Eulogizing the Death of a Legend
Cap's journey into becoming a comic icon began in the 1940s, as an architect who wanted to serve his country against the evil of the world at the time, Adolf Hitler. In fact, several of Cap's early issues took a lighthearted approach to what Cap was and how he attacked several German encampments. Alas, as the war neared its end, so did the necessity of Cap. On his last mission, along with his sidekick Bucky Barnes, Steve watched as his friend was slain and then, through an intense sense of patriotism, made the ultimate sacrifice to prevent the Red Skull from firing a devastating missile at America. After that, Cap was forgotten until the 1960's.
During his hiatus, Marvel went through a restructuring and gave birth to noteworthy characters such as Spider-man, The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, and the Avengers. It would be the Avengers that brought Captain America back to spotlight of the comic industry. Found in a block of ice, Steve Rogers returned a man misplaced in time, but this did not stop the compelling stories of his never-ending quest to preserve the freedom he fought so diligently to protect.
Over 40 years of serving this dream, we have watched the character grow from the playful soldier of the World War II era, to the hardcore defender of freedom he is. This point was driven home with the mini-series Civil War. After a devastating accident with countless casualties, the American government passed a law demanding superheroes reveal their identities to the government and become licensed agents of the government. It was never a point in Steve's mind that registration should not be done, nor was it that superheroes should not be held accountable for the destruction caused. Quite the contrary, in the title Young Avengers, Steve was vehemently opposed to kids in the book becoming heroes without training. The right of freedom of choice was being stripped before his eyes and he knew that it would only be a matter of time before the government was telling them who the bad guys were and were not. He believed in the opposition of the bill so much that he took a stand, with a small group of others, thus resulting in the heroes of the Marvel Universe fighting against one another.
The war was long and took its toll on Steve as he grew engulfed in the war itself. Some would say that he lost sight of what he was fighting for and, through this loss of vision, caused him to throw down his shield and surrender. Even in the end, he refused to allow the mantle of Captain America to be disgraced and turned himself in as Steve Rogers, not Captain America. And the war was over as quickly as it started. Steve Rogers would be tried for treason and, if found guilty, would be executed. At least that is what was supposed to happen.
In Captain America #25, Steve is on his way, from his cell that he had resided in for weeks, to court. The issue opens with a recollection of his role in the events of World War II, and the issue delves deeper into the relationships Steve has had over the past years with his supporting cast. In fact, his supporting cast is in the crowd ready to execute a plan derived from Nick Fury, former commander of S.H.I.E.L.D., to set Steve Rogers free. The next thing to happen is what has set the comic community on its ear. A sniper, later revealed as Crossbones, a thug of the Red Skull, aims at one of the guards escorting Steve. Cap knocks the guard out of the way thus being shot three times and falling to the ground. The horror is relayed perfectly as he falls reminiscent to the American Flag.
The main message of the Marvel Universe has always been that no matter how bad things get, people will always believe in Captain America. Now, with the legend fallen, how will the Marvel Universe deal with their one hero they all could depend on, gone? Marvel has revealed that the events of Captain America #25 will be felt further in coming issues. This Wednesday, Civil War: Confessions will deal directly with the aftermath of #25. It has been revealed that the issue will deal with different heroes coming to terms with, not only Steve Rogers' death, but the end of the war as well. Most notably, Iron Man, also known as Tony Stark, whom, as far as some fans are concerned, has a long way to go before obtaining the title of hero again, will be spotlighted in the issue.
Equally important repercussions of Cap's death will be dealt with in a limited series of one shots called Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America. Each issue will deal with the five stages of grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Each issue will highlight one character or group of characters from the Marvel Universe. Denial will focus on Wolverine, Anger on the New Avengers, Bargaining on Captain America, Depression on Spider-man, and Acceptance will be Iron Man. So be sure to check these out for the full story of the fallen icon and see how this vital character and his death will shape the futures of so many heroes.
Captain American died in a way that was handled so beautifully, that the tension and anger fans felt over the end of Civil War could be forgiven. Everyone held their tongues for a moment of silence for the memorable hero. A legend has fallen defending freedom and now is the time for healing.
Rest in peace Steve Rogers, you have earned it.
Aftermath: What the Death of Captain America Really Means
Comic book fans are mourning the death of the Marvel Comics' icon, who was gunned down by an assassin in "Captain America Vol. 5, No. 25." The "Sentinel of Liberty" was perhaps at his lowest point -- he had become an outlaw while fighting and ultimately losing a war against his fellow superheroes to protect the civil liberties of all Americans. At the time of his death, he was facing a life sentence in prison.
