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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Multiversal Algebra: Captain America = Wonder Woman???

I've read a few comparisons of Captain America and Superman and it's occurred to me that I don't always think they work. National symbol elements aside, the two characters aren't really all that similar. Even their roles as national symbols are different, Clark (in the Modern Age anyway) never specifically made the decision to be a national symbol. He just wore his costume as a way to save people while still maintaining a fairly normal life. There's a lot less of an element of "duty" involved. Clark as Superman acts according to his moral code and holds himself strictly to it, but it doesn't strike me as the same sort of duties and responsibilities that make up Captain America. Captain America is a very conscious symbol of America, the counterpoint of the Red Skull's terrorism, it's a role that's bigger than the man. Cap's idealism is quite a bit different than Superman's as well. He's occasionally naive, but he lacks Superman's open innocence. He's generally nice and polite, (when he's not brooding up a storm), but he's seen a lot more than Clark has, and it shows.

Cap's got a fair amount of similarities to Batman, being originally considered the "least powerful" (though by far the most effective/skilled) of the Avengers. His powers, depending on whatever Marvel's saying that week, are mostly reliant on the "pinnacle of human potential". But really, aside from that, the correlation's even worse. It's Batman. Further elaboration's probably redundant. Heck, even Bucky was far more of an equal partner/younger brother figure rather than the surrogate sons that the Robins became. Well, at least in the Silver Age flashbacks and later. I'm shaky with Golden Age Cap continuity.

It occurred to me though, there is one DC hero that has a tremendous amount in common with Captain America, who really ought to be considered, if anyone, his direct analogue. Wonder Woman!

I'm primarily thinking of the post-Crisis/Modern Era/Perez Reboot version of the character here, but they really do have a tremendous amount in common.

For example, they are both "fish out of water" with regards to modern American society more so than farmboy Clark or scary borderline psychotic masquerading as a floofy millionaire socialite could be. Diana is from Themyscira. Steve is from 1945. Both for that matter are from societies that are either militaristic (in her case) or in the grips of a messy war (in his).

Both of them are serving something greater than they are. Captain America isn't just some guy parading about in blue, doing what he thinks is right for the heck of it. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) He's got a cause. A calling, essentially. His idealistic America isn't necessarily reflected by the reality, but his devotion to those principles is absolute and nearly religious in quality. Superman and Batman don't have anything like that. Diana though, is not only the representative and Ambassador of Themyscira, she's also a servant of her gods...depending on what's going on in her comic at the time, of course. Both have had their loyalties tried and tested, and even found themselves at cross-purposes with their nations/deities/ideals, but the emotions remained.

There's even an interesting element of both of them being essentially created by the cause they serve. Clark was born a normal child of Krypton, only getting his powers as a result of Earth's sun. Batman always had his intelligence/money, but the drive and formation of the hero comes from his parents' death. Diana though was created by the Goddesses for a specific purpose(s) and given her powers as a part of that. Similarly, while Steve Rogers might have been born a perfectly ordinary (if sickly) kid in NYC, Captain America was created by the US Government's Project Rebirth, also for specific purposes.

Both Diana and Steve have a very pure sense of justice, and while both have a general aversion to killing and generally attempt to avoid it, they've both shown willingness and strength enough to use deadly force if they have to.

Their relationships to other characters tend to have interesting similarities. Both characters have, at certain times, ended up relying heavily on more worldly personalities to adjust to modern society/other upheavals. It's kind of interesting to compare Cap's relationship with the Falcon, especially during the time he lived in his office, to Diana's with Julia Kapitelis or to a lesser extent Helena Sandsmark.

Steve and Bucky's relationship really has a lot more in common with Diana's and Cassie's than it does Batman and (any) Robin. At least post-Golden Age. Cassie is not as much of a partner as Bucky tends to be portrayed as, but to be fair, she's also not a member of the US Military either. However, just like Bucky's training and abilities came largely from a source outside Steve, Cassie's powers were obtained in a manner that Diana had no part in. Bucky joined the army. Cassie asked for powers. Diana might have been an inspiration, but ultimately the decision and initiative were all hers. Also, where the Robins tend to end up surrogate sons, Bucky and Cassie really have/had more of a sibling relationship with their respective senior partners/mentors. They might lack the skill/powers/fighting experience of Diana or Steve, but they're also not as emotionally dependant on them. (In Cassie's case, it's probably helped by the fact that she has a mother, a very involved and formidable one. Tangentially, I really wish they'd do more with her.)

