Captain America is dead. I don’t think spoilers apply when the New York Daily News and other sources are talking about it and what it means politically. Captain America is a guy who first came on the scene by JACKING HITLER IN THE JAW!
and now he has been taken out by a sniper and seems to be truly dead (or at least as close to it you can be in the world of comic books). The whole things reminds me of the Death of Superman story from a few years ago, in as much as it seems to have people talking about comics and turning out to buy the issue in record numbers. Captain America, or “Cap” as he is affectionately known to fans has been kicking ass since World War II. He might not have been around as a certain Kryptonian, and Hollywood hasn’t been as kind to him but Cap still holds serious iconic weight and him being Kennedy’ied is kind of a big deal.
Steve Rogers was a patriotic and upstanding young man who wanted nothing more than to fuck shit up for the Nazis and serve the cause of freedom/democracy. Too bad for him he was a scrawny weakling that the Army rejected for active duty. But he still had serious game, so they used him as a guinea pig for the Super Soldier Serum. BAM! Now Steve had the muscles and agility to match his noble spirit, though not crazy powerful. He was always depicted as being at the peak of human ability, but couldn’t through cars around or smash buildings with the Hulk. Soon enough, the powers that be gave him a spiffy red, white, and blue outfit with an indestructible shield and set him loose on the Krauts, Nips, and Eye-ties that were threatening 1940s stability. He had a number of WWII adventures, and was in the fight way before our country was officially. As a propaganda tool, he was at least partially used to drum up support for American involvement in the war. Michael Chabon has a pretty cool take on the whole affair (though it is fictionalized) in his book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay Anyway, at the end of the war Cap gets frozen in arctic ice (don’t ask.) In the sixties, he gets thawed out by the Avengers and he’s been an integral part of the marvel universe ever since.
So now has been shot. He is dead. Will he stay dead? No, of course not. In the four-color world no one stays dead. Conventional wisdom holds that the only two deaths that are permanent are Spider-man’s dead Uncle who taught him all about power and responsibility and Bucky, Captain America’s old sidekick from World War II (don’t ask,) But last year, they brought Bucky back, so everything is up in the air. Comic books are different from other forms of fiction in that they can never have a true narrative arc. Whereas a novel can kill off a main character as an organic part of the story and give the reader resolution, the ongoing monthly comic book is designed to be just that: ongoing. Resolution is anathema. There can be narrative arcs, but in most ways that count things have to be returned to the status quo for the character. Cap has been around for over fifty years, and it would be retarded to ill him off permanently. He is a vital part of the Marvel stable.
My prediction: even if he is “truly dead” for the purposes of the story he will be reborn within the next few years and back again. In the meantime, there will be stories that explore what a world with Cap is like, and someone else will probably take the mantle for a while. This has even happened before. Cap has never dies, but for a variety of reasons he has given up the costume and other people have taken up the shield.
Its playing right into Marvels’ hands to discuss this in terms of the allegorical, but I happen to be a big fan of the writer who did the deed, and I think it might be interesting to explore what the symbol of America means by showing us what the world is like without him. I think Brubaker could do some interesting things with this, and so what if it ultimately gets reversed? The company has painted itself into a corner with its recent Civil War storyline, and offing Cap is one way to deal with the fallout (It’s an extremely long story , but suffice it to say that Captain America has actually been imprisoned for leading a super-insurgency against a semi-totalitarian US Government.) So if nothing else, this will open some new storytelling opportunities. I would not like if Captain America turned into an episode of Oz.
Is the whole thing a gimmick? Maybe, but it went down way more under-the-radar than when Supes kicked the bucket, so the sales will only really increase for the second printings, which will not be as highly sought. But gimmicky or not, I don’t have a problem with it. But his creator might have said it best. “It’s a hell of a time for him to go. We really need him now,”