Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Twelve and a Tangent

Okay, this looks really interesting. I'm a huge fan of DC's golden age type stuff, especially when the heroes are interacting with modern day society. I don't know very much about Marvel/Timely golden age heroes (I do adore Cap, Bucky, Nick Fury and Namor though, and older Invaders issues are LOTS of fun. But when it comes to genuine GA material, I'm at a loss.)

I've never heard of most of these characters before, but they look like they could be a lot of fun. I'm intrigued by the possibility of Straczynski at the helm, since I adored Babylon 5. I've never much liked his comic work, but I think maybe giving him characters that are essentially blank slates as far as the modern Marvel universe goes, it could be fun.

I'm not sure the culture shock angle will work as well. 12 is a big number. I don't know how general my experience is, but when I spent a year out of the country, I'd had a lot of fellow foreigners as friends. And while culture shock still happened, even just being able to talk to someone in the same situation and go "Yeesh, isn't this fucking weird?!" and have them go, "Yep" goes a long way.

They'd certainly have different experiences than Steve did, being as Steve was completely alone when he awoke. And Nick and Namor were never frozen, so there are some interesting possibilities.

If they're unhappy and want to change things, that could be fun. And it could put characters like Cap (who'll probably be back by then) and Nick Fury in awkward positions.

I hope Straczynski's a bit more careful about politics than the folks who did Ultimate Captain America were. Because all other characterization issues aside, that was a bit annoying. I find it really hard that a man with Cap's background -provided it's mostly the same, of course- would be characterized as so much of a staunch Conservative. (in the modern sense). This is a man who grew up poor and hungry in New York City during the Great Depression. Policies like Roosevelt's New Deal would have likely saved his life. Wartime America had a number of different programs as well regarding resource and food consumption. Considering how patriotic and idealistic he was back then, it would seem that he'd embraced these ideas pretty whole-heartedly. Which makes fiscal conservatism really really unlikely.

As for social conservativism, that really doesn't make a whole lot of sense either, if you think about it. He's a New York city tenement brat who would have spent his impressionable early childhood in the Roaring Twenties. During the Great Depression and the Wartime period, he would have had other things to worry about. The social conservativism that Steve's behavior in Ultimates brings to mind really looks more like post-War backlash than anything else. And Steve would have already been frozen by then. Sure, Steve might be naive or personally uptight, but the shocked/aghast/disgusted attitude really doesn't make any sense. (I personally think Cap would be a lot more disgusted by seeing all the uneaten food/unnecessary packaging material in a garbage can than anything else. Our society produces waste in an amount that must be truly nightmarish to someone from that background. I always kind of wished that'd be addressed more, especially considering he is/was close friends with a millionaire.)

I'm not saying Steve's necessarily a bleeding heart liberal either, but I don't see any way the conservativism portrayed by the Ultimate version makes any sense, provided any of the pre-serum backstory made the universe-hop in tact.

Anyway, I'm not saying that a character from that time period can't be either fiscally or socially conservative. It's very plausible. But I hope that the characters' politics, if addressed, are developed in ways that make sense with whatever backgrounds are established for those characters. Things like socioeconomic status, place of origin, and personal experiences are pretty vital components when it comes to someone's personal politics, and shouldn't be overlooked.

Also, being from the forties does not necessarily mean a person's politics would be the same as that seventy-year-old guy down the block who's lived through and had his experiences molded by the subsequent decades. Yeesh. From the forties =/= old =/= automatically conservative.

But anyway, I've always thought Straczynski did a decent job at presenting fairly well-rounded politics in Babylon 5, so I've got some high hopes for this area. 12 characters means a lot of different viewpoints could be addressed interestingly.

So yeah, I'm pretty interested in where this goes. And heck. If it sucks, at least I'll have a good measure of annoyance to use as blog-fodder.


  • At August 01, 2007 9:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Steve Rogers is an FDR-style liberal. Gruenwald said so, and Gruenwald's Cap was the definitive Cap.

    Also, Steve Rogers was painting subway murals for the WPA before he went to enlist. More evidence of his political leanings.

    Also: Steve Rogers went to enlist, was declared 4-F, and yet still made a passionate plea for serving his country. I am reasonably certain Steve Rogers feels no affinity for the chickenhawks that litter the American right these days.

  • At August 01, 2007 9:38 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    The Ultimate version of Cap as a conservative is, I think more of Mark Millar's rather heavy-handed social commentary. Plus, ALL the Ultimate Avengers are written in a markedly different manner from their regular roots.

    But you are being perceptive in analyzing Steve Roger's background and how that would shape his usual.

    I'm not quite sure how Marvel's attempt to bring back their Golden Age characters is going to work out. They certainly don't have the reverence that DC shows, (at least most of the time). This is the same writer after all, that had Gwen Stacy and Norman Osbourne knocking image that frankly fills me with horror.

