You Can Get Upset About That Captain America Twist, You Just Shouldn’t

Top image altered by Jim Henley.
Top image altered by Jim Henley.

I may have received somewhere between five and 2,000 emails regarding a certain comic book event that happened last week, so forgive me if the first answer is a little long. There’s a lot fo cover! But there’s also an Independence Day controversy, what Force powers still work from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and whether the DCW is worth your time anymore.


Mind the Cap


I know everyone hates the ‘think of the children’ line, but when it comes to comic book superheroes, a thought or two SHOULD be spared, before deciding to shatter the innocence of elementary school kids.

Of course this is where True Comics Fans lean back, adjust their trilbies, stroke their goatees, and say “well ACTUALLY, ALL of the Avengers were shown to be the alien children of Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S. in 1979!” So No One Has Any Right To Complain, now or in the future, about any half-baked plot choices.

Because LOL comics ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Apparently comics are supposed to be trollish. And that’s supposed appealing, somehow?

TLDR, why should anyone on the periphery of comics fandom bother actually buying them, when it’s obvious they’re made to cater to the tiny audience that already exists and the writers seem to want to actively push away the filthy casuals?

PS You got interested in Steve Rogers because of the movies? Well FUCK YOU, IDIOT. - The Nick Spencer sales pitch.

Alice, you’re clearly upset about the Captain America “Hail Hydra” twist, and you’re touching on several issues, some of which aren’t exactly connected. So I hope you won’t mind if I use this opportunity to indirectly answer several other letters about Steve Rogers, Agent of Hydra that I received this week.

You say you feel comics are supposed to troll people, and that’s sort of right, in a sense. It’s more accurate to say comics are soap operas with superpowers. The drama is heightened to an absurd degree, which is why people die and get resurrected and multiverses get smushed together and bad guys take over heroes’ minds. More importantly, when someone writes a legacy comic like Captain America, they have literally 80 years worth of previously told stories to compete with. How can they make fans pay attention? How can they find a new story that’s exciting? It’s damned hard. This is why writers will do everything from Dr. Octopus taking over Peter Parker’s body, to Jane Foster becoming Thor, or every single superhero death ever.

Now, you have every right in the world to find this twist bad, or dumb, or off-putting. But I assure you this is literally no worse or different than the aforementioned comic plots, all of which had fans up in arms. You also have the right to complain! People will dismiss you, and that’s their right. However, whenever someone pulls the “In So-and-So #234 this happened, which means you shouldn’t be upset about Such –and-Such #8!” you can ignore them, because again, these comics have lasted forever. They’re a big pile of often contradictory tales. If someone looks long and hard enough, he or she can find any evidence to support just about any position.

You’re a fan. That literally means you like Captain America a lot. You invest a lot of yourself emotionally in a character or a title. You have passion, and thus when someone does something you think is bad to the comic book object of your affection, you’re going to be upset! That’s how fans have always acted, and that’s how they always will. Captain America matters to you. There’s nothing wrong with that.


(And I agree with you modern superhero comics can be punishingly incoherent to new readers; the fact that Steve Rogers was actually an elderly man who was not Captain America when the Civil War movie came out—when you’d think audience members might want to pick up a Cap comic to get more tales of the character they so enjoyed onscreen—is madness to me. When Batman v Superman came out, Jim Gordon was actually running around as Batman in a large mech while Bruce Wayne had amnesia. Marvel and DC very rarely bother to position their comics to take advantage of their major motion pictures, and that’s the way it’s always been. I don’t know why. I do know, however, that Cap’s Hydra turn couldn’t possibly have been solely decided by Nick Spencer; it was something that had to be approved by all the top people of Marvel Comics. You shouldn’t blame one guy for what was effectively a company decision. But this is its own issue.)

