of being a bad idea.
We’ll get back to that in a bit. Now onto the more controversial comic from last week, Captain America: Steve Rogers #1. In case you did not heed my earlier warning and are reading this without having heard what happened, live firmly under a rock with no Internet access and someone was kind enough to print this column out for you, Captain America has come out as a Hydra agent. You know, that Hydra. The bad one. The one that has caused the Internet to argue over exactly what degree of Nazi that Hydra is.
Newsflash: if you’re arguing about how Nazi a thing is, said thing in question is probably already too Nazi.
I’m not going to get into too many of the details here as it’s been explained and editorialized into oblivion since last week. I do fall onto the side of the argument that goes: maybe don’t do this to a beloved movie franchise character that children look up to. And I will add that some people I’ve seen compared this to Superior Spider-Man, and while I under that it’s tempting to compare the two the reality of this fiction is that we all knew Superior Spider-Man was Doc Ock from day one.
Although both of these events last Wednesday seem radically different from one another, they are really both different parts of the same problem. The mainstream comic book industry, Marvel and DC, are uniquely trapped by their intellectual property and this problem has not and is not being addressed properly. I’d argue that reboots are absolutely necessarily for these companies. The problem is that they keep trying to reboot the characters and stories, but what really needs to be rebooted is the corporate culture.
We live in as world where if you create new characters for Marvel or DC you have no ownership of them. They could be a huge hit and a cash grab for a generation or more, but you won’t see much money from it, if any. Hell, our own Denny O’Neil wrote the Iron Man story that was borrowed heavily from to create the movie that launched Marvel Studios and saved the company. Try to find a producer credit for him.
No one expects every idea to take off and be a mega hit. And comics is a very collaborative medium where it can become difficult to figure out exactly who gets the credit, especially in the years before this was taken more seriously. However, a creator is not going to be nearly as motivated to use the best ideas, create the best characters, and give Marvel or DC the chance of getting big crossover hit. They can just take those ideas to Image or another creator-owned publisher.
You see it all the time now. Indie creators getting some buzz, Marvel or DC scooping them up and helping build the creator’s fan base, then said creator takes a chunk of those fans with them when they decide they’ve gotten enough out of Marvel or DC and focus on their creator-owned ideas. Just look at Rick Remender, Alex Kot, Matt Fraction. Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Ed Brubaker. That’s just off the top of my head.
I get that it’s not an easily solved situation for Marvel and DC. I understand how these are complicated problems that involved multiple departments and corporate entities. However, the way both companies are handling their properties right now with the constant reboots, reshuffling, shooting for short term profits and ignoring (at least publicly) long term solutions, the only reboot they really need to concern themselves with is in their legal departments.
CAPTAIN AMERICA DIDN’T TAKE A CONSERVATIVE APPROACH
Sometimes a banana is just a banana.
It was all over the news. Well, all over Fox News, anyway. Captain America was targeting conservatives.
Which he wasn’t.
What happened – as best I can fathom, as even Quentin Tarantino would have had a difficult time following the nonlinear storytelling in Captain America: Sam Wilson #1 – is this. Some weeks back, super villain theIron Nail neutralized the Super-Soldier Serum in body of Steve Rogers, the original Captain America. Without its effects, Steve Rogers, who was born in 1920, found his body rapidly aging to that of a 94-year-old man. (Question: did the story explain why Steve’s body rapidly aged to 94? Sure Steve was born on July 4, 1920, or 94 years ago, when he lost the Serum. But he spent all the time from early 1945 until The Avengers #4 in suspended animation. Marvel says Fantastic Four #1 didn’t happen in 1961, it happened 10 years ago. That’s Marvel Time. So in Marvel Time, The Avengers# 4 happened a little bit less than 10 years ago. Meaning from 1945 until a little less than 10 years ago, Cap’s body was in suspended animation and didn’t age. Cap went into the iceberg as 24-year-old and came out still 24 years old. Since then, 10 years have passed, Marvel time. So it doesn’t matter what year Cap was born, physiologically he should have the body of a 34-year-old man, not a 94-year-old man. How, then, did Cap’s body age to an age it had never been? Inquiring minds want to know. And even if they don’t I do.)