  • At August 01, 2007 11:57 AM, Anonymous Mark Engblom said…

    "Steve Rogers is an FDR-style liberal."

    Which would bear almost no resemblance to today's much more radicalized Left.

  • At August 01, 2007 3:03 PM, Blogger tavella said…

    Which would bear almost no resemblance to today's much more radicalized Left.

    Yeah: they'd be much more liberal. There are areas in which a 1930s liberal might be jarred by the future -- racial views varied widely, for example -- but in terms of economic justice, they'd be radically farther left than any but the smallest minority of current Democrats.

  • At August 01, 2007 4:00 PM, Blogger Will Staples said…

    Yeaaaaaah. I get kind of frustrated with the idea that everyone who lived before 1960 was a conservative, given that both my grandparents were far-left Democrats, bordering on socialism. I think that may be part of the historical revisionism that the New Right has been foisting on us since the 70s, along with "This is a Christian Nation and Always Has Been," as though their way is the way America has always been since its inception and anything else is an aberration.

    Heck, pre-War and modern Republicans were as different from each other as their Democrat counterparts, too.

  • At August 01, 2007 4:01 PM, Blogger Will Staples said…

    Errrrr, I'm Filby. I don't know why Blogger posted my real name rather than my Internet handle.

  • At August 01, 2007 5:23 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    anonymous: Gruenwald said so? I hadn't heard that, but it makes a lot of sense. :-)

    sallyp: Yeah, I just get annoyed that Millar's social commentary trumps logical characterization. There are plenty of Avengers who could be spun as genuine modern conservatives. Cap...not so much

    Heh. Straczynski is one of those that is pretty good when he's good and yet when he's bad, he's horrid.

    Mark: I don't disagree. But it also wouldn't bear much if any resemblance to today's Right, either. :-)

    Tavella: I agree. It really annoys me when people assume the labels are so static.

    Filby: Oh god, yes. That's so annoying. Political affiliations aren't static and not everyone agrees on ONE interpretation regardless of when they lived.

    Do you belong to any google-groups? If you use an email address with your real name to belong to one of those, I think it can use that name to log in.

    Or something like that...

  • At August 01, 2007 8:58 PM, Blogger Brainfreeze said…

    I'm looking forward to The Twelve as well--I've read some reprints of GA Timely comics, and they're a hoot.

    You know, it could be that Ultimate Cap's conservatism is due to some historical differences between the main Marvel universe and the Ultimate universe, but I haven't read enough of the Ultimate books to know this.

  • At August 01, 2007 10:34 PM, Blogger Jack Norris said…

    Sorry, but *Englehart's* Cap was actually the definitive one, whippersnapper. That said, he's still pretty much an FDR democrat.

  • At August 01, 2007 11:20 PM, Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said…

    Words like "liberal" and "conservative" have changed so much since the 1930's it's almost pointless to try to apply them. Conservatives in FDR's time were the isolationists, for one thing. For another, compared to today anyway, just about EVERYONE was "socially conservative" (tho' it should be noted that there's some evidence in Ultimates 2 #13 that Cap got Gail pregnant without the benefit of marriage). I can easily see Captain America as a liberal internationalist in the FDR model while at the same time seeming (to modern eyes) somewhat conservative in terms of social issues, and that wouldn't be a contradiction in terms. Remember, the big battle in the 60's was NOT liberal vs. conservative, it was liberal vs. radical (which is why the riots happened at the Democratic and not the Republican conventions). If Cap thawed out in the sixties, he would've been loved by Greatest Generation liberals but probably jeered as an out-of-touch reactionary by the radicals.

  • At August 02, 2007 5:16 AM, Blogger Hunter McEvoy said…

    I've always had a problem with Ultimate Captain America, but it wasn't until this post that I realised why. I think you're exactly right; I think Mark Millar wanted to write the character in modern Right-wing terms rather than what a real 40s Right-winger would have been like. Or, in other words, what today's Right-wingers would like to think Captain America would be like if he were revived today.

    I suspect, had Steve Rogers been really, really Right-wing in his views, he wouldn't be fighting the Nazis. I think it would be more likely that if Rogers really were Conservative, he would be of the type John Rogers (er, no relation, I assume) writes about here:

  • At August 02, 2007 8:51 AM, Blogger Julio Oliveira said…

    You said you like Babylon 5 (was one of my prefered tv shows back in the day), so I got ask: had you the chance to watch Babylon 5: The Lost Tales? I liked the almost zen style of the stories (here hoping that is a success and other dvds are released).

