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A different sort of Cap
October 29, 2013 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Captain America in a turban
posted by ericbop (34 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
The next challenge was the reaction of my fellow Americans. I’ve grown accustomed to a Pavlovian response to my presence. Stares. Verbal assaults. So far, that’s as far as it’s gone, though for some turbaned and bearded Americans, a fearful reaction has had tragic physical consequences.

Spoiler: almost all of them treat him very nicely (there are 2 standard-issue jerks mentioned). So how ironic is it that a Sikh in his normal clothes gets hassled but when dressed as Captain America on Puerto Rican Day gets love?
posted by chavenet at 9:08 AM on October 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Awesome. I want a new superhero team made up of dozens of diverse Captains America uniting to defend freedom and liberty. A Sikh Captain America, a black Captain America, a woman Captain America, a disabled Captain America, a trans Captain America, etc. Call them America Company.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:15 AM on October 29, 2013 [22 favorites]


So the first big post-9/11 story arc for Captain America is a six-issue piece called "The New Deal." Pretty much the first thing that the book addresses is the need for Americans not to turn against everyone with darker skin or a turban or a different faith. The story arc has Cap fighting Islamic extremists, but it also talks about how those extremists have often been created by America in the first place.

Naturally, there were critics who sincerely complained that Cap wasn't jingoistic enough. Funny thing is, most of the best Cap stories have always been about how he's at odds with our gov't, and the tension between the American dream (the lofty stuff about freedom and equality, not the economic stuff) and reality.

I saw this article when it first came out and shared it around because this dude is straight-up awesome. As a lifelong Cap fan, I prefer Steve Rogers to stay Steve Rogers (and not, say, the jackass portrayed in the Ultimates line)... but I'm totally down with gender-bending and ethnic alterations of the image, because I think Steve would be down with it, too.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:18 AM on October 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well, there was already a story about a Black Captain America, and his grandson is still kicking around the Marvel Universe.

Also, we can count Miss America Chavez for the Hispanic Female Captain America.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:21 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


this is really awesome.
posted by sweetkid at 9:23 AM on October 29, 2013


A skinny guy could never be a REAL Captain America.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:31 AM on October 29, 2013


Sikhs are pretty badass in battle, so the Red Skull better watch his fascist ass.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:33 AM on October 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


A skinny guy could never be a REAL Captain America.

On the upside, America's got some pretty impressive junk in his trunk. I'm just more concerned about Cap needing an editor.

To wit: It was the most unlikeliest of days for me. Hundreds of strangers came up to me. [...] For me, I had gigabytes of new memories tucked into the crevices of my gray matter. Enough memory snapshots to take me on repeat journeys for a lifetime.
posted by psoas at 9:36 AM on October 29, 2013


These new takes on Captain America never resolve he problems of the character concept so much as they remind me that the whole thing is irremediably problematic at base. Even the ideas to make the character reflect the country's true diversity can't quite shake the way the concept relies on notions of exceptionalism. There've been some good Cap stories, but it's no coincidence that most of them are about Steve Rogers giving up the mask (or having it taken away) and questioning everything for awhile.

So the first big post-9/11 story arc for Captain America is a six-issue piece called "The New Deal." Pretty much the first thing that the book addresses is the need for Americans not to turn against everyone with darker skin or a turban or a different faith. The story arc has Cap fighting Islamic extremists, but it also talks about how those extremists have often been created by America in the first place.

I remember Paul O'Brien (The X-Axis/House to Astonish guy) going after the arc, not exactly from the Left but certainly not from the Right. His problem was that it portrayed terrorists as standard-issue supervillains, spouting lines like "I am terror! I am death!" and let Cap respond to the "American imperialism hurt my people" argument with something to the effect of "we didn't know our government was doing that!"
posted by kewb at 9:38 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


These new takes on Captain America never resolve he problems of the character concept so much as they remind me that the whole thing is irremediably problematic at base.

You got to remember that Captain America is a Roosevelt Democrat, who as likely as not had spent some time in the Young Communists, a Jewish [never called this, but come on] boy from Brooklyn who became the Ubermensch to kick Adolf's butt. At his best he's always been about the tension between the American Dream in all its naivity and Reality of America in all its horror.

