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Thursday, May 04, 2017 

Along comes the Secret Empire prelude, and with it, press apologists for turning Captain America evil

It's sad but not shocking that there'd be mainstream news sources out there defending Marvel's current obsession with depicting Steve Rogers as an evil nazi collaborator. One of those terrible news sites is Screen Rant, who turned out the following drivel, which begins their defense of the Secret Empire farrago with the headline, "Captain America is evil, not Marvel comics". First off, this misses the point that Marvel fans who care about the characters don't want to see the man behind the mask retconned into a repellent representative of evil. Second, it's not Marvel who's evil either, but rather, the leading writers, editors and artists who brewed up this unreadable atrocity. It continues with:
Captain America may have take over the world, but he’s never seemed more of a failure in the eyes of some Marvel Comics readers and fans. That’s the risk you take when you become a Hydra soldier helping Nazis win World War II, and survive into the modern Marvel age to betray every one of your allies. Needless to say, Cap’s Secret Empire has come at a price. And for those at Marvel Comics, the story twists that led to here have brought with it some serious scorn, criticism, and outright hate. Hate of the “death threat” variety.
Hmm, is that by any chance some "fake news" intended to make Marvel fans look like villains? If it is, that's also abominable. It may not be impossible it could happen, but if they don't provide examples, then their accusations are just as false as the ones following the whole Chelsea Cain case.

As for looking like a failure, isn't that a moot point? What matters is that he's depicted as evil for the sake of it in a protracted story that once would've been limited to just an issue or two of the old What If? anthology series. Now, everything has to be part of a company wide event.
The editors at Marvel and Captain America: Steve Rogers writer Nick Spencer knew this story would bring the fans out in full, offended force – ending the very first issue with Steve admitted he was loyal to his lifelong enemy, Hydra. But as the story continued, revealing Steve Rogers was never the hero fans thought, and seeing him kill beloved Marvel heroes, things turned sour. The decision to present Cap’s Secret Empire as a fascist victory only heightened the passion among the harshest critics, with Spencer and his higher-ups having to clarify that they are not, themselves, Nazis. That Marvel Comics does not support the kind of fascism Captain America now pursues, and that the story will eventually make that obvious.
It makes no difference; this already looks incredibly forced. After all, the story so far is beginning to make Hydra look like they're not so evil, and the public like they're willing to take their side. Predictably, the site resorts to the classic cliches of acting like Steve is a real person, despite that they know he's not.
Since everyone in this debate is having a particularly difficult time seeing things from another’s point of view, we’re hoping to offer a bit of clarity. Marvel fans may absolutely despise Spencer’s story, and the damage it has done to the hero… but claiming it’s somehow endorsing Cap’s fascism or politics at the same time is a hard sell.
Wow, they sure love to take everything out of context, don't they? And here I thought the issue at hand was turning Cap into a loathsome villain! Of course, if the story does make light of nazism and fascism, then surely that matters too? Naturally, they can't be bothered to comment on that. The whole article seems devoted to acting as though Steve's a real life human, not a fictional character, and really hits rock bottom when they say:
Others who criticize the decision to cast Steve Rogers, Captain America, as a Nazi-allied embodiment of fascist injustice, and it’s not hard to see why. Some have been offended, or angered that the product of Jewish comic creators would be twisted into an ally, not an enemy of Nazi Germany (no matter what story it’s done in service to). But others have taken a more aggressive stance, believing that the shifting of Cap’s allegiance, and the heroic representations of Cap’s victory modeling those of fascist dictators in history are sending a far more hateful message. That the Secret Empire storyline is being crafted by, or for, or in the image of apologist rhetoric or propaganda.
And what's that supposed to mean? That Kirby/Simon created Steve as a villain? This is disgusting beyond words. As is their attempt to brush off any criticism of the story as apologia. They themselves practically make the story sound even worse than it looks like it's going to be. And they have the sheer nerve to pass themselves off as pop culture fans. They're not Cap fans, and they're not even Marvel or DC fans, far as I'm concerned, and if they can't keep themselves from apologizing for atrocious storylines intended only for publicity's sake, they have no business covering comicdom.

