Settle down, Beavis: 'Captain Hydra' will be a temporary condition

By Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

 

A twist ending to Marvel’s Captain America re-launch has driven a number of fans into a frenzy, some even issuing death threats to the writer. To these folks I offer four words I don’t often say: “It’s just a comic book.”

You may have heard about the controversy, which made national news. It began in Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, which shipped May 25. That title is starting over, because Steve Rogers hasn’t been Captain America for the last couple of years in the  Marvel Universe. A villain named Iron Nail negated the Super-Soldier Serum in Cap’s body in 2014, reverting him to his natural age. (Very, very old.) Sam Wilson (formerly the Falcon), has been the Star-Spangled Avenger ever since, starring in Captain America: Sam Wilson and a variety of Avengers titles.

Anyway, in a recent story too long to tell, an omnipotent Cosmic Cube – what was called a “tesseract” in the movies – was used to restore Steve Rogers to the pink of health, and to the red, white and blue of clothes. So, naturally, the newly restored Cap was instantly awarded his own title, the aforementioned Captain America: Steve Rogers. Written by the talented Nick Spencer and drawn by the dazzling Jesus Saiz, it is a truly excellent display of the comic book craft.

There’s only one hitch: Throughout the issue we see heretofore unseen flashbacks to Steve’s mother Sarah Rogers in the 1930s, where she is apparently recruited by Hydra. And in the present, Cap tosses one of his allies out of a plane, turns to a hostage and says two damning words: “Hail Hydra.”

Yikes! Has Captain America been a sleeper agent for Hydra all along? Oh, the humanity!

Needless to say, the anti-Nazi Captain America being a sleeper agent for what amounts to a neo-Nazi organization upset quite a few people. Some took it a bit far, though, as a compilation of tweets by the website bleedingcool.com demonstrated. “Congratulations on destroying 75 years worth of characterization,” wrote @okitasougu. “Kill.your.self,” typed @neymarsbey. And my personal favorite, by @lapinoir: “@nickspencer die rat die rat die rat die rat die rat die rat die rat die rat die rat die rat die rat.”

Writer Spencer, taking it all in stride, tweeted back “I can’t respond to 9000 tweets per second, but if I could, I would say I admire your passion.”

And … scene. That is the perfect response. In other words: “Settle down, Beavis. It’s just a comic book.”

The purpose of any comic book story is to arouse interest and excitement, and to encourage the reader to buy the next issue. I think Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 has succeeded in that regard.

Moreover, Captain America couldn’t have been a sleeper agent since the 1930s. If so, he certainly would have shown his true colors on any number of previous occasions, where doing so would have given Hydra control of the world. So Spencer isn’t guilty of “destroying 75 years worth of characterization.”

No, this is something new. And you know what else is new? The Cosmic Cube that re-made Steve Rogers just a few issues ago. And does anyone doubt that “re-made” included a new history, one where Cap’s mother was a Hydra agent?And does anyone doubt the Cosmic Cube, a device which might as well be stamped “Deus ex Machina,” can’t un-do what it has done?

So the Reset Button is within reach. All Spencer has to do is get from point A to point B, which is what those in the biz call “a story.”

That may or may not be Spencer’s plan; some other fix may be in the works. But you don’t have to have the writing prowess of Stan Lee to guess that “Captain Hydra” is going to be a temporary condition.

And, you know, it’s not the worst that could happen. I mean, it’s not like they killed off Captain America or anything.

Because they’ve already done that. Back in 2007, at the end of the comic book version of “Civil War,” Captain America had surrendered and was in custody. Crossbones (who is obviously not dead in the comics) took a sniper shot at the Living Legend, but it was a brainwashed Sharon Carter who delivered the furtive, final shot. And Steve “Captain America” Rogers was as dead as a 75-year-old doornail.

Of course, he got better.

Which is not the only terrible thing writers have done to Captain America. When you’ve been around as long as the Living Legend of World War II, writers have to stretch to find new ways to make his life miserable (and therefore interesting).

There was that time he was turned into a werewolf, back in 1992. No kidding, a villain named Nightshade injected him with a … let’s call it a Capwolf formula, and Rogers got all furry and fang-y. So did a bunch of other people, come to think of it. And several X-Men were hanging around, for some reason.

