The latest essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic: "Why I'm Writing Captain America: And why it scares the hell out of me"

Featuring Leinil Francis Yu on art and Alex Ross covers.

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes:

Two years ago I began taking up the childhood dream of writing comics. To say it is more difficult than it looks is to commit oneself to criminal understatement. Writers don’t write comics so much as they draw them with words. Everything has to be shown, a fact I knew going into the work, but could not truly know until I had actually done it. For two years I’ve lived in the world of Wakanda, writing the title Black Panther. I’ll continue working in that world. This summer, I’m entering a new one—the world of Captain America.

There’s a lot to unpack here. Those of you who’ve never read a Captain America comic book or seen him in the Marvel movies would be forgiven for thinking of Captain America as an unblinking mascot for American nationalism. In fact, the best thing about the story of Captain America is the implicit irony. Captain America begins as Steve Rogers—a man with the heart of a god and the body of a wimp. The heart and body are brought into alignment through the Super Soldier Serum, which transforms Rogers into a peak human physical specimen. Dubbed Captain America, Rogers becomes the personification of his country’s egalitarian ideals—an anatomical Horatio Alger who through sheer grit and the wonders of science rises to become a national hero.

To which I can say: banana photo banana.gif

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How weird -- I just read that story.

And I'm excited. I have no idea where Coates will take Steve Rogers, but wherever it is, it will be interesting. Especially since the kind of question-asking, self-examining, want-to-make-the-world-better face Coates displays is, to me, quintessentially American. That's the kind of patriotism I love, and that's the kind of Cap I want. 

Oh, I can guess why it scares the hell out of him.

Until the Waid run, I hadn’t enjoyed the Captain America comic book in a long time. (I did like the “Captain Hydra” arc, but it wasn’t Captain America. I was ready for it to be over.) Mark Waid is going to be a tough act to follow, but it sounds as if Coates has apretty good handle on the character.

I’m in.

I most enjoyed Captain America back during the J. Marc Dematties run, both of the Mark Waid runs and the Ed Brubaker run. I tolerated the Mark Gruenwald run, but didn't love it.

The thing I liked best about DeMatties is that he gave Steve Rogers a home life, a job -- commercial artist -- and a steady girlfriend who was a civilian. Way too many writers do "Captain America, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." and pay little attention to the man.

And when they do, they think there's nothing to work with. Witness this epic fail from Vulture: "Why Captain America Is Only Interesting If He’s a Prick". (This piece was so epic and so wrong, the writer apologized for it: "My Captain America Takedown Was Wrong, and I’m Sorry"). I submit that the whole "Captain Hydra" storyline stems from the same view wrongheaded view: that a hero who is inherently noble can't be interesting. 

I trust that Ta-Nehisi Coates will find a lot of things to work with. I'm in!

I just read both articles and I can say I empathize with Abraham Riesman on the following point: “These people were talking about my characters! What’s worse, they weren’t even talking about the comics! They were just talking about these bullsh*t Hollywood movies!”

I felt duty bound to respond in the comments to the first article, thusly:

ClarkKent_DC said:

"Imagine someone frozen in the 1940s being dropped into the 2010s with no experience of the intervening decades. Someone still high on '40s social norms, righteous wartime adrenaline, and super-serum. Would he be the gentle, sensitive man we see in Marvel's films and comics? It's certainly possible. But isn't it more likely — and more interesting to imagine — that we would find him difficult and reactionary? That he'd be uncomfortably macho and out of touch with modern values?"

You're forgetting something that was delineated very, very well in the first Captain America movie: This IS a gentle, sensitive man. This is a man who was a 98-pound weakling, who grew up being bullied all his life, who in his heart has never forgotten that -- and didn't become a bully himself after he gained all that bulk and muscle.

Ultimates Captain America is off the mark precisely because it overlooks this.

Also, comic book time is tricky. Cap was initially on ice for 18 years.

That's be like some frozen in the year 2000 revived today.

how long is Cap supposed to have been on ice in today's continuity? It's no longer realistic to say the FF got their powers "10 years ago," but how long is it supposed to have been? 15? If Cap was thawed out in, say, 2005, that means he would have been on ice for closer to 60 years.

In "The Marvel Age," Captain America was influenced just as much by the '60s and '70s as he was the '30s and '40s.

Nuts, I was gonna bring this up in the "How old would they be?" thread.  Cap was originally "on ice" for like what, 18 years?  And now it's more like 60?  That would make for much more profound culture shock when he came out of it.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Also, comic book time is tricky. Cap was initially on ice for 18 years.

That's be like some frozen in the year 2000 revived today.

how long is Cap supposed to have been on ice in today's continuity? It's no longer realistic to say the FF got their powers "10 years ago," but how long is it supposed to have been? 15? If Cap was thawed out in, say, 2005, that means he would have been on ice for closer to 60 years.

In "The Marvel Age," Captain America was influenced just as much by the '60s and '70s as he was the '30s and '40s.

It's my understanding that Cap's time in the ice just gets longer the further away we are from 1945. He was thawed out of the ice "10 years ago," so that means he was on ice for 60 years or so. A decade from now, it'll be 70 years or so. And so on.

There was a mini-series from 2010 which re-tells the early days following Cap's thaw which places the action in (I wanna say) 1998... 1999? Something like that.

Hey, where's Voyager on that cover? 

To say nothing of the freezer burn!

The Baron said:

Nuts, I was gonna bring this up in the "How old would they be?" thread.  Cap was originally "on ice" for like what, 18 years?  And now it's more like 60?  That would make for much more profound culture shock when he came out of it.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Also, comic book time is tricky. Cap was initially on ice for 18 years.

That's be like some frozen in the year 2000 revived today.

how long is Cap supposed to have been on ice in today's continuity? It's no longer realistic to say the FF got their powers "10 years ago," but how long is it supposed to have been? 15? If Cap was thawed out in, say, 2005, that means he would have been on ice for closer to 60 years.

In "The Marvel Age," Captain America was influenced just as much by the '60s and '70s as he was the '30s and '40s.

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