UPDATE: I incorrectly listed Tom Brevoort as the writer of the issue in discussion, when in fact Nick Spencer is the writer. Tom Brevoort is an executive editor at Marvel comics, and is the one out defending it.
Uh oh, old Agent Bobby is on the warpath today.
I’m going to talk about Captain America, but it’s not JUST about Captain America. Today I’m going to rage about Captain America, Jay Garrick, and the Walking Dead. Why? Because they’re all titanic sign posts that the new way to tell stories is to be a huge fucking asshole to your fan base. Let’s begin at the end, shall we?
Captain America is a Nazi I Guess
Now, I debated whether or not I should even give their abhorrent ideas another platform, especially considering that “nerd rage think pieces” is PRECISELY what Marvel was counting on when they washed their balls in the holy water.
However, I want to be clear here – I’m not discussing this abortion of a storyline because it’s interesting. I’m violently slapping this keyboard because my only other alternative is using those same fingers to start gouging people’s eyes out.
Is making Captain America a secret Hydra agent bad writing? Yes, it makes no sense, and whatever reason (followed shortly after by a retcon where it never happened) they pull is going to be on Voodoo Shark levels of nonsense. Is it a thought-crime against the human spirit? Yes. Is it mean? Most certainly. I’d even go so far as to call it treason, which is obviously a ridiculous, overblown reaction but maybe it’s not and you agree with me a little bit, eh, eh?
It’s Not For Realsies, Come On, Chill Out
Well, in the newest Captain America comic, it’s revealed that Steve Roger’s mother was brought into Hydra, and Steve just followed her along, and oops he’s a Nazi. And he’s BEEN a Nazi this whole time (somehow), secretly working for Hydra.
Okay, Bobby, you might say. This is obviously nothing to get worked up about. It’s a “What If” or guy in a Steve Roger’s mask or a robot or –
Nope, I’d say back, maybe in a British accent to give the whole thing a sense of gravitas. Tom Brevoort (Brevooort? Not sure when to stop typing “o”s on that name), writer of this freshly blended turd smoothie, came out specifically to say that it’s not a robot or a clone or multi-dimensional juju.
“It’s not a Steve from the universe next door, it’s not a clone, it’s not a robot, it’s not mind control.” – Brevoort
Captain America really is (and always has been) a Nazi.
We know why, of course. Because I’m talking about it. You’re thinking about it. It’s on the TIMES website, it’s on every damn website. It’s a Twitter storm, it’s an Instagram maelstrom, and maybe a Snapchat ballyhoo? Does ballyhoo sound good? I don’t use Snapchat so I’m not sure.
So, yup, they got me. I fell for it. This whole article is what they wanted. 2 years from now this is going to look dumb because it’ll all be erased. I assume they’ll take that as some kind of victory and congratulate each other at the next creative pitch meeting. They’ll use this “buzz” to fashion new, more abhorrent storylines. Maybe Spider-Man could be a murdering psychopath – oh shit, they actually already did that. Lemme start again. Maybe Thor could be a former-member of the Khmer Rouge, and, like, what if Black Panther was a rapist? That’d be pretty edgy. Imagine all the BUZZ. Maybe Captain Marvel could wear crocs or something, who knows. The level is gone now that Captain America is a fucking Nazi.
Right in the Trends
We’re getting a peek at our future, of course. Our present, really. An obsession with internet backdraft as a final solution to the old adage that “no press is bad press.” Well, it’s easier to get press than to tell good stories, so, boom, here we are. Don’t believe me?
The Flash and the Walking Dead both just created similar internet firestorms, and both have come away from this ocean of vitriol with the assumption that they succeeded. This next bit is a spoiler for like, half-way through this current season of Flash, and involves the identity of mass-murdering speedster/demon “Zoom.” If you don’t remember them revealing that yet, please skip the next couple paragraphs.
SPOILERS FOR FLASH: Okay, so, the big reveal was that Zoom (the murdering crazy asshole) was actually the same person as Jay Garrick, team Flash’s new buddy (and the ORIGINAL COMIC BOOK FLASH). And, to make matters work, Jay Garrick NEVER existed, and was an identity made up by Zoom so he could troll people (and the audience). Also, Jay Garrick’s helmet (which has been a symbol of goodness and right in comic books since, like, the ‘40s) was actually worn by Zoom’s dad during WWI. Oh, and his dad wore it when he drank too much and beat his wife to death.
STILL SPOILERS FOR FLASH: So, not only did they erase Jay Garrick (the original Flash, the only reason the show even exits), they turned his face, his costume, and his symbol into flags of hate, domestic violence, and disgust. AND, on top of that, they did it so they could spring a “twist” on the loyal fans who love and admire Jay Garrick. Fans of the show who DON’T know about comics weren’t shocked by that twist – they don’t even fucking know about Jay Garrick, so they just saw it as a standard plot twist (albeit one the show already did in season 1, almost verbatim). It was only done SPECIFICALLY TO ENRAGE FANS. Why? Well, so there’d be two weeks of fans talking about it.