Anyway, they all got better.

There was that time that Cap quit being Cap in 1974, because he discovered that a “high government official” (everyone thinks it was Richard Nixon) was the head of the evil Secret Empire. Disillusioned, he became “Nomad, the Man Without a Country.” And there was that time in 1987 that the government ordered Cap to follow orders or quit, so he quit, and became a character named “The Captain.”

Don’t worry, he got the shield back both times.

What about “Streets of Poison” (1990), where a meth lab blew up in Cap’s face, and he spent several issues running around New York hallucinating and beating up on whoever was handy? And there was that time Cap was exiled to “Dimension Z” for 10 years, where he spent a decade leading a revolution against Arnim Zola’s mutates while raising an adopted son. That was no picnic.

But, hey, he got better.

And, you know, Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 isn’t even the first time Cap has been a Nazi. The Red Skull brainwashed Cap back in 1965, in a story by Stan Lee and Cap co-creator Jack Kirby, which featured the Star-Spangled Avenger giving a snappy Nazi salute. Dr. Faustus turned Cap into a shield-slinging Fascist in 1997, but fortunately Daredevil was around to snap him out of it.

And speaking of Stan Lee, Newsarama.com reported what he had to say about Captain Hydra at the 2016 MegaCon:

“It's a hell of a clever idea. I don't know that I would ever have thought of it for him to be a double agent, but it's going to make you curious, it's going to make you want to read the books, they'll probably do a movie based on it. So I can't fault it; it's a good idea. I think it's crazy, but it's a good idea.”

And, needless to say, a temporary one. So strap on your shields and enjoy the ride, fellow readers, without sending death threats to the writer. At least Cap’s not a werewolf this time.

 

Reach Captain Comics by email (capncomics@aol.com), the Internet (captaincomics.ning.com), Facebook (Captain Comics Round Table) or Twitter (@CaptainComics).

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Once in awhile we do look to see if there's any reason to try returning to comics. Then stories like this one come out and we remember why we gave them up in the first place.

Interestingly Archie seems to be doing a better job of getting people that have quit comics to try them again than the Big Two. 
 
Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

We have members on this board who've given up modern comics for good. And they look back at the decades of stuff they DID enjoy and love the hell out of it, and write long, admiring posts in praise of it. 



Archie's doing a great job with the content of their line, I agree. Although they have their traditionalist detractors, too. Archie still fields its share of angry messages from people who want the old-style Jughead stories back. (They're actually still being made, as new stories in the traditional style are leading off the digests. Not that that appeases the people who are mad.)

I've read the regular Jughead title dropped to well below 20,000 copies an issue and Betty and Veronica wasn't doing much better, so they had to try something to stay in business. I heard awhile back they were mostly surviving on Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man. Not good to have to rely on titles you don't own.

The question is how many of these angry people would support new titles in the traditional style?  

I always figure that if you weren't reading the book at the time you've got little room to complain about the new direction. We know Cap will not be a Hydra Agent for the rest of time; the question is whether this story will make sense and be worth reading, given how highly implausible their scenario is. It's got a steep hill to climb. As with Bucky: There was no execution that was going to make that a story I wanted to read.

What I object to about these things is when they say, "This is the real Cap and he's always been this way, if you go back and read stories from the 1970s, he was like this then." They can tell the stories they want to tell now. They can't tell me "You didn't know all the secrets when you read those stories back then!" That's when they're trying to mess with MY stories.

That said, Marvel doesn't need to bring me back to its titles. I read Patsy Walker, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel. I even read a couple DCs (not counting Astro City). But they're not going to get me back into their main superheroes that depend on arcane continuities and may cross over into books I must read to understand what's going on (or, god forbid, are rebooted and come out twice monthly).

I just have to pick and choose how close to the clusterfork that is their main titles I want to get without risking getting some of it spilled on me. I see Patsy is crossing over into Civil War II ("Nothing Will Ever Be The Same Again!") but I'll just hope it passes quickly.

