Captain America: First Vengeance #2 (2011)
written by Fred Van Lente
art by Luke Ross & Richard Isanove
I have no personal animus whatsoever against any of the people involved in making this comic, but as someone who has thought WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too much about Captain America, this is a very particular pet peeve of mine.
It’s the date. Discreetly tucked away in the upper left, saying “December 24th, 1941.” While it being Christmas Eve is a bit schmaltzy even for a character who is done best with a good helping of schmaltz – looking at you, Joe Johnston you genius you – it’s the 1941 that bugs me.
Because Steve Rogers did not join the U.S military because of Pearl Harbor.
One of the reasons we know this is that Pearl Harbor hadn’t happened when Captain America #1 came out in March of 1941 with a big picture of Cap punching Hitler on the jaw on the cover. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon had come up with Captain America to argue that America needed to get into the fight against fascism, which they saw as a threat at home and abroad.
So then why did Steve Rogers join the military, if the United States hadn’t been attacked and his country was at peace? Because Steve Rogers was a “premature anti-fascist.”
And this is what sets him apart from the deluge of patriotic superheroes from the 1940s like American Eagle, Captain Battle, Captain Comamndo, Captain Courageous, Captain Flag, Captain Freedom – no, comics have never had a problem with plagiarism, why do you ask? – the Fighting American, the Fighting Yank, and on and on. Steve Rogers had a very specific political point-of-view, one that only could have come from New York City in the 1930s, and it went way beyond a sanitized patriotism.
The specificity of Captain America’s politics is something that Marvel haven’t always been willing to talk about in recent years, but it’s what makes him genuinely interesting.
So please, can we have a moratorium on post-Pearl Harbor origin stories? They miss the point completely.