Sunday, March 27, 2011

Captain America 321-322 (Cap's Delicate Sensibilities and Code Against Killing)

Captain America is a soldier, not Dudley Do-Right. It's kind of annoying reading him wringing his hands over having to use deception and violence to rescue some hostages. No wonder comics readers of the era found Wolverine a breath of fresh air.

Gruenwald handled this better in later issues, but issue 322 introduces this:

What? Cap spent all his time on the front lines in World War II knocking people out and tying them up? I guess that makes him way more moral than those regular soldiers, who actually killed the enemy to win the war.

In fairness, this craziness may have originated with Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, who had a strict "heroes don't kill" code. And Gruenwald actually does get away with letting Cap kill somebody in issue 321, when Cap has no choice but to shoot a terrorist who has opened fire on a crowd of defenseless hostages.

Still, a super-soldier who fought on the frontlines against the Nazis but never killed is a pretty weird notion. Brubaker mercifully wrote this out of continuity when he took over the book several years ago.

[Postscript] Here's Marvel's explanation of Cap's WWII career, from the letter's page of Captain America 327:

Neither Cap nor the Invaders ever carried guns behind enemy lines during the War. They were never actively engaged in combat with the Axis militia, but concentrated their efforts against Nazi super-agents and their leaders. All this is to say that Captain America never sought to kill anyone on the battlefield. It probably happened that soldiers who shot at Cap were hit by their own ricocheting bullets, but that's not the same as Cap shooting someone. We can't deny that Cap was at the center of a lot of bloodshed during the Big One, but he himself never shed another man's blood. The Ultimatum incident in CAP #321 was the first time Cap intentionally took someone's life.

[Postscript 2] In the letter's page of Captain America 328, Marvel backs down very slightly, by offering a vaguer response:

...we do not deny that enemy soldiers died because of Cap's actions. Still, Cap never regularly carried a gun, not was his mission to kill as many of the enemy as he could. His mission was to "destroy the enemies of liberty," which are the concepts of fascism, Nazism, and totalitarianism, not the individuals who espouse them. True, you cannot attack abstractions-- you can only attack the individuals who act in accordance with them. But its an important distinction. Further to the point, soldiers at war play by different rules than civilians at peace and Cap has had years to make peace with himself about his wartime actions. We're not saying that Cap is or ever was a pacifist, but he does have a profound respect for human life. It is a respect that has grown as he has matured, and includes respect for the lives of his individual enemies. Killing an enemy is always Cap's last resort, and every death he's ever been responsible for has taken its toll on his inner peace.

[Postscript 3]  A more detailed critique of the way Marvel handled the storyline where Cap killed a terrorist, and the events that followed, from the letter's page of Captain America #329:

1 comment:

  1. I am really disgusted that there are human beings ignorant enough to have an issue with this.

    Captain America doesn't like to kill people. He has morals, values, beliefs. Maybe a lot of soldiers in the U.S. Army have those too. But they are not super heroes. So the only way they can survive without killing someone is to shoot at their feet and hope they don't shoot back. Those people never should have joined the Army in the 1st place.

    Cap has super agility, speed, and strength, more than enough to take out any Nazi in hand-to-hand combat. For armed foes, Cap has this shield. Maybe you've heard of it. It deflects bullets and absorbs the impact of bombs. And he can use it as a long range weapon to knock out multiple foes.

    Furthermore, as Marvel explained, he wasn't down in the trenches fighting foot soldiers. He was doing special covert ops to take out the heavy hitters. Most of the time he probably took out the baddies w/out shots being fired.

    I'm truly sorry that Brubaker raped the idea of Captain America by giving him a gun. He used to be a Super Hero. Not a G.I.Joe. Not everyone can be Captain America. Not everyone can devote their life unwaveringly to ideals. That's what made him special. That's why he was a living legend