Travis Hedge Coke
So, io9, in its continuing sad bid for the most pathetic, trembling, threatened-by-life faction of comics fandom, started a new article about a currently serializing Captain America storyline, thusly: “So writer Nick Spencer had a bad idea for Captain America. And Marvel had the worse idea of letting it happen. But, as is often the case, the fans took the shitty lemons they had been handed and made lemonade.” And, then they publish “the best” overreacting panic tweets, and close with, “Cap now gets to join the bad characterization wasteland.”
Based on one line in a storyline that’s just starting and obviously a something has gone wrong hook.
But, this isn’t just about Cap seeming to have been secretly a long-time Hydra agent, it’s not just io9, and it’s not just this storyline. This is what this sort of fan, what too many “fans” do. We overreact. We panic. OMG, something blatantly and obviously wrong is happening, and we’re going to take it personal and assume writers we previously trusted and enjoyed suddenly don’t know what they’re doing instead of there being a plan.
No, obviously, when Stan Lee had Beast turn X-Men villain, when Grant Morrison teased the possibility that Alfred was evil or had a villain claim to be Batman’s dad, when Black Panther was solicited with a red, white, and blue costume as American Panther, when Cap was killed, the next time Cap was killed, the next next time, when Batman was replaced by an armored psycho, there’s no plan. They just done goofed. Obviously.
No one writing or publishing a serial comic featuring characters worth millions of dollars ever have a plan other than to burn everything to the ground, destroy the characters, ruin the comics, and lose all the fans.
Or… every time Captain America has died, or “died,” he’s come back. Every time a major character is replaced by a satire of recent trends in a sillier costume, the replacement is always terrible and the original comes back looking better, fighting harder, feeling purer. Only a moron would watch the first ten minutes of a movie and decide that’s the whole movie, the problems faced by characters will never get better, the situation isn’t a lead into a story but a permanent horrible status quo. And, that’s what part one of a serialized story is, it’s ten minutes of a movie, a chapter of a novel.
And, I can say that confidently, because I’ve been there. American Panther pissed me off. I wouldn’t even read it when it came out, because, hell no does the Black Panther turn his back on his culture and nation to be all American Flag Boy. Of course, it wasn’t him, it was a satirically-costumed replacement, a white supremacist drumming up hatred, but I overreacted and fumed for a few days, then forgot about it for about a year, before I finally read the comic, and oh, it wasn’t that bad.
Even at twelve, though, I was never convinced Batman being replaced by a zealous psycho in asymmetrical gold and blue (then gold and red) armor and big claws, killing people was going to be a permanent change. That would just be dumb. Looking back, I can see that there were plenty of adults at the time who really did buy into it. They freaked right out.
Captain America dying at the end of Mark Gruenwald’s run, when I was a kid, was followed by a resurrection one issue later, but I remember grown men at my local comics shop insisting they were quitting comics if Cap was “really dead.” When Ed Brubaker staged the fake death of Cap in his run, I saw complete repeats. When Batman appeared to have been murdered halfway through Final Crisis, even though we absolutely and clearly saw Batman at the end, trapped in ancient times, you still have people, today, talk about how Batman was killed in Final Crisis. (While, the actual clinically-dead deaths of Batman that happen on either side of Final Crisis don’t get mentioned at all, because we’re not responding to the stories with these panics, we’re responding to hype and how pissed off the rest of the fan-world are getting.)
Batman: RIP split the difference for me. I was in my late twenties. I knew enough to be sure DC wouldn’t burn all the bat-mythos, but each successive issue would tease us about who else the villain could really be. Was it Alfred Pennyworth? Did the butler do it? Is the villain actually Bruce Wayne’s dad? Is Daddy Waynebucks evil!?! Is! It! The! Devil!?!!?!?! Is it actually the writer, himself, transposed into the comic book world of Batman? I knew it wouldn’t be permanent, whatever it was, there would be an excuse, an out, but I was along for the ride, because it was nuts. The ideas of these horrible revelations were better than actually doing them ever could be.
Get excited. Get mad, even. But, don’t freak out. Stop embarrassing our entire community with this. If you’re nine years old, okeh. If you’re a grown adult with a bank account, stop embarrassing your community. You know Captain America hasn’t been a Hydra agent since before World War 2. You know this is ridiculous. That’s why your heart rages against it. And, that’s why it’s the hook at the start of a story, not the final word at the end.
Stories start with something that needs fixing. Something wrong or missing. That gets fixed. That’s how stories work. If you’ve made it to the point where you can find and read this article, but you can’t work that out clearly enough to not tweet out a bunch of panic, you need to sort yourself out. Because you are dragging us down.