There's something similar in the way that the two use their secret identities. For Superman, he's just Clark Kent dressing up in silly clothes to save people. For Batman, well, Bruce Wayne is really mostly a tool to facilitate his work as Batman.

Cap and Wonder Woman are different. Steve is Cap is Steve. WW is Diana is WW. It's not the same as Superman, because being "Captain America" does mean more than being "Steve Rogers", "Wonder Woman" means more than "Diana Prince". Their primary identity is involved with the heroic role rather than the secret identitty. But they lack the disconnect of Batman and Bruce Wayne. I think for those two characters, it's really more like wandering around in civvies. Temporarily free of the constrains of their real job, but otherwise exactly the same person. (Heck, it's not like Diana had a secret identity at all for the longest time, and whether Steve did or not pretty much seemed to rely on whatever the writer felt like.) It's probably worth noting that both ended up temporarily working with law enforcement even in civilian guise.

It's interesting that both heroes managed to retain a lot more of their ties to the Golden Age than did Superman or Batman. Captain America's more obvious of course, what with the freezing. Can't have a Cap origin without punching nazis. But Diana too. Her origin might be separate from the Golden Age now, but the ties between "Wonder Woman" and the JSA/Golden Age ended up strong enough to warrant a convoluted time travel story sliding Hippolyta in her place. That seems like it means something, but I'm not sure what.

Ultimately though, it's really interesting how the two actually seem to correlate. They're not the same of course, but the similarities are there. Which means if they ever do another Amalgam Universe again, I wanna see "Captain Wonder".

Also, I kind of want a drawing of Cap in Wonder Woman's breastplate and panties. Because it'd make me laugh. And I'm a sick sick person. :-)

29 Comments:

  • At October 04, 2007 5:31 AM, Blogger Flidget said…

    It's actually kinda impressive how similar they are. I'd even say that if you compare modern-age Bucky/Winter Soldier to Donna instead of Cassie the similarities get even stronger. They've both got the sibling relationships and the ongoing identity crises.

     
  • At October 04, 2007 5:36 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Good point! Hadn't thought of that!

     
  • At October 04, 2007 5:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Counterpoint: Mark Gruenwald's analysis of Cap and the other great comic book archetypes. Since this is Mark Gruenwald talking about Captain America, you may consider his commentary inerrant.

     
  • At October 04, 2007 7:08 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Anonymous:

    Thank you for the link, I'm always interested in what creators have to say.

    However, I must that, if you're going to counterpoint my essay, you might want to avoid using an essay written by a creator who died a decade ago, and which does not appear to incorporate much if any elements of the Post-Crisis DCU, the center of my argument. (And in the case of Wonder Woman and Superman, it does make a big difference.)

    Also, while I "may" consider his opinion inerrant, I most certainly do not.

    By the principles of literature, a creator can not control his work as soon as its published and read by his audience. And the analyses and interpretations of the audience are as valid as the analyses and interpretations of the creator. No one's opinion is "inerrant". Not Gruenwald. Not Kirby and Simon. Not even Brubaker, once the issue hits the stands. (Though of course, as his opinion will be used to formulate forthcoming events, Brubaker's interpretation has more predictive validity. However, it still doesn't trump the reading by any of his audience.) I have every right to disagree with Gruenwald's analysis based on the facts as they stand today. Anyone reading can decide for themselves if there's validity or not.

    Similarly in the court of law, precedent, while persuasive, does not necessarily negate a new interpretation as long as that interpretation complies with the letter of the law. The court will evaluate the new interpretation on its own basis.

    I would recommend that if you disagree with my analysis, that you argue with my claims on their own basis with your own reasoning, rather than point to someone else's words as some unshakeable argument.

    Or you could attempt to analyze or relate Gruenwald's argument to mine in an attempt to show where his interpretations are more valid than mine.

