Marvel Turns Captain America into a Traitor During Vietnam War

Polygon is gushing over a new Spider-Man miniseries where Cap makes an appearance, in a tale that looks like it makes the US out to be the bad guy, and Cap is seemingly going against the good guys:

 

 

There may be a panoply of Spider-Man comics on the shelves these days, but Spider-Man: Life Story #1 stands apart. It’s a re-examination of Peter Parker’s earliest days as a web-slinger, chronicled in real time. With issue #1 focusing on the 1960s — the era in which the first Spider-Man comic was published — Life Story is taking a decade-by-decade approach to Peter’s life and times, mixing the real-life history that informed his published adventures with those very same adventures.

 

 

There are, unfortunately, too many bad Spidey comics on the shelves these days, and it’s leading nowhere. The Inferior Dr. Octopus was a definite nadir. Based on how this latest item is written, it’ll fit down there quite nicely alongside it. And mixing real life with fiction is nothing novel either.

 

 

So it’s no surprise that Spider-Man: Life Story #1 is a Spider-Man story — except for when it isn’t. Sure, it’s definitely about Peter in the ’60s, not long after he was bitten by everyone’s favorite radioactive spider, but it’s also a look into just what some of Marvel’s other A-Listers were doing at the time. By revising Marvel Comics history with a modern eye and blending it with Marvel Universe history, Life Story #1 does what the real comics of the ’60s didn’t, couldn’t.

 

Oh really, what couldn’t they do? They couldn’t set their stories during WW2, as Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos did? Or Vietnam, as Spidey did when Flash Thompson was drafted, and Iron Man’s early premise was built on that too? Or even behind the Iron Curtain, as at least a few Marvel protagonists like Ant-Man, IM and the Hulk were written into? I don’t follow their logic here.

But what comes next explains exactly why it was better if they didn’t:

 

 

Captain America comics have never really addressed the Vietnam War, despite existing contemporaneously. The newly returned Captain America series of the 1960s spent most of its time trying to sort out Steve Rogers’ newly formed identity, and Steve’s stories have not had the chance retrospectively address the Vietnam War thanks to the slip-and-slide Marvel’s timeline.

But Spider-Man: Life Story #1, isn’t just playing on our retrospective understanding of America’s role in the Vietnam War, it’s playing on our modern understanding of Captain America. In 2019, Steve has a very clear place in the world. And that place is standing up against bullies, no matter where they’re from.

 

 

Well gee, I don’t think Daredevil ever officially addressed the Vietnam war either, but neither did they make communists out to be the good guys in every sense. Let’s also remember Black Widow was a defect and dissident from the original Soviet Union. And why does this dreadful site think Steve’s place in 2019 is any more clearer than any other era? They naturally forget that just a few years ago, Axel Alonso approved one of the most notorious tales of all – Steve Rogers as Nazi/Hydra agent. Under that premise, Cap’s place definitely wasn’t clear at all. And he didn’t just spend time sorting out his identity after being unfrozen and readjusting to the modern world. He continued fighting various villains of both the sci-fi and and organized syndicate variety, and even fell in love with Agent 13 (Sharon Carter) from SHIELD, whose boss, former WW2 commander Nick Fury, was now a top director for.

 

Let’s also note that during the Golden Age, there were plenty of comics that, even as they brought up WW2, the superheroes were kept on the sidelines of the war, because when you’re dealing with beings wielding titanic power, they could end much of the war in a short time, unlike the allied militaries in real life, and to put sci-fi superheroes into a real life war risks insulting the soldiers working very hard to defeat the Nazis and Soviets, and have no fantasy-based powers to help them. So why is it such a big deal to put Cap, or any costumed heroes, into these real life settings when it can run the gauntlet of being farfetched and making a mockery of reality? Answer: because for the social justice propagandists, this is all meaningless; their partisan politics matter far more.

 

 

And what is our exact understanding of the role in Vietnam? That it was all a waste of time because the enemy was communist rather than National Socialist? Honestly, I’m just not sure I understand what they mean by “modern” when it’s all in the eye of the beholder in the end. They go on to discuss Cap’s allegedly never addressing ‘Nam, and say:

 

 

In real time, Steve was unfrozen in a 1964 comic — but in Marvel time, that doesn’t work anymore. The characters of the Marvel universe rarely age, and as stories compound on one another, the history that they’ve experienced gets more and more vague. In order to keep Steve as “modern” as possible, the dates in which he was unfrozen and the Avengers were formed keep wiggling around, meaning the Steve Rogers in comics today did not wake to see the ’60s.

 

 

Wow, cryogenic freezing literally doesn’t work anymore? I guess the big irony here is that they must not like Mark Millar’s Ultimates, even though it was made to appeal to the leftist who thinks cheap sensationalism is a great idea to boot. In that book, IIRC, the frozen-in-ice premise was still employed, only more around the turn of the century this time. But if it so matters, why don’t they complain the premise of Nick Fury taking some kind of drug to keep him ageless and living as long or longer than Wolverine might not work anymore either? One could argue this is the perfect time to lean more towards what was a workable premise in some sci-fi tales, with cryogenic freezing keeping people in suspended animation for an epoch until they could be thawed without concern over illnesses that led to it in the first place. I remember an episode from Star Trek: TNG featuring cryogenics, and even Sylvester Stallone’s Demolition Man from 1993 made use of the idea. Why not try it in comics too? Who knows, even Magneto might work well under that premise, seeing as his own background as a WW2 Holocaust survivor could be considered aging along with everything else.

