American Politics and Comic Books, a look into the history of politics in comics and the recent criticism of Captain America.
*Before I begin this Opinion Article, I would like to point out that people are entitled to their opinions and this is from an Observation made by the writer his personal opinion, please keep an open mind when reading this article. Thank you for taking the time to read it.*
Superhero Comic Books, one of the most popular Comic Genres in American History that began with Action Comics #1 in 1938 with the first superhero, created by two young men, Jerry Siegel and Joseph Shuster called Superman. Superman’s creation, it leads to the birth of the Superhero Genre and the Golden Age of Comics. In 1939, Marvel was one of the companies that entered into the Superhero craze with the introduction of characters such as Carl Burgos’ Android, the Human Torch, and Bill Everett’s Anti-Hero, Namor the Submariner.
Eventually, there would be the introduction of Patriotic themed Superheroes with the world entering into another War and Marvel’s Joe Simon (Editor, Writer/Artist) would team up with Jack Kirby to create one of the first Patriotic themed Superheroes called Captain America, the First Issue’s Cover showing the Captain punching the Fascist Nazi Leader Adolf Hitler, the cover considered to be controversial for its time.
For years Comic Books have provided reflections, parallels, and commentary on the political climate they are conceived in, they tackled tough subjects that were on the minds of Americans with a DC Comics’ Series Story Arc that focused on Green Lantern/Green Arrow eventually be later called “Hard Traveling Heroes” by Writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams tackling subjects such as poverty, corruption, pollution, racism, and drug addiction. But Marvel was known to address the big issues, in September 1963 a team of teenage heroes would be introduced thanks to Writer Stan Lee and Jack Kirby called the X-Men, instead of the traditional battle between good and evil, the X-Men had a wrinkle: mutants were hated by the “normal” humans they defended. In an article from History Channel’s Dante A. Ciampaglia, according to Dante and Stan Lee, the X-Men introduced Professor X and his vision of harmonious human-mutant coexistence standing in for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while Magneto’s rigid attitude toward the defense of mutantkind reflected the philosophy of Malcolm X. The Sentinels, the mutant-hunting robot, was introduced two years later as readers watched on TV as black Americans were beaten and abused by white police officers.
While listing some examples of how political comic books get, many have wished that comics would stay out of that area altogether, some citing that they only show “the Left” side or Comic Books being too “Political.” That’s the thing, you can’t leave it out of Comic Books, it’s a representation of the people and it can’t be hidden away from the world just because you don’t agree with it. In the past few years, there have been critics that have been very vocal about certain events that are going on in Comic Books but instead of reading the story they jump into defensive mode and claim that the books are becoming “unamerican“. This wasn’t the first time someone got offended over what was written in Comics and certainly isn’t the last, here are several examples of when Critics got upset over what they deemed “Unamerican”:
- Superman Renouncing his U.S. Citizenship (April 2011, DC Comics)
- Miles Morales’s first appearance was labeled a publicity stunt and part of a ‘Political Correctness Campaign. (August 2011)
- Sam Wilson as Captain America labeled as a PR Stunt, and against Conservatives. (2015)
- The Red Skull notably influenced by the Far-Right Academic Jordan Peterson in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Captain America Comic Book Series (2021)
The outrage didn’t stop there, in 2019, writer Mark Waid penned an essay describing America as being flawed, and was going to be put in Marvel Comics Issue 1000. Ultimately, this would lead the publisher to censor their work, why? Ike Perlmutter, who was not only the CEO but Chairman of Marvel Entertainment. He was a close friend of former President Donald Trump who believed that not only that it would hurt Trump’s feelings, it was considered unamerican. Things such as racism, xenophobia, gun violence, and inequality began to grow and would be overlooked by Donald Trump during his Presidency. People who have revered Trump and how he handles situations and his way of politics began to develop very thin skin regarding criticism and misguided anger at something else entirely. Some began to embrace lies and very vocal about ‘Cancel Culture’ which claimed to have canceled Dr. Seuss, eventually beginning to believe that the election was rigged, and would lead to the Capitol Riot where the former President would incite a riot at a rally he held at the Capitol, to try to the joint session of Congress assembled to count electoral votes to formalize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trump would watch the most fanatical of his followers become Domestic Terrorists, most wearing Captain America-themed shirts that depicted Trump as the Superhero. Neal Kirby condemned the Rioters, writing, “these images are disgusting and disgraceful. Captain America is the absolute antithesis of Donald Trump.” A few months later, the Captain would come under fire, this time for questioning the American Dream.
