Catherine’s take on a column accusing the controversial Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 of being anti-Semitic.
As I write this, it’s been a couple days since Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 hit the internet, and just a few days ago I said my own piece on it, but a certain article has been bouncing around my Facebook feed. The article in question is panels.net’s “On Steve Rogers #1, Antisemitism, and Publicity Stunts,” and the things I want to say about it have been filtering through my head since I first heard about it before a two hour car-ride, had it alluded to on my Facebook feed in response to the piece I wrote for our favoritest spot, PLAYBACK:stl, and then pondered over my own response to the friend who linked it to me.
Let me preface this by saying that I have put quite a bit of thought into this. The article on panels.net completely and totally ignores context—and I feel that that is something as comic columnists, appreciators of literature, and information distributors that we are not allowed to do. In my previous comment, I mentioned in passing that the pieces for this turn in Steve’s character, in my opinion, started being set up since his return to the spotlight as the public head of Uncanny Avengers. The Red Skull has loomed over the Avengers Unity Squad like that awful feeling you (or maybe it’s just me) get before stepping onto a rollercoaster—it doesn’t go away and even after your coaster car has made that predictable, lunch-rolling drop, you still feel like something worse is on its way. Some might make the guess that the “something awful on its way” was the revelation (spoilers, obviously) that Steve Rogers had, indeed, possibly been working for Hydra this entire time. Maybe this really is just a click-bait publicity stunt, as panels.net’s Jessica Plummer accuses Marvel of doing, but it feels hollow to throw that accusation out without even mentioning the build-up to his return.
Yes, the argument can be made that you should be able to take a comic title on its own, but that’s not how these big labels work. Marvel’s Standoff On Pleasant Hill, the storyline that gave Steve Rogers back his youth and his powers involved multiple comic books, numerous characters, and had follow-up issues to address the fall-out of the event. To write an article attacking the work seen within Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 without even acknowledging the road to it…well, it doesn’t quite sit well with me. I think that as columnists, sometimes we also double-up as guides to people who may not know a lot about comics—for whom Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 may be their first rodeo—and giving them an incomplete picture is completely irresponsible.
Maybe this development is simply just to make Hydra villains more interesting and give us an inside look at the organization that we have been thwarting alongside our favorite heroes for all of this time. Isn’t that what All-Star Batman might be doing as part of DC’s Rebirth line-up? I don’t see any stones being thrown at DC for that. Why? Because the panels.net article makes the claim that is an anti-Semitic brushstroke in the larger All-New All-Different Marvel picture. Quite frankly, I am angry with panels.net for doing exactly what the article is accusing Marvel of doing. I am angry because how dare you use eleven million deaths as clickbait.
Claiming that Steve Rogers’ Hydra identity is an anti-Semitic action being taken by Marvel is probably the most outrageous thing I’ve read as far as responses to this #1. I don’t say outrageous to belittle or demean the author’s response. Comics should make you feel things—especially Captain America, whose comics are so deeply engrained in politics and matters that are close to most of the population. My largest issue with the article is its myopic, alienating, and condescending tone. Plummer accuses readers who are non-Jewish and not upset at the comic as being “from a place of privilege.” If you feel like people don’t understand, then try to give them a platform from which to empathize, don’t belittle them for the lack of understanding. Facilitate discussion—which, I think, is at the heart of Captain America: Steve Rogers. We are no longer, as a community, at a place where discussion really takes place. Instead, we choose to delete comments and threads because “We’re really not interested in having this argument” or “The piece is pretty self-explanatory.”
Clearly, it wasn’t, unless you were Jewish or outraged. And this, this is my problem with people, lately: we no longer want to talk about things, we no longer feel a need to explain ourselves or attempt to cross whatever aisle we’re on opposite sides of to have a discussion. We choose, instead, to place ourselves in an echo chamber and surround ourselves with people who share our opinions because those other people out there “come from privileged positions” that don’t allow them to understand our personal experiences.
When I was a freshman in college, my very semester, at 8am I wheeled myself (because I had broken my foot a week before classes) into my World Regional Geography class. As a final for the class, we had to do paper discussing a country, the college version of country reports that I’m sure we all did throughout school. That project was very eye-opening for me because in my class we had an Israeli and a Palestinian, and the Israeli did his project on Israel, of course. He talked about the history, about the terrorism that continues to go on in Israel and placed the fault solely on the shoulders of the Palestinians. The Palestinian student stood up, placed his leg on a desk, and pulled up his pant leg to reveal scarring and shrapnel wounds. Wounds that, he said, had been given to him when Israeli military had opened fire on him for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Security was called, of course, because it got very tense and bordered on getting physically violent, but that was a very important day for me because until that moment I had no connection to what was going on in Israel. It’s now a subject that I’m extremely aware of.
To think that this comic book is Marvel endorsing the Holocaust is… Well. You alienate yourself by choosing to interpret it that way, though you are free to interpret it that way, of course, we don’t have any kind of thought-police, yet. (Other than our Facebook feeds and our closest circle of friends.) But, like I noted earlier, if you’re part of the average trend, then your circles are filled with people who agree with you, who don’t challenge you to think outside of your own point of view. And, the panels.net article is clickbait disguised as shallow comic criticism—and we should be better that. As critics, we should strive to look deeper and pick at what’s going on. Getting a college education in English Literature taught me to separate myself from what I was looking at, and the vast majority of the time, I don’t let my personal pieces spill into my articles because I don’t want to alienate someone who may be checking out a column on something they’ve never read before.
I would hate to deprive them of being able to explore that on their own. | Catherine Bathe