Friday, March 23, 2007

God Bless (Captain) America

I know that it's old news that Marvel Comics killed Captain America, but I didn't actually read the comic until yesterday.

It affected me. The comic book, written by Ed Brubaker, tells of the people closest to Steve Rogers (Captain America) and their reactions to his arrest and condemnation as a traitor by the U.S. government. As he is being led up the courthouse steps, a sniper, placed there by Red Skull and Doctor Faustus, fires at Steve. Sharon Carter, Cap's sometime girlfriend, rushes to his side, just in time for several more shots ringing out. Captain America is shot at point-blank range in the stomach and pandemonium ensues. He is rushed to the hospital, but is dead before he gets there. Falcon and Winter Soldier try to apprehend the sniper, but back at the hospital, the shocking truth is revealed to Sharon who the second shooter was. Fade to black.

Though I'm a fan, I know little about him and I've not got a lot of Captain America comics. Still, I've wanted them to make a quality, patriotic CAPTAIN AMERICA motion picture for many years now. I've bored my friends with my take on how it should be made and have probably set myself up for disappointment when and if it ever does see the light of day.

Cap represented what was best about America, especially in the 1940's. He was honest, strong, brave, loyal, enduring, and optimistic. In other words, all the things I'm not. But he's what we aspire to be. On our best day, we might act as Captain America would act, and stand up for the things we know to be true with our dying breath. Part of what I like about him is that he's so old fashioned. The kind of black and white man he is doesn't really fit in this shades of grey society, and if I did a CAP movie, I'd certainly encorporate that (as I would with a WONDER WOMAN film, though I'm sure I'd do it worse than Joss Whedon would have). Marvel Comics, perhaps aware of the changing world and the older readers, have shied away from the Captain America my father's and grandfather's generations* would have known, introducing an amoral Cap in the Ultimate Universe (though everyone 'cept Spider-man is pretty much a piece of crap in the Ultimate Universe) and turning Cap into a raging, hatefilled bully in some of the "Civil War" stories.

And that's too bad. I know Captain America is a symbol, an ideal most of us can't aspire to achieve (and it's sometimes hard to see any of myself in the man)**, but instead of always accepting shoddiness and/or corruption--or worse, championing mediocrity, as seems to occur so often today--wouldn't it be nice to aim for the heavens again, to long to do better, achieve more, and set the bar way up there, instead of so low that amputees trip over it?

Pick your old-fashioned hero, whether he's Superman, Abraham Lincoln, the Lone Ranger, Audie Murphy, or Lizzy Borden. Chances are, they were extraordinary people, well above-average, to whom we looked for an example, and next to whom, we paled in comparison. I've known real, teneble people who were just so great and so charismatic that I LONGED to be around them, longed to be like them, longed to be liked by them. We need more heroes like that in our society today . . . heroes who really are heroes.

Look, I'm not a complete idiot (how complete I am, however, is open to debate), I know Cap will be back again someday. I hope they come up with a clever and logical way of bringing him back than just "Oh, he only pretended to be dead to fool his enemies" or "Well, the Super Soldier serum brought him back"), but I thought the death issue was thoughtful, well-executed, and affecting. I haven't done a great job in putting my feelings into words, but sometimes that's the problem with feelings.

Or one of the problems.

Rish "Silver Age" Outfield

*I had a teacher at college who influenced my viewing habits more than any other. He was incendiary and curmudgeonly, alienating and Canadian, and I hated him on more than a few occasions. Yet he made me think, and made me re-evaluate my position and my beliefs. One of the things that he said to me was, "Why do you have to relate to the characters in a movie to enjoy it? Why use your own life and personal experience as a crutch? I mean, what kind of a vagina are you?"
Now, while many of the things he said opened my eyes to a larger world of thought, this is one of a handful of teachings that I haven't adopted.
For me to enjoy a film, TV show, or book, there has to be a character I can relate to, someone I can root for, someone who shows me a little of myself when they look in the mirror. While my teacher would say that was a flaw (and indeed, he did), I embrace this one. Call me the v-word, but if there's nobody I can connect with, I might as well be reading about animal life-cycles or non-fiction.

**I don't really get along with my father. He's a mean old man, and he's been one since 1983 or so. Though we have one or two things in common, the thousands of things we don't see eye to eye on help keep us apart. As I've gotten older, I occasionally try to get closer to him, like when I asked him if he read "The Lord of the Rings" when he was in college, only to be pushed away and not try again for a year or two. So, when I saw him on Friday, I thought that maybe, his growing up right after World War II, he'd have some kind of memory of Captain America and an interesting opinion on his death. But he disparaged the very mention of my four-colour heroes and referred to "funnybooks" as usual. It would've been nice if he had offered something I could mention here. Ah well.

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