The internet is blowing up right now with news that Captain America is… a Nazi. Or at the very least, Hydra. Supposedly, Steve Rogers has been Hydra all along, and readers are just now finding out about it. Why is this such an issue for Marvel readers? Steve Rogers has been the voice of the American comic fan since his creation during World War II. With the popularity of the recent movies, that patriotism has had a huge resurgence. There is so much vitriol being spewed at the book’s writer, Nick Spencer, as well as Marvel executives, and this is just the first issue! Geekettes Kayla and Carly teamed up to pen a calmer, but no less thought-provoking examination of the topic.
I think a lot of fans will feel it as a betrayal. I guess that is a mark of a good writer/creator, that he can make a character with the power to hurt us with their actions almost as strongly as a real person. That may be exactly why Spencer is going for this kind of effect. He has every right to do so as the writer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel lost a few fans over this.
“This is something that is gonna have a profound effect on the Marvel universe,” Spencer stated in an interview with The Daily Beast. “I’ve seen a lot of people say things like, ‘Oh, it’ll be wrapped up in the arc,’ or ‘Give it six months.’ And I can tell you, that’s not the case. This has real lasting repercussions that are gonna be with us for a while.”
I also can’t help but think that it is completely out of character for the star-spangled man. He’s been pretending all along to be good? Everything we know about Cap and his personality is a lie? Kinda makes you want to just throw the whole pile of comics against a wall or something. It completely subverts Captain America as a symbol of American ideals/idealism, which was part of his attraction as a heroic figure.
In that same interview, Spencer is asked how he handled Rogers being created by two Jewish writers, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. Spencer’s response is lengthy, and not worth repeating, because he does not actually address the question. Instead, he rattles on about Cap’s legacy being intact. Kirby and Simon wrote Captain America as a response to Hitler’s reign, and so much of the character is tied to protecting the people who couldn’t protect themselves. At the time, that was the Jewish people.
This “reveal” is a huge betrayal to Jewish readers, as well as the comic’s creators. Hydra metaphorically represents Nazism, and so to have Captain America revealed as having been an agent of Hydra all along, is fundamentally unacceptable. While this is an alternate universe to our own, so much of it is inherently based on this world, that separating the two is incredibly difficult, and frankly, didn’t work in this case.
As a Jewish comic book reader, I find that when I attend conventions and hear people shouting, “Hail Hydra!” across a convention floor, it makes me uncomfortable. I do not have this inherent punched-in-the-gut feeling when I see the 501st in their Stormtrooper glory, or when “Alliance supporters” troll Browncoats about their losing battles in the Firefly ‘verse. Anti-semitism is still a worldwide issue, and Neo-Nazis do exist in the United States. While I understand that characters must undergo change or be left behind, this change was inappropriate. Captain America’s Jewish American readers still need him to be a role model of equality, patriotism, and protection.
Nick Spencer, and subsequently Marvel, who allowed this, took a huge risk in having Steve Rogers secretly being Hydra. I do not think it works. It’s an offensive choice, and one that is supposedly going to alter Marvel significantly. Marvel’s reboot was supposed to feature an “All-New, All-Different” look at comics, and mostly those who were anticipating this reboot were expecting gender equality and lifelike diversity. I don’t think anyone expected Steve Rogers to come out as Hydra. This is a series that will be watched closely and analyzed critically by fans and haters alike.