Marvel Comics announced the arrival of a new, gay teenage Captain America Wednesday and I want to be excited.
I really do.
Let’s meet the “new” teenage Captain ‘Murica: Aaron Fischer. I’m using the derisive ‘murica for a reason. Fischer is described as a “rail kid.”
Nah doesn’t mean he does tons of coke. It means that a la the kids who rode the orphan trains of the Great Depression trafficking hundreds of thousands of kids into urban areas to either find work or to be sold sorry, adopted, by wealthy families.
“Described as the Captain America of the Railways — Fischer is a fearless teen who stepped up to protect fellow runaways and the unhoused. Marvel Comics is proud to honor Pride Month with the rise of this new LGBTQ+ hero.”
What in the name of all that is Annie (the depression era orphan comic-strip and the musical) has been going on?
Have I just had my head in the sand?
Oh but wait, there’s a 2017 I-D Magazine feature called raw portraits of the transient kids who travel america’s trains [yeah it’s in all lower case too], “Reminiscent of the children of the 1930s Dust Bowl era blended with roots in the squatter punk subculture, these kids leave home to find a better life, and sometimes work,” Michael Joseph writes in an essay accompanying the series. “Some have no choice to run away from an intolerable family situation,” while others willingly leave supportive environments in search of themselves or their tribe. Some, like McCandless, hail from suburbs. Joseph says one of his subjects was her high school’s valedictorian, who still has plans to attend college and perhaps become a teacher.”
“Since 2011, Joseph has made black-and-white portraits of train-hopping, hitch-hiking travelers.”
The same piece uses Into the Wild to describe the culture.
Wild, written by Jon Krakauer, is the story of Christopher McCandless, an Emory University star student who in 1990, donated his $25,000 grad school fund to OxFam, destroyed all of his credit cards, and ventured out into America. His travels by car, train, kayak, and foot brought him to the Colorado River, a harvesting venture in South Dakota, a hippie commune in Northern California, and eventually, the forests of Alaska. Along his travels, McCandless linked with others, diverged by choice or circumstance, and in some cases, reconnected with familiar faces along the way.
See! It’s wild but also lily white.
Rejecting conventional society in pursuit of an untethered, self-determined existence is a theme that white America likes to entertain. I call it a theme because it feels and looks like one. It’s a fashion sense. It’s Jack Kerouac, Fall Out Boy, and dust bowl era kids with dust bowl haircuts and nose rings all rolled ito one definition-less trope, except for one thing: it’s all white.
All white like Yellow American cheese, that is to say processed and artificial. It’s meth heads, death metal, and Kid Rock. They are the disaffected masses that hail Trump as a new messiah, and now they have a new hero in Captain America.
It’s Big White Cock trending on Reddit.
It’s Walt Whitman toying with homosex and trade. It’s weekend insurrectionists who own Beverly Hill salons. It’s Phoenix Arizona trash and failed actor oh but also ugly and bald QAnon shaman Jake Angeli, who had the “strength” to take a dump on Nancy Pelosi’s desk but cried when he couldn’t get organic food in jail.
It’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
“Aaron is inspired by heroes of the queer community: activists, leaders and everyday folks pushing for a better life,” said writer Joshua Trujillo, who pens the debut issue introducing Fischer. “He stands for the oppressed and the forgotten. I hope his debut story resonates with readers and helps inspire the next generation of heroes.”
“I want to thank editor Alanna Smith and Joshua Trujillo very much for asking me to create Aaron,” added Jan Bazaldua, who draws the issue. “I really enjoyed designing him and as a transgender person, I am happy to be able to present an openly gay person who admires Captain America and fights against evil to help those who are almost invisible to society. While I was drawing him, I thought, well, Cap fights against super-powerful beings and saves the world almost always, but Aaron helps those who walk alone in the street with problems that they face every day. I hope people like the end result!”
Wow. That is impressive. That is woke. That is so fucking white but wait there’s more: “The limited series is titled The United States of Captain America and follows Steve Rogers teaming up with Captain Americas of the past — Bucky Barnes, Sam Wilson and John Walker — on a road trip across America to find his stolen shield. Throughout the group’s journey, they’ll discover everyday people from all walks of life who’ve taken up the mantle of Captain America to defend their communities. The series is written by Christopher Cantwell with art by Dale Eaglesham.”
