No, You Move

By now, everyone has heard about the mess Marvel is trying to make of Captain America, right? They’re not exactly being secretive about it. A cynical person might even suspect this is a move driven not by artistic standards but by an attempt to whip up interest and sell more comics.

I haven’t read the comic in question, but in case you haven’t seen the reports all over the internet, [SPOILERS], they have written it as canon that Cap is and has been secretly working for Hydra all along.

I’m just going to come right out and say it: This is not true.

Oh, it may be real. They may be really turning Steve Rogers, Captain America, Cap, into a despicable, worthless excuse for a human being, undoing all the good he’s ever done and ever stood for.

But it’s not true.

You can make up all the lies you want about Steve Rogers and call them canon and sell them and make millions of dollars off of them and even make it so nobody else can legally tell any other story about him—but you can’t make it true.

I don’t care if Steve Rogers is a fictional character. He’s true. Madeleine L’Engle said in her book Walking on Water: “Hamlet is. When the play has been read, when the curtain goes down on the performance, Hamlet still is. He is, in all his ambivalence, as real as Byron; or as the man who cried out, Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief! or as Ivan Karamazov.” There are certain characters, certain stories, that transcend their creator and become true by the virtue of the truth they represent. Steve Rogers is one of them.

I have long held that superheroes are America’s mythology. Great Britain has King Arthur, Robin Hood, St George—we have Captain America, Ironman, Wonder Woman, Superman. They are part of our mythos, they are the stories we tell as we try to shape and make sense of our culture. They both represent who we are and give us something greater to hold on to. Nobody embodies this more than Captain America. Heck, it’s even in his name. (Subtlety: not exactly our strong point, as a culture.)

The difference is, of course, that no matter how many different versions of the King Arthur story people tell, no matter how they change it, no matter how many people portray Arthur as a bad guy, the heart of the legend remains the same. It belongs to the culture, free to be interpreted however people need to interpret it at any given time. King Arthur, whether he was a historical character or not, is true. The idea of a post-Roman, Celtic Arthur fighting for the light in a time of widespread darkness is one that has resonated with me ever since reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. Don’t ever try to tell me he isn’t true. Was he real? Irrelevant.

The difference, of course, is that King Arthur belongs to all of us. Mostly to the Brits, of course, but they are gracious enough to share him with the world. Steve Rogers technically belongs to Marvel. Which means they are free to interpret his character however they want, and even destroy him, and the rest of us are helpless.

Oh, but we aren’t. Because I don’t care who owns the copyright on Steve Rogers, he belongs to us all just as much as Arthur does. Captain America—who can own someone like that? Who can own an ideal? Who can own a myth? Legally, sure. But Cap’s got nothing to do with copyrights and legalities. He transcends that.

So go ahead, Marvel, and say what you want to about Captain America. But you’re wrong, and the story you are telling is wrong, no matter how you may try to spin it later. HydraCap? Never. That’s a cheap move for shock value, and it’s a vile lie. Steve Rogers stands outside your grubby little hands, and is above whatever canon you create for him. Cap belongs to us, to all of us, and we aren’t going to let you try to tear him down. He’ll still be representing the ideals we hold so dear long after you are gone and forgotten. Because he’s true.

Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world—No, you move. (Steve Rogers, Amazing Spider-Man #537)

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4 thoughts on “No, You Move

  1. I have no opinion one way or the other on Captain America, but I think you’ve definitely got something there with superheroes being America’s mythology (superheroes, and Disney – but that’s another topic). And of course this: “Don’t ever try to tell me he isn’t true. Was he real? Irrelevant.” Absolutely.

    • Yes, Disney! Although that’s sort of an adaptation of an existing mythos (fairy tales) as opposed to one crafted wholesale from its own piece of cloth. (Aside from Thor. And Wonder Woman. And – ok, so we’ve borrowed A LOT for all our various mythologies. Which, when you think about it, is traditional of most mythologies. Norse, Egyptian, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Greek, most obviously the Romans … they all share certain elements and all borrow from each other freely. Which is one of the points of having a mythos at all, according to Tolkien and Lewis -to show truth through story. And now my parenthesis has completely gotten away with me.)

  2. I am not a fan of today’s almost rabid need to vilify all of our heroes. I honestly didn’t know about this. I don’t really keep up with the comics, but Captain America stands for everything that is, or at least WAS, pure, right and honorable about America. I’m all for humanizing characters. “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” After all, I’m trying to engrain in Lorelai that teachers, doctors, and the people she sees on TV are just people like the rest of us with families, homes, and lives and troubles all their own. HOWEVER, the need to make all that we look up to actually evil is like a sickness in our society. We are quickly losing our concept of absolute truth today, so of course lets make an American hero a villain.

    • The difference between humanizing our heroes and making them downright bad people is a vast gulf, and yet, as you say, many seem incapable of telling the difference. It’s finding out Luke Skywalker was a secret Sith Lord before R2-D2 and C3PO ever reached Tatooine. It’s discovering that Aragorn was secretly in service to Melkor all along. It’s Lucy Pevensie lying about Narnia all along, Anne Shirley actually putting strychnine in the well, Elizabeth Bennet carrying on a secret love affair with Wickham behind everyone’s backs. It’s not even “hero gets tempted by evil and falls to it,” it’s “hero has been evil all along,” and it’s just WRONG.

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