    Otherwise, I have to say, I'm not terribly impressed.

     
  • At October 04, 2007 7:14 AM, Anonymous CrimsonThunder said…

    Gotta completely agree, glad someone else noticed it. When I went nuts for a while (two whiles actually) and did my own Micro hero Amalgams, it was amazing how well those two meshed (as American Woman) even down to some supporting cast and the periods where they had their Superhero titles stripped from them, and continued adventuring while more violent replacements stepped in.

    Iron Bat worked well too...Although I admit combining Clark Kent with Janet Van Dyne was just to do the joke.
    "Look up in the sky, its a Wasp..er..man."

    Jeff

     
  • At October 04, 2007 10:46 AM, Anonymous green with wheelpower said…

    This is mind bending and awesome.

    Another thing that makes WW more similar to Cap is the fact that Clark is intentionally interenational in efforts and standing Cap is irrevocably tied to America; Diana was told that the similarities of her costume to Trevor's uniform were no coincidence by Athena herself and after the islands loss adoped America.

    Clark always talks about his adopted Planet. This is perfectly showen in one of the few good scenes of Superman IV. Coming before the UN he states "Madam Secretary I don't represent any single nation", he then has to ask for a sponser and though EVERYONE stands it points up the fact that not only would theynot have to do that, but that thir allegance is blareingly obvious

     
  • At October 04, 2007 11:00 AM, Blogger tavella said…

    Much as I love and revere Gruenwald, the worlds "CapWolf" should be enough to kill the "inerrant" thing.

    You make a lot of good points, though I think of Cap as more of a recombination; he has something of Clark's purity and squareness (in the good sense), aspects of Bats' "mortal human among gods yet holding his own", and as you pointed out, many role similarities to Diana.

     
  • At October 04, 2007 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sigh ... fine. If you're going to take the obvious hyperbole of "inerrant" at face value, we have to do this the hard way.

    Now, I admit that I haven't been following Wonder Woman recently. However, even you acknowledge that Wonder Woman's abilities (many of which are mental / psychological) are gifts of the gods. That makes her roughly diametrically opposed to Steve Rogers, who may have been given above average physical capacities by the Army, but all the rest of it comes from within. It was Steve Rogers who made an impassioned plea to serve his country even after he was declared 4-F. It was Steve Rogers who summoned the determination to train to the absolute peak of his ability. It was Steve Rogers who found the courage to stand up to any and all threats when a lesser person would have balked. It was Steve Rogers who, time and again, made the costume and shield stand for an ideal. And he did this without the wisdom of Athena or the strength of Demeter -- just determination and mere human strength.

    Yes, Wonder Woman is brave. Yes, Wonder Woman risks death. But when you start out with a grab bag of divine abilities, you've really got no choice but to be exceptional. And therein lies the fundamental, crucial difference.

    Gruenwald may be dead, but as the guy who wrote Cap longer than anyone else, he did quite a lot to nail down who Cap was, and we're still seeing the impact today. For example, guess where the Cap / Iron Man ideological rivalry started? During the story arc where Steve Rogers gave up his costumed identity. Marvel recently did an entire crossover based on this plot point of long-dead Gruenwald's. So yes, I was pretty obviously exaggerating when I described Gruenwald's opinions as "inerrant"; but by gum there aren't many Cap writers who have been a bigger influence on the character.

     
  • At October 04, 2007 11:25 AM, Anonymous Mark Engblom said…

    I think the Cap/Superman comparison comes more from the vaguely patriarchal "moral gravitas" they've both possessed over time. They're both sort of the "moral centers" of their respective universes (at least until they decided to make Cap into Jerky McRadical), not to mention the only characters who can still get away with calling a younger male character "son".

    I'm thinking some of that moral authority could stem from the simple fact that they're both the "first heroes" of their respective pantheons. Yeah, Superman's a slam-dunk, but I would suggest that Cap, in a way, is also the first of the Marvel "family tree". The Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner both came before Cap, but their status as outcasts or anti-heroes seems to make them "prototypes" to Cap's more fully-formed superhero identity.

    So, more than just about any other factor, it's the similarity of Superman and Cap's status within their worlds that seems to link them, rather than specific details of their origins, powers, or M.O.