A Sikh Captain America would fit right in with the ideal of Captain America, at its best when it's the most inclusive.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:46 AM on October 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


I just finished watching a repeat viewing of the Captain America movie (and have watched the trailer for numero dos several times since it's release), and I admit, I did a short, hesitant, "The Cap with a turban?" But immediately thought, "Well, why not?" It's a great and direct expression of what it is to be American. I love the diversity of America, and while it can often be a source of great strain, it's long been one of the secrets to our success as a nation.
posted by Atreides at 9:54 AM on October 29, 2013


Well well! - another job that white men have been excluded from. Honestly, you can't even get a Super Friends internship nowadays unless you're some kind of "minority". Well don't be surprised if this leads to more white males joining the Legion of Doom. I mean, some people say that the white man is all over that Legion of Doom shit anyway - but I say the Legion just chooses the most evil person for the job, and if there aren't many non-white or non-male senior executives of the Legion of Doom, they maybe those groups should look at THEMSELVES and ask why they aren't producing enough evil, maniacal killers. Maybe it's genetic, maybe it's cultural - I don't know, but at least we should have the debate.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:15 AM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Excellent.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:56 AM on October 29, 2013


So much of comics, and indeed American culture, is a bunch of white dudes. It is great to see additional characters from different backgrounds, but portraying an iconic character like this is so much more awesome.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:08 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


"You mean you spent countless hours working on a ridiculous costume, and wore it out in public knowing full well that the reactions could be dangerously negative, because you believed in America? Son, MODOK and the Red Skull just teamed up, so I'm gonna need someone like you in on this."
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:26 AM on October 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


There's a person in the comment thread who's saying these images are "definitely photoshopped", because of course there is.
posted by brundlefly at 11:34 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


In fairness, they do look like some kind of post-processing's been done. Dunno if the effect is a combination of the light on his costume plus the saturation or what have you.
posted by postcommunism at 11:52 AM on October 29, 2013


I noticed that, too. I think it's a result of off-camera flash being used by the photographer.
posted by Uncle Ira at 12:32 PM on October 29, 2013


These new takes on Captain America never resolve he problems of the character concept so much as they remind me that the whole thing is irremediably problematic at base.

...kind of like America?

Seriously, he's got all kinds of problems from the start, both in the original design and the ret-con stuff: He's blond and blue-eyed but supposed to represent everyone; lots of black guys died in the early trials of the serum (but Rogers himself didn't know); he's out there standing for American ideals while so much unethical bullshit comes from the people who allegedly support him; and yes, as Tony states in the Avengers film, one could argue that much of his physical prowess comes out of a bottle. (One of the few but glaring failures of his film appearances was that they don't really show how much constant intense training he goes through.)

And yet, for all that, he's a really good guy, and he goes out there and means what he says and makes that ridiculous costume work because he means it. I got to talk to Kelly Sue deConnick (writer of Captain Marvel) for a brief bit at Geek Girl Con a couple weekends ago and mentioned, among other things, that I really liked her portrayal of Rogers. She said that she really likes how sincere he is as a character, and that sincerity is a form of vulnerability.

I remember Paul O'Brien (The X-Axis/House to Astonish guy) going after the arc, not exactly from the Left but certainly not from the Right. His problem was that it portrayed terrorists as standard-issue supervillains, spouting lines like "I am terror! I am death!" and let Cap respond to the "American imperialism hurt my people" argument with something to the effect of "we didn't know our government was doing that!"


I would disagree with the standard-issue supervillains critique. One can read it that way if one wants to, but it's just as easy to read those lines with some intentional irony to them (as I did). As for Cap's "We didn't know," there are several ways to read that, too: he may be talking about specifics, or he may be speaking from a point wherein his ideals are talking and not his cynicism, because Cap shows an awful lot of cynicism there, too. The storyline is rife with shows of how the US has largely created this problem on its own.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:46 PM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


(One of the few but glaring failures of his film appearances was that they don't really show how much constant intense training he goes through.)

Dude. Punching bags.

I was watching The Avengers again last night, as you do, and it struck me what a smart editing choice they made in cutting straight to that scene - they shot a bunch of stuff with him wandering round in NY feelin' sorta blue, when really all they needed was a long shot of his ass attaching to him hitting something.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:14 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I object to this revision of Captain America. That star on his chest? Way too big.

#OGnerd
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:30 PM on October 29, 2013


In all seriousness, speaking of non-white Caps, there was a decent story arc in the original New Warriors book in which we see an alternate universe where Egypt continued to dominate the world and the modern-day Avengers have a distinct African/Middle-Eastern flavor; Storm is a member, Captain America is Captain Assyria, and Richard Rider (aka Nova) is the token minority.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:34 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sikhs and anti-immigrant Republicans should be able to find common ground. Both are armed at all times.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:34 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


In a lotus posture I meditated on the wonderful day unfolding before our eyes.