So, as you can see, Flash basically did exactly the same thing Captain America is doing now. They got lashed for it (even comic book writer / awesome person Mark Waid took them to task about it publicly), but I have no doubt the PR department is STILL having simultaneous, multiple rolling orgasms about the amount of press they generated.
The Walking Dead, Too, Awesome
I’ll keep this sidetrack short, but the Walking Dead just famously hopped aboard the “troll your fans” bandwagon with their season finale cliffhanger. No spoilers, because it’s not necessary, but basically they set up an extremely tense and fatal situation, started killing a main character, but pointed the camera in such a way that you couldn’t tell which main character was being murdered. On top of that, the scene-in-question is one of the most famous scenes in the entire history of the comic book, and the show interrupted it right in the middle just to surprise fans (and make them wait for seven months).
The showrunners came out to defend the much-hated cliffhanger, the actors came out (paychecks on the line, no doubt). Even Robert Kirkman, the original writer of the comic, popped up to offer a half-hearted defense of what was obviously a thinly-veiled (no-ly veiled) ratings grab.
Because They Think You’re Stupid
That’s all. That’s it. Why take the time to write compelling stories that dig down into the heart of a character and a setting when you can just do something dumb and ugly and get all the press in the world.
Having Captain America say, “I’m a Nazi!” is the kind of daydreamt bullshit you’d find scribbled on the TrapperKeeper of a maladjusted middle-schooler, not a professional writer. It’s about as edgy and cool as drawing a swastika on the underside of your Sunday School desk because you hate your dad.
I’ve already heard their defenses – the Marvel peeps claim it’s some kind of topical statement about American politics, but even giving them the credit of trying to make a political statement instead of what it really is – a gross attention nuke – is almost beyond me. Even IF it’s an attempt at a statement, it’s a mealy-mouthed, freshman-at-Berkeley level stab at some half-constructed cartoon version of “Trump’s America.” It’s about as deep and insightful as a bottlecap filled with piss. Oh, America is the Nazi. I WAS THE TOMATO ALL ALONG.
Let’s Get Real – They Don’t Belong to You
Here’s the thing about Captain America, or Jay Garrick – these characters were created 70-someought years ago by people who are dead. The current writers of Flash and the Captain America comic have no more ownership of these character than any other rando. Their dads weren’t old enough to have written those comics. Their GRANDFATHERS aren’t old enough to have written those comics. The idea that they can unravel these cultural icons with impunity is hubris at its most preening.
Their parent companies have some never-ending trademark, sure, and if I start writing a book about Barry Allen they’ll cram three entire legal teams right up my fudge freeway. I understand that. But they don’t own Captain America or Jay Garrick. If your grandfather was shitting pureed peas into a cloth nappy when something was created, you are, AT BEST, a professional fan-fiction writer. Captain America belongs to the culture, not to some hack writer. You can put him through trials and tribulations, give us new looks at their facets, but you don’t get to take a character CREATED by a Jewish writer and make them into a Nazi. It’s disrespectful, it’s gross, and, finally, it’s just sad.
If you can’t think of a way to make a guy like Captain America interesting, you failed. You failed as a storyteller and as a person.
They’ll Retcon it, Broseph, Don’t Stress So Much!
Of course they will. They’ll retcon Captain and Jay Garrick in some hilariously nonsensical way that only comics can pull off, and will be revealed as just another gimmick in a long line of poorly thought out gimmicks. It’s Ben Reilly, it’s Guy Gardner Warrior, it’s dead Batman and electro-Superman.
The problem, though, is that you can’t retcon a memory. Kids watch Flash. Kids read Captain America comics and go on the internet. For many people now, their first 100 memories of Jay Garrick are him executing innocent people. His helmet, for those people (and those kids, that next generation of fans) is a now a symbol of loathing and evil. You can retcon it, you can bring an alternate Jay back from the Speed Force that actually inspired Zoom’s false identity, but the damage is done. Jay Garrick is a murderer, and he has a funny alternate reality version that’s a hero.
You can’t unmake that comic book panel where Captain America says “Hail Hydra.” The ink is dry. It’s already a meme, we’ll be seeing in every forum until the end of electricity.
Stan Lee used to say “every comic is someone’s first comic,” and somebody’s first comic is Captain America being a Nazi.
Jay Garrick doesn’t belong to you, Greg Berlanti. Cap doesn’t belong to you, Tom Brevoort. He belongs to every kid from the 1940s until the end of comics. You have no right.
It’s not funny. It’s not cute. We aren’t “good” frustrated and excited for more.
We hate your work. We hate your presumption.
We hate that you hate us, and we don’t understand why you do.