     
  • At October 04, 2007 11:43 AM, Anonymous CrimsonThunder said…

    While by no means identical, there are many functional aspects that Wonder Woman and Cap share, that the other characters don't.

    Another one being that despite the moving timelines, they're the two who have managed to maintain a strong link with World War II

    Jeff

     
  • At October 04, 2007 1:20 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    crimson: Wasp-er-Man! In my head, she combines with Hal Jordan though. Heh.

    green: Good one.

    tavella: Heh, even the greats can have off-days.

    anonymous: Thank you. Now we can discuss. :-)

    The self-made aspect is another element up for debate.

    Steve did speak passionately which was what enabled him to be chosen.

    However, his powers and physique were certainly imposed on him by someone else for a higher purpose. It's one he consented to, but the fact remains that his abilities and what makes him a hero come from an external source.

    No one's saying it's not a very brave choice. But it does mean "self-made" is a very far stretch by certain points of view. (Now if he had invented the super-serum, the argument is more weighty.)

    Also, Steve may not have the wisdom of Athena, it is established that the serum increased his mental capacity considerably. So even his decision-making capabilities may not be as self-made as one may argue.

    That doesn't make Cap less of a brave, idealistic, eloquent or powerful person. Regardless of the origin of his powers/abilities. But I definitely disagree with the take that he's "self-made".

    Gruenwald's portrayal of Cap is legendary. I'm not denying the man's contribution. However, he didn't invent the character. Nor does the character's portrayal and evolution end with him. While his analysis is definitely worth reading, it's definitely not enough to intimidate me into backing down from my own.

    Mark: That's a good point. But I do think Diana may have about as much of the "moral compass" element as Clark, though she's not as overt about it. (I'm thinking mostly of the reactions of the other characters to her death, since it's not as overtly addressed otherwise).

    It's definitely true that Superman's the first hero, but it's also interesting how easily he gets re-invented from that position without losing any of the quintessential Superman. (Which admittedly, so can Diana, for all her renewed ties to the war).

    It's fun to consider the role elements at any rate. :-) It makes for interesting interpretations. :-)

     
  • At October 04, 2007 3:14 PM, Anonymous Mallet said…

    I think the fundemental difference between the two is that Cap chose to recieve the treatment Wonder Woman (much like Superman) was born blessed. Cap sought out the abilities he has because he couldn't go help people with out them, much like Batman.

    I do resent the idea that Superman tends to be "just some guy parading about in blue, doing what he thinks is right for the heck of it. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)" (I don't know if you meant it to be read like that or not) to some people. He has the power to help people so he has the responsibility to do so. This attitude has caused him to fight "A Never Ending Battle" which more then matches Caps ideals.

    Infact that ideology synchs up (to me) more then Cap and Wonder Womans. After all she's seen paradise and her gods, so she knows her way can work. To me thats a lot different then Cap and Supes.

    The origins also don't work for me. Like above, Wonder Woman knows her God's exist and what they want her to do because they tell her. Steve's origin was that he wanted to go fight and couldn't but by taking the serum he could. Steve has also shaken off his government ties when ever they blocked his moral judgement. Sure he still came back and helped them but it was always to his own values.

    I also disagree that "Steve is Cap is Steve." but thats a much loooonger reason then I have time to type! :)(which I probably never will.)

    But if your talking the trinity of Marvel characters who survived past the golden age you have Cap, Torch, and Subby.

    Out of those Cap is Wonder Woman because I've always Considered Torch more in tune with Superman (which is another rant I'll never type) and Subby is well... He's close enough to Batman or Superman.

    Then again all this could be entire hogwash to you, my views on Wonder Woman are noteriously different then most peoples seem to be.

     
  • At October 04, 2007 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Also, Steve may not have the wisdom of Athena, it is established that the serum increased his mental capacity considerably."

    ... okay, I confess I hadn't heard that one. Can you cite a reference (vagueness is okay -- a general era will do).

