Comic books are often perceived as meaningless children’s stories, but frequently they are used to explain world conflict to their readers. Often hidden in these laymen’s explanations are an agenda that some may not agree with. Captain America is a fictional character created in 1941 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. I will explain how the red, white and blue clad hero is a way train children from an early age to have a loyalty to their country and a hatred for the villain in the story, The Red Skull. The Red Skull started as a Nazi agent then later turned to the face of Communism in the eyes of millions of young readers. After the defeat of the Nazis, Captain America will take on a new ideological battle from the east Communism. Furthermore, I will link the discontinuation of this Marvel character with current events.
“Nine months before Japan attacked the U.S. naval Beet at Pearl Harbor. Captain America was already at war with the Nazis. The first issue’s cover, in March 1941, showed Captain America punching Adolf Hitler in the face (see illustration on page 42). Not coincidentally, co-creators Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzburg) and Joe Simon were young Jewish Americans, anxious for the U.S. to join the war against Hitler.” (Aiken, Katherine G. OAH Magazine of History. Apr2010, Vol. 24 Issue 2.) While entering World War II and dealing with political, ideological and cultural differences, Marvel Comics identified a need for a patriotic icon. Like all good things, the war came to an end and Captain America needed a new enemy. That new enemy was found in communism and the authors did not hesitate to capitalize on the new war of ideologies.
“Captain America, Commie Smasher,” was actually the title of the comic book series in 1954. This new series did not only portray America as enemies of Communism, it portrayed the U.S as the free world’s only hope. “Captain America voiced that view in a story in which he is called on to rescue the United Nations after its headquarters is seized by Soviet agents. Masterminding this plot is none other than the Red Skull himself, formerly a top operative under Hitler but now working for the Kremlin.” (Gizzi, John- Human Events. 8/1/2011, Vol. 67 Issue 27, p21-21. 1p.) By using Captain America to save the United Nations they showed that they believed the U.S should be the main military power against Communism, this also helped instill the role of the U.S in the minds of millions of young readers. This was also a seamless transition for The Red Skull to switch political affiliations to Communism from Nazism.
“Captain America is the ultimate symbol of American idealism. During the Cold War American superheroes fought against the evil Soviets and other “vermin” from the East, who always planned to take over the world.” (Rŉžička, Jiří G. New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs. Summer2010, Vol. 12 Issue 2, p46-48.) This article describes in detail how superheroes, specifically Captain America, have been used as ideological weapons and as an integral part of the Cold War Effort. This article also discusses how these comic books try to dehumanize the current political opponent. It goes over the beginning of the Captain America franchise in World War II, then talks about how it tries to demonize the Communists in the 50’s and 60’s. While there is no direct evidence that any Government officials spoke with anyone from Marvel, there is a clear link in motivations and ideology.
In 2007 the impossible happened, Captain America died, he was killed by an unknown assailant’s high-powered sniper rifle. As we know this was the midst of the Iraq and Afghanistan war and cultural tensions were high. I feel the way and time in which Captain America came to his demise is reflective of the 911 terror attacks and may have been seen as a possible remedy for the cultural tensions at the time. Traditionally snipers are trained to take a single shot to neutralize their target and surely enough the man sent to assassinate Captain America would have been highly trained. I feel this is emblematic of the 911 terror attacks because of the multiple planes that hit the Pentagon and the Twin Towers. Also the assailant was unknown which reflects the people who carried out the attacks because there is still much speculation about who was really behind the assault. It is easy to see how a few high-powered rifle rounds that brought Captain America to his knees is symbolic of the few airliners that brought America to its knees.
In a time of such high global tension and ideological sensitivity, it is clear that having a superhero that stood for everything American and operated beyond laws or borders might not have been the most socially responsible character to have be the face of your company. In 2014, this cultural outreach was epitomized when they released their first Muslim superhero by the name of Kamala Khan. This Pakistani American lives in New Jersey and her superhero name is Ms. Marvel. In the eyes of many it is clear that the way in which Captain America was mysteriously gunned down from a distance and the subsequent release of Ms. Marvel shows a dramatic cultural shift that is reflective of our current events. During the peak of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars Marvel wanted to discontinue Captain American with one last subliminal hoorah, by having his death be symbolic to the 911 terror attacks. Years later, when the wars in the Middle East are coming to a close and when Muslim Americans are more accepted in today’s western society, they released the Muslim Ms. Marvel.
