A Man Out of Time
Captain America’s America Ain’t Our America
The United States of America is no longer the nation that is depicted in the film Captain America: The First Avenger. One of the most beloved characters in all of comics, and arguably just as iconic as Superman himself, Captain America has always been considered a “Man of out Time,” as in all the contemporary telling of the story (this latest movie included), he is presumed “killed-in-action” during World War II, only to be found in a state of suspended animation, frozen in a block of ice during our time.
Most people know the origin of Captain America: the story of the 4-F Steve Rogers volunteering for a super-soldier serum (yikes, eugenics!), which eventually turns him into the Sentinel of Liberty so he can go and fight Nazis and make the world safe for democracy.
The film, starring Chris Evans, will be no different. With a much bigger budget then Marvel’s failed 1990 attempt to bring the character to the big screen, this Captain America story is a period piece that sets the stage for the 2012 Avengers film, which will combine the Iron Man, Thor, Incredible Hulk, and Captain America movies.
The question we must ask ourselves is how does a blond haired, blue-eyed, genetically engineered super solider like Steve Rogers call himself “Captain America” in 2011, a nation where the majority of the births—for the first time ever—are to non-whites mothers? How does a character who exudes so much whiteness—at a time when major academic conferences are held to combat the identity and “when treason to whiteness is known as loyalty to humanity?”—dare claim to represent U.S.?
Coming from a time and place when Whites were 90 percent of the American population; the United States military was segregated; and the Civil Rights Revolution had yet to achieve total, if any, victory—one wonders what Steve Rogers hopes to accomplish as Captain America.
Since Captain America went into his Rip Van Winkle sleep in 1944, the United States has witnessed the collapse of formerly great cities like Detroit, Los Angeles, Birmingham; watched as its industrial might, once the envy of the world, was dismantled and shipped overseas, replaced by $8-per-hour service industry; welcomed millions of immigrants—largely illegal from Mexico; and witnessed such events as Martin Luther King’s I have a Dream speech, which ushered in an era of Black empowerment of which the Haitians of 1802 would be envious.
Captain America: The First Avenger won’t address the situation faced by Steve Rogers when he encounters the world 2011, but two recent comics have tried to do just that, Mark Millar’s Ultimate Avengers and Mark Waid’s Man Out of Time.
In Millar’s Ultimate Avengers story—on which the Marvel movies have been loosely based—Captain America is basically portrayed as neocon. In his book Captain America and the Struggle of the Superhero, Jackson Sutliff describes Millar’s Rogers as “The Ultimate American”:
Ultimate Captain America is less of an inspiration than an action hero; instead of John Adams, he’s Sylvester Stallone. He’s here to wear the American flag and kick ass, all in the heavily marketed name of Nick Fury’s supergroup. Teammate Henry Pym comments that it’s like playing with his old G.I. Joe’s again. Whereas the Cap of the traditional Marvel Universe is known for his stirring orations, this version of Steve Rogers isn’t one for speeches. Snappy one-liners are more this style.
The best example of the divide one can look to is also one of the most famous. There’s a well known page from the blockbuster miniseries: Captain America, enraged at the suggestion of surrender, goes ballistic and bellows, “You think this letter on my head stands for France?” (Millar The Ultimates 12 Vol. 1 22)…
This version of Steve Rogers is something terrifying, charming and deserving of pity all rolled into one. If Captain America represents the American dream, then his Ultimate counterpart is its obituary.
It’s worth noting that Millar’s Ultimate Avengers stories have been the influence behind the Iron Man movies, so one is left wondering what type of hero Captain America will be portrayed in the 2012 Avengers film. Millar wrote this story in the early 2000s, at a time when deriding France during the buildup to the United States “War on Terror” was highly fashionable among those in self-styled conservative circles.
If the Captain America we find in the Avengers is like the one in Man Out of Time, we could find ourselves watching the first Southern Poverty Law Center approved superhero on screen.