No, you’re reading this right, Fox News and other critics have slammed Rogers for thinking upon how the “American Dream” is misunderstood and too easily turned into Nationalism. In the Comic Book Mini-Series titled United States of Captain America, Christopher Cantwell (not to be confused by the Neo-Nazi, White Supremacist with the Same Name,) the writer of United States of Captain America had Captain America question the concept of the “American Dream,” with the network’s hosts and guests arguing that Marvel is trying to make Captain America fit into what they call “the fashionable trend of hating America.” To kick things off after expressing how the network isn’t open to criticism about their country even though the network (along with other conservative networks, news outlets) does it regularly whenever someone has a rational thought about helping the country, its citizens, heck even voice an opinion that is different from their own. They invited the man who is “battling Cancel Culture,” Senator Tom Cotton, who suggested that we, in effect, “cancel” Captain America, stating that Captain America needs a demotion to Lieutenant. So, after Cotton put in his two cents on the situation, here comes former 90s stars Dean Cain (who played Superman) and Kevin Sorbo (played Hercules) to slam the character’s “Wokeness” but Cain would later admit that he hasn’t read the book but stands by his stance. Then a self-identified comedian named Michael Loftus, host of the Loftus Party would complain that Captain America has been turned into “Captain Woke”, crying out “I’m done with Captain America, he’s dead!” These Networks and Critics miss the mark completely about Comic Books and Captain America, he has been political since the first day of his creation from punching Nazis, distinguishing between patriotism and fanaticism in the comic books (a lesson that Fox News would need to learn from this concept). Here are several more examples of how political Captain America is even in films and television, Salon pointed this out in their coverage:
- “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is an exploration of the real-life horrors of the surveillance state and predictive policing technologies, which can show who is a “threat” before they’ve even graduated high school.
- “Captain America: Civil War,” is similarly rife with political commentary on reining in global superpowers, and whether global governing bodies and treaties can be trusted.
- “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” in which the mantle of Captain America is picked up by Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson, a Black man with mixed feelings about becoming a symbol of a country still steeped in white supremacy. The short series explores how the experiments that created super soldiers like Steve (played by Chris Evans onscreen), and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), was rooted in racism and nonconsensual human experimentation on Black men. The show is devastating but honest, even including a scene where Sam is racially profiled by police.
There is plenty of misjustice in the world, politicians introducing bills to restrict votes, racism still going strong to this day, the growth of false news, xenophobia, embracing lies more than the truth, and inequality plague this country and in society while the people who are supposed to represent its citizens rather fight and try to misdirect their anger and rage over frivolous issues such as claiming an anime being part of a scheme to manipulate Americans by Google or KW Miller saying that Dragonball Z promotes “Over-Sexualization” in animation. While some disagree with politics in Comic Books they will still buy the merchandise and watch the movies because, at the end of the day, it is still Entertainment. It is a form of Freedom of Speech that shouldn’t be censored. The notion that when Marvel or Comics wading into politics is considered to be brand new when it isn’t, Marvel stories have been critiquing and reflecting on power and oppression for decades.
Thanks for reading! If you have any suggestions, news tips, or questions, email me at email@example.com. Also, be sure to Follow and Subscribe to the Nerd Den on Social Media, Links are located on the sidebar. Also, Be sure to check out our new store, Red’s Nerd Shop!