Captain America vs. Tea Party
Earlier this week, Warner Todd Huston called attention to a sequence in the current issue of Captain America in which the title hero and his on-again, off-again sidekick, The Falcon, lament the racist yahoos of the Tea Party movement. Here’s the strip in question:
In issue number 602 of Captain America, a new story line has begun called “Two Americas.” In it the current Captain (there have been a few of them, apparently) is on the trail of a faux Captain America that is mentally deranged and getting chummy with some white supremacist, anti-government, survivalists types going by the name of “the Watchdogs.” While investigating this subversive group, Captain America and his partner The Falcon — a black super hero — have decided to try and infiltrate the secretive organization.
In preparation for the infiltration, Marvel Comics depicts the two super heroes out of costume and observing from a rooftop a street filled with what can only be described as a Tea Party protest. The scene shows crowds of people in city streets carrying signs that say, “stop the socialists,” “tea bag libs before they tea bag you,” and “no to new taxes.” Naturally, the people in these crowds are depicted as being filled with nothing but white folks.
The black character asks the out of costume Captain, “What the hell is this?” And follows that with, “looks like some kind of anti-tax protest.” The Falcon character then snidely tells his partner the Captain, “So I guess this whole ‘hate the government’ vibe around here isn’t limited to the Watchdogs.”
The two then discuss their plan to infiltrate the subversive group that Marvel comics seems to be linking to the Tea Party movement. This discussion culminates in The Falcon wondering how a black man would do such a thing. “I don’t exactly see a black man from Harlem fitting in with a bunch of angry white folks,” he tells the incognito Captain America.
The Captain tells him, “no it’s perfect… this all fits right into my plan.” After this we find that the Captain’s plan is to send the black man into a redneck bar to pretend to be a black man working for the IRS and to get everyone all mad… because… well, you know that every white person is a racist that hates black civil servants, right?
So, there you have it, America. Tea Party protesters just “hate the government,” they are racists, they are all white folks, they are angry, and they associate with secretive white supremacist groups that want to over throw the U.S. government.
Yesterday afternoon, presumably after a significant backlash, Marvel issued an apology:
When a minor uproar ensued, Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada spoke to Comic Book Resources and defended the issue while apologizing for the panel that seemed to tie real-life Tea Party protesters to the fictional group depicted in the book.
Saying that he could “absolutely see how some people are upset about this,” Quesada said that there was “zero discussion to include a group that looked like a Tea Party demonstration,” adding, “There was no thought that it represented a particular group.”
Quesada then went on to say that Marvel would “apologize for and own up to” a series of “stupid mistakes” that led to them “accidentally identifying” one of the members of the protest group “as being a part of the Tea Party instead of a generic protest group.” He explained that they were on deadline to get the issue to the printer for publication, and in the course of sending it off it was noticed that the signs in the scene contained no words or phrases. He said the editor then asked the letterer to “fudge in some quick signs” and that in the “rush to get the book out of the door,” the letterer “looked on the net and started pulling slogans” from signs captured in photographs at Tea Party protests in order to make them appear “believable.”
Ed Brubaker, the writer of the controversial Captain America story, told Fox News that any and all references to “tea bag” will be removed from all future editions of Marvel Comics.
At least back in the days when I was reading the books, Marvel was pretty careful to avoid using the names of political parties and mainstream movements — and Quesada insists this is still the policy. So, I take him at his word when he says the use of the “tea bag” sign and the insinuation that Cap was talking about that movement was unintentional. Then again, Brubaker was rather clearly making a statement against the Tea Party movement — albeit not intending to use their name — and using his hero to do so. While any resemblance to political movements, living or dead, may be coincidental, this one wasn’t.
Adam Serwer is right that Captain America and most of the other mainstream Marvel heroes were always vaguely liberal, a function of their creation by liberal New Yorkers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. As one of his commenters reminds me, “The original Captain America also set down his shield in the mid-70s after the turmoil of Watergate, but eventually concluded that he could fight for American ideals and not necessarily the government; in fact, the tensions between Captain America and his government contacts became a major theme of the comic afterward.” I remember the Nomad storyline (which began in issue 180) well, as is took place near the beginning of my comic book collecting days.