Not actually lotus position. </nitpicky>

posted by Lexica at 8:19 PM on October 29, 2013


We've had Captain Britain be a Muslim woman. Until that timeline got deleted, anyway.
posted by edd at 7:38 AM on October 30, 2013


You got to remember that Captain America is a Roosevelt Democrat,

Oh, I agree that he's been interpreted that way in the 1970s and 1980s, and that this s sometimes a compelling characterization, but he hardly fights for sweeping social programs or anything so concrete. He's Roosevelt's foreign policy more than anything else, and otherwise only left-liberal in his private life.

who as likely as not had spent some time in the Young Communists,

This is actually pretty unlikely, given what we've been shown of the character's background. Steve Rogers has always portrayed as a shy kid, the victim of bullying with a shaky physique due to malnutrition. Roy Thomas's idea that he was an introverted fan of fantasy literature like Tolkien has stuck, and he was neither a factory worker nor an educated collegian. Rather, he was an aspiring artist, not really the sort of person who'd have come into contact with the Young Communists movement,

a Jewish [never called this, but come on] boy from Brooklyn

Well, no. Kirby and Simon rather deliberately tell us *nothing* about Steve in the 1941 origin; we don't even know what part of the country he's from! The "poor kid from Brooklyn" stuff was only introduced very late in the game by Roger Stern and John Byrne, and there it was intended to replace Steve Gerber's tale of the sone of a WASP-y diplomat who took the serum to avenge his dead brother, killed by the Nazis. In that story, we get precious little about Steve except that he was a friendless introvert who retreated into the movies, his Tolkien, and the comics to escape his life of dreary toil as an orphaned delivery boy.

So really, you're mostly just inventing what you'd like to have read: Kirby and Simon were Jewish, yes, but they never gave their character any background at all. The comics have since established Steve's father as Irish-American and his mother as of vaguely Anglo-Saxon descent. Even Kirby gave him a generically WASP sort of American Colonial ancestor/pedecessor in 1976 or so. Erskine/Reinstein from the origin story is indeed Jewish, but Steve Rogers is calculated to represent the American "average."

He's not generally written and does not appear to have been deliberately conceived as Jewish for the same reasons Clark Kent is not generally read and was probably not specifically conceived of as a Jewish character, despite being created by Siegel and Shuster; he's more precisely the projection of a perceived WASP archetype. His origin is more about diverse strands of American life coming together to power up the standard WASP type. It's still about diversity, but Rogers himself contains multitudes only in the assimilationist metaphorical sense, as the embodied ideal of "the melting-pot" norm.

who became the Ubermensch to kick Adolf's butt. At his best he's always been about the tension between the American Dream in all its naivity and Reality of America in all its horror.

Right, but what's the content of "the American Dream?" The phrase almost always has to do with economic opportunity and treats civil liberties merely as the legal or social conditions for fostering a kind of virtuous Protestant work ethic and a particular middle-class status aspiration, not with an egalitarianism of outcomes. (in fact, it's actually rather Calvinist in its usual usage.)

And most of what you might attribute to the phrase otherwise is not specifically American in origin. To call basic notions of equal treatment and robust constitutional protections essentially American seems distinctly exceptionalist for a variety of what I would hope are obvious reasons.
posted by kewb at 10:40 AM on October 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll also note that J.M. DeMatteis, the next major Cap writer after Stern/Byrne established a bit of his personal background, had Cap encounter a Neo-Nazi gang defacing synagogues. Steve has to have his girlfriend Bernie Rosenthal and the local rabbi explain what the Torah is to him -- he even says "Torah?" after hearing the word like some sort of proto-Solid Snake -- and doesn't quite "get" that the theft of the Torah and the damage to the synagogue is more serious than, as he puts it, "a gang of stupid, destructive kids with time on their hands and no brains in their heads."

In that same storyline, Cap clashes with both the Neo-Nazis and a group called the "Jewish Defense League," telling the JDL's leader (Bernie's ex-husband) that "in stooping to your enemy's level -- you're being made over into his image...becoming the very thing that you loathe." The story ends with Cap delivering a "Two of a kind" verdict when the two groups start beating each other up at a Neo-Nazi rally.

So comics-Cap was conceived as generically American tot he point of having no particular city or community of origin given, and when he finally does get a bit of background he's pretty distinctly Not Jewish to the point of cultural insensitivity.
posted by kewb at 10:53 AM on October 30, 2013


only left-liberal in his private life

There was one issue of Captain America, where he was up against an evil-to-the-core elected official, and he glowers down at him, face-to-face, and says something along the lines of "I am going to take you down the best way I know how."