    As for Steve's physical capabilities, while the serum may give him "peak of human ability" capabilities, that's barely any more physically powerful than Frank Castle, Matt Murdock, T'Challa, Kyle Richmond, or any number of well-trained fighters in the Marvel Universe. So the SSS undid the ravages of illness, but didn't really do all that much beyond -- the guy has no powers. (Though a case can be made that Steve Rogers has one very lame super power: pour ice water into his lungs and he goes into suspended animation. Actually, that's a very useful power if you've been shot and are near death, but not of much use in crime-fighting.)

    Also: Cap would have knocked Max Lord unconscious.

     
  • At October 04, 2007 3:51 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    :-)

    You have a lot of good points, Mallet. I think I probably over-simplified my own opinions about Cap and Steve identity-wise.

    (Essentially, I'm not sure I think there IS a Steve Rogers anymore. I think he's pretty much subsumed by the identity of Captain America. So the Steve Rogers we see now is Captain America trying to act normal. That's why I equate it more with Diana, there IS no Diana Prince except for when Diana chooses to be so. YMMV though)

    I think for me the big reason Cap's ideology is closer to WW than Superman's isn't because of the question about whether his way will work or not (though that's a good point), but that, like Diana, he's very consciously established himself as the representative of the ideal America.

    Superman's symbolic elements can't be denied, but I still don't believe he ever chose to be some sort of symbol of something greater. At least Post-Crisis. I get the sense that Superman is much more unaware of his own influence in that regard and instead sees himself as inspirational more because he helps people rather than his symbolism.

    If that makes sense to anyone but me. :-)

    anonymous: Hmm, I'm not sure we can really say he'd have knocked Max Lord unconscious, considering with his powers what they are (and Marvel's very inconsistent about whether he can be considered to have powers at all), he'd probably have already been killed. It was a snap judgment, pun unintended, that Cap would not be in position to make. (Though he has killed before).

    I'm not sure the nature of the powers can really be a counterargument. Cap's powers, such as they are, may be negligeable, but still that peak physical condition plus a few added side benefits (like being able to survive being frozen in ice for decades) came about because of some scientist's invention. (Though I definitely don't want to downplay Steve's own choice in the matter, ultimately though for all his eloquence, they chose him and facilitated the procedure.)

    As for the mental enhancement, I can't quite remember where I came across the notion and I haven't been able to find much corraboration (at least nothing which actually gives a citation), aside from the Brubaker run reference that he sees faster than other people. Which isn't really enough to support that argument.

    So until I can hunt down the reference again, I'll withdraw that part of the argument. :-) I stand by everything else though. :-)

     
  • At October 04, 2007 4:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Hmm, I'm not sure we can really say he'd have knocked Max Lord unconscious, considering with his powers what they are (and Marvel's very inconsistent about whether he can be considered to have powers at all), he'd probably have already been killed."

    I think Marvel's been pretty consistent that, if Cap has any powers, they're limited to keeping him in great shape. Of course, there's no way that any real human would be able to survive the damage that Daredevil, Punisher, etc. take on a regular basis, so any discussion of whether any given stunt of Cap's is "superhuman" should also factor in the unrealistic expectations about "normal" people in the Marvel universe.

    "I'm not sure the nature of the powers can really be a counterargument. Cap's powers, such as they are, may be negligeable, but still that peak physical condition plus a few added side benefits (like being able to survive being frozen in ice for decades) came about because of some scientist's invention."

    The only reason the nature of the powers matters is that Cap isn't shown to be doing anything that any person in excellent shape couldn't do (again bearing in mind the caveat of unrealistic perceptions of "normal" in the Marvel Universe). Cap can't dodge a bullet, he can't shrug off a stab wound, he can't lift a tank or outrun a train. All the army did was provide Steve an opportunity to overcome frailness, a disadvantage that most people aren't born to.

    Dig up a copy of "The Adventures of Captain America" (miniseries from circa 1990, written by Nicieza) and you'll see one of the best portrayals of Steve's rise to Capness. According to the story -- which may not be canonical, but dammit it's good -- Steve Rogers went through a hell of a lot of training before they gave him the Serum / Vita-Ray one-two punch. Lots of terrific scenes of him training his mind and his frail body, going through grueling regimens that most normal folks wouldn't be able to keep up with; inside, he had what it took before they augmented his physique. (Though he always had sharp vision, pre-Serum, as shown in one amusing panel.)

