Note: This is not a review of the new movie. It's my Undercurrents column for PanamaCity.com and The News Herald this week.
|(C) Marvel Entertainment|
The movie “Captain
America: The Winter Soldier” opened
this weekend, with many reviewers touting it as “the best” of the recent run of
Marvel Comics-based films. I’m looking forward to seeing it soon, as 2011’s “Captain
The First Avenger” was my favorite of the Marvel films. (Yes, even more than
“Iron Man,” and right up there with “The Avengers.”)
I’ve wondered about that, and I think I’ve figured out why.
It goes back to the fact that I’ve always been a DC Comics fan rather than a Marvel fan. For those of you who don’t know the difference, don’t worry. These days, there isn’t much difference between the two companies — but in the 1970s, when I was probably at my most impressionable comic book peak, they were very different animals.
DC is the home of characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman — idealized personalities who were larger than life, self-sacrificing, brave, resourceful and stood for concepts like “Truth, Justice and The American Way.”
Whereas Marvel characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Fantastic Four, however, were
(arguably more realistic) personalities who squabbled amongst themselves,
wallowed in self-pity, and then rose above it all in the last possible moment to
save the world.
As a kid, I admired those DC characters for being so steadfast, self-assured and above all, nice to each other. They were friends. “Super Friends,” even. It wouldn’t be until I became a teenager that I’d begin understanding and relating to the problems posed by Tony Stark’s alcoholism, for instance, or Ben Grimm’s self-loathing.
And then there was Captain
America, created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in
1941, a Marvel hero who always seemed like he was living in the wrong comic
book universe once he had been transplanted to then modern day 1960s America
in stories by Kirby and Stan Lee.
Subsequent writers tried to manufacture problems for Cap over the years, but really, he was the idealized patriot from the Greatest Generation — honor, fidelity and self-sacrifice were essential components of his personality from the beginning. As I read his 1970s adventures, his problems were more with what he saw
America becoming — politically
corrupt, corporately controlled — and not personal failings or flaws.
So Cap was one of the few Marvel heroes I followed even then, because he fit my notion of what a hero should be. When my son started collecting comics many years later, I was gratified to see him enjoying Captain America — probably the first monthly subscription comic he chose.
From the trailers and early reviews, “The Winter Soldier” apparently merges some of Cap’s storylines from the 1970s — which introduced his crime-fighting partner, the Falcon, and exposed Cap to the dark machinations of political insiders — with recent plots that resurrected a former comrade as a formidable enemy.
And yet, I’m confident Cap will overcome. He believes in
and what it’s supposed to stand for — which doesn’t include the politics of
fear — and he remains a symbol of what the Greatest Generation achieved and why
they did so. He will stand tall, and we will look up to him as an example of
what heroes can be.