On Steve Rogers as an Agent of Hydra

Posted 26 May, 2016 by Nikki in General / 9 Comments

If you’ve had your head in the sand for the last day or two, the title of this post might confuse you a little. There’s an article here which covers the basics, but this panel might just sum everything up best:

Image of Captain America saying "hail Hydra".

The moment Marvel stomped on the character of Steve Rogers and all previous portrayals thereof.

And we’re told that this isn’t an impostor. This really is Cap. Hell, Steve’s mother was recruited by Hydra, per some of the flashbacks in this comic.

Yep. The quintessential defender of the little guy is suddenly an agent of Hydra. You know, that Nazi organisation. The ones Steve Rogers has been fighting for seventy-five years of comics history, in various guises.

I don’t even really need to explain why it’s wrong (though this article is a good one on that). Just think of the number of people who read this who now face the fact that Steve Rogers supposedly hates everything they are. It won’t even wash, I agree: no one is going to buy Steve Rogers as an actual Hydra agent. It must be brainwashing or alternate reality or a trick or… something. Because this isn’t the Steve Rogers we know and love — the character which sticks with us throughout different versions, whether he be played by Chris Evans or drawn with more muscles than is anatomically possible. The key thing about Captain America is not the suit, the colour scheme, the beefcake eye-candy. It’s the little guy he was, who kept on fighting and pushing, making the world a better place, never giving a damn what it cost him. Even when he could’ve taken advantage, cashed in, got whatever he wanted.

We know what Captain America wants: it’s justice tempered with mercy, and safety and freedom for everyone. This is not exactly compatible with Hydra’s goals.

Nah, what really sparked this post is all the counter-arguments which start with: You don’t understand comics if you think this is going to stick. Cap will be back to normal in a couple of issues. There’s no way they’re going to mess up this legacy.

I haven’t seen anyone convincingly arguing that this is not a punch in the face for a lot of people. So let’s use that metaphor: if someone hit you, are you going to sit back and wait weeks for them to unfold some narrative that justifies it? Are you going to say, “this person wouldn’t hit me, so it can’t really hurt even though they just hit me”? Are you going to accept them saying, “hey, sorry I hit you, but wait a couple of weeks and it won’t hurt anymore”?

It’s not about how comics work. We all know that the power of retcon is strong in comics. It’s about why anyone thought this was a good idea at all. This is just so fundamentally wrong, not just for the character but as a plot device, because it is so tone deaf. Sometimes you’ll run with a bad idea and somehow not see that it’s a bad idea, so while I’m not happy that Marvel ever let this go ahead, I’m more interested in what they do now. That people talk about it. That people who don’t get it turn around and listen.

It doesn’t matter if Cap is a Nazi for good or not. It matters that Marvel ever thought it was a good idea. But the thing that really gets my goat is this idea that I must not like/understand/read comics if I’m against this plotline. Guys, take a look at my blog. I’ll wait.

Evidently I do read comics, and if you comb back far enough, you’ll find that I don’t just wait for the trade paperback. I buy the comics on the day they come out. I bugged the life out of my local comic shop owner when he couldn’t put Young Avengers or Ms Marvel in my hands fast enough (what do you mean you only stocked enough for people’s pull lists, and no copies left over?). And then I get the trade paperbacks of ones I really like, to reread and lend and enjoy in future.

So yes, I do understand comics. And so maybe it’ll come better from me: you don’t need to understand comics to have an opinion on this questionable, harmful, hurtful, anti-Semetic issue of Captain America.

“You just don’t understand how comics work” is a way of ducking the responsibility for examining something that’s going on in your fandom. I haven’t even seen anyone who thinks this storyline isn’t a problem, I should emphasise. Everyone thinks it is. But some people are trying to sweep it under the rug because… what? Is it too hard to see what’s going on in the world reflected in comics?

Sorry, mates. Look up Cap’s origins. He was never apolitical, never just wish fulfillment, never intended not to be a comment. Comics, like everything else, are part of the world and have to exist within it. Nothing is above or beyond or below criticism.

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9 Responses to “On Steve Rogers as an Agent of Hydra”

  1. Brilliant post!

    I couldn’t believe this when I found about it yesterday. I was so livid. I’m still really angry now. I can’t believe they’re going against everything Cap stands for to create some “edgy cheap shock value”. It’s disgusting. Like you said I don’t care if it’s just for one ARC or whatever, it’s so incredibly wrong. I almost didn’t even want to buy any of the comics from my pull list today because I was so mad at Marvel for allowing this to happen.

    • Thank you! I tried my best to try and voice the problems! And I know how you feel… I was kinda glad I don’t have a pull list atm.

  2. This is why I quit superhero comics. It’s all a publicity stunt to get people talking, and yes, a few years down the road this would have been retconned out of existence and it wouldn’t matter anymore.

    Still, a part of me can’t help but shake my head and think, “Well, what did everyone expect?” During Civil War years ago, they changed Tony Stark’s personality and made him the devil incarnate who is worse than someone who kicks puppies for fun. I was mad then, and brought up similar argument as yours about fundamentally forcing a character to act so out of whack for no other reason than to have a convenient plot device. But no one cared, because they were all busy cheering for Cap. Now Cap fans feel the pain.

    • I wasn’t a comics fan at the time Civil War came out, but I have read it. I think they stretched Tony’s character a lot, and I wasn’t 100% happy with it, despite being a Cap fan and enjoying parts of the story (especially the stuff in the Civil War: Iron Man TPB, where Tony tells Steve’s corpse that it wasn’t worth it — that was some good writing). But that’s not really equivalent to taking a character who was created by Jewish people to be anti-Nazi and making him a Nazi, in a time when neo-Nazi views are gaining acceptance. It’s not fair to fans, but this goes deeper than that.

      Heck, I’m essentially a “Superhusbands” fan, because I think the bond and partnership between Tony and Steve (in whatever form it takes) is incredibly important, so Civil War was just a shitty deal all round per my views. This isn’t just about a character.

      • I know it’s not the same thing, but at the heart of it it’s still essentially a big “FU” to comic fans when they just do whatever they want whenever they want, and who cares if it’s silly/illogical/offensive we can always just retcon it later anyway. It’s this dismissive behavior that sucks. 🙁

      • And I would actually argue that it IS about a character. This is the complete murder of a character, not just his physical self but everything he stands for. Nothing is sacred anymore to these comics writers apparently.

        • I think maybe the trivialisation of Nazism is more important than whether we like Steve or not? This is meant to be a “fun” story, per the writers — sure, Nazism is fun! If you mean that it’s particularly problematic because it’s Steve and he was created by Jewish people as an anti-Nazi character and they’ve stomped on that, then yes, indeed.

  3. majoline

    I’ve been having difficulties justifying my Marvel comics buying lately, and this just. How many more instances of antisemitism do we have to put up with from Marvel? First the whitewashing of Wanda, and now this.

    I’m just really disappointed in what this says about them as a company.

    • I did think Wanda’s casting worked surprisingly well, but then I didn’t even realise Wanda’s meant to be part Romani, part Jewish. Shame on me, I guess. I just haven’t really come across much origin stuff for Wanda, since I haven’t read much X-Men. (Or any that I can think of aside from crossovers.)

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