In conclusion, I would like say that it is deniable that these events correspond to a political agenda when looked at in isolation. Although, when you look at the life of Captain America as a whole and the newest release of the next Marvel superhero, Ms. Marvel, it is hardly dismissible that these stories don’t reflect current events and its past history. Whether it be Nazism, Communism or terrorism, Marvel has had their characters being reflected in it all.
Source: Gray, John-New Statesman. 3/28/2014, Vol. 143 Issue 5203, p30-35. 4p.
This article discusses the background of “Captain America” and talks in detail the beginning of his story. This relates to my topic because it tells how his duties do not lie to anyone in particular, but to an ideology. He quotes “Captain America” in saying that he fights for freedom and justice and will fight against the “ilk” of his emeries’ foreign ideologies. The author goes further to say that this character shares the ideology of Aristotle, which I do not entirely agree with. I like that this article keeps the focus on the morals portrayed by “Captain America” and uses real life comparisons to portray the struggle of good versus evil he represents.
Source: CAPTAIN AMERICA: ‘Nazi Basher’ Now, Why Not ‘Commie Smasher’ Next? By: Gizzi, John, Human Events, 00187194, 8/1/2011, Vol. 67, Issue 27
This article discusses a comic book series release in 1954 called “Captain America, Commie Smasher” which directly relates to the use of not so subtly teaching children to hate communism. The plot of this series involves “The Red Skull,” who is Captain America’s mortal enemy, holding the United Nations hostage. This is a clear attempt to show that communism is a threat to the free world. This is also an analysis of how these authors try to subliminally teach children that communist’ are evil and there should be no mercy shown towards them. The author of the article also analyzes the quote said by Captain America “Communists are just the Nazi’s of the 50s.” The Author of the article also discusses how Hollywood doesn’t condone any post war anti-communism.
Source: Perry, David- Sun, The (Lowell, MA). 03/08/2007
This article discusses the death of Captain America and how he was shot by a sniper. The author of this article believes this may be in connection to the “War on Terror.” He speculates that the Marvel Company thinks it would be irresponsible to have someone who fights for American Ideals while wearing regalia that represents the American flag. The author also discusses how Captain America was a huge part of his childhood and how he doesn’t know how to go about telling his son of the fictional characters death. Although many believe that the character is worth too much money to permanently discontinue him. He references the death of Superman and how that was not a permanent event in the story line.
Source: Hare, Kristen-St. Joseph News-Press (MO). 03/09/2007. .
This article explores how the death of Captain America is related to modern politics and especially related to the “War on Terror.” She also points out the way in which Captain America is killed is similar to the 911 terror attacks. She discusses the similarities of a sniper to the un-suspecting residents of the Twin Towers. This article provides evidence that the comic book industry is a reflection of world events and are used to influence their young readers. While this article did not show the link to communism, it did show how the writers try to portray enemies of the United States as cowards. This also shows that it is trying to make young readers form opinions on world events without them even knowing they’re doing so.
Source: New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs. Summer2010, Vol. 12 Issue 2, p46-48.
This article takes an overall look at the use of comic book characters being used as an ideological weapon. This was a good perspective because it is the view of someone who did not grow up in the United States. I feel that way this person could perceive the information was beneficial because their epistemic position was devolved in Prague and they could see the absurdity that occurs in this country’s media with a fresh pair of eyes.
Source: OAH Magazine of History. Apr2010, Vol. 24 Issue 2
This piece took a historical look at the origins of Captain America and how his political affiliations started even before World War 2. This article discussed how Captain America was seen punching Hitler in the face 9 months before the attacks on pearl harbor and how this was most likely the result of the authors being two Jewish Americans eager to join the war effort.