Comic publishers bring down nuclear heat after plot reveals
Spoilers will be coming thick and fast here so don’t read on if you intend to read Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 or DC Rebirth #1.
DC managed to upset many comic readers by committing what has been seen as sacrilege by bringing Watchmen into the main DC Universe and also promising to reveal the identity of The Joker. The Joker reveal is absolutely un-necessary because part of his appeal is that his identity is unknown and that it doesn’t really matter who he is, but in true comics fashion everyone’s backstory has to be revealed and there’ll always be a twist where they turn out to be somebody we already know.
When Watchmen was released in 1986 it was a stand alone story that was separate from the DC Universe, giving writer Alan Moore freedom to create his own characters and to release a mature story about superheroes as DC wouldn’t allow him to use existing ones. Watchmen obviously drew inspiration from The Justice League of America and The Justice Society of America which made the series perhaps a little more accessible to superhero comic readers. The JSA had been DC’s first superhero team when they were introduced in 1940 but by the end of the decade their popularity had waned and their series was cancelled in 1951. In 1960 The JLA was introduced featuring some JSA characters who had been reinvented like Green Lantern and The Flash but while the JLA resided on Earth 1 (the main DCU) the JSA was put onto Earth 2, an parallel reality. In 1985 DC launched Crisis on Infinite Earths which consolidated the parallel worlds into one timeline, one which saw the JSA as WW2 era superheroes and the JLA as modern ones, with the reinvented characters taking up the mantles of their predecessors.
Moore said that he wrote the story with The Mighty Crusaders in mind, Watchmen followed The Minutemen team of superheroes in 1985 with flashes back to their pre WW2 origins and in some cases the previous incarnations of characters. The series was a hit and had an appeal that crossed over from the comics industry to the mainstream with Watchmen breaking the stereotype of comics being for kids. Watchmen and Frank Miller‘s The Dark Knight Returns both had wider appeal and ended up being collected into trade paperbacks which wasn’t a common thing at the time. Marketed as ‘graphic novels’ the two collections transcended the industry and changed it.
However the appeal of Watchmen was that it was in a stand alone universe and it was a brutal commentary on war, society, the cold war, the dark sides of heroes so it didn’t have a place alongside the much less serious main universe. By dragging Watchmen into the DC Universe it brings serious, gritty and real characters into a universe populated by The Calculator, The Weasel, Gorilla Grodd, The Fiddler, Bouncing Boy and others but it also cheapens the characters by reusing them.
Not only that but there’s the dubious matter of Alan Moore himself. When Moore created V For Vendetta and Watchmen it was at a point where DC wanted to be more creator friendly and so they would own the rights to both titles and their characters until the comics went out of print and then the rights would revert to Moore. As mentioned above, collecting comics into one volume wasn’t as common in 1985 and so the understanding was that even if both series were collected then it would be for one printing. However DC never allowed either collection to go out of print and so have retained the rights for 30 years allowing them to produce films of both and to release the Before Watchmen cash in titles, both of which Moore was dead against and asked his fans to boycott.
Many fans have been angered by DC once again keeping Moore out in the cold, milking a legendary comic and it’s characters like a cash cow and bringing them into a universe where more exploitation will occur until the characters are meaningless.
You’d think that DC’s antics would be hard to beat but Marvel managed to eclipse them with two simple words:
The big reveal at the end of Steve Rogers: Captain America was that Cap had been a Hydra sleeper agent since day one which really makes no sense. However the big fuss was over two elements:
1. The human embodiment of America is a traitor.
2. Hydra are Nazis.
Let’s face it, pretty much every single person in the West knows who Captain America is. They may not know anything about him but they have heard of him, so when news broke that Captain America was a Nazi sleeper agent all along you can imagine how well this went down with people, especially in America. Marvel may as well have burned the flag in many people’s minds. What was far worse is that Hydra were formed by Nazis and Japanese fugitives following WW2 and was headed by The Red Skull, Baron Zemo and Baron Strucker, all of whom were Nazi officers with The Red Skull being Hitler’s right hand man. What made the furore (not Fuhrer) worse was that Captain America was created by Jack Kirby (Jacob Kurtzberg) and Joe Simon (Hymie Simon) who were both Jewish and had created the character while working at Timely Comics under editor Martin Goodman, who’s real name was Moses Goodman – another Jew. Timely Comics would become Atlas Comics in the 50s and then would be renamed in 1961 as Marvel Comics meaning that the creators of Cap along with the founder of Marvel comics were all Jewish, as is Stan Lee for anyone wondering. It’s also worth pointing out that Kirby was drafted and fought in WW2.
Bearing in mind that we live in a time where people get offended by everything it is mind boggling that Marvel were surprised by the reaction they got. Tom Brevoort was quoted as saying
We certainly knew it would be…a shocking book, and a controversial book. We didn’t predict how extreme and extensive it became. So yeah, we were definitely caught off guard by how big this became.
There’s a subset of people who are upset about this, who are exactly like that. The reporting on this, and the sort of game of telephone on the internet about this went from it being “Captain America is Hydra,” to “Captain America is a Nazi” – which is already a leap – to “This is anti-semitism,” which is ridiculous, in that, if you look at the comic book that we put out, there is nothing in it that, in any way, shape, or form, is even slightly anti-semitic. But because people were able to go “Hydra = Nazi, and Nazi = anti-semitism,” that’s what reactions became about.
To be fair, calling it anti-Semitism is a stretch but it’s certainly a big slap in the face to the Jewish roots of the character when you consider that 6 months before America joined in WW2, Cap was pictured punching Hitler in the mouth on the cover of Captain America #1.
Apparently the second issue will confirm that this is the genuine Steve Rogers and will explain all, the Hydra connection is going to stay. Brevoort’s defence that people need to read the whole series rather than judge the story on one issue is certainly true but either way it isn’t a plot that is likely to meet with approval once all is said and done. While a lot of the backlash is knee jerk reactions from people who haven’t ever read a Captain America comic, Marvel must have been incredibly naive to think that this was a good idea.