In Waid’s Man Out of Time story (henceforth MOT), Steve Rogers is unfrozen in a world similar to 2011 America and brought back to his native New York City by the Avengers. There, he successfully breaks up a mugging of a blond-haired, blue-eyed White girl—by three Black guys –only to be shot by the White girl in the process. The muggings are, of course, consistent with urban racial crime patterns, but the shooting of Captain America by the thankless White girl makes little sense, save in the world of comics.
Waking up in a hospital to be treated by a Black female doctor—in a hilarious panel, Rogers mistakenly calls her a “nurse”—Captain America walks into the waiting room to the shocking sight of absolutely no European-Americans. The drawing of Captain America, upon viewing this scene, is priceless, as the artist does a close-up of his blue eyes staring out into a room of Africans, Muslims, Asians, Mexicans, and Blacks, all speaking different languages and looking absolutely miserable.
Leaving the hospital, Captain America glances back with a melancholy look on his face as an Asian family—speaking in Chinese—take their grandmother into the makeshift United Nations that doubles as a waiting room.
Quite the departure from the Irish, WASPS, Italians, Germans, and any other wWhite ethnics that comprised the New York City of Rogers’s youth.
Later in the story, Captain America relocates with the Avengers, who run tests on him to confirm his true identity, the long-lost Steve Rogers from World War II. The billionaire Tony Stark—Iron Man for those comically challenged—updates Rogers on all that has changed since he went into his state of suspended animation:
Stark: Short version: there is no more U.S.S.R
Rogers: You’re joking.
Stark: Nope. Russia’s a shadow of the superpower you know. Today, China and India play on the big board, and it’s all about tech. God, you missed so much. Polio? Gone. G-O-N-E. Cancer? Treatable. Organ transplants. Pacemakers for ailing hearts. Disease immunization—all things we take for granted.
Stark doesn’t tell Rogers anything about the massive racial transformation of America, nor how all of the diseases cured and advances in medical technology came from that racial group which is being dispossessed. The one scene from the hospital waiting room is the only time the truth of America’s racial transformation is discussed in MOT.
Following this quick update on America’s scientific marvels, Stark takes Roger’s to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (which is basically a monument to White people’s advances in aviation) and discusses the moon landing, space shuttle missions, and the building of the space station (and other things the U.S. government is no longer capable of pursuing). Captain America sees a picture of the Challenger crew and notices a Black face among the astronauts, leading to this exchange of dialogue:
Rogers: See. What impresses isn’t the technology, Tony. Your phones and your computers and so forth… they’re definitely mad-scientist gizmos, but they’re not the real achievement.
It’s society itself. The freedom of the people. All people regardless of their race or their gender. That’s what I can’t get enough of. Introduce me to the man who brought that about.
Stark: Glad to.
The next scene of MOT shows Stark and Rogers watching a clip of Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I have a Dream” speech, with Rogers completely spellbound in his oration:
King (on a television screen): 1963 is not an end. But a beginning. [He was right about that!] Now is the time lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
Rogers: Were…were you there? For this moment?
Stark: No. But a quarter-million other Americans were. They filled that mall outside to hear the greatest speech of all time. Seventeen minutes changed the world. Wait until you hear about Woodstock. […]
I hope I’m making my point: I think… I know… that, together we Americans raised one hell of a century from the ashes of a world war. Everything you ever wanted for this country Steve… It’s either come true or it’s around the corner. I truly believe that.
Is the “around the corner” line from Stark a reference to the momentous day when Anglo-Saxons will be just another minority in the land that Captain America still remembers like it was yesterday (and for him, it was yesterday)?
Incidentally, MOT fails to mention how that ideal of racial brotherhood never came true, that the primary achievement from Black people in the 20th century was the fostering of White guilt among Americans for past transgressions and the lowering of every conceivable standard imaginable so that Blacks wouldn’t be left behind.