-- MSA

Interesting they would assume people reading about Cap 40 years ago would still be reading now and would want to know all of these "secrets" they've supposedly been holding back all these years. It's like the Batman story from the late 80s/early 90s that said Thomas Jefferson once summoned a demon and now two hundred plus years later Batman will have to fight it. Some people might not like hearing the suggestion that Jefferson practiced witchcraft (or that Ben Franklin had a lisp, which also turned up in that story for no particular reason.)

Or that Ben Franklin tried to steal Doctor Strange's girlfriend, Clea!

Ronald Morgan said:

Interesting they would assume people reading about Cap 40 years ago would still be reading now and would want to know all of these "secrets" they've supposedly been holding back all these years. It's like the Batman story from the late 80s/early 90s that said Thomas Jefferson once summoned a demon and now two hundred plus years later Batman will have to fight it. Some people might not like hearing the suggestion that Jefferson practiced witchcraft (or that Ben Franklin had a lisp, which also turned up in that story for no particular reason.)

...which flatly contradicts the 1969 story where a time-travelling Batman gets help from a non-lisping Benjamin Franklin when the Puritans of ye quaint colonial village want to burn him at the stake for witchcraft. (okay, that was pre-Crisis)

Man, Silver/Bronze Age history was really messed up.
 
Ronald Morgan said:

. It's like the Batman story from the late 80s/early 90s that said Thomas Jefferson once summoned a demon and now two hundred plus years later Batman will have to fight it. Some people might not like hearing the suggestion that Jefferson practiced witchcraft (or that Ben Franklin had a lisp, which also turned up in that story for no particular reason.)

  It was a decade ago when I started to loose faith in marvel creating comics that had a strong moral core and just embraced and rewarded treachery, it's been two and half years for other stuff to happen.  And yes Slot and Wacker have both pretty much said that those like me who complain are not necessary to their success.  "Useless fans leading useless lives" is indeed my own characterization but It think it fits the attitudes I've often found on line.  Call it a pity party if you want, I heard it described worse.

  It's true people are angry at Archie comics, but I don't think Archie comics has gone out of their way to take shots at them.


Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

"Useless fans leading useless lives?" That's not at all what I said, Mark. If you think your life is useless, that's not on me, and that's not on Steven Wacker or Dan Slott. That's on YOU. I regretfully decline the invitation to your pity party.

And two and a half years? Mark, you've been complaining that Marvel has left you behind since Civil War, at least. That's a decade. 

We have members on this board who've given up modern comics for good. And they look back at the decades of stuff they DID enjoy and love the hell out of it, and write long, admiring posts in praise of it. 

We have massive rereading & reading projects going on of stuff from the 40s through the 90s. 

If people aren't publishing a Captain America you like, that's fine. That's GREAT, in fact -- because you can go and enjoy Captain America stories at your own pace, from the era you actually enjoy. There are probably 500 other Cap stories for you to read. Read them. Enjoy them. Share the love. 

Mark S. Ogilvie said:

True enough.  As I said, useless fans leading useless lives that don't really matter, maybe that's all we are and all we'll ever be.  All I'll ever be.  Certainly felt like it the past two and a half years and things don't look to be getting any better any time soon.  Doesn't mean it's a particularly fun feeling when two pros that I used to admire decide that I and other fans who feel hurt can be treated like a gnat for their amusement. 

Mark, I just want to express that I hope you're speaking inexactly, and whatever your feelings about Marvel comics, you don't actually feel that your life is useless.

Beyond that, I think we'll just have to disagree on this and leave it at that. 

Agreed. Spider-Verse seemed to just be boring-as-heck villains being used as an excuse to try an exercise in throwing every single iteration of a Marvel Spider-character ever. It seemed kind of clever at the beginning, but it really devolved pretty quickly.

Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

Yeah, I caught up with Superior on Marvel Unlimited and thought it was a blast. Slott lost me on Spider-Verse. I was trying so hard to figure out who was who I realized I just didn't care. Sooner or later I hope to pick up with he rest of his run after the crossover, but I'm in no hurry.

When you have multiple Spider-People running around, it's hard to care about all or any of them!

I guess one good thing that came out of it is Spider-Gwen, whose book I don't read, but I still think she's an interesting and cool-looking character.

Philip Portelli said:

When you have multiple Spider-People running around, it's hard to care about all or any of them!

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