Both Marvel and DC were vaguely liberal during the days I read them and had been since at least the 1960s, as I eventually obtained and read thousands of back issues of the books I collected. I recall, for instance, a quaint pro-Vietnam issue of the Mighty Thor from the early-to-mid 1960s — before the Left turned against the war — and the evolving storyline over the years that became more anti-war. Recall that Iron Man’s origin was after being double crossed in Vietnam and coming to realize that there were no good guys. The books contained all manner of mainstream Left thoughts on dealing with poverty, race relations, the war on drugs, and other issues of the day. They were never hard core radicals — the publishers were New Deal liberals, not Counterculture types — but there was no doubt that they had a particular vision of what “justice” meant and what America stood for.
The current controversy is especially thorny. Even many of us on the Right are concerned about the excesses of the Tea Party movement and related populist outrage. There are no doubt plenty of fringe kooks in these movements and, as is usually the case, they have an outsized voice. At the same time, however, the vast majority of the protesters are decent folks frustrated with the direction they see their country headed and feeling powerless to do anything about it.
Certainly, having Captain America denounce the movement as a whole as motivated by racism, then, is incredibly insulting. Marvel is right to apologize for that insinuation — however unintended — while defending itself for tackling the larger storyline of the angry mob.
just a quick clarification…joe simon and jack kirby created captain america; jack and stan lee revived the character in the early 60’s. and while i GUESS you could call the marvel characters of that era vaguely liberal because they weren’t obviously conservatives, many of the early 60’s marvel comics were explicitly anti-communist. stan and jack has both lived through the depression and world war two. those experiences quite clearly colored their writing..
Right. But Lee and Kirby gave the character its modern treatment. The original Cap was fighting Nazis.
Aside from the most radical counterculture types, 1960s — and 1970s and 1980s — liberals were anticommunist. There were disagreements over how to best wage the Cold War but few on the fundamental issue.
This reminds me of the uproar over the Rorschach character from Watchmen.
hello, james. actually i bought most of those comics off the newstand many lifetimes ago, and compared to the more staid tone of the dc comics of the era, marvel comics were clearly pro-america, almost jingoistic…
there’s a big comment thread on the cap/tea party issue here, if you’re interested:
whoops, the link didn’t take: http://www.washingtontimes.com/weblogs/watercooler/2010/feb/10/marvel-admits-mistake-captain-america-comic/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_must-read-stories-today
Always preferred DC books anyways, though you’re right about comics (and most art forms) being fairly well-entrenched in liberal-leaning thought.
I’m still not convinced vis-a-vis your assessment of the tea party movement, though. I haven’t been active in it or anything, but I’m glad it’s re-energizing the right, and bringing some more libertarian blood (myself included) into voting for conservative candidates. I did stop by the one here in Phoenix and I really didn’t see excesses to the degree that the media (or you) seem to believe define the movement. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying it’s a perfect vehicle. But it’s the Pinto that’s gonna get us back on the road to relevance. I’d love for a George Washington, an Andrew Jackson, hell, a Coolidge or a Reagan, to step up and represent the right, but that just doesn’t seem to be in the cards right now, and I’d rather have an administration that sits on its hands than the over-zealous academics and czars that the Obama administration is composed of.
If it’s propriety you’re concerned with, the tea partiers are still infinitely more composed and contained than the nutjobs in the moveon camp and whatnot. Visit the Democratic Underground or the Daily Kos if you want to see some untowards behavior. Besides, elitism is not your friend. You have a lordship in Kent we don’t know about, Prof?
So in a story line about white supremacists, they decide to look for slogan on signs at Tea Party protests. And yet they think the problem is that the letterer used “tea bag”. Looks to me like a willful decision to associate the Tee Partiers with white supremacists.
Even if they remove “tea bag” from future additions, they still are associating being against socialism, taxes and obamacare, much less promoting America (“America Not Americant”) as being racist and anti-government. Is this Newspeak or something?
So Marvel’s “apology” and proposed correction is BS. A decent decline in sales might get the point across.
IIRC Captain America immediately after 9/11 was fighting Islamic terrorists in a storyline that was decried as fascist and jingoistic. If so, that strikes me as more consistent with the original WWII hero (assuming that fighting for your country against it’s enemies is not fascist). The past is sometimes a strange and foreign land.
I’m sure it might, but I doubt this will gin up enough outrage for a boycott beyond a few ultra-sensitive comic book geeks.
Most people, and perhaps the Tea Partiers are an exception, do not require political orthodoxy from their entertainment products. They might be even be able to disagree with this oh-so-insignificant bit of editorializing from Marvel and still be able to read their books.
This reminds me of the uproar over the Rorschach character from Watchmen.