Though Tony Stark paints a powerful picture of an idealized version of what America has become, it’s when Steve Rogers visits the only person alive that he knew from the 1940s—a now 90-year-old General Jacob Simon—that MOT becomes incredibly confusing.
After the initial shock of seeing an un-aged Rogers, Simon (who lives in a nursing home) proceeds to tell Captain America about all the unsavory changes in America:
Simon (gesturing towards a baseball game on television)—They’re all on drugs these days. That garbage is everywhere now. It’s in the schools. It’s in the streets. Can you believe that?
On another visit, Simon is being checked by a nurse, but has time to state:
Simon: Oklahoma City. One hundred sixty-eight lives lost to a terrorist attack on American soil. This country’s lousy with militias and hate groups. It’s disgusting.
One wonders if the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote the script for this comic, as if Marvel and Teaching Tolerance combined to create the ultimate Captain America story. No mention of the fact that the majority of those selling drugs and arrested for drug possession and drug-related violence are non-Whites from General Simon, who seems more intent on placing the blame for America’s degeneration on “hate groups.”
It’s here that the conversation between Simon and Rogers takes a strange turn that serves as a painful reminder that, though we presumably achieved racial brotherhood, America is royally screwed:
Simon: (coughing and nearing death) …used to make things in this country. You’d have the service. Get education with the G.I. Bill, then settle down to a good union job. No more steelwork. Pittsburgh’s collapsed and Detroit’ll be a ghost town soon enough.
No mention of how the unions helped ruin the manufacturing capacity in these cities, or how Black riots in 1967—and subsequent white flight—helped turn Detroit into the laughing stock of the entire world. This idealized version of America that General Simon waxes whimsically about is clearly that which preceded the 1965 Immigration Act and America’s various forays into globalism and “free-trade.”
General Simon’s best quotes are saved for last:
(As Simon and Rogers play chess)
Simon: You say Stark showed you the “I have a Dream” speech?
Rogers: It was incredible.
Simon: It truly was. It moved a nation.
Simon: Did he tell you what happened to the man who gave it?
Rogers: (Dejected) …No…
Rogers: Bucky [Captain America’s World War II partner]… Bucky once asked me what I wanted to do after the war. I didn’t have an answer for him. Sixty years later, I still don’t.
In the next panel, Simon and Rogers watch television and a commercial for a sex hotline is playing.
Rogers: All I know is that this isn’t what I thought we were building.
Simon: This is what Captain America stands for now. Phone sex and an 18th-place educational system.
Rogers: It seemed worth fighting for.
Simon: It’s easy to fight when you’re winning.
So wait…wasn’t the world of equality that Captain America was so impressed with when he was speaking to Tony Stark so wonderful? These scenes with General Simon seem to invalidate that glorious world he thought existed. American history seems to stop with “I Have a Dream,” as few people dare point out what a nightmare the country is turning into.
And what of the so-called 18th-place educational system? Steve Sailer has shown that when you remove the Hispanic and Black test scores from the mix, America’s educational system is doing quite well, thank you (based on the international PISA test results):
- White Americans students outperformed the national average in every one of the 37 historically white countries tested, except Finland (which is, perhaps not coincidentally, an immigration restrictionist nation where whites make up about 99 percent of the population).
- Hispanic Americans beat all eight Latin American countries. African Americans would likely have outscored any sub-Saharan country, if any had bothered to compete. The closest thing to a black country out of PISA’s 65 participants is the fairly prosperous oil-refining Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago, which is roughly evenly divided between blacks and South Asians. African Americans outscored Trinidadians by 25 points.
It is because of that massive immigration (and Black test scores) that America has such a lowly rated, “18th-place education system.” General Simon. Why don’t you tell this to Steve Rogers?
The most revealing section of the MOT comes after General Simon has passed away and his caretaker, a Hispanic, tells Steve Rogers she’ll have to go home soon:
Hispanic nurse: It’s immigration law. I do some cleaning work, but that’s unofficial.
