Sunday, 15 October 2017

Captain America!

At the risk of sounding like an apologist for a dubious superhero who stomps about the world like he owns it, I'd like to answer Ultron is My Elvis' intriguing post on The Star Spangled Avenger. It does go on to say that the apparently one dimensional aspect of the character's patriotism has encouraged some interesting story-telling, but UiME begins...

Cap is a character I've often struggled with. As a brightly coloured, morally upright paragon of virtue, he seems too virtuous to be interesting, too confident to allow for drama, too sanctimonious to be sympathetic. And as a patriotic character draped in a flag, he rankles me intensely on a political, symbolic level too. 

That's a fair commentary on the good captain: he can be used as the designated moral centre - as in Civil War, without it ever being clear why his position is 'good', and his 1940s' adventures were predicated on the might-is-right theory of ethics (given he was fighting Nazis, he gets away with that). There are the contemporary presentations - as in Mark Millar's Ultimates in which Millar attempts to satirise the machismo and traditional values, only to turn Cap into a right wing thug - and like that other authoritarian nightmare, Judge Dredd, he became a hero for the wrong reasons. 

 Yet there’s something about this guy that I find fascinating… Maybe it’s precisely because on the surface he’s the most whitebread, tedious, mom-and-apple-pie North American superheroic power-fantasy cliché imaginable, that he inspires writers to excavate further and deeper, to explore what makes this flag-wearing relic tick. Not only is Captain America a man out of time, he’s also a fictional character out of time – this two-fisted patriotic icon was created in the 1940s, and arguably that’s where he belongs. On the other hand, as a living anachronism, he’s both a useful tool with which to reflect on our era and a periscope to the past.

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