Because Steve couldn’t meet the physical demands of being Captain America any more, he turned his mantle and shield over to his partner Sam Wilson, formerly the Falcon and now Captain America. Sam promptly got a bunch of people mad at him by taking public stands on several partisan issues. What stands and what issues the comic never told us, but I think we can safely assume it wasn’t whether the President should be pardoning Thanksgiving turkeys.
Things got worse for Sam, as his actions caused a strain in his relationship with the super spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D. Suddenly Sam was on his own and without resources. So he set up a national hotline that people could use to tell him about injustices or wrongs that needed to be righted.
One of those hot line calls was from Mariana Torres. Her grandson Joaquin left water, medicine, and food out for people who were walking through the desert to cross the border from Mexico into America. Mariana also told Sam that Joaquin didn’t come back from his last mission. She claimed that he had been kidnapped by the Sons of the Serpent, who were patrolling the border to stop the undocumented from entering. (It should be noted that the Sons of the Serpent is a long-time white-supremacist and racist hate group in the Marvel Universe; basically Marvel’s version of the KKK.)
Sam-tain America promptly went down to Sonoita, Arizona and confronted the Sons of the Serpent, who were about to capture some border crossers. And that’s where we came in.
Came in with Fox News criticizing the new Captain Americaand his comic for vilifying, “an American who has misgivings about unlimited illegal immigration and the costs associated with it,” Fox’s commentators said that writers should “keep politics out of comic books” or should be telling positive stories about, “the people who are working the border to keep us safe.” Fox News went on to say that the Sons of the Serpent are only stopping people from coming over the border illegally and Captain America wanted to keep them from doing that.
Now I admit the people who were entering the country were doing so illegally and Joaquin was breaking the law by helping them. If all that was happening was that the Sons of the Serpent were apprehending people who were entering the country illegally then turning them over to the Border Patrol and Captain America wanted to prevent them from doing that, Fox would have had a legitimate story. Problem is that Fox’s interpretation of the comic was simplistic.
See what Fox News conveniently forgot to do was tell its viewers the real reason the Sons of the Serpent were apprehending border crossers. The Serpents weren’t patrolling the borders and turning undocumented aliens over to the Border Patrol. They were grabbing people and selling them for $5,000 a head to Dr. Karlin Malus, an evil scientist,so that he could use them in his genetic experimentation. The Sons of the Serpents were kidnapping people.
Kidnapping is a crime. Even Fox News’s Research Department should be able to confirm that fact. Assuming Fox News’s Research Department is capable of doing something more extensive than digging up talking points.
For all the furor Fox fomented, turns out that Captain America wasn’t targeting conservatives. He was going after kidnappers. You know, criminals. And that’s what Captain America is supposed to do, isn’t it? Go after lawbreakers. Because, you know, bananas are bananas and not cumquats.
I admit that Captain America: Sam Wilson # 1 could have done a better job of showing that the Sons of the Serpents were kidnappers. While that information was strongly implied in issue one, it wasn’t until Captain America: Sam Wilson #2 that the comic explicitly told us the Sons were selling the people they grabbed to Dr. Malus.
Might have been nice if that explicit kidnapping information had been in issue 1 so that even a simplistic reading of the comic would have shown Captain America was going after kidnappers not conservatives. Maybe then Fox News would have done a fair and balanced story.
This past weekend, myself and some of the other ComicMix columnists went to see Hail, Caesar!, the latest film from the Coen brothers. I don’t want to speak for everyone else, but the general consensus as we all exited the theater was one of enjoyment. Personally, I thought it was one of the better Coen brothers’ films.
That being said, the movie has some possible drawbacks. For those of you that don’t know, Hail, Caesar! is a period piece taking place in Hollywood in the late 1940s revolving around the choices a studio executive has to make. They do a great job with it all, and really suck the audience into the setting. Although the movie is certainly lacking heavily in the diversity department, you might have just given it a pass considering the combination of the time period and the subject matter.
