Captain America, Hitler, and the Sony Hack by North Korea. What Would Jack Kirby Do?


The recent news that Sony has capitulated to the cyber-bullying (cyber-terrorism is actually more accurate) by the North Korean government, in pulling the upcoming movie “The Interview,” from movie theaters on Christmas Day begs comparisons to how Marvel Comics dealt with a similar international bully in 1940.

For those who are not up on real-world news (as opposed to the much more fun Comic Book news), the U.S. government is now laying the blame for the so-called “Sony Hack” cyber-attack on the North Korean government.  You may ask:  Why is North Korea attacking the Sony Corporation?  It is not in an attempt to liberate Spider-Man from the clutches of Sony.  No, it is a very real, albeit weird attempt by a foreign power to protect the image of their pudgy, sycophantic, but rather murderous leader from a comedy film starring those Hollywood avengers, Seth Rogen (Green Hornet) and James Franco (Harry Osborne in the first three Spider-Man films).  Uh, you mean, an actual country is attacking a movie company over a movie?  Yup!

The Interview With Seth Rogen and James Franco

And people think the stories in comic books are hard to believe!

First, a little history.  Following World War Two, a Communist named Kim Il-Sung set up a repressive dictatorship in the northern half of Korea.  The U.S. set up a non-Communist government in South Korea.  In 1950, North Korea, with help from Communist China and the Soviet Union (think Russia), attacked South Korea.  The United States and more than a dozen other countries joined the fight to help South Korea.  Most of the fighting ended in 1953, with the border between North and South more-or-less where was when the war started.  Every few years, the two sides shoot at each other for a while, and North Korea makes noises about restarting the whole Korean War thing.  Oh, and the U.S. still keeps several thousand troops in South Korea, just in case. Comic Book Connection Note:  In 1954, Marvel Comics had the original Human Torch go to Korea to fight against the Communists.  And that was after the Korean War more-or-less ended!

Human Torch Fighting Communists in Korea in Human Torch #38 in 1954

Meanwhile, back in Gotham City, err, I mean in North Korea, the original leader, Kim Il-Sung, up and dies.  His son, Kim Jong-Il (Kim being the family name), inherited the country.  Whereas dear old dad was a repressive Stalinist dictator, the son was all that, plus, shall we say, eccentric?  He liked movies.  Kim Jr. liked movies so much, he had his secret agents kidnap Japanese film stars, take them to North Korea, and force them to create films made-to-order for Kim to watch.  Eventually, he dies also (Valar morghulis, as they say in Game of Thrones.  More on that later…), and the third generation takes over.  Since 2011, baby-faced Kim Jong-Un (grandson of the first Kim, and son of the second Kim) has ruled North Korea.  And he seems to resemble his forbearers in being both ruthless (he reportedly fed his uncle to a pack of dogs), and weird (he hangs out with Dennis Rodman). Oh, and did we mention that North Korea has nuclear weapons and routinely threatens to use them on South Korea, Japan, and the United States? Yikes!

Kim Jong-Un, North Korean Dictator and Subject of The Interview Movie

Kim Jong-Un also seems to be rather thin-skinned, as North Korea has been warning of repercussions if Sony went forward with plans to produce a movie called The Interview which reportedly paints a rather insulting picture of the current Kim. And the movie kills him off also.  Man, talk about being overly sensitive!

Then, on November 24 of this year, Sony experienced a major cyber attack that hacked into their internal networks.  The hackers then released a lot of embarrassing emails and other data onto the public.  Comics fans learned, for instance, that serious negotiations took place between Sony and Marvel/Disney over letting Marvel use Spider-Man in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War movie.

Then things got serious.

The hackers (who the U.S. is now saying work for the North Korean government), threatened harm to movie theaters and movie-goers if The Interview is shown as planned on Christmas Day. In response, multiple movie theater chains announced they would not show The Interview. Faced with a potential commercial disaster, Sony then announced that the movie would not be released to theaters.

The U.S. Government decried the North Korean attack, but has not, at least as publicly known yet, done anything more serious than wring its hands.  Many media types and celebrities from Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) to George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) denounced the cave-in by Sony as cowardice and all-around wussiness.  Martin even put his money where his mouth is and announced that he would screen the movie in the movie theater he owns in New Mexico.  Don’t be surprised if a short guy bearing a strong resemblance to Kim Jong-Un ends up meeting a nasty death in a future Game of Thrones book…Just saying….

Has this ever happened before?  Have American media companies ever thumbed their noses as ruthless and evil dictators and gotten away with it?

The short answer:  Yes!

Charlie Chaplin-Great Dictator Movie Poster

The long answer:  In 1940, two U.S. media companies did just that.  Famed actor and comedian Charlie Chaplin (whose life also a movie starring our favorite Iron Man, Robert Downey, Jr.) produced a film called The Great Dictator in October, 1940 that lampooned both Adolf Hitler and his partner in crime, Benito Mussolini.  They were, respectively, the dictators of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, and when Chaplin made this movie, and United Artists company distributed it, America was not yet at war with either nation.   Also in 1940, two Jewish comic book creators named Joe Simon and Jack Kirby decided to make a bold statement on the concept of good and evil with the dramatic entrance of what was to become an American icon.

Captain America Punching Hitler BEFORE the U.S. Entered World War Two

In December, 1940, a full year before America entered World War Two, Simon and Kirby, working for Timely Comics (which later became Marvel Comics) created an all-American superhero named Captain America.  On the cover of Captain America Comics #1, the Star-Spangled hero is seen punching Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in the face!  Think about that…an American superhero was on the cover of a comic book, physically assaulting the leader of a nation that the U.S. was not at war with (yet).  Of course, many Americans, and not just those of Jewish heritage, were upset with how Hitler had conquered much of Europe, killing millions in the process.  But this was still a bold statement, especially as Hitler had thousands of Nazi sympathizers in the U.S. and the Nazi Party was active here.  Remember that the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees of personal political rights meant that it was perfectly legal to belong to the American Nazi Party (at least until the U.S. went to war with Germany).

These local Nazis also harassed the workers at Timely Comics in reaction to Captain America’s fight against Hitler and the Nazis, even to the point where the Mayor of New York had to assign police officers to guard Timely Comics headquarters!

Of course, Captain America never did give in to the threats, and unlike Sony’s capitulation in the face of attacks by a modern-day Great Dictator, America is better off for the fact that Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, and yes, Charlie Chaplin had more guts than a lot of people in authority in Hollywood today.

Roger Lee is a staff writer for as well as the author of an E-Book on the Avengers at’s Kindle Store.