1. Rorschach isn’t Captain America. It’s sort of like how it’s not a big deal to have Green Lantern and Green Arrow have political leanings, but if DC decided that Superman was going around trashing anti-war protesters or tea partyers, you can bet there would be an uproar.
2. Rorschach was unstable and ill-educated. How upset is anybody likely to get that a mentally unstable fellow who has trouble speaking in complete sentences thinks that you’re a bad person?
3. Watchmen took place in an alternate reality. Captain America is talking about real people seeking to make a real difference right now. Again, it’s as if five years ago they had Superman and Flash sitting around wondering why those anti-war protesters hate America.
When DC Comics imparted political views on its characters, they made a point to steer clear of actual candidates and not to betray the actual political and philosophical beliefs of its Big Three properties. Maybe they went overboard with that, but if the alternative is heavy-handed editorializing of this nature, better safe than sorry.
(No, I’m not a fan of the Tea Party Movement.)
PD Shaw: IIRC Captain America immediately after 9/11 was fighting Islamic terrorists in a storyline that was decried as fascist and jingoistic.
I don’t remember the protests. I do remember Cap saying that the terrorists had a point and questioning how different they were from us really.
Herb: I doubt this will gin up enough outrage for a boycott beyond a few ultra-sensitive comic book geeks.
Agreed. Actually, comic book readers as a lot tend to veer left-of-center. And anybody really thin-skinned about politics, likely to act on it, and of a right-wing bent probably stopped reading Captain America a long time ago.
As long as the teabaggers continue to work themselves into hissy fits over comic books and science fiction movies like Avatar, they will guarantee themselves the same future as every other third party in the last century. On the one hand they say they stand for important principles; on the other hand, they cry like little babies if a comic book insults them or a popcorn movie doesn’t agree with their political philosophy.
Because making real change requires first addressing how their own actions have contributed to the problem. Rather than dealing with the fact that government disfunction extendeds from the contractitory desires of most voters, they prefer the fantasy that it’s all the responsibility of insidious forces beyond their control, thus rendering themselves completely blameless.
Perhaps they could redress the insult by having a character named Capitano Mexico unmasked by Tom Tancredo and shown to be Osama bin Laden.
There’s a difference between “crying like a baby” over a movie, and not wanting to pay $10.00 to see a two and a half-hour special effects extravaganza with a whole lot of political baggage attached. I like my movies to have real plot lines and solid character development. 3-D explosions and mechanical suits in a lush digital world don’t really get me to bust the wallet out, especially considering the fact that I’m a working 23-year old who pays tuition. Plus, I already had to take Native American Studies and my degree is in Religious Studies (focus Islam in Greater Persia), so I feel like my profs have pretty much given me the gist of what James Cameron offers with Avatar.
I can see where tebaggers might be insulted that Marvel didn’t make the protesters some generic mob, just as I might be upset if antiwar protesters were to target.
But to complain about the “movement” being portrayed as almost exclusively white when it happens to be fact is silly.
The fuel and heart of the “Tea Party” movement is angry white guys, just like the “Militia Movement” of 15 years ago.
Being angry and being white doesn’t automatically make you a racist, but it doesn’t cause you to cease being white just because a liberal pointed it out. They maybe quite open to blacks joining the party, but we aren’t and won’t be because we didn’t just wake up yesterday to notice government doesn’t always work.
It’s like the GOP complaining about how they are portrayed as not being in touch with the black community simply because there’s not a single elected black person from their party at the national level anywhere in the country.
Ah, lighten up GS, and go see the movie. Forget about all the Dances with Whatever stuff. Just enjoy the experience. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed. And
No they haven’t.
Bide your time, a conservative will make a good movie sometime soon. Sure ‘American Carol’ was about as funny as gangrene on your tongue, but David Fincher did make ‘Alien 3’ before going on to do Seven.
Surely there’s one conservative film maker in all of America who can make angry white guys complaining about taking their country back from the legally elected president who is running it sympathetic and appealing.
You can stop laughing now.
Trumwill, I was being sarcastic about the Rorschach stuff. I don’t recall any liberal outcry about Rorschach, not when the movie came out at least. (The initial comic run might have been different, but then again, the 80s were different.)
My belief is that the right is much too sensitive about these things. Any liberal –no, any non-conservative orthodoxy– that appears in entertainment is instantly blasted as “Liberal bias.”
I’ve heard well-intentioned people refuse to see a George Clooney movie because of his politics, even if he’s in a non-political movie. And hey, that’s fine. I think it’s dumb, but it’s a free country.
I disagree with Ted Nugent politically, but I’m still gonna rock out to Stranglehold, you know?