I’d have been more likely to give the movie a pass as well if it weren’t for this interview the Coen brothers gave. In it, they use some poorly selected words to describe what they think about diversity in movies. They claim that writers do not think about diversity as they come up with stories.
Now look, this doesn’t make the Coen brothers bad film makers. It makes them presumptuous to think that other writers in the business don’t consider diversity when writing, and that demonstrates their values are not the same as mine, but that doesn’t mean that they are inherently bad. And they have the excuse this time of doing a period piece, so it’s okay that it’s all white.
Or is it?
Outside of even the #Oscarssowhite controversy, I understand the idea that the executives at the studio, the actors at the studio and many others would be white. Really, I get it. However, nearly everyone we see on screen of consequence or not is white. All of the random celebrities that make an appearance in this film even for a scene or two are white. I don’t want to get into any spoilers, but we do see groups of people that you would imagine would have some more diversity in them. Perhaps not showing that diversity was a commentary the film was making, but if it was that never came across in the film.
This is a multilayered problem. Of course we can point to the Coen brothers both being white, having their own life experiences from that, and drawing from those in their writings. Another problem is one they point out in the interview I linked to above about how it’s not fair to single out a particular movie and question the level of diversity in it. Though they answer this question poorly, they do have a point and that makes this all the more complicated and difficult.
The Coen brothers did not get into film making to preach diversity; they’re making films because they want to tell the stories they want to tell. The problem isn’t exactly with individual movies. Everyone who makes it that far in the business should be able to attempt to make the movies they want to make. The problem comes when most of those people are white, and want to tell stories about other people who are white. It’s a difficult situation to tackle without an easy solution as this is an institutional problem, not an individual problem.
I feel this problem is driven heavily by our obsession with nostalgia. The good old days! The “simpler” times. Hail, Caesar! harkens back to a “simpler” Hollywood with overtones of the complexity of the red scare. The movie still paints a very black and white picture of that time. It keeps it simple. It glosses over the oppression part. Now, going back to my point earlier, this movie should not be held to such a high standard as to accurately depict the complexity of the time period. The problem comes down to that we have too many individual examples of this and not enough examples of movies not in nostalgia’s lens.
Naturally, I started linking this movie I was watching to parallels with the comic book industry.
This is a problem that’s been affecting comic books for a long time as well, and more recently comic book movies. I’ve touched on this before in other columns, particularly this one about Captain America. Since I’ve written that, we’ve seen articles like this one come out about comics that are in danger of being cancelled. It’s interesting to note that five of the ten comics listed star either a woman, black, and/or queer character. On top of that, another one of the ten comics listed is written by Gail Simone, one of the highest profile women in comics, and another of them stars Hercules which caused controversy when it was announced that he would not be depicted as bisexual this time.
Alarms should be going off in your minds right now. The books on the chopping block are disproportionately underrepresented groups in comics, and by a rather large margin. And similar to what the Coen brothers brought up in their interview, it is not the individual creators’ faults. This isn’t an individual problem, it’s an institutional problem. Just like with movies where we have a disproportionate about of famous white actors that are a draw at the box office like George Clooney, Channing Tatum, and Scarlett Johansson, and directors like the Coen brothers, comics have a disproportionately high draw with white characters and creators from Batman, Superman, and Wolverine, to Geoff Johns, Brian Michael Bendis, and Neal Adams.
It is not the fault of any of the individuals involved that they’re white. It’s not their fault that they’re successful or that they draw an audience. However, decades of entrenchment in the comics medium has created a class of successful white, mostly male creators and white, mostly male creations. Just like with Hollywood, TV, literature, you name. And latching on to nostalgia only keeps the cycle going on and on.
For comics, trying to solve this problem seemed to backfire. Over at DC some months ago, the editors there told their creators to “stop Batgirling” and to go back to the “meat and potatoes.” My initial take away from that was one of disappointment. Watching Hail, Caesar! and reading what the Coen brothers had to say has changed my attitude on this.