Rogers: Is it really so bad where you’re from?
Hispanic nurse: There is family. We hadn’t much money. But the countryside is beautiful and I am loved there. I do miss it.
Rogers: And yet you’re willing to scrub toilets to stay here?
Hispanic nurse: It is America.
MOT doesn’t tell us that a disproportionate percentage of immigrants are on welfare and EBT/food stamps in America, all paid for by the United States taxpayer. Yes they scrub our toilets, but they have arrived in such massive numbers to turn America into what Victor Davis Hanson called Two California’s.
What in the world does a gringo Captain America mean to Mexicans who cheered on their national soccer team in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum over the U.S. squad? All that Captain America means—when espousing virtues such as tolerance, freedom, and justice—is that nothing will be done to curb the rising tide of color that threatens to make Steve Rogers a minority in his own land.
What is obvious from MOT is that Captain America is incredibly malleable and can be made to fit the Zeitgeist.
If we are in an age where Communism and the Red Menace is the enemy, turn Captain America into a hero espousing McCarthyism (but be sure to change the story when McCarthy falls out of favor with the America, as Marvel did in Captain America 153-156, back in 1972). In our time period, have Steve Rogers espousing egalitarianism and discuss abstractions like freedom, justice and tolerance, and you have the perfect embodiment of 2011 America, certified fresh by the SPLC.
Salon.com ran a historical piece in 2010 (updated on July 20, 2011) that deserves to be quoted at length:
After the July 22 release of the summer blockbuster “Captain America: the First Avenger,” we’ll probably see even more Captain Americas waving placards at protests for all parts of the political spectrum. The Red, White and Blue Avenger is and always has been a potent political image, but whose side would Captain America be on? Would he be a New Deal Democrat slinging his mighty shield for new public works programs or would he be rallying with the Tea Party to lower taxes on billionaires and gut Medicare? Whose Captain America is he anyway?
“He’s not just a guy in a flag suit,” former “Captain America” writer Steve Englehart says as he takes a break from signing copies of his latest fantasy-action novel, at the Big Wow ComicFest in San Jose, Calif.
“The problem comes from, I think, when people do say, ‘Well, he’s a guy in a flag suit,'” Englehart adds. “But he sort of transcends. He stands for America as an ideal, not America as it’s practiced.”
Englehart, a conscientious objector who was honorably discharged from the Army, took over the writing of “Captain American and the Falcon” in 1972 in the midst of the Vietnam War. To make the comic’s star-spangled superhero appeal to an antiwar youth audience, Englehart took on the duality and contradictions not only of the comic book superhero, but of America itself. During his first four issues (Nos. 153-156), the original Captain America, who was frozen in a block of ice at the end of the Roosevelt years and then thawed during the Johnson administration, battles a raging McCarthyite Cap from the paranoid 1950s. The ideological struggle between these alternate versions of the hero isn’t all that different from what might happen if the Rally to Restore Sanity and the Tea Party Caps came to actual blows with their plastic shields.
With the Watergate hearings underway, Englehart had Steve Rogers hang up his Captain America persona altogether in “Captain America and the Falcon” No. 176, a comic book dated August 1974—the same month that Nixon resigned from the White House.
“He had thought that the ideal and the reality were the same thing, and finding out that it wasn’t threw him off and that was the basis for the whole story,” Englehart says, explaining the story line where Rogers took off the red, white and blue and became a darkly clad hero called Nomad for several issues, ending with No. 183 in 1975.
“He stood for something,” Englehart continues. “When what he stood for seemed not to exist or seemed to have been damaged, he couldn’t go out and stand for that anymore. Again, in my story, he eventually decided that having a Captain America was better than not having a Captain America, whatever was going on with America per se.”