Making matters worse is IGN's resident propagandist, who has the gall to claim:
Secret Empire is turning out to be one of Marvel’s most controversial storylines in years. That’s to be expected when the core premise of a comic involves tarnishing the once sterling reputation of a 77-year-old icon. There are many fans who argue Secret Empire is a mistake - that Marvel is doing lasting damage to Steve Rogers for the sake of a short-term sales boost and a few newsworthy headlines. But that’s selling Secret Empire short. Controversial or not, this is a story that Captain America needs.
Wow, and this guy has the gall to call himself a comic book reader? By contrast, I'm betting he wouldn't say the same about a story where Cap's seen taking on Islamic jihadists without the kind of blame-America propaganda that littered the Marvel Knights story from 2002.
A lot of the outrage also stems from the times we’re living in. The world is a pretty scary and chaotic place right now, to put it mildly. It’s times like these that people cling to stories of hope and bravery all the more. People want to be able to look to Captain America as a symbol of hope and a reminder of what’s good and wholesome about the United States. Now it seems even our most iconic symbols are betraying us.
And no criticism or recognition that Marvel's upper echelons are the betrayers, not the icons in their control. Is he also suggesting it's wrong and stupid to hold stories of hope and bravery in high esteem and regard? That they were all trash from the very beginnings in the Golden Age? What a disgrace of a "critic". If this is all Marvel and DC are willing to do, it obscures serious issues they've could've taken up as challenges for storytelling, and makes them look selfish.
In a time of rising xenophobia, nationalism, racism and antisemitism, many Cap fans just can’t abide the thought of Steve Rogers becoming “Captain Nazi.” The fact that Hydra’s ties to the Nazis are far less clear-cut in the comics than they are in the movies and cartoons gives these wounded fans little comfort. And Marvel didn’t exactly help their case with the recent, ill-advised Hydra dress-up promotion. For too many fans, that was basically like rubbing salt in an open wound.

No, Marvel’s promotion of Secret Empire hasn’t always been ideal. And it seems like they’ve failed to take into account how many Cap fans see a direct correlation between Hydra and the Nazis. But questionable marketing choices notwithstanding, Secret Empire is a very compelling, very necessary shift for the character.
Oh yeah, it just HAD to be done...or else what? I haven't the foggiest notion what they're getting at, unless they're alluding to the leftist cliches of writing off all conservatives everywhere as sexist and racist, and they must think all right-wing Cap fans are scum to boot. They don't even acknowledge Joe Simon was a right-winger himself. To them, Simon is a nobody to be thrown under the bus when they see fit.

Since they've brought up the Hydra t-shirt embarrassment, the Daily Dot's told Marvel's facing a boycott and even some store managers find it embarrassing. One owner told them:
“I worry for people working in comic shops who have no choice but to wear the shirts. The message of hate is loud and clear. I feel that this is one more nail in the coffin, so to speak. Marvel has been tone deaf during this entire event, and they don’t seem to be budging.”

Her shop Variant Edition will not participate in the promotion. Commenting on Twitter, she offered a simple explanation: “People shouldn’t be cosplaying as Nazis. Period.”
I certainly agree it's revolting to dress up as villains. Especially if those villains were based on the images of murderers and sex offenders. It would also be offensive to cosplay as Ottoman Empire jihadists after what they did to the Armenians during WW1.