I think it’s great that both Marvel and DC have put at least some effort into making their product line more diverse. The Coen brothers are also right to believe they don’t have to consider diversity in the movies they want to make (whether I agree with them or not). And it’s a reminder that many, many people out there really don’t care about diversity and they don’t want to care about it either.
In Hollywood at least, movies like Creed, Straight Outta Compton, and even Star Wars: The Force Awakens are shaking things up and have the positive reviews and profits to back up their success. At Marvel and DC, they’re still in the process of figuring out how to shake things up in an equivalent sort of way. DC’s approach, which was admirable, spread itself too thin. They put too many titles out that were doomed to failure. They were doomed because they were rushing to capture an audience that hasn’t been properly cultivated yet.
It took time before Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, The X-Men, and many others were solid franchises deeply entrenched in our culture. Too many Bat titles or Avengers titles compete with these younger characters and titles and prevent them from having an equal chance, as I discussed the other week with Sam Wilson as Captain America and his almost certain end not long after Steve Rogers comes back.
Perhaps a possible solution is to invest highly in a small number of newer characters, like Kamala Khan at Marvel, build them up, entrench them in our culture to allow them to gain some permanence rather than spread diversity too thin and watch books rise and fall fast. Or maybe the world has changed too much where characters like Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man would never be able to be created and become kind of franchise juggernauts in comic that they are today and entrenching a new character like Kamala Khan just wouldn’t work the same.
Nostalgia is a powerful force, and that’s a force that is not only unavailable to help characters like Kamala Khan and characters from other underrepresented groups, it’s a hindrance. Not only to cultivating these new characters, but it’s a hindrance to us and getting us out of our comfort zones.
Is there anything that can really be done about this in the short term? I’m not entirely sure. It’s something for me to think about. Maybe for you too.
Last week Marvel Comics announced that they’ll be bringing back the original Captain America, Steve Rogers. Currently, Sam Wilson is the acting Captain America. For many, it was a big deal that Sam Wilson became Captain America. He’s the first African American Captain America in the main continuity (though Bob Morales and Kyle Baker’s Truth explored Isaiah Bradley, a black man depicted as being an early product of the super-soldier program), which instantly made him one of Marvel’s highest profile, if not their highest profile, black superhero.
This, on top of Jane Foster taking over the role of Thor and some other recent choices, seemed to show that Marvel was moving towards broader representation and inclusion in their main titles to accommodate the rapidly changing demographics of comic book readers.
That is no longer the case.
Many have speculated that Marvel Comics would eventually go back to the original characters, the straight cis white male versions specifically, as they have done that time and time again over the years. As diversity in all entertainment mediums including comics has become an increasingly important topic as of late, we’ve been seeing more press roll outs of change ups at both Marvel and DC like when Sam Wilson took on the mantel of Captain America. Unfortunately, by bringing back Steve Rogers, the straight cis white male Captain America, they are undermining their own efforts.
However, they are only truly undermining their own efforts if diversity was the priority in the first place. They are not undermining their own efforts if short term sales are their first priority. Long term sales, now that’s a different story.
Sure, Marvel is stating that they’re going to keep Sam Wilson as Captain America. They’re just going to have two of them at the same time. This seems like a means to keep people from initially being upset by the move, whether they’re comic book readers themselves or outsiders reporting on it. Or it’s a way to keep people have much of an opinion on this at all. I mean, Marvel isn’t taking away something, they’re just giving us more, right?
That’s a mistake. In comics, we’ve all seen this before. A disruption in the status quo for a time that will inevitably go back to the norm. Spider-Man had a black suit for a while, Superman died and came back, even Steve Rogers as Captain America was Nomad for a time before becoming Captain America again. Also, Steve Rogers got killed, replaced by Winter Soldier, just to come back only a few years ago, but who’s counting? And yes, I know there are plenty more examples, but you probably know most of them anyway.
