Captain America Is Not A Nazi (And Other Comic Book Truths)


Marvel accidentally printed a story in which they suggest that Captain America has been a Nazi since always.

“Hail Hydra.”

As you’ve no doubt heard by now (and if not, spoiler alert), Captain America apparently has been a double-super-secret Hydra agent this whole time. I don’t know about you, but I sure have egg on my face. I did not see this coming, no siree. And do you know why? Because it is literally too stupid for a reasonable human being to have comprehended until Marvel had the audacity to insult readers’ intelligence by printing it.

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That said, before getting to the crux of the implications of this Nazi revelation, I would like to offer a disclaimer: there is absolutely no way in hell that this is a permanent change. Zero chance. I will eat the computer I’m typing this article on if Captain America remains a Hydra agent for any lasting period of time—if this isn’t just a gimmick or a ploy that Cap has to participate in to finish a long con, or he’s brainwashed, or it isn’t really Cap, or something. It is something along those lines, of course, so this whole computer eating business is a moot point, but you get the idea …

The problem with this premise is that, even though it seems groundbreaking and shocking, it isn’t. It’s lazy and disrespectful, both to the readers and to the character.

Every single person who got to the end of that issue and read those lines did one or more of the following after the initial shock wore off: 1) got totally pissed; 2) grimaced with complete confusion; or 3) shrugged their shoulders with indifference, because they know damn well that this is a gimmick that won’t stick. You know what nobody did? Gave a hearty fist pump and said, “Finally! The Captain America story we’ve all been waiting for!”

But shouldn’t that be the goal every time? I’m not saying you can hit the mark on every single attempt, but this is cheap even for a re-hash of a played out concept. As I mentioned, the suggestion that a hero as iconic as Captain America could ever be a Nazi is so incredibly absurd that it’s insulting to readers. It sure as hell doesn’t belong in an adult-oriented comic book, and it almost isn’t worth entertaining for the sake of finishing out the story.

This premise is akin to trying to sell readers on the idea that Batman has been working with the Joker this whole time, or Spider-Man killed Gwen Stacy on purpose and laughed about it with Norman Osborn the next day, or any number of other self-defeating plotlines that your mind can come up with. But they’re never going to be true, so why bother?

Even worse, there is almost no redeeming element in this plot twist. It’s one of two things: either Captain America isn’t really a Nazi double agent—in the same way that, say, water isn’t dry—and we have to wait however many issues just to read the resolution of this lazy idea to find out why Marvel felt this necessary (take Superior Spider-Man as a recent example) … or Marvel actually intends to go through with this, and we’ve all just been treated to what will surely go down as one of the worst plans in comic book history like it’s the mid-1990s again. Pick your poison.

Here’s the thing about bad ideas in the comic book world: they get spit out. There’s a reason that awful concepts like The Clone Saga, One More Day, Superman Red & Blue, and many others didn’t last: because they’re terrible.

Furthermore, there’s a reason that no relevant hero has ever stayed dead for very long, Joker’s Daughter will be forgotten soon, Sam Wilson won’t remain Captain America for much longer, Batman’s costume won’t have purple and yellow on it someday, and Steve Rogers’ new laser knight shield will be going bye-bye in the near future (other than the fact that they generally just don’t make any damn sense): because comic readers like the established status quo.

It’s OK to throw some curveballs into the mix or to add some new layers that don’t totally suck, but don’t get crazy. Because most importantly, the two aforementioned comic book truths combine into one overarching axiom: the comic book status quo is the comic book status quo because readers spanning multiple generations have given it the official “this doesn’t suck” stamp of approval.

It’s now up to the writers to build upon those foundations of non-suckiness and give us new, inventive storylines to keep the ship afloat. It is not their job to throw everything at the wall – no matter how shameless or ill-advised – and see what sticks, especially setting up a brand new series. Most people don’t look back on titles like Superior Spider-Man with much fondness, after all.

That’s what differentiates concepts like “Captain America is a secret Hydra agent” and something like The Clone Saga. Spider-Man being a clone or having a clone that takes over the Spider-Man mantle is an abysmal idea, but invalidating Captain America’s entire character history for a cheap thrill and extra profits is so appalling that it makes you wonder how someone even suggested it, let alone how an editor approved it. Not purely because it’s a stupid idea in and of itself (though it is), but because, again, it’s cheap, and it cannot possibly be true.

So, Marvel can force the “this was not a shock value marketing gimmick” company line down our throats all day, but isn’t it just a little bit insulting that they find their audience so juvenile and naïve that we’re expected to just play along with this until they pull the curtain back? Where’s the fun or excitement in that?

On the other hand, should we be surprised that they regurgitated this “gotcha!” moment at the end of such a thinly-veiled, “we’re barely trying to be sophisticated about this” Donald Trump/Muslim intolerance critique piece? Why not just put a toupee on the Red Skull and call it a day?

Marvel’s disdain and condescension towards their readers has become a little bit more apparent in recent years (and maybe that comes from their success with the cinematic universe in which the stories rarely have much to do with the comic books that they’re inspired by), but this is where we need to draw the line. Captain America is an institution, and his relationship with the Red Skull is almost as foundational as Batman’s with the Joker.

So please Marvel, come down off the ledge. Despite what your copyright lawyers have told you, Captain America doesn’t belong to you. He belongs to the readers, and you do not have the right to besmirch his entire history because you know it will garner publicity and move units.

This lack of integrity is exactly the opposite of what Cap stands for. And in the off chance this does stick, you will have ironically become exactly the type of fascist that Cap has fought against for the better part of a century as you do with him whatever you see fit.

Please Marvel, keep making excellent storylines like Secret Wars and Civil War—you know, ones that rely on high-level concepts and good writing—the norm, not the exception. We don’t need “All New, All Different” Marvel. We don’t need the Hulk to have a mohawk. We don’t need Baron Zemo yeling, “Toodles!” as he flies away. And we sure as hell don’t need Captain America to (not really) be a Nazi. We need solid writing that doesn’t rely on cheap tricks and the infantilization of consumers.

I am going to give Marvel the benefit of the doubt and see how this storyline plays out, because maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they will shock the world and come up with an ending so good that it actually redeems this dumb plot twist and make us all eat our words. Somehow I doubt it, but this is America, and the Captain would want us to hear them out.

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Regardless, nothing will change the fact that this is incredibly shameless. No matter how you slice it, Captain America deserves better.

And seriously, that new shield totally sucks!

Lastly, for the sake of fairness … over the past couple of days, I’ve heard some particularly angry commentators suggest that this new direction is “anti-Semetic.” It isn’t. It might be a little disrespectful to Captain America’s heritage, but mostly it’s just lazy, bad writing.

We’ll find out soon that Red Skull or Baron Zemo wiped Cap’s memory, he’ll be reprogrammed, and all will be forgiven and forgotten. The problem is that we already know that. Let’s please not confuse “hate speech” with plain, old-fashioned “insultingly dumb.” There is a difference.