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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Miscellaneous Captain America Thought

I had an epiphany today as to why Ultimate Captain America does nothing for me, even though the 616 one is one of my favorite Marvel characters.

Ultimate Captain America's a hardened soldier and something of an ass and it seems to make sense with his back story, so I'm not really complaining about that.

But I think he really has lost something that 616 Cap's always had. Because at heart, 616's Captain America is, I think, still a dreamy artist in the body of a greek god.

Essentially, he should be a lot more Kyle Rayner than Hal Jordan.

Okay, admittedly, he's much MUCH smarter than Kyle and much less flighty, and certainly seems to have more of an attention span. But something of that dreamy idealism's still there. Even years at war shouldn't have gotten rid of it completely.

I like Brubaker's Cap, since he seems like a fairly natural progression of the cute somewhat naive sixties Cap after having spent "ten years" in the present day. (Or however many the Marvel timeline allows.) The darker sort-of-bitterness makes sense. But Millar's Ultimate Cap doesn't seem like he could have ever been this guy and that just makes me sad.

(Also, tangentially, I'm filled with seething jealousy for all of you who've managed to see Iron Man. Seething. Jealousy. Hmph.)


  • At May 04, 2008 8:24 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    I probably won't see IronMan until Wednesday...

    As for Ult. Cap, well I just figure every character in the Ult. Marvel-verse gets a puppy. And then someone shoots it. Thats why they're all total pricks...

  • At May 04, 2008 12:28 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Hey Lurker, you read that story about Enemy Ace too? Not to mention Amadeus Cho. Man, losing a puppy can really turn you mean.

    I always saw Cap as having a touch of that dreamy, cockeyed sense of idealism too, which the Ultimate version certainly doesn't have. I certainly can't see 616 Cap kicking ANYONE in the balls.

  • At May 04, 2008 1:29 PM, Blogger Your Obedient Serpent said…

    The hip, savvy Ultimate writers just can't wrap their heads around a guy who wears an American flag costume without irony. In their eyes, he MUST be a stiff-necked right-winger.

    They Just Don't Get It. Cap's a Roosevelt man, a New Deal Democrat. He's never been a personification of American nationalism -- he's a personification of American IDEALS.

  • At May 04, 2008 2:22 PM, Blogger IslandLiberal said…

    Iron Man was awesome (I saw it on opening night on Thursday).

    The thing is, when Millar created the Ultimates, what he basically did was took each 616 character, identified one trait that they possessed (or were thought to possess), and then made that essentially the sum of their Ultimate caricature. So:

    Iron Man = Drunk
    Giant-Man = Wifebeater (which is a particularly grotesque distortion of the 616 Pym)

    Cap, however, isn't anything like the 616 version, so much as he's an agglomeration of all the parodies and cliches based on the character by people who've never actually read any of his comics: he's a jingoistic thug. Ultimate Cap is really Ultimate USAgent, the character Gruenwald created in the 80s as a parody of Reagan/Rambo-era action heroes.

  • At May 04, 2008 3:41 PM, Blogger Dane said…

    About a year ago, I bought Essential Captain America Vol. 2. I expected some weird stories (Cap fought a glue gun guy for one), but I was surprised at how I could empathize with a character people say is more of a symbol than a human.

    I remember one scene where Cap was feeling down that he had to live in hotel rooms because he didn't really have a home in the 70s. While he was having some angst time, a SHIELD against came in and told him Fury wanted to see him. Cap yelled at him, but said he'd see Fury -- anything to keep his mind distracted. But before leaving, he turned back and apologized to the agent for snapping at him. "You didn't deserve that," he said, and went to see Fury.

    Minor moments like that defined Cap for me. He's a guy that would take the time to give respect the people around him, no matter their roles in life. Another example was during the whole Disassembled arc, where Cap ordered the medics to take good care of Jarvis, saying he was an Avenger in his eyes.