     
  • At October 04, 2007 5:00 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    The only reason the nature of the powers matters is that Cap isn't shown to be doing anything that any person in excellent shape couldn't do (again bearing in mind the caveat of unrealistic perceptions of "normal" in the Marvel Universe). Cap can't dodge a bullet, he can't shrug off a stab wound, he can't lift a tank or outrun a train. All the army did was provide Steve an opportunity to overcome frailness, a disadvantage that most people aren't born to.

    That's incorrect actually. Steve CAN do a number of things a normal human can't.

    And he does, in continuity, dodge bullets. Frequently. (Sharon even asked him about that in one of the Brubaker issues between 14 and 25, when Sharon and Steve were following Bucky's trail. There was fighting against Sin and Crossbones at the time.

    She asked how he dodges bullets, which isn't a new concept since he'd done it since Tales of Suspense. And he answered that it was because he sees faster than the bullets.

    He also survived being frozen in ice for decades without substantial brain damage, or losing of any body parts to frostbite, atrophy or necrosis. That alone is beyond what a standard human being, EVEN one like Batman or Daredevil could do.

    Heck even running a mile in over a minute is something that I would consider very much a stretch in terms of pinnacle human abilities. (Though to be fair, I don't know for sure that olympic athletes haven't somehow managed that.)

    That's why I argue that, even with his training, he still qualifies as having some powers, even though the exact level of his endurance/regeneration/immunity to alcohol/resistance to disease/et cetera tends to vary depending on who's writing him at the time.

    (For example: Brubaker's never-frozen Cap ages, albeit very slowly, and is a tremendously fit 70-something looking man in House of M. Gaiman's Cap, supposedly from a future variation of 616 ends up back in time in 1602, and in both the decades between present and the dark future, wherein Spider-Man and co. are described as old, and the fifteen years in the past, Steve hadn't aged a day.)

     
  • At October 04, 2007 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "She asked how he dodges bullets, which isn't a new concept since he'd done it since Tales of Suspense. And he answered that it was because he sees faster than the bullets."

    Okay, I will only say that they've changed the answer to that question. It used to be that Cap avoided getting shot the same way that Batman did: not by dodging the individual bullets but by staying a half step ahead of the gunmen.

    "He also survived being frozen in ice for decades without substantial brain damage, or losing of any body parts to frostbite, atrophy or necrosis. That alone is beyond what a standard human being, EVEN one like Batman or Daredevil could do."

    Yes, I've already conceded that he does have one lame super power, and that's it. Two, including his reduced aging. Neither one of which has any impact on his day-to-day heroing. Did you know that Nick Fury has a delayed aging serum going for him too? (The Infinity Formula; it may still be in continuity.) Yet nobody speaks of Nick Fury's chemically-induced super power because it really doesn't impact his heroing, except that it keeps him out of the old folks' home.

     
  • At October 04, 2007 5:29 PM, Blogger Chris Sims said…

    I'd think staying one step ahead of a gunman and dodging bullets would pretty much be the same thing, but that's just semantics.

    What about the time Cap says he can run a mile in a little over a minute when he has to (Cap 65th Anniversary Special)? That's well beyond the "limits of human potential," and I'm pretty sure that impacts his day-to-day heroism.

    The character, like everything in comics, is fluid and his "powers" have never been that consistent, even within the stories. We've had a Cap with super-strength, a Cap without, a Cap who put on a v-neck with a butterfly collar and called himself Nomad and so on and so forth. They're irrelevant to the core of the character, which is that he's someone who wanted so badly to fight against evil that he volunteered for something that was potentially deadly when they told him he couldn't just fight.

    The serum might not make him a hero, but it certainly gives him the abilities that he needs to be a super-hero.

    Nick Fury, on the other hand, would be a badass regardless, even if he'd fought World War II in space.

     
  • At October 04, 2007 5:31 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Anonymous:

    Except that Cap's power, his physical prowess and the admittedly irregularly portrayed endurance and healing abilities are at the core of his identity of a hero. They're what keeps him able to do his job.