Bullets took the life of the Sentinel of Liberty, but he was really a victim -- and product -- of the times.
"Heroes are often a reflection of the times. When Spider-Man came along in the 1960s, there were a lot of kids entering college who had a hard time finding their identities, what cause to get involved in," said M. Thomas Inge, author of "Anything Can Happen in a Comic Strip: Centennial Reflections on an American Art Form."
"There were a lot of internal problems in this country, with the civil rights movement going on. A lot of kids continued reading comics after entering college, which is unusual since most teens stop at that time," Inge said.
Parallels to the Post-Sept. 11 World, Iraq
Cap's demise followed the climax in Marvel's "Civil War" storyline, in which a newly passed law requiring all heroes to register their secret identities with the government divided the superhero community.
The law, the "Superhero Registration Act," was passed after an encounter between a reckless teen supergroup and a villain called Nitro led to the deaths of hundreds, mostly children, in Stamford, Conn.
Captain America thought the act violated basic civil liberties and led a group of crime fighters who went rogue after refusing to register.
His former friend, ambitious billionaire Tony Stark -- aka Iron Man -- championed the law and considered it a natural evolution of superheroes' role in society. He secretly orchestrated a campaign that created circumstances to scare and mislead the public and government officials into supporting the act and all the programs that it entailed.
Does this sound vaguely familiar? Politically-motivated opportunists preying on the fears of a nation? A conflict based in part on questionable intelligence, arguably lies?
You're not crazy if you think Captain America's struggle parallels the debates over the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, the Bush domestic surveillance program and other controversial programs in the post-Sept. 11 world.
The civil war among the heroes ended when a distraught Captain America, overwhelmed by the carnage around him, took off his mask and surrendered to authorities as his alter ego, Steve Rogers. Some readers may have been shocked to see Cap give up and imprisoned but they didn't expect him to get killed off.
"I'm definitely pissed off," said Ken Feliu, a 34-year-old commercial production director and lifelong comic book reader. "I mean, why did they have to kill him off?"
"He's supposed to represent all our ideals, everything we're supposed to aspire to and they couldn't leave him intact?" Feliu said. "And the way he died -- with two bullets to the chest by a sniper? Come on!"
"All the heroes today have to have an edge, have to be gritty," he continued. "No one has enough creativity where they can't leave a hero who actually stands for something well enough alone."
United He Stands, Divided He Falls
Captain America was born during a simpler time when the United States was much more united against a common enemy. World War II and the battle against the Nazis provided the backdrop when he debuted in Marvel Comics in 1941. The cover of the first issue of Captain America shows the superhero punching Adolf Hitler in the face.
Both Superman and Captain America represented patriotism and in some ways, American wholesomeness, omnipotence, idealism and innocence. Besides battling the Red Skull and a slew of other supervillains, Cap battled the Nazis.
However, against the background of the civil rights movement, assassinations, and the Vietnam War, heroes -- along with the rest of the nation -- lost their innocence in the 1960s.
Marvel Comics' creator Stan Lee introduced characters such as The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and The Incredible Hulk, all of whom had very human problems and weaknesses. Spider-Man worried about paying the rent while The Fantastic Four's Invisible Girl worried about her marriage to a workaholic. The X-Men, who debuted in 1963, were foils for the civil rights movement. The driving conflict in the X-Men -- classified as mutants -- was that their powers were also their curse.
Rebirth in Death
Still, nothing, especially death, is final in the world of comic books. DC Comics resurrected Superman in 1994, one year after he was killed. Captain America will live on as Marvel writers explore the fallout of his death and reveal more about his alter-ego, Steve Rogers.
"Killing Captain America was really a more compelling story for our readers," said Dan Buckley, publisher at Marvel Entertainment. "It was more interesting than to see Cap in jail, reflecting. Besides exploring the question of who killed Captain America, we will be focusing on who was Steve Rogers the character, since not much really known about him.
"We know about Captain America, the hero, the icon, but we don't know much about Steve. We will be exploring what Steve Rogers meant to those close to him and on a macro level, what Captain America's death means to the Marvel Universe. We'll be exploring what Captain America the icon means and whether the legacy should be carried on," Buckley said.
Buckley also said there are no plans to resurrect Captain America -- for the time being.
"Steve Rogers is dead," he said. "As [Marvel Entertainment editor in chief] Joe [Quesada] says, 'A death should mean something. A resurrection should mean something.'"
And whether he was battling Hitler and the Nazis or fighting a losing battle for civil liberties, Captain America meant something. Captain America is dead, true believers ... long live Captain America!