Yeah see he’s not Captain America, he’s A Captain America.
But this isn’t about the intersectionality of American identity or the experience of a multi-cultural people trying to navigate their identities and way in 2021 America. This is a sliver of a “community” (?) of people that chose to drop out.
It’s the suspected domestic terrorist and alleged killer of eight Asian American women the same day Marvel made this announcement. We don’t know who he is yet except that he’s “white” with a “sexual addiction” to Asian women who had a “bad day.”
A Brief History of Vice‘s Robert Evans tweeted about the murders saying: I would argue that cops repeating a mass murderer’s justification for his crimes, uncritically, is itself an act of violence.
I would argue that cops repeating a mass murderer’s justification for his crimes, uncritically, is itself an act of violence.
— Robert Evans (The Only Robert Evans) (@IwriteOK) March 18, 2021
It’s also hot garbage on a stick and it sucks.
Captain America, Superman, etc are just trademarks without relevant stories. So, yeah they’re soulless IP. Slapping their handles on whatever they think is cool is old hat and often suck — I ‘m looking at you Batman’s Signal.
It’s Marvel and DC announcing historic books in honor of LGBT heroes for Gay Pride (caps? no caps?).
It’s too much and not enough.
Imagine if DC and Marvel announced, that in honor of Black History Month, they were launching 12 new titles with 12 new Black superheroes with accompanying variant covers. Collect them all!
They’d be ripped to shreds.
I wouldn’t react this way if they’d revealed an existing character from the mythos as gay or trans and the struggle they endured. Someone whose identity had been literally erased from history.
It’s the lyrics to Alannis Morrisette’s “Ironic.”
But the fact is if everyone is Captain America, if everyone is Batman, if their fictional identities can be stretched so thin to be everybody….
Then they mean nothing to anybody.
It’s “celebrities” I never heard of announcing that they’re LGBT.
LGBT like it’s fucking a sandwich order not a revolution fought in the streets.
And they mean nothing to me.
Don’t get me wrong there’s a significant percentage of Americans who have returned (back?) into the arms of white supremacist ideology, espoused equally by politicians and armed “loners” in networks on Facebook or Reddit or Discord or YouTube or 8chan.
It’s the sort of folks Toni Morrison identified in a short essay for The New Yorker after the 2016 election.
The language of white supremacy, she wrote, is a language of cowardice disguised as dominance. “These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble.”
Morrison points out that despite (and because of) its lofty delusions, white supremacy makes things worse for everyone, white people very much included. It succeeds because the belief in “whiteness” as a category of specialness covers up deep-seated insecurity and doubt. “What are you without racism?” she asks. “Are you any good? Are you still strong? Are you still smart? Do you still like yourself?”
Jack Kirby, the co-creator of Captain America, once said that his politics boiled down to “If a guy liked Hitler, I’d beat the stuffing out of him and that would be it.”
Snopes dedicated an entire article how pro-punching-Nazis the man was (spoiler alert: he was very). The famous first cover of Captain America shows Cap whopping Hitler in the face while covered in a costume version of the flag.
Above: Yeah, he’s no Captain America punching Hitler in Captain America Comics #1, March 1941.
In her masterful way, Morrison showed us how to have empathy for people in the grip of hatred and fear without diluting the consequences of their actions. She pitied racists but never gave an inch to racism. Tragically, her 2016 essay, “Mourning for Whiteness,” is making the rounds for reasons other than in tribute to its author, one of the country’s greatest writers and one of its most unflinchingly candid.
They’re many things but they’re no heroes.
When every American in a costume gets to be their personal Captain America then how do we find a way to say the QAnon Shaman isn’t “Captain America” while he’s fighting for his misguided conspiracies while senators duck and cover in secret tunnels beneath the Capitol building?
If everyone is Captain America, THEN EVERYONE IS CAPTAIN AMERICA and the paradox of tolerance knocks on the door of a singular, iconic, mantle that at any given time is held by the most righteous and necessary actors of the just of the Marvel universe.
Trying to make the new Captain America mean everything to everybody means he’s nothing to anyone.