Yeah, you know the one. (Wednesday spoilers after the cut.)
In general, I have a lot of respect for comic book writers. I think that writing a comic is a job that involves a lot of teamwork, a lot of care, and a lot of time. It can be especially difficult if you’re writing a story about a pre-established character, and even more so if that comic you’re writing is going to be read by a lot of people who, for the most part, have certain expectations about that character.
Frequently, comic book fans are the kind of people with strong opinions. It starts young. If you’re reading comics, you’re probably the kind of person who gets really into things. That comes with the territory. So if you’re a person who writes comic books, you can expect fans to send you their opinions on the books you write. It was a thing even before social media existed; if you go back to old comics, you can see letters to the editors, and they’re really fun to read.
DC launched Rebirth, and so far the fan reaction to it hasn’t been the overwhelmingly negative pool of opinions that the New 52 inspired, which is promising. I haven’t picked any of the books up yet (saving money and waiting to see what titles look like they’re going to be consistent), but what other people have told me has generally been positive. DC has a history of letting people down, especially when these do these new relaunches or rebranding (they got a new logo, too)–but nobody seems furious. Fans are asking where some characters they love are (where’s Superboy, DC? Will you ever give me my son back?), and there are some weird things happening, but so far I haven’t heard anyone wanting to destroy DC Comics. The biggest complaints are still ones against Dan DiDio, which is totally warranted.
Marvel, on the other hand?
That’s really the only word for it.
Captain America was created by Jewish men to fight Nazis at a point in American history where the majority of American citizens still were ambivalent towards going to war with Germany.
As much as Marvel really doesn’t want to call Hydra a Nazi organization (maybe it would reduce marketing possibilities, since people might be less willing to openly identify with actual Nazis rather than with sci-fi Nazis), it’s really difficult to separate the two. Hydra, according to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at least, is even worse than Hitler. There are direct parallels that are made here. Media will never exist in a bubble, and that especially applies to Captain America, who is an inherently political character. It’s in his name.
So Nick Spencer and the current Marvel team have made Captain America a member of Hydra: he’s always been one, apparently, and understandably, fans are having absolutely none of this.
There are a lot of real-world problems involving antisemitism happening right now. Europe is a mess, and Austria just narrowly avoided having a literal fascist voted into power. There has been a migration away from Europe by a lot of Jewish people who were living there because the violence against them. This is a serious problem, and it should upset people and frighten them because these are real people who have to worry about threats to their life and livelihood. In the states, synagogues are frequently being vandalized, and one of the main symbols that are used in those instances of vandalism are the swastika. We are not so far away from Nazis as we might hope; in fact, it is still something that people are living with.
But you’ve got Captain America, who is (or at least, was) a symbol for all that America could be, if it strove far enough. Captain America, throughout the majority of the comics he’s been in, has been a character who represents the ideal. Nick Spencer, in writing “Captain America: Steve Rogers” and affiliating Cap with Hydra, is ignoring not only the purpose behind Captain America in the first place, but is actively associating him with an organization that is a fictional stand-in for Nazis.
Marvel’s acting as though this was planned for a while (since at least 2014, I think was what someone was saying), but if that’s the case, wouldn’t the thought have at least occurred to them at some point that this is a bad idea? Nick Spencer retweeted someone who was joking about fans relatively lukewarm reception to Rebirth versus how furious fans have been in response to Cap as a member of Hydra.
From a narrative point of view, it doesn’t really make sense anyway. It’s inconsistent with how the character has been written for 75 years. It’s also possibly a bad thing for Marvel market-wise, since Memorial Day and the 4th of July are coming up, and when else would you want to buy Captain America merchandise? They say it isn’t a gimmick, but come off it; you want to do something new and cool with a character, but you don’t have to disrespect the inherent nature of the character in order to do that. You don’t have to make them into a Nazi–sorry, I mean Hydra agent–to do it. There are people who are already getting into comics in a new way thanks to the movies. You don’t need to pull a play like this to convince people that Captain America is interesting. It’s ugly.