The next scene is Steve Rogers, out of costume, knocking on the door of a sweet old lady, canvassing for the badguy's opponent in the upcoming election...

The guy knows how to get it done, all I'm saying.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:01 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


More on Cap's origin and politics: "in issue #2 where Captain America acquires his more iconic round shield, for example, Captain America fights a pair of corporate income tax evaders who for some reason are using Tibetan golems to cover up their crimes".

Cap's been sticking it to the man for nearly as long as he's been punching Nazis.
posted by asperity at 11:09 AM on October 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


The next scene is Steve Rogers, out of costume, knocking on the door of a sweet old lady, canvassing for the badguy's opponent in the upcoming election...

Yeah, Slap*Happy, that's the issue I was thinking of. In it, Steve (written by Mark Waid) states that that Captain America can't oppose or endorse candidates or he won't represent "all Americans;" only Steve Rogers can work for a campaign.

"in issue #2 where Captain America acquires his more iconic round shield, for example, Captain America fights a pair of corporate income tax evaders who for some reason are using Tibetan golems to cover up their crimes".

The very first page of the issue has the men sending a golem to gun down a "G-Man" investigating them. Later int he story the one surviving villain, a crooked banker (timely stuff from Timely!) -- he's shot his partner because the latter objects to using their "Ageless Oriental" zombies to kill folks -- sends the creatures out to wreak havoc as part of an extortion scheme. They're not golems, but rather a "race" of giants the villain encountered while mountaineering.

That's ignoring, too, the fact that the Golden Age Red Skull was introduced as a crooked American manufacturer who sympathizes with the Nazis and sabotages American planes. I've always read it as a shot at the virulently anti-Semitic Henry Ford's open admiration and even funding of Hitler.

That said, a murdering extortionist up on tax evasion charges might also be a reference to Al Capone; and the very next story in that issue has Cap punch out some guy on a plane because Bucky says, "That guy coming towards us looks like a Fifth Columnist." But then Bucky beats up Hermann Goering and Hitler int he same panel!

1940s comics are a ca-razy mixed bag of racism and progressivism, is what I'm saying.
posted by kewb at 11:39 AM on October 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mean, Kirby also co-created crap like Whitewash Jones and the Black Talon, the latter of which introduces a sickening "savage black man"/"one-drop" notion to the old Hands of Orlac plot.
posted by kewb at 11:45 AM on October 30, 2013


So the first big post-9/11 story arc for Captain America is a six-issue piece called "The New Deal." Pretty much the first thing that the book addresses is the need for Americans not to turn against everyone with darker skin or a turban or a different faith. The story arc has Cap fighting Islamic extremists, but it also talks about how those extremists have often been created by America in the first place.

That's certainly a great arc, but I think a more important post-9/11 pro-tolerance anti-hysteria story arc for Captain America took place in Marvel: Civil War. It's pretty explicitly 9/11 metaphor - the villain Nitro set off a massive explosion that killed a lot of people, including all of the children at a nearby elementary school. Afterwards, the government put up the Patriot Act Superhuman Registration Act, where everyone with extra powers was labeled a "living weapon of mass destruction" and was forced to unmask, register, and follow federal guidelines. Captain America led the anti-registration side, fighting against the government and the pro-registration side, because he knew it was wrong. To quote the good Captain,
“Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right.

This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world -- "No, YOU move.”
It's really great allegory, and I think a lot can be gleaned from it - that it doesn't matter if everyone is marching off to be prejudiced and lose their minds - it is important to resist them. Which is, really, what Cap is all about.

Or another really great example is in What If #44 - the famous "America is trash" speech. Essentially, nefarious government agents have revived the anti-communist replacement Cap, and it's so good because the real Cap must fight back against the idea that America can do anything and still be America - and this was written for kids. As the author of that article (which is fucking awesome) notes,
All I knew was that there were two, nearly identical Caps. And though the story clearly set one up as real and one as fake, it wasn’t always easy for me to tell, from page to page, which one was which. Mostly, and most insidiously, the rhetoric that the 50s Cap spouted sounded perfectly convincing to me, at least early on. Indeed, why shouldn’t those protestors calm down? Why do people always have to be starting something, you know? It was a close approximation of the rhetoric that was thick in the air around me, a miasma of sullen and dug-heeled reactionism, a fog which carried little sound and warped all sense.
posted by corb at 7:14 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Avengers are a culture, not a costume.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:37 AM on October 31, 2013


What I learned as Captain America in a turban: When I walked around NYC in a superhero costume, I had no idea the effect it would have on strangers -- or on me
posted by homunculus at 11:13 AM on November 18, 2013


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