    Nick Fury was a soldier first and the Infinity Formula is not what made him the director of SHIELD. NICK could be argued as self-made, having gone off to war, enabling him to meet a bunch of eccentric types that are pulled together through force of his personality, and building the reputation, prowess, and other elements that enabled him to become leader of SHIELD.

    The Formula only let him live long enough to see it.

    In contrast, the serum's gifts be they supernatural or natural ability are the crux of Cap's identity as a superhero. He was NOT Captain America before the serum. And would not have been without it.

    He didn't earn that physique on his own. With his own physical condition he had no way of doing so. He DID seek out and find a way to fight when they told him "no". But the actual mechanism by which he was made able to fight was the work of Operation Rebirth. NOT Steve Rogers.

    Chris:

    I agree completely! :-) Thanks.

     
  • At October 04, 2007 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "I'd think staying one step ahead of a gunman and dodging bullets would pretty much be the same thing, but that's just semantics."

    The difference is whether you say "looks like he's about to fire, better jump" or "here comes the bullet, boy is it ever shiny, best dodge that sucker". Guys like Batman are in the former camp; the Flash and Superman (and probably Wonder Woman) are in the latter camp. And I'd put Cap in the former camp as well, since he's never displayed anything that could be considered "super speed".

    "The serum might not make him a hero, but it certainly gives him the abilities that he needs to be a super-hero."

    Yeah, and it doesn't do much more than counter his natural frailness. Steve Rogers may now have a tiny physical edge over Bruce Wayne, T'Challa, Frank Castle, and all the other tough guy heroes, but that edge is vanishingly small. And to remain a top-tier fighter in peak shape, Steve has to work at it constantly, same as any unaugmented person like Bruce Wayne, T'Challa, etc.

    When Professor Xavier occasionally regains the use of his legs, nobody says, "Oh boy, Professor X has a new super power: the ability to get from place to place by moving his legs!" No, they just say, "He's not a cripple any longer." And that's pretty much what I say about Steve Rogers with the Super Solder Serum (plus Vita-Rays, can't forget the Vita-Rays).

    Such eerie and extraordinary super powers as the assorted treatments gave Steve Rogers (the ability to go into suspended animation and slowed aging) don't even register as super powers that can be used in superheroic fashion. So yes they're there, but as with Willie Lumpkin's uncanny ability to wiggle his ears (a documented talent!), you don't find many opportunities to use those powers in battle.

     
  • At October 04, 2007 6:36 PM, Blogger Chris Sims said…

    So then running 60 miles per hour is the equivalent of being able to stand up, or wiggling one's ears. Got it.

     
  • At October 04, 2007 6:40 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    The difference is whether you say "looks like he's about to fire, better jump" or "here comes the bullet, boy is it ever shiny, best dodge that sucker". Guys like Batman are in the former camp; the Flash and Superman (and probably Wonder Woman) are in the latter camp. And I'd put Cap in the former camp as well, since he's never displayed anything that could be considered "super speed".

    Except that he does dodge bullets. Officially and in continuity. You may not like this development, but it doesn't make it less true. Current interpretation by his main writer, the guy Marvel's paying to establish his take on Captain America, is that he's in the second camp. Period.

    He can run 60 miles per hour. Again, that's continuity. Again, you may not like it. But it very much IS a superhuman trait. And until it's retconned back out, it's established character reality.

    Yeah, and it doesn't do much more than counter his natural frailness. Steve Rogers may now have a tiny physical edge over Bruce Wayne, T'Challa, Frank Castle, and all the other tough guy heroes, but that edge is vanishingly small. And to remain a top-tier fighter in peak shape, Steve has to work at it constantly, same as any unaugmented person like Bruce Wayne, T'Challa, etc.

    Yes. He does have to work at it, but the keyword there is unaugmented. No one has ever argued that Steve got a free ride from the whole deal. He's had to work tremendously hard and take a lot of risks.

    But nothing you say changes the fact that he did NOT counter his innate frailty on his own. Operation Rebirth did.

    Without that leap, he would not be in the position to work as hard as he does to keep his abilities up because he would not have them.