Beyond just being tired, gimmicky cash-grabs, these sort of things hurt diversity in comics. Sam Wilson as Captain America had his first issue debut in October, and we’re already getting ready to bring back Steve Rogers by the summer. Less than a year of a black Captain America in the main continuity before going right back to white. Even if they keep them both as Captain America, we all know the sales are going to be better for Steve Rogers’ comic. He has the built in fan base garnered through 75 years of existence on top of having Chris Evans star as Steve Rogers in one of the most successful movie franchises of all time. What chance does Sam Wilson have as Cap?
We know how this story ends before it starts. Steve Rogers’ book will sell well, and Sam Wilson’s will maybe sell for a bit before sales dwindle enough where they cancel it. Maybe Sam Wilson will appear in team books or as a guest in comics, but Steve will be back on top in no time. Especially since this will be coinciding with the release of the new Captain America movie. And with Sam Wilson still being depicted as Falcon in the movies, it’s very possible he’ll go back to using that name again. You know, because synergy. Funny how that works, huh?
Not that you don’t already know this, but Marvel is owned by Disney. Disney has the money, if they really were invested in diversity, to promote a black superhero like Sam Wilson in the comics, or any other number of minority heroes, and to help make them a household name that sells. They managed that with a talking raccoon and a tree that can only say its name over and over again. Yes, Sam Wilson appears as Falcon in the movies, but he’s a minor character that hasn’t really had too much of a chance to shine or garner a fan base in the same ways. And absolutely no one seems to be calling for him to have his own solo movie, unlike side characters like Black Widow.
Now here’s where it gets tricky. I don’t like the idea of a boycott. It’s not the fault of the creative team on the Steve Rogers’ Captain America book that it will likely bump the Sam Wilson one out in time. If it wasn’t Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz on the book, Marvel would get another team on it. Easily. This is an editorial decision. Yes, they may have asked some creators to pitch them some ideas on what to do with Steve Rogers as Captain America again, but Steve Rogers was going to get a new title as Captain America either way.
If you’re interested in Captain America when the Steve Rogers’ comic hits the shelves this summer, buy both books. If you can only afford one, buy the Sam Wilson one. That’s the one that’s going to need the higher sales numbers to stick around as a monthly title. Let’s show the comic industry, and specifically Marvel Comics, that we care more about change, diversity, and representation than we care about defaulting back to straight cis white men for the sake of nostalgia.
Maybe they’ll even stop rehashing the same storylines over and over if we’re proving to Marvel that we’ll buy new stories. If we keep defaulting back, we’ll never move forward, and diversity will be nothing more than a nice thought we ponder about from time to time.
Marc leans back on his heels as the audience hoops and hollers. His co-band leaders John Linnell and John Flansburgh wrap up their intro song, a peppy reprise of “Ana Ng.” The auditorium simmers down a tad as the music fades.
So… uhh… have you heard the news lately? Have you seen this? Seems that Fox News was amazed that Captain America wasn’t as pro-conservative as they’d thought. Have you heard about this? Yeah! It seems they missed the whole Civil War too!
The band hits a quick rim-shot and sting of “Doctor Worm.”
Ehh, don’t blame me if you didn’t laugh. My writers stink. And to totally honest, when I read this story I didn’t laugh either. Not only because it wasn’t surprising that Fox News blew something out of proportion without vetting their sources, but because I’ve never found that channel to be funny at all. It’s the same reason I stopped laughing at Donald Trump’s campaign speeches.
So, what’s with all the rage? Sam Wilson – the current Captain America – is a black, liberally-minded super-hero. Amusingly, Steve Rogers – the currently elderly former Captain America – is a white liberally-minded super-hero. I admit that I’m not privy to the recent issues of Marvel’s most patriotic pugilist, but I know enough about the characters themselves to understand why Fox News (and a few other right-winged blowhards) are torn up over the recent pulp. Within the aforementioned issue, the “Sons of the Serpent” – a white supremacist group who likely thought Hydra was too Jewish – are taken to task by Wilson-Cap after they spout some Trump-esque declarations and threaten illegal immigrants with punishment by way of the power vested in me by the aforementioned God, Nature, et cetera, et cetera.
