Gone are the days where I could pick up a comic book and have absolutely no idea that a major event was going to occur. Even if a major magazine or newspaper were reporting about the event, I could simply not read the media source. The interconnectivity of the Internet has changed that for comics, as well as movies, music and television.
It was without warning or any expectation that Facebook greeted me this morning in the “trending” category with the news that in the new Captain America comic book series, Steve Rogers is revealed to be an agent of Hydra.
According to Marvel Comics’ executive editor Tom Brevoort, it’s not that Rogers has turned evil and now has joined up with Hydra. Apparently, Rogers — the physical embodiment in comic books of America — has always been a member of Hydra.
Controversy! I feel the fury that only a retcon can bring coming off you already, reader. Allow me to explain this decision. Brevoort tells us that in the 1920s, Rogers and his mother were recruited by Hydra which, at the time, were going around and recruiting the poor and underrepresented with promises of… well, I suppose something better. It was sheer Hydra luck that young Rogers would end up in the Super Solider program and ultimately become one of the greatest heroes of all time, Captain America. But he was apparently the greatest double-agent of all time as well.
This isn’t a Skrull or some clone or robot or alternate reality Cap. It’s the Steve Rogers we’ve known all our lives. We are encouraged to go back and review all previous years of Captain America comic books. With our new understanding of the character, Brevoort insists, Cap’s motivations over the years become crystal clear.
And don’t forget:
But the motivations aren’t as clear as Brevoort states. It’s an easy trick of the mind to keep an idea at the forefront of our attention while revisiting old material. Thinking “Steve Rogers of Hydra” while reading old Captain America books will make you see him — possibly — as a villain. By that same token, why not reread every single old issue of Iron Man while thinking “Tony is always drunk”? Now every single action, activity and adventure — not just the “Demon in a Bottle” arc, which took place in 1979, 16 years after his first comics appearance — can be read with a rudimentary belief that Tony is sloshed.
Breevort also said something about the unusual nature of politics and presidential candidates today and how they influence the verbiage of one character in this series. Because comics should be just like real Life and not serve as an escape or a guide to how we can strive to be and achieve our best.
The answer to the question in your minds is, Yes. Yes, this is a gimmick. Just like Rogers’ “death” in 2007. Nobody thought then that Rogers would be left as a corpse. The reasonable bet is that Rogers’ status as a Hydra agent won’t last forever.
It’s fun to note that Marvel is celebrating Captain America’s 75th anniversary this year. What better way than to warp everything we’ve ever known and celebrated about the character than to alter the foundation of it. I can’t wait until I turn 75 so I can be retconned as a Brony.
Ultimately, the furor over this plot twist is misplaced.
These changes may be for the birds and do go against Cap’s backstory and the reasons his creators brought him into existence, but any emotional reaction only fuels Marvel’s continuance of this new version of Cap. They’re looking for anger, looking for you to be upset. That’s attention.
There are two appropriate responses here.
The first is to let your money talk. Don’t buy the issues. Don’t read articles by Marvel about how this version of Captain America interacts with the Marvel Universe. Don’t buy any issues of the Captain America: Steve Rogers series or any crossover books in which HydraCap appears. Pay no mind to baiting advertising for HydraCap. Simply don’t react. Or, react minimally like this guy:
If we don’t care, it will go away eventually, retconned once again and replaced with either something entirely worse or — hopefully — a version of Captain America that makes sense.
The second response to this change in character is to remember that the best comics continuity is the one that exists inside your own mind. You’ve read comics and absorbed the characters for however many years; you have read back issues to the extent of your choosing. Captain America — and every other character you’ve read — exists as makes sense in your mind. The stories that work for you are a solid history. The rest are “alternate reality” stories at best.
One prime example for myself is Earth X, originally written to be the “last” Marvel story, but later relegated to being a story from an alternate Earth. I adore every element of Earth X, from its grittiness to its depiction of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes beaten down and tired from years of doing their duty. The explanation of Galactus is the finest I have ever read, which I apply to any story in which he appears, Earth X or otherwise. That’s my choice and works for the continuity in my head. Others who can’t stand Earth X are free to disregard it or not read it in the first place.
All of which is okay, and what makes fandom so intimate and personal and wonderful.
Your Geekdom is yours. Treasure that, in the ways that work best for YOU.