For those of you who don’t know: I organise a community reading group called Cornwall Graphic Novel Group. We try to meet-up once a month to discuss a particular comic book series, graphic novel, character, writer or artist. April saw us discussing Marvel’s Captain America, including his origins, the evolution of the character and what he’s like today. We also looked at the character as he’s been portrayed in Marvel’s recent films and that disastrous film from the 1990s.
Where’s the depth?
The main issue everyone found with the character during our meeting was that Steve Rogers/Captain America, to this day, doesn’t have much depth to him. We understood that the character as he was during the 1940s wouldn’t have much call to be more than a figure for American patriotism that could be seen kicking the ass of Nazis, but even today’s Cap doesn’t have a lot going on for him.
He’s so obsessed with serving his country a lot of the time, you start to wonder whether there’s much else in his life. Sure, in today’s continuity he’s a man from another time (which gets played up in the films a lot), and has issues readjusting to that, but even Iron Man gets shown doing things that aren’t always about smacking enemies down. It’s not like Steve Rogers is an unthinking character and perhaps the most depth he was allowed was during the Civil War story arc and the stance the character takes, but too often he’s like some kind of hound that S.H.I.E.L.D. just aims at a problem and lets loose.
His relationships outside of serving his country are few and far between and romances for him rarely last. You could say this is normal for a soldier, but even soldiers in the 1940s were slightly pre-occupied with finding girlfriends and wives. And beyond working out with punching bags, we rarely see Steve having any kind of downtime. But there was one other character who was found to be even more lacking…
The Red Skull
I won’t recite what I did for several minutes at our meeting, but basically I ended up detailing the Red Skull’s main MO. And it’s very repetitive. Despite being the most popularised of Cap’s antagonists, Skull’s cycle of wanting to something a bit doomsday-esque to wanting to kill Captain America are so predictable and common, we weren’t entirely sure if he still works as a villain today.
Perhaps the only good thing is the direction Marvel have taken the Red Skull’s legacy in the recent films and during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Where the Skull is a bit of a one trick pony, at least HYDRA seem to have a bit more going for them when they’re not under the thumb of the Red Skull.
Films or comics Cap?
While there was perhaps a nostalgic fondness for golden era Captain America at the meet, I made the case for the Steve Rogers/Captain America of The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier films to be the more fleshed out character. The films take more chances in fleshing the character out and giving him a real opportunity to be shown that he isn’t always off to fight something or someone.
Still, it’s definitely worth reading comic arcs like The Death of Captain America if you get the chance. It did really give a nice angle to the Civil War storyline.
We are planning to hold the next meeting of the group on 31 May. Keep an eye on Cornwall Graphic Novel Group’s website for more details, but I promise you this: it’s going to be about the X-Men generally and Days of Future Pasti