My new fascination with the world of comic books (and their eerie reflections of reality) is the article I read this morning in the Washington Post about Captain America. I assume you all know of Captain America in some fashion, his patriotic persona is a staple of American memory. Some of you may know that Captain American took a bullet in a 9-11/Patriot Act/Discrimination related plot last spring which ended his 66 year long life in the Marvel Comics Universe. Not to worry, as usual in comics, Marvel is bringing him back to life. Comics often take the opportunity to reinvent characters in situations like this, frequently to boost readership. Its no different here. This year, when the Cap’n comes back in January he’ll be packing heat. That's right, carrying a gun. Our beloved patriotic American hero will no longer be armed with only bravery, honesty and wit. He'll also have a holster on his hip.
What does this decision to put a weapon in the hand of a Good Guy say about America? Even Comic book heroes can’t survive out there without carrying weapons? It’s an NRA wet dream that speaks to youth and adult comic book readers everywhere with a bold statement: Love Your Country. Wave The Flag. Carry A Firearm. Can Captain America still go through metal detectors or fly on an airplane? Isn’t it illegal to carry a concealed weapon in some (most?) states? Does that make CA a criminal?
In a country ravaged by gun violence and school shootings from Columbine to VA Tech , do we really need children dressing and acting as their favorite comic book characters and brandishing weapons in efforts to be super heroes? I know that juveniles are not the only readers of comic books, but they certainly constitute a percentage.
The article, by Post staff writer David Betancourt, quotes Captain America’s current writer, Ed Brubaker, talking about the character's military background. I’m just not sure I agree with Brubaker that a character who carried a machine gun in the 1940’s would still use a weapon to defend Americans today:
"I've leaned on the 'soldier' part of super-soldier," Brubaker says. "If you look at Cap in the 1940s, they have him with a shield in one hand and a machine gun in the other, and Bucky [the Captain's World War II teen sidekick] has a flamethrower. "In the '80s they started changing his history, saying he'd never killed anyone. A guy who fought in World War II isn't going to care if terrorists die. I've always approached the book as a superhero espionage comic"
If that isn't Americana, I don't know what is. "A guy who fought in World War II isn't going to care if terrorists die."-- What? Really? Maybe Captain America is heading to Iraq for 18 months like actual soldiers. Or maybe hes just going to bug some phone lines, and check some library records and find his own terrorists. Either way, soldier/superhero/gut-toting civilian, the gun shouldn't be the primary focus of the new Captain America, just as Batwoman's homosexuality wasn't in DC Comics last year, but Marvel is certainly making a statement about their vision of a 21st Century superhero. Captain America will now be able to do more than protect and defend this country, apparently he'll also be on the offense, stalking the Marvel Universe hunting down the "bad guys".