But let me tell you something. As a person who has spent a great deal of his life being upset about things that happened in comic books: it’s not worth it. Partially because Marvel and DC are both going to pull these stunts in their comics for the rest of your life. I have spent too much time in my youth being upset at these sorts of things, and I’m here to tell you I regret every minute—mainly because no amount of complaining has ever made a difference. Comics companies know fans complain, and they accept it, and they ignore it, because they know they’re always going to piss off fans in one way or another, and eventually 99 percent of these fans will get over it, then probably become enraged again over the next big twist. They don’t care. They can’t care, actually, because it is literally impossible to please all of the fans all of the time. Trying is futile.


But the main reason you shouldn’t be upset is because any legacy comic—that is to say, comics that continue with new writers and/or artists—will always get better and get worse. Always. If you hate a storyline, wait a few months, and it’ll be over. If you love a story, cherish it, because the next team on the book could be made up of jackasses. Captain America’s life as a secret Hydra agent is finite, just as Dr. Octopus’ time in Peter Parker’s body was, just as Superman’s first death was, just as basically every single plot point ever included in a comic. Virtually nothing in a comic book is ever permanent. So all you have to do is wait this out.

Illustration for article titled You Can Get Upset About That Captain America Twist, You Just Shouldn’t

It may take some time until you agree, but Captain America will be fine. He got over being a werewolf, he got over an addiction to meth (really—Captain America #372-378), he got over being stuck in the Revolutionary War (also really). He’s also gotten over being a Nazi not once but twice already. Like, before this twist. And, as you can see, the previous time Cap was literally running around with a swastika on his shield (back in Captain America #24). That’s arguably a lot worse than pledging allegiance to a fictional organization that has been generically evil for decades.

So you’re absolutely allowed to be upset. In fact, as a nerd I’d say there are times when we should all be upset about what happens in a comic. Basically, things that happen to fictional people aren’t worth losing sleep over, but things that affect real people are. Say if a creator was being screwed over financially by a publisher; that’s important. If a comic promoted racism, sexism, or some other form of discrimination—perhaps by putting a stereotype on the page, or putting a raunchy cover on a title supposedly made accessible to female audiences, or perhaps by hiring a serial harasser or famous homophobe—that’s absolutely worth being upset by. There’s an actual cost to real people if a comic diminishes a minority, and I think that’s worth calling out. (As for calls to include more diversity in comics—or onscreen, or wherever—I’d argue this is worth fighting for, a subtle but important difference.)


There’s only one thing you can’t do (and Alice, I don’t think you did this at all, but it’s worth making abundantly clear)—you don’t have the rights to threaten another person’s life over anything. If you send a death threat to anyone online for any reason you’re garbage, and if send anyone a death threat over anything that happens in a comic you’re pathetic garbage.

Tl;dr—The comic book industry definitely has some issues, the Cap/Hydra twist is not different or worse than hundreds of other similar twists, and as someone who’s freaked out about all sorts of stupid crap in my lifetime, I can tell you in retrospect I totally regret spending emotional energy on this stuff.


Illustration for article titled You Can Get Upset About That Captain America Twist, You Just Shouldn’t

Free Agency


With the official introduction of LMDs in Agents of Shield, doesn’t that open the doors for basically EVERYONE to return in some form or fashion if needed?

We could have a team of LMDs featuring BJ Britt, Patton Oswalt, Bill Paxton, Lucy Lawless and Brett Dalton LMDs, right?

Theoretically, they could come up with a need to make an LMD of Agent Carter and have her team up with Agent May to track down Daisy.

While it seems like kicking the doors wide open to full on comics insanity, if done correctly it could be pretty damn cool.


It depends on exactly how they do it, but yes, the sky’s the Life Model Decoy limit. (For those who aren’t up on Marvel’s SHIELD comics, LMDs are basically perfect clones of… anybody SHIELD chooses to make, really.) In fact, I would say there’s a very high chance John Hannah makes an LMD of Grant Ward—a good one (supposedly!)—just to keep Brett Dalton on the series. Forcing the team to work with a guy who looks like their biggest betrayer, but isn’t, is just the sort of dynamic a Whedon show loves.

