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Captain America – Whose side is Cap really on?

By Alex Wiggan

Over the past few years Captain America has become quite a prominent figure – on screen, in comics and in day-to-day life. On the big screen he’s both a superhero and (following the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016)) an enemy of the State. In the real world, Cap’s become something of a symbol for the oppressed and those who are unjustly marginalised.

In comics, Captain America is (currently) an agent of Hydra, working on a plan that will play into Marvel’s next big event – Secret Empire. His most recent appearance, in the pages of Civil War II: The Oath, highlights what could be on the horizon under his leadership – a Hydra-controlled America.

We’ll let you read between the lines about that one.

Last year, many criticised Marvel for Cap’s new allegiance to Hydra and eight months since he spoke the words “Hail Hydra”, some are still not happy about it. In fairness to the House of Ideas, Marvel is simply offering a different stance on the superhero – one which reflects the ongoing political situation and division in the US right now.

And that brings us to another depiction of Cap, which has been quite prominent recently – the one that has appeared in protests.

While we try not to get too political on the Honcho-SFX blog, we’d be amiss not to mention Cap’s connection to the recent protests against US President Donald Trump – a connection whereby various protestors have either dressed up as Captain America, or have featured his iconic shield in their demonstrations. People are taking the image and symbol of Cap and are using it to demonstrate their allegiance to their country, not their allegiance to the head of their country.

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This idea of Cap as a champion against the President is different to the one that is playing out in the pages of Marvel comics right now. Although neither are too fussed about the President at present.

So the big question is: Whose side is Cap really on?

If you trace the character back through the decades, right back to his debut appearance in 1941 – a few months prior to America entering World War II – there are various interpretations of Captain America. Not every version of Cap is the same, but more often than not he retains the same key values of truth and justice.

But is he a symbol of hope? Is he a symbol for the people? A symbol of America? Or is he something more?

In a recent interview with Heat Vision, Melissa Groben, the daughter of Cap’s co-creator Joe Simon, discussed the origins of Captain America, as well as his position as a symbol. During the interview Groben highlighted the reason why Cap was conceived and her thoughts on his current status.

She said:

“Captain America was created while the Jews were being killed off in Europe, and my father, being Jewish, and (co-creator) Jack (Kirby), being Jewish, were enraged that America was not over there with our military strength.

“They created Captain America to go after Hitler because our country wouldn’t go after Hitler. My father was very, very, very pro America, pro Jewish, he was very traditional, and it was a different world back then.”

So back in the day, Captain America was designed to fight against oppression and to stand up for those who needed help. However, Groben believes in today’s society, Captain America and what he represents is open to a greater interpretation.

She said:

“We all find whatever we need in a particular character, whatever that may be. So, I can’t say that the way anyone is using the character is wrong. If that’s what they see in the character, then that’s what works for them.”

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Groben added:

“What Captain America represents to my neighbour might be different than what he means to someone from three towns over.”

So, with that respect, Cap could be good, bad and somewhere in the middle. It’s all about view points and perspective.

One thing that is clear, at least according to Groben, is that “anytime there is any turmoil or unrest or disagreement, he pops up.”  So, if you’ve been seeing a lot of Captain America as of late, you shouldn’t be too surprised – he will continue to make an appearance every time he is needed.

So where does that leave us? Are we any clearer on where Captain America’s allegiances lie?

Well, as with most comic book characters, Captain America will always be beholden to the writers, who craft his stories however they see fit – whether that gels with one political stance or another. Cap will be written or depicted in various forms for many years to come and to be honest, so he should! Different takes on Captain America mean more interesting stories and more colourful interpretations… and who doesn’t want that?

Does this mean Cap shouldn’t be used in protests, discussions and arguments? Does it mean he shouldn’t appear in stories where he’s depicted as the villain? Heck, no!

While the comic book version of Cap might not be the Captain America we know and love right now, we have a sneaking suspicion this Hydra storyline won’t last forever. At his core, Cap is a hero so he’ll gravitate back towards the character we are all more familiar with, sooner or later.

As for his appearance in protests and the like, well Captain America has always been there to help people, so if a particular group is being oppressed, then as Melissa Groben pointed out, he will continue to pop up. People will take on the appearance of Captain America because they feel he represents values that they want to see in the real world.

76 years after his initial appearance Captain America is still going strong and he’s still representing the people, his country and the times we live in – but how he does this may differ depending on your own personal point of view.

 

 

 

About the author: Alex Wiggan has written blog posts for Honcho-SFX blog since October 2014. He likes writing, eating pizza and watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes in that order.

 

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