    Ultimate Cap is a toughie for me, because I haven't read Ultimates 1 or 2 where a lot of people seem to be basing their information. But in other Ultimate comics he seems to come off as a pretty fair guy. I guess I'll just do some extra reading over the summer to gleen my own opinion on the guy.

  • At May 04, 2008 7:58 PM, Blogger Brett said…

    Your post pretty much sums up exactly why I'm looking forward to the Avengers/Invaders mini coming up. We'll get to see how the modern MU reacts to what is essentially the Ultimate Cap before being frozen.

    Iron Man was awesome btw. And don't worry, I read it just grossed 200 million so it'll definitely still be in theaters when your finals end, and probably most of summer till Hulk comes out.

  • At May 05, 2008 12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ultimate Cap fails majorly in Cap's two greatest strengths--his acceptance of others and his ability to inspire hope. Ultimate Cap is pretty much just a thug, whereas normal Cap can hardly open his mouth without changing someone's life for the better. He even has repeatedly taken in and trained reformed criminals (The second team of Avengers was almost made up entirely of people who made their debut on the villain side, except Cap) and even dated them. (Diamondback)

    The important thing is that the A on Ultimate Captain America's head stands for 'Asshole'.

  • At May 05, 2008 2:32 AM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    IslandLiberal -- That's why Millar shouldn't be writing comics without a co-writer. He doesn't understand subtlety.

    I'm holding out hope that the Cap they defrosted in the Ultiverse isn't actually Cap, but a clone made by Red Skull, and that the real Cap is actually in a cryogenics tube in the Andes somewhere while the third-generation descendants of Nazi scientists try to discover how to clone him WITHOUT getting a psycho-patriot.

    That'd also mean they were telling NEW stories in the Ultiverse rather than adding naughty language to old ones. So a fine idea all around.

  • At May 05, 2008 2:34 AM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    (Well, as new a story as "He's been a CLONE all along!" would be the Marvel Universe. At least this time they'd be replacing a guy who's a jerk rather than a hero we identify with.)

  • At May 05, 2008 6:41 AM, Blogger tavella said…

    Your post pretty much sums up exactly why I'm looking forward to the Avengers/Invaders mini coming up. We'll get to see how the modern MU reacts to what is essentially the Ultimate Cap before being frozen.

    But 616 Cap was *never* like Ultimate Cap. Not even in the original WWII comics; he's got a sly touch of humor even in those.

  • At May 05, 2008 6:45 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I agree with Tavella. Unless you've heard something we haven't, the Cap coming to the future's still 616 Cap.

    And honestly, Ultimate Cap would be very unrealistic for a man with 616 Cap's backstory (I ranted once about it.)

    I'll enjoy seeing them react more to Steve pre-Iceberg/Bucky's "death" than I will Ultimate-Cap. There are enough assholes to react to in the Marvel Universe. :-P

  • At May 05, 2008 10:14 AM, Blogger Jer said…

    Because at heart, 616's Captain America is, I think, still a dreamy artist in the body of a greek god.


    This is something that no one since, oh, let's say Mark Gruenwald has quite grasped about Captain America. The reason he can be a symbol for the American Ideal is because he actually believes in the American Ideal. That's tough to write - especially when you're a Gen-Xer thirty-something comic book writer who grew up during the Reagan era. Probably even moreso when you grew up in England.

    Of course, Millar's Ultimate Cap is a cartoon - much like most of the rest of his Ultimates cast. The closest one to having a full personality is probably Thor, and that's kind of stretching the "full personality" definition. Each character has pretty much one short-hand personality trait to wrap dialog around. And mostly it gets a pass on The Ultimates because, well, the point of the book was more "action movie destruction" than "soap opera", and you don't need to have more than one or two personality traits on your action hero to get a decent action movie out.

    That's why Millar shouldn't be writing comics without a co-writer. He doesn't understand subtlety.

