Ever since he punched Hitler in the face 75 years ago, Captain America has been a political character. Many times he’s walked away from the government, and reminded people that he works for America as a whole, not just its government. So when he does exactly that, it’s kind of amazing that people still get so outraged by it.
Conservative commenters have been in a tizzy about those gosh-darn comic books again this last week, following the release of Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuña’s Sam Wilson: Captain America #1. The issue sees Captain America cut ties with both SHIELD and the U.S. government to stand up for the average American citizen. In the comic, it leads to a backlash of people deriding Sam as “not their Captain America,” or with oft-repeated heckles of “Captain Socialism.” The same occurred in our own world, when conservative media painted the comic as an attack on conservatives by the liberal agenda:
Part of this is down to the bristling idea that superhero comics shouldn’t—and, bizarrely enough, can’t—feature commentary on current social issues. That, to some people, superhero comics are meant to be for young kids, and because they deal with people in spandex punching people in spandex, they should be sequestered off in a land of magic pixie dust, not rooted in our own world.
And Sam Wilson: Captain America #1 does still sugarcoat its message slightly by having its anti-immigration villains not be normal people, but a group of hood-wearing mooks called the Sons of the Serpent. But it does at least attempt to tackle the role of Captain America in a world like the contemporary U.S. It’d be ridiculous for it not to, especially now that it’s a role filled by Sam Wilson—a man with a very different upbringing and background to Steve Rogers. As Sam ponders to himself, he feels a need to take a stand on behalf of people, to fight for what he believes in.
Is it political? Of course it is. It’s what Captain America as a character has been like since his creation. Like I mentioned, in his first appearance, he punched a goddamn fascist in the face. From then on, it’s been the same: In Civil War, he stands up for personal freedoms over government regulation. Hell, in the ‘70s, he discovered that Richard Nixon—or at least, an incredibly thick implication that it was Nixon—was the head of a secret cabal trying to take over America. The character has been inherently political since his creation, and always will be. It’s not some newfangled thing cooked up by those kooky creative liberals working in comics today: that’s just who Captain America is.
But the other part of it is an alleged shock that a dude running around calling himself Captain America and fighting for the little guy might have some left-leaning ideals. The main furor that burst forth this weekend over Sam Wilson: Captain America #1 has been very much from sites that Spencer and Acuña lampoon in the issue itself: That somehow, by choosing to not be a mouthpiece of the Government or SHIELD and stand solely for the American people, Sam is now “Anti-American.”.
It’s as legendary comics scribe Kurt Busiek mused on Twitter—should we really surprised that all these years later, Captain America acts like this?