Why Was Captain America Revealed To Be A Hydra Sleeper Agent?
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Politics and Activism

Why Was Captain America Revealed To Be A Hydra Sleeper Agent?

The new series relies on a cheap twist rather than good character development.

Why Was Captain America Revealed To Be A Hydra Sleeper Agent?

Depending on how closely you follow the goings on of Marvel comics, you may have heard about the controversy over "Captain America: Steve Rogers #1." Steve Rogers, who, up until recently, had lost his powers in the comics, had been revitalized! And now, he’s got his own series! The first issue was released on Wednesday (aka New Comic Book Day), and it has garnered some mixed reactions. According to the issue, Steve Rogers has been a secret Hydra sleeper agent this entire time.

If you’re confused, don’t worry. Most people are. This development came completely out of left field.

First, a little history on Captain America. Cap made his first appearance on March 1, 1941, splashed across the iconic cover depicting him punching Adolf Hitler in the face. Some of you history buffs may be aware that the U.S. wasn’t even involved in World War II at this point (that will come about eight months later). Pearl Harbor hadn’t been bombed. Many U.S. citizens were staunchly isolationist; some were in support of Germany. My point is that support for this character was not a given — he was a clear political statement in a divisive time. Steve Rogers was created as anti-Nazi propaganda. It’s also worth mentioning that, like the majority of comic book writers and artists in the Golden Age, his creators, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, were Jewish. You can understand why they would want to create this sort of character.

And then there’s Hydra — Marvel’s mystical Nazi terrorist organization. The organization we’re expected to believe Captain America has been working for this entire time. As you would expect, some people have a big problem with this premise. I’ve got three.

The first of which is that this story is just implausible. Look, I’ve read enough comics to know that bizarre stuff happens all the time. While comic book movies have been commercialized for a mainstream audience, comic books remain weird. Characters travel through space and time like you and I go to the grocery store. There’s an evil alternate dimension Daredevil. In my favorite series, the first villain our hero fights is a giant talking cockatoo that was spliced with Thomas Edison’s DNA (I’m not kidding. He’s called The Inventor). In comics, you can get away with that stuff, and no one bats an eye. But in no form of storytelling can you get away with tossing 70 years of characterization out the window. The creators have made it clear that this character is not an alternative universe or clone Captain America. He’s the same Steve Rogers since the beginning. That premise doesn’t make sense, even by comic book standards. And that’s saying something.

Secondly, saying Captain America has been a secret terrorist since the beginning is completely contrary to the spirit of the character. It disregards the vision of every other writer who has written him, particularly his creators. I can’t talk to ghosts, but I think it’s safe to assume that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby did not intend for their symbol of freedom and justice to become the embodiment of hate and evil he was created to combat. We refer to this revision of fictional history as "retcon," and it happens all the time in comics. However, it’s usually used for minor changes, like how a character got his or her powers or how two characters first met. Now, we’ve retconned the entire history and personality of a character. We’ve disregarded over 70 years of storytelling to impose our vision. We’ve ignored the fact that this character stands for certain ideals, and that he means something to his fans. Making this anti-fascist symbol a secret Nazi is insensitive, to say the least.

My final problem is that this sort of writing is basically click bait. I would bet a large sum of money that Steve Rogers is not going to stay an evil Nazi secret agent. Because if Marvel doesn’t undo this development, they’re going to have to stop selling a lot Captain America merchandise, lest they are seen as promoting fascism. I’m no expert, but that sounds like a serious loss of revenue. So I know that by the end of the series, things will go back to normal. Cap was brainwashed a la the Winter Soldier, or he had false memories implanted by some magical means or any other number of explanations. Ultimately, he will emerge intact. And, because comic books are weird, readers will accept this plot completely. This twist is not genuine character development, but a lazy way to increase readership. It was written for shock value, to get readers intrigued and coming back for more. There’s nothing wrong with wanting readers hooked on a series, but that interest should come from compelling storytelling, not a cheap cliffhanger that makes a few splashy headlines.

Writer Nick Spencer's recent tweets suggest that he believes the strong reaction from fans is a sign of the success of his work. I disagree. Yes, good storytelling evokes emotion, but so does a sucker punch. There's the emotion that comes from following the highs and lows of a moving plot, and then there's the outrage and confusion that comes from a writer doing an enormous disservice to a beloved character. It's not hard to tell which category "Captain America: Steve Rogers" falls into.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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