    Similarly, you might not say that Xavier gained a new superpower by his ability to walk (which ignores the canonical evidence previously mentioned that Steve's abilities are superpowers, if pretty paltry ones), but if he got that way from, I don't know, Shi'ar technology, you wouldn't be able to argue that he "did it all on his own either." Professor Xavier could go on to become an olympic sprinter, but he couldn't be called self-made in that respect either.

    The issue isn't how super Steve's powers are, it's how did he get them. I personally would argue that even Batman is not self-made, because of his billions of inherited dollars that he's used for the process of becoming a superhero. He has no powers, sure, but just like the serum, the money was an exterior advantage that was used in the process.

    That doesn't make Batman less of a hero, sure, and it's very likely that if he were born poor, he'd have found some way to MAKE the money needed for his transformation. But he didn't. Ergo, it can be argued (and I'm doing so) that he's no more self made than Clark or Diana.

    Same with Steve.

    I would however suggest, since this discussion has tangented fairly far from my original topic (Steve's similarities with Diana, of which the origin of powers is but a single thread among many different arguments), that if you want to continue this argument, you might wish to post it on your own blog or livejournal. If you don't have one, they're absolutely free and they'll give you a space to express your own take on Captain America's powers to your heart's content.

    Feel free to drop the link here even, so that interested readers can go and see your arguments in entirety.

     
  • At October 04, 2007 9:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So who's Cap's equivalent of Etta Candy?

     
  • At October 04, 2007 9:25 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Arnie Roth? :-)

    Failing that, if Sharon Carter can correllate with Steve Trevor (military folk, well trained, still needs rescue occasionally), then probably Falcon could do dual duty though he's definitely a superhero in his own right. :-)

     
  • At October 05, 2007 1:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As I was thinking about this, I thought of two things not mentioned in your essay (I think) which gives Cap more affinity to Wonder Woman's Golden Age incarnation:

    In Golden Age Wonder Woman, while Wonder Woman had super human abilities, this was linked in part into the whole 'Amazon Way', which any woman in Man's World could take up and become like the Amazons. This led to Wonder Woman taking ordinary girls under her wing to learn the Amazon way (notably Etta Candy and the Holliday Girls).

    Similarly, Cap has repeatedly recruited and trained people to gain his skills. He's always had an intense focus on training to improve yourself, and he's repeatedly taken people under his wing to train them up.

    This also links into the second thing connecting him and Golden Age Wonder Woman, which is the redemption of villains. Golden Age Wonder Woman eventually used Amazon teachings to turn several of her foes into Amazons, and Cap has likewise taken a variety of former criminals (Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Diamondback, etc) and changed their behavior (and trained them up as well.)

     
  • At October 05, 2007 3:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Regarding the argument that Captain American is more 'self-made' in having made the decision to become a super-soldier, I would like to point out that Diana may have been born with powers, but everyone seems to be forgetting the Contest. The one to become Wonder Woman? Which she entered against her mother's wishes?

    Post-crisis it may have been something she was created for, but it doesn't change the fact that she gave up her cushy Princess gig to become the Amazon champion. So really, for Diana it was more than just a choice, but a sacrifice as well.

     
  • At October 05, 2007 8:26 AM, Anonymous CrimsonThunder said…

    Etta Candy was the only place I broke my own rule of "only 2 per amalgam" I combined her with Bucky, and also Ma Hunkle so American Woman's sidekick was called "Buckette" (after my sister's nickname for the original Red Tornado "Bucket Head Woman"

    Jeff

     
  • At October 05, 2007 11:40 AM, Anonymous BlackRivil said…

    All good points. But I dont think anyone has mentioned what I think the biggest similarity between Cap and Wonder Woman is - the fact that they both come from military backgrounds. More than the other iconic heros (arguably), these two were made and trained to conduct warfare. Both of them, if you read into their histories, have seen, and created, brutal carnage on battlefields, and have dealt death in the name of their respective causes. Batman is a loner vigilanate, the modern Superman is a protector, but both Cap and WW are "super-soldiers."

     
  • At May 28, 2008 1:13 AM, Blogger Marc said…

    "Also, I kind of want a drawing of Cap in Wonder Woman's breastplate and panties."

    If Liefield drew him, Cap would probably FIT the breastplate!

     

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