  • At August 02, 2007 9:42 AM, Blogger Jared said…

    Did I miss something? I'm willing to re-read all my copies of the "The Ultimates," but I didn't really remember ANY sort of political ideology in Cap. Granted there was the "You think this A stands for France," comment, but considering how France's surrender was a recent memory to Ultimate Steve Rogers, I fail to see how this paints him as an arch conservative.

    Can someone give some examples? I'm not trying to make an argument, I just don't remember him politically leaning one way or the other.

  • At August 02, 2007 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dissing France doesn't make sense from a guy who worked with the French Resistance, and knew perfectly well that the Nazi war machine managed to overrun not just France but all of Europe too (and nearly toppled the Soviet Union for that matter). Dismissing France as a nation of cowards is best left to armchair warriors, which Captain America certainly isn't.

  • At August 02, 2007 11:33 AM, Blogger tavella said…

    Yup; the whole "surrender monkeys" France obsession is pretty much entirely a post-war right wing create, spurred by France's (sometimes valid, sometimes hilariously deliberate) insistence on remaining independent rather than falling in line reliably behind the US ala Britain.

    France surrendered; so did everyone else in mainland Europe. France had plenty of collaborators (the Vichy policeman obediently rounding up Jews and deporting them was more common than the Resistance fighter), but so did everyone else -- "quisling" is coined from a Norwegian, after all.

  • At August 02, 2007 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yep, and even in Britain -- with formidable natural defenses at their disposal (i.e. the English Channel) -- there was a strong desire in Parliament and even in the royal family to sue for peace with Germany. Fortunately, Winston Churchill was able to beat them all back, but in retrospect it was by no means a given that Britain would bravely resist until the end (unlike the cowardly continentals).

    Off topic, but guess who was the first guy to recommend gassing the Kurds? None other than Winston Churchill himself, in the post WWI area when Britain was having trouble maintaining order in their new Middle Eastern territories. The powers-that-be declined Winston's recommendation, on the basic grounds that it's hard to demonize the use of mustard gas against your own troops while employing it yourself.

  • At August 02, 2007 12:38 PM, Blogger Jared said…

    Okay, fair enough. Dissing France in the midst of an battle with aliens is out-of character for Cap, and does paint him as someone who has bought into revisionist history. Is that it, though? Is that the only instance of his conservatism?

  • At August 02, 2007 3:59 PM, Anonymous bellatrys said…

    Hale of Angelthorne, you might want to look at what people like Emma Goldman, Joe Hill, Eugene Debs, etc were actually saying back when before you say they'd automatically be conservative by today's standards.

    I think that if you asked any current Democratic candidate if they agree that marriage is legalized prostitution & should not be a privileged status, that contraceptives should be made freely available to women, that equal pay for equal work is only fair and should be required by law, or any of the things that were commonly held by folks on the left in the olden days (let alone some of the more radical ones!) even before the Anti-Imperialist league was founded in disillusioned response to US atrocities in the Spanish-American War and Philippines aftermath, all you'd get back is shocked spluttering and/or waffle - like when Mrs. Clinton was asked about the "morality" of SSM.

    We have only gotten a bowdlerized version of our own history, and who is best served by that?

  • At August 02, 2007 4:04 PM, Anonymous bellatrys said…

    Oh, and also, re riots? You do know that the govt was inserting agents provocateurs on the Left (google COINTELPRO), and also the police were attacking liberal/left demonstrators, but not the conservative ones, which kind of makes a bit of a difference, when it comes to who was "rioting," yanno.

    When the police refuse to allow public assembly to petition over grievances (one of those things in that scrap of paper the Bill of Rights) and enforce it with tear gas, it's kind of disingenuous to blame it on liberal-vs-radical infighting.

  • At August 03, 2007 5:47 PM, Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said…

    "Hale of Angelthorne, you might want to look at what people like Emma Goldman, Joe Hill, Eugene Debs, etc were actually saying back when before you say they'd automatically be conservative by today's standards."

    I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply that 1930's liberals (or out-and-out socialists) and would be considered conservative today, or even that 1930's conservatives would be considered liberal today. And if you are referring to social issues, then yes it was a over-generalization to say EVERYONE from back then would be considered socially conservative today. Obviously, there are exceptions. My point was that such labels have changed so much in the last 60-70 years as to almost completely meaningless.

  • At August 03, 2007 5:50 PM, Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said…

    Oh, and speaking of Cap and France, I seem to recall that in Ultimate Nightmare, UCap gives a long soliloquy about the Russian soldiers he fought with and befriended during the war.

  • At May 12, 2008 12:30 PM, Blogger Kyle said…

    SallyP: The Stacy/Osborn sex was an editorially mandated revision of the original idea that the super-kids were Peter's. Because Quesada hates both marriage and sex outside of marriage, for characters that kids like.


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