Next comes Movie TV Tech Geeks, who're calling this an "exciting" story. As if that too somehow makes it valid to just go right along and desecrate classic creations. They say:
Revisionist history and alternative facts are terms that have been thrown around lately. History does or could get revised as more and more info, fact or accepted alternatives gets published every day. Marvel’s been throwing us much of it lately. In comics, the same thing is happening with Captain America, that he’s always been evil according to comic book writer Nick Spencer. Since it’s a fictional universe, writers get free rein on what history is. It’s a difficult pill to swallow for all Marvel fans, except maybe for people who appreciate a good story.
So that makes it perfectly okay to take apart Superman too, had this been a DC crossover? In their twisted minds, the answer must be "yes". Ugh. They even try to justify this retcon with the following:
[A good example of a retcon in real life is the current situation in the Philippines. There is a new resurgence for the powerful Marcos family whose patriarch former President Ferdinand Marcos was ousted by a much-celebrated peaceful revolution in 1986. Information in various social media is being spread that the Marcoses were the good guys all along and that much-maligned period of Martial Law was actually necessary, that the revolution of 1986 was the worst mistake the developing nation has ever made and that the opposing family, the Aquinos were actually the villains of the story. Many Filipinos, tired and frustrated with all the ineptness, corruption, crime and poverty that followed that revolution, opted to vote for Marcos ally and popular candidate Rodrigo Duterte, known for being strict and totalitarian. The Philippines may have gone to a path that HYDRA intended if it were real. In the US, Donald Trump is making history on his own with alleged ties to Russia. Freedom and individuality could have whole new meanings in the coming years in case that were true. Whether as a form of protest or simply a reflection of the times or what could be, it could explain Marvel Comic’s latest decision on the star-spangled man with a plan.]
I just don't see how this justifies taking a fictional character meant to inspire believers in good, brightness and optimism and twisting him inside out. Whether Duterte's an autocrat, their suggestion it's literally justified is ludicrous, as is their parroting the misinformation about Trump. I guess if the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were turned into fascist sympathizers and murder advocates, they'd say that was fine too. These are nothing but phonies who never had any admiration for famous creations and classics, and aren't in their writing careers out of devotion to what the creations originally stood for. The world would be a much better place if they'd just retire their keyboards and quit apologizing for modern hacks who're only taking the assignments for paychecks.

A writer at Geekmom/dad seems to get what's wrong with the crossover more than the previous examples do, but even she has some ridiculous goofs of a somewhat different nature. First, the upside:
...the idea of Hydra/Nazi Cap is a misreading of what superhero readers want from the genre. And Marvel’s not the only one to make this mistake. DC did with the New 52 line of comics and Warner Bros. is doing it with the DC movies so far. (Wonder Woman is a wait-and-see proposition.)
Even Emerald Twilight was a misreading of what Green Lantern fans wanted from the brand, and Identity Crisis was a misreading of what they want from practically everything and anything in the DCU. Recalling some news I read that Ares, the Greek god of war, would be depicted manupulating all the sides involved in WW1 in the Wonder Woman movie, that doesn't sound any better than if it had literally been the case during WW2 in the Golden Age.
Yes, it’s been said before and we can say it again: Marvel and DC Entertainment still have a diversity problem.

And I mean that not only by the diversity of talent but diversity of stories. (Though, usually, one will come from the other.)
Yes, that too is a pretty good assessment of their problems. It's not diversity in racial background and such. They've had plenty of that for a long time.
Marvel and DC always do these big events to boost sales, complete with tie-ins and various covers. Clearly, they decided shock value would be the way to go this time.
And that's just what Secret Empire is now. Shock value isn't new at all. But now, here's the downside, where she fumbles badly:
The solution? For me?

Look for my superheroes in other places. I’ve read Noble #1, and, yes, it’s a superhero story. It’s full of action, suspense, and yet includes the humanity and the need to help that a good superhero story will always have. You can get your own look at this story on Free Comic Book Day.

The creators behind the Catalyst universe are as diverse as the world around us, bringing with them different perceptions of stories and society that the superhero genre desperately needs to remain relevant to our times. After all, it was two Jewish men who created Captain America in the first place because they were appalled at the world’s failure to help the Jews in Nazi Germany. Superman was created by non-whites as a fable of how immigrants could showcase the best of America.

Without non-white creators, the superhero genre as we know it wouldn’t exist.
Say what? But Siegel and Shuster were white too! If she noted that the latter's family immigrated from Canada, that would've worked better. Instead, she's made herself sound ridiculous, as though she thinks Jews aren't white/caucasian. Some of the commenters noticed this silly goof, and one said:
How do you refer to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish men, one American, and one Canadian-American, of Russian and Ukrainian descent, respectively, as non-white? Cut the politically correct revisionist history crap.
If it hadn't been for that, the article would've worked better. Instead, she said something that wouldn't work any better if she made the same claim about Kirby and Simon.

In the end, the whole Secret Empire farrago is just something that should be avoided like the plague. Even if there's a good ending in store, that's still no reason to buy something that wasn't intended for talented writing and entertainment, only for shock value and deliberately insulting Marvel fans whom they no longer want as an audience.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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