I never read Captain America while growing up because it was corny. Rarely did I find a Cap story I could enjoy. If I was 15 years older and grew up when Captain America considered Nixon to be a terrorist, leading him to quit to become Nomad and later The Captain, maybe I wouldn’t see it that way. I also never understood why the military, or even the Avengers, never promoted Cap from company command. If Nick Fury can go from Cap’s first sergeant to a colonel (or, in the Ultimate universe, a general), then surely at some point someone can kick the guy upstairs. Even to a staff job. The guy is like 90 years old. Shouldn’t Steve Rogers be Gen. America? That said, Ed Brubaker has done some of the only writing on Captain America I can enjoy. It’s complex and thought-provoking.
Anyway, in the midst of the ongoing saga of Brubaker-vs-the-Teabaggers, Marvel is going out of its way to indicate, however implausibly, that the company, Brubaker and certainly the icon of Captain America has nothing against their mature insistence that the national debt suddenly became a problem when the black guy took the oath of office and that freedom’s just another word for “top marginal tax rate.” Adam Serwer, citing Julian Sanchez, does a good job of showing just why that’s so implausible. Captain America — the original Steve Rogers version — “died” defending the principle that, in his words, when the government controls the superheroes, they’ll start redefining the supervillians to target legitimate political speech.
The thing is that was totally wrong and it gives me some sympathy with the teabaggers here. In the ‘Civil War’ storyline, Iron Man responded to a superhero-wrought tragedy by coming out for a Superhuman Registration Act, which would allow the government to register and regulate heroes and give them training. Cap and a band of likeminded heroes fought this — literally — and Cap died. But what Iron Man was really saying was no different than the uncontroversial principle that the state needs a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. When Cap launched his “the government will pick the supervillains” monologue, I was surprised that someone — like She-Hulk, who’s a lawyer — didn’t reply, “Wait, no. We have laws criminalizing certain behavior. We’ll have to follow those laws. That’s why the cops and the firefighters and the military and the intelligence communities don’t just go around legally killing members of the out-of-power party. Why would we be any different?”
And the problem was that the guy making this dubious case wasn’t Yellowjacket or Goliath (RIP) or Daredevil (a really bad lawyer, evidently). It was Captain Fucking America. A walking American flag and war hero who still manages to find Nazis to beat up. If that’s not an editorial thumb on the scale, I don’t know what is. Cap’s right because he’s Cap. It’s downright un-American when you think about it, but there it is. Now Marvel’s trying to renege on how Iron Man turned out to be (tragically) right by having Norman Osborn displace him and assume all the power Tony Stark accrued. But no deal! Iron Man was still right and Captain America crossed the line from libertarian into anarchist during ‘Civil War.’ (By the way, Matt Fraction’s “World’s Most Wanted” storyline, about Iron Man on the run from Osborn ahead of ‘Siege’ is wonderful and this description doesn’t do it justice.)
So I get you here, teabaggers. It’s dirty argumentative pool to throw Captain America at you. If Marvel’s really going to go after you, it should come out explicitly on-panel and make the case that the teabaggers are acting against the best interests of the country. I truly doubt a Disney-owned entity would ever do that, but if you’re going to go down this road, walk tall like Steve Rogers. And while I might snicker at a comic that did that, it’s better to remember the lesson of that short story after Cap died when the cop, the Marine veteran of Omaha Beach and the dirty hippie all bid at an auction for pieces of his legacy. Captain America, like America, belongs to all of us and shouldn’t be used for any political gamesmanship. Respect the shield.