The only thing truly funny to me about the backlash by any media is how they’re attempting to rattle the cage of other non-comic book readers. They believe a conservative person who may or may not be a comic book fan to become upset over the political beliefs of a fictional character. What’s next? People storming at the gates of the WWE because John Cena supports his gay cousin? Perhaps a million-man march in Washington over reruns of The West Wing? The fact is that fictional characters are fiction. Meaning their views are at the behest of their creators. And Captain America, by way of Nick Spencer, is a progressive who wants to take a stand on the issues of the day. Is he wrong in choosing that direction for the character? Nope. Not even a little bit.
Marvel (and by proxy, their master Mickey Mouse) is wanting to capitalize on the continued success of their movie and TV franchises and get new fans into the comic book stores. By offering stories that aren’t ripped from the movies(shush, real comics fans), they are offering a tangential product that showcases how comics can build bigger universes than the motion-media can. And by incorporating storylines with characters charged by the same issues the populace is currently facing… they are making the attempt to attract people seeking more than just muscles and fights.
It’s at this point, Marc sits down at his set desk. Camera 1 rolls into a tight shot, as the title card “This is not a Seth Myers impression” flashes on screen.
What’s really awesome is that this is truly the first time ever comic books at Marvel (or any publisher for that matter) is using their medium to tell modern stories about the world around them. Because, you know, it’s not like the X-Men were an allegory for the civil rights movement. Or that the Iron Man was response to the Cold War when he debuted. Or that the current Batwoman, the new Earth Two Alan Scott, or Northstar were gay and had to deal with any relevant issues pertinent to their sexuality. Kudos to this new black Captain America for being literally the first comic book character to ever deal with a modern issue head on!
The audience laughs knowingly.
Ultimately, it wouldn’t matter to me personally if Sam Wilson were a progressive or tea-party member. I’d give no second care if Charles Xavier (or his ghost… I’ve lost count of his whereabouts) turned out to be a Nazi sympathizer all along. Hell, it’d paint his past fights with Magneto in whole crazy new lights! But I digress. The point is simple: Fiction is not reality. Making a stink over any piece of it is only relevant to the quality of the piece itself, not the politics that drive it. As with all comics characters: there are aspects to each character that must ring true. For Captain America – be he Sam Wilson, Steve Rogers, or Bucky Barnes – he must stand up for the people of his country. And that sentiment runs far deeper than any party line.
Cue the musical guest tonight, Neil Young, with special players Tom Morello, and Bernie Sanders on Xylophone.
So I guess when the AV Club is reporting on the future death of Wolverine, the cat is out of the bag, eh? In yet another PR stunt, the mainstream comic houses show their full hand in hopes mega media attention will somehow garner a boost in pulp sales. I’m reminded of that saying concerning the definition of insanity. And surely this is a topic we, the snarky columnists of any number of media outlets, have covered… well… to death. It’s still worth another look though, so indulge me, kiddos. It’s time to beat a dead horse.
Isn’t it a shame when the knee-jerk reaction of your most dedicated fan-base upon hearing about the death of a beloved character comes with an audible snicker and eye roll? Suffice to say when I’d read the newswire piece it didn’t come as a shock, as much as a continual reminder that my favorite medium was often regarded as kitsch. And truly, no other medium comes to mind – save perhaps for soap operas or pro wrestling– where the announcement of a significant loss bares no bitter fruit as much as it comes complete with scoffs from the peanut gallery.
Wolverine to be stripped of his healing factor and killed. Peter Parker’s mind is destroyed, only to be inhabited by Otto Octavius. Batman banished forever in time by the impact of some Omega beams. Superman dead. Thor dead. Professor X dead. Steve Rogers dead. Jean Grey dead. Colossus dead. Hell… Bucky Barnes dead. Phil Coulson dead.