 

 

But what about Steve’s actual ’60s stories?

That’s where things get even weirder. The Steve Rogers of the 1960s wasn’t just unfrozen in fiction, but revived in reality. When he re-debuted in 1964’s The Avengers #4, a Captain America comic hadn’t been in regular publication since 1949.

He was a character born out of war who was resurfacing into an era defined by a totally different war, and the creatives behind him were still figuring out who the character would be for a new generation. Steve’s actual published stories during the Vietnam era didn’t really touch Vietnam at all. There were glimpses — Steve interacted with the occasional countercultural activist, vaguely weighed in on military responsibility, and so on — but no one seemed to think Captain America should serve any more than he already had.

 

 

If memory serves, there were a handful of Cap stories in the early 50s where he actually fought commies, though for some reason at that time, they didn’t work out, were written off as non-canon, and it would only be in the 60s that Cap would finally brought back into continuity successfully, and even battle commie-style villains too, including the Crimson Dynamo. And while there were a handful of comics at the time that did allude to ‘Nam, much like with WW2, they refrained from serious involvement for the same reasons, because again, superpowered beings could end a war much faster than real life mortals.

Just think of what Thor could do with the weather spells in his magic Uru hammer against the Viet Cong! That’s why even a guy like Cap, though his powers and skills are far from as elaborate as Thor’s, would otherwise not work out well in a Vietnam setting, unless maybe it were confined to the sidelines as before.

 

 

By and large, Steve’s stories in the ’60s and ’70s revolved around his adventures on the homefront, with plenty of extreme metaphor mixed with camp-infused slice-of-life drama. This doesn’t mean that Steve’s stories in the ’60s and ’70s were completely sanitized of real world politics. Events like the original Secret Empire tackled metaphorical Watergate-level scandals and pressed questions about the morality of American government, even if Cap himself was never questioned about whether or not he’d go overseas.

 

 

And why is this so important he take part in a real life war? The same people who’d claim certain ideas today like combating Islamic terrorism are outdated have no problem if the story at hand serves their agenda. Indeed, how fascinating they think it’s such a big deal Cap be plunked into the middle of ‘Nam proper, but not that he should combat Islamic terrorism anywhere.

 

 

Keep in mind that at this point Cap not only had a secret identity to maintain, but also had no real defined origin story or history — comics were still trying to sort out just who Steve Rogers even was, what his powers were, and where he fit into the Marvel Universe at large.

Perhaps even more importantly, the era of the “super soldier” had shifted dramatically by the time Steve was put back into print. Captain America did the job for World War II comics, but for the Vietnam era, Marvel created new soldier-heroes like Frank Castle (the Punisher), representing a more “extreme,” guns-a-blazing, hard-boiled (and costly) patriotism that reflected the national mood. Frank was as much a Captain America in the Vietnam era as Steve was for WWII — and a metaphorical fish hook on which any of Steve’s timely Vietnam-based stories would have snagged.

 

 

Oh, please. I thought Steve did have an origin of some sort set up, where he was a patriotic-minded New York native who took up the serum project the US government was working in the Golden Age MCU origins, and soon found a sidekick in Bucky, though Stan Lee, who disliked the concept of teen sidekicks proper, did away with that when he and Jack Kirby brought Cap back in the Silver Age. As for Frank Castle, by the time his Vietnam origins were more fully explored in the mid-80s, Vietnam had become something of an afterthought. I do think the MCU did go a bit far with using real life settings like those, as it complicated use of characters introduced during those periods, like Sha-Shan, the girl who almost married Flash Thompson after they’d met during ‘Nam, and she was phased out in the late 80s.

IMO, this could all be modified by retconning the real life settings later on so that the characters could’ve been connected to fictional wars and stuff like that. Yet, as this new miniseries demonstrates, Marvel’s still making themselves look ridiculous under the stewardship of C.B. Cebulski, wasting tons of resources for the sake of stories that are little more than far-left political statements. And at the end of the slimy article: Steve, meanwhile, has gone “traitor.” His place in the war is revealed to be not as a jingoistic WW2-redux representation of America’s fighting men, but as a protector of Vietnamese civilians caught in the conflict. This particular take would have never flown in 1964 — but it’s the perfect statement of purpose and growth for Captain America in 2019.

 

And this confirms the very disturbing premise the story’s built upon, which the panel on the side hints at: it goes by a narrative that Walter Cronkite may have been a leading advocate of, that US soldiers made no distinctions between enemy soldier and innocent civilian during the war. I take issue with the notion that premise wouldn’t have flown in the 60s; it most certainly would with the anti-war, pro-communist leftist crowd that rode around in Volkswagens. Additionally disturbing is how Iron Man is made to look bad here, as Tony Stark is depicted as the weapons supplier for the US army, which Cap takes issue with.

 

And that’s why, this new Spidey miniseries is just more waste of resources for the sake of churning out propaganda to appeal to a far-left crowd that probably won’t even buy the books, seeing how specialty stores continue to close down as nobody cares about the products they’re selling anymore. On which note, whatever happened to the retailers who slammed Axel Alonso 2 years ago at a business summit for foisting all that garbage that cost them customers? If they’re not protesting now, that’s pretty strange indeed, since this current product is little more than an outgrowth of the same politics that led to the downfall of the specialty store in the first place.

 

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Originally published here
Follow Avi Green on Twitter @AviGreen1

Avi Green

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1