Note: With any super-comic book-y gimmick like this, LMDs can be quickly overused and/or turned into cheap plot cop-outs. I mean, I’m sure you’ll see at least one agent die horribly next season, and we’ll find out a couple of episodes later it was an LMD and said agent is totally fine. In the comics Nick Fury did this about once every week. Agents of SHIELD can probably get away with this once, and I doubt it’ll skip the opportunity.


Illustration for article titled You Can Get Upset About That Captain America Twist, You Just Shouldn’t


Martin G.:

Everyone is on a hair trigger for the slightest whiff of misogyny, yet I can find no backlash building against the new Independence Day film.

Almost the entire cast of the original film is returning for Resurgence, but more glaring than Will Smith deciding not to return, is the absence of Mae Whitman.

Her character is now being played by Maika Monroe, who is definitely less of a proven actress than Mae. The DUFF made more money than most of Maika’s films put together, but apparently Ms. Whitman was never even considered for the role when they went into production.

Considering the Dick Tracy Rogues Gallery that the male cast has aged into, how can they possibly justify that Mae Whitman hasn’t grown up to be ‘attractive enough’ to play her own character again?


Director Roland Emmerich tells a different tale; he says that she declined to read for the part. Based on the little I know of Roland Emmerich, I would take his account with a grain of salt.

Whatever the story, the fact that Mae Whitman didn’t get to reprise the role sucks, but I think the reason people aren’t that upset about it is because 1) the actor doesn’t seem to be upset about it, or if she is, she’s been very circumspect about it. This may in turn be because 2) I sincerely doubt the role of the President’s Grown-Up Daughter in Independence Day: Resurgence is anything other than a mere love interest. It’s hard to be upset for Ms. Whitman when success would have meant playing a character that was, in its own way, possibly more appalling than not being considered for the role.


Michael Bay’s rampant sexism, both off and on camera—especially his insistence on having the camera basically leer over women in what should be kids’ movies—is a much more glaring and significant problem.

Illustration for article titled You Can Get Upset About That Captain America Twist, You Just Shouldn’t

Force Majeure

Bethany R.:

Wise and Mystical Postman,

Although I 100% understand and support Disney’s decision to drop the existing Star Wars EU (although it still hurts), I find that the years and years worth of Star Wars knowledge I’ve been hoarding is now circumspect. The thing that disturbs me the most is that I now no longer am sure of what a Jedi can and cannot do.

In the EU, powers like healing and hibernation trances were well-established. Is that still “a thing?” I’ve seen the Clone Wars, Rebels, and watched all the movies many times, but I’m still struggling to come to terms with what might essentially be a redefinition of what it means to be a Jedi (for me and other EU readers, at least).

I know that it’s evolving with the new storylines, but can you tell me what Jedi powers are canon at this point in time? Thanks!


Obviously, the short version is whatever powers we’ve seen in the movies and shows and new Marvel comics. That includes mind control, telekinesis, sense aura, precognition, and choking people from a distance and shooting lightning from your fingers (Sith only) from the original trilogy. Then of course there’s improved speed and agility and jumping power from The Phantom Menace. I know Commune With Animals is also on the list, thanks to the Rebels cartoon.

However, this isn’t as clear-cut as it may seem. With Disney’s all-but-official disavowal of the prequels, I sincerely doubt we’ll be seeing any more crazy jumps or speed runs in any future film. So they’re technically canon... but they effectively don’t exist anymore. Do they count? The answer is “kinda.”


As for the specific Force powers you mention from the ol’ Expanded universe, they are gone, at least anything that is basically superhero power. Force body, total invisibility, Force healing, etc.—just like Force Speed and Force Jump, I doubt they’ll make it the new canon. The Jedi are already pretty powerful; giving them additional abilities beyond telekinesis and mind control makes the rest of the galaxy’s inhabitants less threatening by comparison.