    This also. Millar needs either a co-writer or a heavy-handed editor to pull him back from the abyss he seems to inevitably write himself into. Of course, since his style seems to SELL really well despite not having a co-writer or a heavy-handed editor, he'll just keep on doing what he's doing and make piles of money for Marvel. Which I guess probably says more about the state of the market and my personal tastes than it does about anything else. I guess.

  • At May 06, 2008 2:54 AM, Blogger Brett said…

    Avengers/Invaders is 616 cannon, so of course its technically 616 Cap (pre-frozen). Whether by retcon or not, everything I've read about this and the blurbs in the Sketchbook say this is NOT the Cap we know and love. In fact, its supposed to be relatively early-on during his Invaders tenure, so he isn't even that experienced in working with other capes. I'm wagering the Cap that comes back to the future with the Invaders is going to resemble Ultimate Cap a lot more than Golden/Silver/Modern age Cap.

    "We want to be clear that the World War II version of Captain America that we bring forward to modern-day Marvel continuity is coming from a very dark and desperate time. Realism is our goal here..." -Alex Ross (p2 sketchbook)

    Realism for portraying a WWII-era soldier (super or otherwise) is unfortunately being a xenophobic flag hugging bible thumping asshole. They might actually give him some depth that Ultimate Cap lacked, but I think he'll be pretty much right there as far as characterization.

  • At May 06, 2008 3:12 AM, Blogger tavella said…

    Realism for portraying a WWII-era soldier (super or otherwise) is unfortunately being a xenophobic flag hugging bible thumping asshole.

    No; this is the sort of common conception of people who don't know history. The US Army was enormously diverse in WWII, politically, religiously, and in every other way. It was a nationwide draft, and the child of immigrants in New York city -- do you have any clue the sort of radical politics that were afoot in NYC during the 30s? -- is not going to be the same "xenophobic flag hugging bible thumping asshole" that you might find from a small town in the south (hell, even draftees from there were hardly monolithic.)

    One little clue: Stan Lee served in the Army during WWII. Mark Millar did not. Who do you think had a better idea of what range of people could be found in the military?

  • At May 06, 2008 3:17 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    Thanks Brett, you've provided me with greater insight into my grandfather, the immigrant German Jew and WW2 US Army veteran...

  • At May 06, 2008 4:58 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Brett: Consider also, the man you're talking about spent his childhood during the roaring twenties and his adolescence during the great depression.

    This is a fellow who lost his mother and nearly his own life due to abject poverty.

    The New Deal would have saved the man's life.

    Moreover, the twenties, wherein Cap spent his childhood were a fairly socially liberal time. A boy who saw flappers on every street corner's hardly going to be shocked by miniskirts. The depression did not allow most people time to worry about social conservative elements, and WWII's success is at least partially attributed to women in the workforce at home.

    So even the social conservatism displayed by Ultimate-Cap doesn't make a great deal of sense.

    Ultimate Cap's social and economic conservatism are of a type that America didn't begin to see until the fifties when the backlash against the events of WWII began to hit. Sure a lot of WWII vets we've seen now are fairly conservative. And a lot of the WWII vets we've seen now lived through the 1950s. Captain America skipped all that backlash. Thanks to Marvel's ten year folding timeline, he's also skipped the conservative backlash against feminism and civil rights as well. Heck, I'm not sure, now, that he didn't miss Reagan!

    I'm not saying that a WWII vet couldn't be conservative the way Ultimate Cap is described, ahead of his time so to speak, but certainly not all soldiers were . And Cap's specific socioeconomic status and backstory as described in 616, as well as the way in which he skipped (if you look at the time jump from a modern perspective) ALL of the decades of social conservative backlash make Ultimate Cap's characterization all but impossible. Especially not with what we've seen of Cap's characterization both in WWII and in the 1960s when originally unthawed (by a writer who served in WWII as was already pointed out.)

    Besides, we're talking about Alex Ross here, not Mark Millar. Ross has written WWII heroes before without making them neo-conservative cardboard cut outs. The man may not be the most enlightened in other ways, but I think he'll deliver a Cap who's quite recognizable as the 616 version when he does.

