Catherine checks in with a few words for the people worked into a tizzy over this week’s controversial Steve Rogers: Captain America #1.
Okay, so. In case you’re one of those people who lives under a rock, doesn’t have a Facebook account, or ignores comic trends (and if so, you’re probably not reading this anyways, but whatever), a couple important things happened in the comic world this week and I wanted to take some time to jot down my thoughts on the issues in question. Of course, I’ve got quite a bit to say about both things, so I’ll probably split this little ditty into two different columns so I can give the subjects their proper space.
So, what happened this week? DC released the first issue of Rebirth and Marvel brought Steve Rogers: Captain America back to shelves—and all hell broke loose. Rebirth, as far as I have been able to tell, has been met with overall happiness and excitement over what is to come for the shelves of DC comics that your local brick and mortar saves space for. Not to be outdone, Marvel let Steve Rogers back into the comic wild and Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 was also released this past Wednesday—and before I had even woken up that morning, I had multiple messages on various programs, my cell phone, and in the forum board that I participate on.
All of these messages were expressing outrage over what Marvel had done to their beloved Captain America. Without even reading it, I was forced to have an opinion about what was going on—which is fine, I was just extremely agitated that I didn’t have the source material in my hands and was being expected to put together an educated opinion about what they had done. And what had they done? Well, I’m not going to spoil anything in case any of you Inklings (That’s what I’m calling you!) are unable to read Steve Rogers’ official return to the mantle. [If you absolutely must be spoiled, check out this link.—JG,FE]
First, let me say that I really enjoyed this issue of Captain America. I feel like the spirit of the Captain has been preserved and has been brought up to date with the same topical commentary that has accompanied my readings through Sam Wilson’s Cap book. Which has been the thing that I have loved about Sam since issue #1: Sam Wilson is the Captain that America was in desperate need of. America and its identity is in a state of change and Sam’s inheritance of Steve’s mantle was an amazingly simple illustration of that change—and, of course, it was met with a lot of angry backlash to the tune of, “He’s not my Captain!”, “Marvel’s ruining Captain America!”, “I’m cancelling this book from my pull list until Steve comes back!”, and various other statements of outrage that are and are not okay for general audience consumption.
What do all of these statements have in common? They sound a lot like sweet, sweet tears. This same stream of tears could also be found in the back pages of The Mighty Thor, whose title moved from the Odinson to Jane Foster (and let me tell you, it has never been a better time to be a Goddess of Thunder fan), its letter pages full of angry fans who don’t want to see their favorite characters change. Now, there’s definitely a place for that. Where is that place, you may be asking? It’s safely in the pages of whatever comic arc that you’re hanging onto and using to measure the new incarnations of these characters against. I’ve definitely been a part of this crowd—you bet your buttons I have, especially around the time that Catwoman came out in the New52. Some of the problems with getting yourself all bent in a twist over a new direction that a character or a comic title takes is that it makes you look like you’re throwing a tantrum: you join that chorus of beings that likes to shame people for being part of a fandom (and come on, people, we’re a group of people that are defined by and created wholly from belonging to a fandom), and, I think, it’s hugely disrespectful to the teams of writers and artists that bring these characters to life.
Lately, it feels like comic books are the one community that I can go into on any given day and find some fan who is upset because a writer has decided to do xyz with xyz. That’s the thing with these characters: they need to change, they have to grow, and stories have to move in different directions. Does anyone really think that someone wants to write Jean Grey’s story all over again for the—what would we be at? Fourth or fifth time? The answer is no—no writer, I’d like to think, wants to keep the same character in the same stale place for all eternity (I say this, of course, being a Jean Grey fanatic). So, when Brian Michael Bendis started on All-New X-Men and set out to bring the first class of X-Men into the future and into contact with their current selves, he decided to set this class of teenagers onto new fresh paths—and it was risky, it was risky as hell. And, honestly, I’ve never been as happy with Jean Grey as I am right now. She’s taking her future in her own hands and boldly going where no Jean Grey has gone before. Overall, that’s where I feel like Marvel is right now: they’re going into creative places they’ve never been before because they’re solidly at the top of their game. They’re dominating at the box office and their comics are doing spectacularly well. Now is the time for their writers to explore the freedom that being at the top grants. As a writer myself, I’m extremely envious of that position.
That’s the thing with being free to create, though: not everything is going to be amazing and/or well-received, but they still have to try, right? It’s the only way we creatively move forward as a people, it’s the only way that new ideas have a chance to see light, and I don’t think that it’s very fair as readers to slam an idea in infancy. I sincerely doubt that when the Mona Lisa was painted that people wandered the streets screaming about, “That’s not my Mona Lisa!” or hashtaging #notmymonalisa because the painting that came out was not what they expected. If we, as fans, don’t give our artists room to explore, then we will have the same boring, redone, and (eventually) overdone stories for the rest of our lives. I dunno about you, but that sounds really awful to me. So, the first issue of Steve Rogers’ return to youth and to comic books was not what everyone expected—so what? If you’re in the camp that was hoping he would take the shield back from Sam and that Marvel would take everything back to normal, then I don’t think you’ve been paying attention—and it’s probably better that you stop reading now. I’d suggest you just hang onto the story arcs of Steve Rogers that you love so that you can continue to enjoy comic books the way they are meant to be enjoyed, with reckless love, and stop polluting your message boards, text messages, Facebook groups with, “This isn’t my Captain America.”
No, it’s not your Captain America. It’s a Captain America that talks about the man-hating commenters on Jezebel , it’s a Captain America drenched deeply in commentary about our current political climate, and it’s a Captain America that is exploring a story that I applaud Nick Spencer for having the bravery to explore. If you’ve been following Steve Rogers since he stepped down from the Captain America identity to run the Uncanny Avengers and if you followed the S.H.I.E.L.D./Avengers titles as they went into Pleasant Hill, then you’ll see that some of the pieces have been sliding quietly into place to set up the twist in Captain America that had Steve Rogers trending in the top of my Facebook topics.
It’s a Captain America that is treading some new ground and I am so excited to see where this road leads. | Catherine Bathe