Illustration for article titled You Can Get Upset About That Captain America Twist, You Just Shouldn’t

Defy Their World, Live in Yours

Erik H.:

Hi Mr. Postman,

With you great infinite wisdom, can you let us know if it’s worth continuing on with the Arrow-verse? I’ve watched every single episode, a cumulative seven seasons of television plus the webisodes and Vixen cartoon, and after watching the finales of the CW shows over the past two weeks I’m struggling to find a reason to continue.

Arrow season 2 was objectively high-quality television, but I am very doubtful they will ever reach those heights again. I don’t see any signs that Arrow season 5, The Flash season 3, and Legends season 2 will improve upon the poor creative choices we’ve all noticed - interminably drawn out season-long plots, continuously added new characters, an annual murder of a family member or lover, and of course the relentless darkness.

Looking at Arrow in particular, it’s approaching the point where most shows of any type start to lose their creative juices - but Arrow arguably already lost their juices after Season 2. There’s no way it can return to those heights, right?

I am a die-hard DC comics fan, but I think I’ve reached the end of the road with this universe. What say you, Mr. Postman??


Here’s what I say: Are you entertained? If so, keep watching. If not, don’t. This is my super-brilliant test for anything, really. Am I enjoying it? No? Then I stop watching.

Now, it sounds like you aren’t enjoying the shows, so—and I don’t mean to be sarcastic here—just stop watching. Much like ol’ Captain Hydra discussed above, life is way too short to spend three hours every week watching TV you dislike.


Look, if the next seasons of Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow (or any combination therein) are super-awesome, you’ll hear about it, hopefully from io9, and you can catch up on Netflix or something.

Personally, as many problems as each series has, I’m still enjoying seeing the crazy stuff from the comics The Flash manages to put on TV every week, and the pure nonsense lunacy of Legends of Tomorrow. Admittedly, Arrow’s fourth season was my least favorite, but the way all the DCW shows tie in together, I can put up with it to keep up-to-date with everything to make sure I’m set for the crossovers. Especially now that Supergirl’s heading to the CW—I’ll watch Arrow on the mere chance she stops by and makes Ollie feel like a super-powerless chump.


Your letters to “Postal Apocalypse” have been excellent, but there’s always room for more! Send your questions, concerns, arguments that need settling, pleas for advice, whatever the heck you want to!


Rob Bricken was the Editor of io9 from 2016-18, the creator of the poorly named but fan-favorite news site Topless Robot, and now writes nerd stuff for many places, because it's all he's good at.



My own reactions to the Captain America twist have been basically yours, Rob: sometimes legacy comics will do bad storylines, and this looks like one of those. I am not hurt by comics being bad.

There is, however, another layer here. That’s that a character created by two Jews in America before America started to give a shit about the Holocaust, who fought in the Holocaust and was an anti-Nazi symbol against anti-Semitism, is now being used as an anti-Semetic, Nazi character. I’m entirely sure that this won’t stick, and that the “true” Cap has been compromised by magic or mind control or cosmic secret whatever, but there are people hurt by this. These comics have had a real impact on real people. I am not impacted in that way, but that doesn’t make it my right to tell others that they shouldn’t be impacted. It does not belong to us to tell others when they have and have not been hurt.

Also, as an aside, “it’s happened before” doesn’t change this argument at all. Sure, it’s happened before. It sucked then, too. Maybe we talk about it much more now because the internet has changed the way we talk about popular culture, and the language that we use to discuss oppression and harm has expanded dramatically in the last 40 years. Also, I got a ticket yesterday for talking on my phone in the car. It was wrong, and I deserve the ticket that I got. If I get pulled over today, I don’t think the cop will be much swayed by my explanation that “no, officer, it’s fine; I got caught doing this yesterday, too.”