  • At May 06, 2008 6:18 PM, Blogger Brett said…

    As far as diversity in the army, tell it to the African Americans, or the Japanese who were segregated into their own units (that is, the ones who were not interned in CA labor camps). Or tell it to my Grandpa and his 3 brothers who volunteered for service and were told they could not serve in the European theater at all because of their Italian heritage. Stan Lee portrayed WWII from the perspective of an American Jew during the time of Hitler. A black man during the time of the Tuskegee experiments might have a different recollection.

    I agree with you all as far as how 616 Cap SHOULD be. My argument is entirely about my predictions on how he will be portrayed. Do not bridge an is-ought gap where there is none intended or implied. And please do not fall for the revisionist mythmaking that states the great progressiveness of soldiers fighting in WWII. They believed what they believed and it was perfectly normal for the time. It only looks wrong from today's POV and social norms. I believe Alex Ross understands this and his characterization will reflect as much.

    Again, I'm not disputing Cap's established and canonical 616 history or attacking anyone's grandparents here (god you guys are so touchy and overly PC sometimes); I'm simply positing a theory of how the WWII Cap will be portrayed. Kalinara gets what I'm saying, even if she doesn't agree.

  • At May 06, 2008 6:39 PM, Blogger Will Staples said…

    The problem with Ulti!Cap as far as I can tell (I haven't read The Ultimates) isn't that he's a conservative, but that he's a neoconservative of the likes of Nixon or Reagan. A WWII-era conservative, I think, would be more of a corporatist isolationist like Coolidge or those guys who tried to overthrow FDR *coughbush'sgranddadcough*, or Pat Buchannan or Ron Paul in the present day. Certainly not a screaming hawk.

    Personally, I like Cap as a starry-eyed idealist. If you ask me, he's the greatest DC superhero ever published by Marvel.

  • At May 06, 2008 6:42 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    There's more to diversity than race though. No one's saying that WWII-era America was a progressive paradise. We are saying it's not the neo-conservative revisionist version represented by Captain America in the Ultimate Universe either though. Many creators do actually understand that.

    Brett, you may want to reread your original statement since I didn't "get" what you were saying any more than the others did. It certainly looked like, when you said:

    Realism for portraying a WWII-era soldier (super or otherwise) is unfortunately being a xenophobic flag hugging bible thumping asshole.

    that you were generalizing all WWII soldiers as that ilk, which we all know isn't true. I appreciate from your subsequent post that you're talking more about how a modern creator would characterize them.

    You're definitely right that I disagree there though. :-) Especially since quite a bit of Alex Ross's work features JSA characters, characters who are also WWII-era superheroes and some even combatants themselves, and he managed to avoid characterizing them as cardboard neo-conservatives.

    Also, it should be noted that subsequent to Ultimate Captain America's emergence, Brubaker has done his own work portraying a wartime Cap that's in character. Even in the rather mediocre Ultimate Avengers movie, which borrows a lot from the Ultimate line, featured an unfrozen Captain America much more similar to the 616 version. A bit uptight, a bit naive perhaps, but nothing like Ultimate Cap.

    While we won't know until it comes out, of course, I do think it's fairly likely given Alex Ross's affinity for the "greatest generation" and the recent Marvel portrayals of 616 Cap that we'll have a decently recognizable product.

    I actually read Alex Ross's realism comment to possibly indicate that he might do more with the fact that the characters are living and working in a warzone and have seen a lot of horrible things and probably had to do a lot of horrible things. Which will be interesting as, Civil War aside, most of the Marvel superheroes don't really have comparable experiences. Possibly shell-shock and other war time conditions might get brought up.

    Really, I'm looking forward to it because I don't recall Civil War ever really addressing that Steve's perspective is different from most of the others because of his warfront experiences.

  • At May 11, 2008 9:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hah, my school is having a fieldtrip tomorrow to see Iron Man and I'm on it! Sorry if it seems that I'm gloating at your misfortune, I'm just really excited.


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