I thought Rorschach was Belker from Hill Street Blues. Anyway, his story was much better told when it was called ‘The Dark Knight.’
There’s a lot of conservative filmmakers out there, but most of them try to make a good film first…and don’t worry at all about making it “politically correct” for their fellow conservatives.
Example: Clint Eastwood.
He’s as conservative as they come, but look at the nuance and complexity he brings to his films. It’s so nuanced that Million Dollar Baby was called a valentine to the right-to-die movement, when it had a lot of up-from-your-bootstraps, anti-welfare queen stuff in it too.
Gran Torrino? Celebrated for its gruff “Get off the lawn” cowboyism, but really? An ode to multi-culturalism and tolerance.
Don’t even get me started on Letters from Iwo Jima….
Herb….This would hardly rate the effort of a boycott, which hardly ever have an impact anyway. I was just commenting on that they might lose some sales, especially with the publicity warning people before they purchase.
I am, however, skeptical about the number of their readers that would care. In any case, they’ve damaged their brand a bit either by poor management and oversight or conscious choice.
It would be surprising and telling if the choice did significantly impact their sales.
He’s more libertarian than conservative, I think.
A couple of points…
First, the main universe Captain America has always been fairly liberal and idealistic, ever since he was brought back in the 1960s. It’s been a major plot point time and time again. He’s often disappointed when America doesn’t live up to its ideals.
Second, if you want your more conservative, my-country-right-or-wrong Captain, check out the Ultimate line, where when someone demands he surrender, he proclaims that the “A” on his head doesn’t stand for France, and then beats them savagely (they were a bad guy, they deserved it)
Third, this is Bucky (Captain America’s former sidekick from WWII, killed, reanimated by the Soviets, etc…). He’s a twit. Just because he has linked the Tea Parties with racists doesn’t mean he’s right — not even in the story.
Fourth, the Tea Parties are very, very white, and have lots of racists. That’s not to say that they are all racists, or even that the majority are racists, but racists blend very well into that crowd.
Talk about missing the point.
Welfare Queens didn’t exist then, they don’t exist now.
It was something Reagan made up to appeal to whites who felt their money was going to no-account “Strapping Bucks”.
Yes, somewhere someplace some black person is getting money they shouldn’t.
But then so is Boeing and Haliburton. Their welfare however is sacred.
I don’t think they did. They offended some Tea Party people. The Marvel brand is as strong as ever.
Net effect on Iron Man 2’s chances of becoming the hit summer movie? Probably zero.
That’s a fair point. Doesn’t change the fact that political orthodoxy (I hesitate to use the term “PC” –which is what this is, this demand that the world agree with you politically) is not his thing.
Fake ones do! Have you seen Million Dollar Baby?
Oh, and she was white, too.
You mean the movie that put assisted suicide in a positive light? Yeah, I liked it.
Hmmm…what’d you think of the first two hours when it was about boxing?
GS — I can only congratulate you on your maturity, and point you over to the Breitbart Big blogs where there have been dozens — maybe hundreds — of featured “articles” about how Cameron is an evil Islamocommiefascist, how Avatar dishonors our fightin’ forces, and why the fury of the Tea Party movement will ensure the film’s financial failure. (They have stopped running that particular topic…) Each post is followed by hundreds of comments by rabid TPers, most of whom have managed to find themselves personally offended by the movie.
I’m stunned. The country is hanging by a thread. Our economic system is slowly collapsing. Our government is owned by corporations. Citizens are being wiretapped, searched, tasered, harrased, while the Bill of Rights is used for a doormat at the Department of Justice.
But it seems the only thing that can draw the outrage of the nation is a Comic book with a parody of a parody of a grass roots political movement.
Last one out please turn out the lights, I give this nation til the end of the decade before we are in total collapse. The maelstrom will make Russia look like a kind place to live.
Wake up, your window of opportunity is collapsing.
Just another case of those we hire to entertain us trying sway our politics.
They are still only jesters, evoking a cynical sneer in response to their antics.
Perhaps Steven King or the Chiodo Brothers depict a realistic stereotype for these clowns.[lol]
What next? 27 comic writers in a Prius?
Herb, it’s not just characters spouting viewpoints. It’s which characters are.
Guy Gardner is a conservative character in DC’s stable. If he spouts off right-wing views on anything… nobody much cares. He’s second-tier at best. Conservatives tend to give Green Arrow a pass, too, because his lefty views are well-established. And neither of these characters are positioned to represent grand moral authority.