Feh, I say. Feh! In each instance of the leaked announcement, I immediately retort “…until sales drop, or a movie comes out.” And if you’re a betting man, you’d be smart to go all in each time. I think though, that ranting and railing against something you could count on as easily as the tide coming in, is a waste of negative feelings.
What sits at the root of all of these stabs into the mainstream ether is the soul-crushing realization that our beloved cape-and-cowl crowd are all for-profit entities, each built to harness the dollars and cents of a loyal customer base that has proven more often than not to continually purchase product even while loudly protesting it. Simply put, one need not sweat the wrath of the fanboys and girls until they leave you high and dry at the checkout counter. And as attendance at comic conventions continue to swell, and the multiplex becomes choked annually with blockbuster after blockbuster… there’s little need to fear that our ink-and-paper rags are going away while the licenses need to be coddled.
And what would you do if you were the EIC of a major comic book publisher? You’d keep hitting your cash piñatas until they stop dropping Tootsie Rolls. One can’t simply let their comic character live and die with the times. They must constantly be in a cycle or dramatic repartee with one another. They must converge on mighty battlegrounds. They must make odd alliances. They must recalibrate, reinvent, and redefine their very being every few months. The moment they stop, the attention is drawn elsewhere. Even to let a mortal man, like Frank Castle – a character whose very mission is clearly drawn in severe black and white terms – die a hero’s death, is really just another way to bookmark him for a new series later. One cannot simply let a comic character die… not when there’s a bloodstone to find and money left on the table.
To learn of Wolverine’s impending dirt map should not actually be met with a scoff, and an upturned nose. As in nearly all my aforementioned examples of re-re-retconned demises… in their immediate wake came some of the best stories I’d ever read concerning that character! When Batman was time-bulleted away, Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics gave me the Dick Grayson I’ve always wanted to read. When Dan Slott took the leap to let Otto drive as the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, he opened up a fantastic object lesson in proactive versus reactive heroism. And when Wolverine bites the big one, it will be less about ending his story as it is opening up a new chapter in the plethora of X-books that will no doubt be touched by the loss. Death, as it were, is then less about the loss specifically of the character in question, rather, it’s about the aftermath that needs to be considered.
It is sad to me that we must accept this as fate; that our heroes and villains are merely pawns in a never ending churn and burn of story arcs and universe resets. In the time since its inception, the Marvel Universe (the 616), and the DCU (whatever we call current continuity since it’s neither new, nor 52) have relegated themselves to reinvention at every turn of the corner. Unlike a soap or the WWE, where fictional characters can eventually die in real life… or even Doctor Who, who remains the same alien in spirit, but purposefully reimagined to coincide with the times – mainstream comic books must remain forever in Neverland. While DC tried hard to create legacies with a few of their major heroes (The Flash and Green Lantern, most of all), they too eventually succumbed to a massive PR stunt (the still-absolutely-unbearable Flashpoint), in order to move the zeitgeist back into its clutches.
So mourn not for James Howlett, folks. Let no tears stain your mutton-chopped cheeks for his once robust form. For now, he will join any number of other X-Men at the famed Marvel Island. He’ll enjoy the umbrella drinks, and free bacon… as the 616 spins out of control.
Because let’s face it, a world with Wolverine leaves a roster spot open on at least 1,246 different teams. And that is why we mourn.
In the better late than never department, we present to you the just-released trailer for next April’s Captain America: The Winter Solider. In the trailer, you will find Black Widow, Nick Fury, the Falcon, and the Winter Soldier. Not glimpsed is Sharon Carter but she’s in this stuffed tale as well. It looks pretty darn cool.
U.S. Release date: April 4, 2014
Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell with Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo
Producer: Kevin Feige
Executive Producers: Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo, Alan Fine, Stan Lee
Screenplay by: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (credit not final)
After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier finds Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue that threatens to put the world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off professional assassins sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon. However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy—the Winter Soldier.
Based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series, first published in 1941, Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier is produced by Kevin Feige, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, from a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, and stars Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp and Hayley Atwell, with Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.
In Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve Rogers teams up with Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, to battle a powerful yet shadowy enemy in present-day Washington, D.C.