Looking at the very first issue of “Captain America,” it’s easy to dismiss it as a piece of jingoistic wartime propaganda. After all, the cover has our hero leaping into a war room and punching out Hitler while Nazi goons fire their Lugers and machine guns at him. However, “Captain America” No. 1 hit stands in December 1940, a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into World War II. While Captain America fit perfectly into the mood of the war effort once it got underway, co-creators Jack Kirby and Joe Simon originally forged the character as a protest vehicle to stir a stubbornly isolationist America to action.
“To me, the times were screaming war,” Jack Kirby recalled during a 1989 or 1990 radio interview on “Hour 25” that can now be found at Kirbymuseum.org. “To me the enemy was Hitler. The enemy was growing and growing, and I didn’t know where it was going to end, but every day something new would happen, and it was really scary. This was the kind of event that I felt was ruling our times and I felt it inside of me and it had to come out in some way.”
When Eisner Award-winning writer Ed Brubaker depicted a Tea Party protest in a slightly negative light in “Captain America” No. 602 in 2010, the right-wing blogosphere and Fox News cranked up their outrage machine, griping that Marvel was “making patriotic Americans” into “its newest super villains.” With a $140 million “Captain America” movie only a year away, Marvel had more to lose than back when it was just selling magazines. The company promised to remove the material that wounded the Tea Party’s sensibilities from future reprints of the series.
Joe Simon may have put it best when he said, “Things are far more complex than they were in the days when Captain America could punch Hitler in the jaw,” but the broad appeal of Captain America appears undiminished by recent controversies. In between Captain America’s appearances at the rallies to restore sanity and shut down the government, Mexican American pro-wrestler Rey Mysterio wore a Captain America costume during his match at WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta. Mysterio’s outfit had a Mayan motif in place of the star on Cap’s chest, making the character more Meso-American than merely Norte Americano. It seems that Captain America may be the only thing that can bring this fractured country together, if we could only agree on who he is.
Rey Mysterio modified the Captain America costume to ensure a distinctly Mexican flavor to the ensemble, a harbinger of things to come in the United States when Steve Rogers alter-ego only stands for the defense of the country as a proposition nation.
It’s wise to recall the words from the late Samuel Francis, who understood the dilemma at the heart of America, a ciountry defined by a people and culture, but which began to represent everyone, and thus no one:
The civilization that we as whites created in Europe and America could not have developed apart from the genetic endowments of the creating people, nor is there any reason to believe that the civilization can be successfully transmitted to a different people. If the people or race who created and sustained the civilization of the West should die, then the civilization also will die. A merely cultural consciousness, then, that emphasizes only social and cultural factors as the roots of our civilization is not enough, because a merely cultural consciousness will not by itself conserve the race and people that were necessary for the creation of the culture and who remain necessary for its survival. We need not only to understand the role of race in creating our civilization but also to incorporate that understanding in our defense of our civilization. Until we do so, we can expect only to keep on losing the war we are in…
As long as whites continue to avoid and deny their own racial identity, at a time when almost every other racial and ethnic category is rediscovering and asserting its own, whites will have no chance to resist their dispossession and their eventual possible physical destruction. Before we can seriously discuss any concrete proposals for preserving our culture and its biological and demographic foundations, we have to address and correct the problem we inflict on ourselves, our own lack of a racial consciousness and the absence of a common will to act in accordance with it.
A trip to Los Angeles, Atlanta, or Detroit would reveal, once the people who look like Captain America leave, those left behind in positions of power quickly erect a civilization that is completely different from the one that was bequeathed to them.
The Captain America that will debut in theaters today will be living in a world where the ignorant, unwashed masses had yet to be baptized in the racial holy water of Martin Luther King’s oratory and reborn into a world universal brotherhood. The Captain America that will debut in theaters today will be living in a world where military segregation existed. The Captain America that will debut in theaters today will be living in a nation that was essentially 90 percent White. Steve Rogers, that 4-F reject, still volunteered to become a Captain America in that world, defending that America.
In the 21st century, “The First Avenger,” is truly a man out of time.