However, if Superman were to mock anti-war protesters and question aloud why some people just hate America… would that not bother you a little? Moreso than if Guy Gardner does it, I would think. And I think the same would apply if a conservative character said it in his presence and he expressed no disagreement.
In order to make your case that righties are more thin-skinned about such things than lefties, you’ll have to do a lot better than Rorschach. You would need to find some equivalent editorializing that nobody (or few) on the left really objected to.
The most high-profile conservative characters in comic books are Green Lantern, Guy Gardner, and Hawkman. Their politics only tend to come up when there’s some liberal around to argue back and none carry the same sort of moral weight that Captain America is supposed to.
Once liberals stand by and accept Captain America or Superman mocking them (or accepting the mocking of liberals without comment), I’ll be ready to accept that conservative skins are notably thinner than liberal skins.
(Actually, I do believe that conservative skins tend to be thinner, though I think that there are circumstantial reasons for this to be so. But I believe that this is a very, very poor example to use for it. Captain America simply shouldn’t be used to make political cheap shots. That’s a point that even Marvel’s editor appears to agree with in spirit.)
I live for politics.
Don’t care that much for boxing, but a well done character study doesn’t depend on the profession, it’s about making people real.
Clint makes good movies and as a film maker I tend to follow his approach of get it in one take and move on.
Really? Because last time I checked Fox “News” was #1 in ratings, the Wall Street Journal, and the Moonie owned Washington Times are pretty damn big megaphones.
It’s like a person who has lost 200 pounds still seeing a fat guy in the mirror. Not content with having a 24 hour a day propaganda machine on their side conservatives whine on and on about how the evil media won’t let them get their message out. Low self esteem is a bitch.
Conservatives are upset that their ability to mix political messages into entertainment largely suck and that liberals just chuckle at the idea that Fox is real news channel.
They stamp their feet and threaten to hold their breath and turn blue until liberals admit Fox News All Stars is equivalent to Sixty Minutes. When the only response that gets is hysterical laughter they blow a gasket.
I hate it that Buffy, X-Men, and Fantastic Four poured millions into Rupert Murdoch’s pockets, but even he is smart enough to leave the liberals alone to make Silkwood and Norma Rae or Avatar or whatever just so long as it makes money at the box office.
There are two distinct issues here, news media and entertainment media. I’m thinking more of the latter here. Both sides are very thin-skinned about what the biases they perceive in news media. There are arguments for and against the existence of liberal bias in news media. The argument against the existence of liberal bias in entertainment media, however, is much weaker. It’s no surprise and requires no conspiracy that creative industries with creative minds that tilt in a particular direction would create a product that conforms moreso than not to the direction that they tilt.
If you were talking about any pother media organ besides Fox News I might agree with you. Fox exists to pump out propaganda to support the GOP.
It’s snowing in Washington any way to tell the story that it’s in some way Obama’s fault or push Big Coal’s line that Global Warming is a myth is what you’ll get.
As scripted to produce a desired emotional response as any episode of Lost.
BTW, the ight Wing knock against Hollywood isn’t that it’s run by a bunch of liberals who do touchy feely stories about lefty do-gooders., it’s that those Hollywood liberals hate America and everything it stands for.
BTW, the ight Wing knock against Hollywood isn’t that it’s run by a bunch of liberals who do touchy feely stories about lefty do-gooders.,
There are multiple right-wing knocks against entertainment media. Some of them coincide and some are more credible than others. The notion that Hollywood hates America is one of its less credible notions. The notion that it is hostile to conservatives and conservatism? They’ve got a stronger argument there.
Do you suppose every tick harbors resentment for it’s unwilling host?
Looks like the teabaggers are rushing to prove MAarvel right. The militia fruitcakes are back.
I am beyond upset at what has been done with Cap lately. I’m a huge fan of classic comics, and Cap is my favorite. He used to be a character that everyone could identify with…he was, when it all came down to it, just a man who loved his country. He didn’t have superpowers or anything, and he certainly wasn’t perfect, but he always fought for what he thought was right.
This was something that I could always identify with. Even as a Southern, right-leaning girl, I could connect with Cap…
I feel as though Marvel has taken away the aspects of the character that everyone could identify with in an effort to make him more edgy, and personally, I can’t stand it.
Get it together, Marvel. You’re alienating a good chunk of your readers.
I should probably mention that I’m in no way associated with the movement myself, but they have every right to assemble, and Marvel using Captain America to attack them in this way is just not appropriate.