It’s no secret that Marvel has recently come under fire from the public about their so-called “apolitical” stance surrounding their content, despite a storied history that includes Captain America punching Hitler on the cover of his debut issue. Most recently, legendary graphic novelist Art Spiegelman, author of Maus — the graphic novel of the 1980s depicting Spiegelman interviewing his father about his experiences in the Holocaust — was asked by Marvel to remove his reference to Donald Trump as “the Orange Skull” in his intro to the upcoming collection published by the Folio Society, Marvel: The Golden Age 1939-1949.

The essay meant to be included in the collection was thankfully published in full by The Guardian. However, there is no turning back for Marvel when it comes to telling a Jewish author of a graphic novel about the Holocaust — who is contributing to a collection of comics that were extremely political for their time — that they’re not allowed to be political.

If that’s not enough of a shocker for Marvel fans, a new essay seems to have been revised by the hyper-apolitical agenda of Marvel Publishing.

Appearing initially in the retailer preview of the publisher’s much-anticipated 80th anniversary issue Marvel Comics #1000, a full page illustration of Captain America by John Cassaday and Laura Martin was accompanied by an essay about America by Mark Waid. Meant to illustrate the weight of 1941’s release of Cap, one of America’s most iconic heroes, Waid’s essay was clear in its intention of giving Cap his due while making pointed criticism on the state of America as we know it now.

The page originally read thusly:

I’m asked how it’s possible to love a country that’s deeply flawed.

It’s hard sometimes. The system isn’t just. We’ve treated some of our own abominably.

Worse, we’ve perpetuated the myth that any American can become anything, can achieve anything, through sheer force of will. And that’s not always true. This isn’t the land of opportunity for everyone. The American ideals aren’t always shared fairly.

Yet without them, we have nothing.

With nothing, cynicism becomes reality. With nothing, for the privileged and the disenfranchised both, our way of life ceases to exist. We must always remember that American, as imperfect as it is, has something. It has ideals that give it structure.

When the structure works, we get schools. We get roads and hospitals. We get a social safety net. More importantly, when we have structure, we have a foundation upon which to rebuild the American Dream — that equal opportunity can be available to absolutely everyone.

America’s systems are flawed, but they’re our only mechanism with which to remedy inequality on a meaningful scale. Yes, it’s hard and bloody work. But history has shown us that we can, bit by bit, right that system when enough of us get angry. When enough of us take to the streets and force those in power to listen. When enough of us call for revolution and say, “Injustice will not stand.”

That’s what you can love about America.

It’s evident that while Marvel clearly saw this as too political, it is a view of America and patriotism that many readers of the issue would stand behind. It’s one that rings true to the all-American experience of and feelings about the country, through the eyes of a flag-bearing hero.

Apparently, that was just too much for Marvel — no matter how true it may read — as Waid’s essay is edited to be far more neutral in the final, published version of Marvel Comics #1000, which hits shelves tomorrow. The page now reads:

Masks are designed to hide things. Some heroes wear them to protect their true identities so as to shield their loved ones from retaliation. 

I have a different reason. I wear mine as a reminder to people that Captain America isn’t a man. It’s an idea.

It’s a commitment to fight every day for justice, for acceptance and equality, and for the rights of everyone in this nation. At its best, this is a good country filled with people who recognize that those—not hatred, not bigotry, not exclusion—are the values of true patriotism.

Several others have had occasion to don this suit and carry this shield over the years. I have faith that someone else will continue that tradition long after I’m gone. Maybe it’ll be your neighbor. Maybe it’s be you. I’m not the first to represent those values. I won’t be the last.

There is a clear delineation of the intentions of the two essays. One denotes something relatable and wide-sprawling that readers can — in true Marvel fashion — see out their window, however sad that may be. The other puts a strict focus on the character and the idea of shielding people from their true selves.

This is no real surprise though, as Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter is a close friend of Donald Trump and is a frequent member of his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. He has also been noted as being one of Trump’s largest individual campaign donators, having reportedly donated $360 thousand to his re-election campaign.

While Captain America, specifically, may have a history with punching nazis, fighting communism, and doing whatever it takes to fight for what’s right in the world including free speech and justice, it’s clear that Marvel is changing gears. The publisher seems less concerned with continuing that fight than with depoliticizing one of its most political figures in a truly contentious era of United States history.

20 COMMENTS

  1. You’re reaching here. Not all Trump supporters are demons out to subvert American ideals and the idea that marvel after casting Captain America as a nazi/hydra agent has decided to get non-political is one I disagree with.

  2. It’s a bit hyperbolic and horribly irrelevant to an 80th anniversary celebration comic. I don’t have a problem that Waid has those beliefs. Probably half the readership would agree with the basic things he said. But I wouldn’t publish a celebratory comic with such a polar piece. Waid was associating the image of Captain America with the “bloody work” of political change and mass street protests. I don’t think anger was the ideal that Steve Rogers fought for when he signed up for the military. Perhaps empathy, justice, love of country, duty… But no, Waid was horribly off mark with his first draft of the essay. There are more affirmative ways to speak truth to power and celebrate the idealism which superheroics inspire us with.

  3. Captain America is an inherently political character; he’s a WWII-era hero dressed in a flag and bearing the word “America” in his name. Additionally, his origin is that of a weakling so patriotic he’s willing to give his body to the military in the vague chance he might somehow be able to fight.

    Fight who? Nazis.

    So do you think Marvel has just been burning to have Art Spiegelman write an intro to one of their books? Maybe he’d be good for the Power Pack collection or might have a take on Machine Man? No; Spiegelman was contacted because he’s the author of perhaps the most celebrated book about WWII and the Nazi menace, MAUS. That they somehow thought he’d deliver an apolitical introduction, when he was hired precisely because of his political point of view, is absurd.

    If you’re reading Captain America, and you admire the character, but you still side with bigots, fascists, and those who publicly claim admiration with the avowed enemies of the US (and its elections, which is not in dispute), you’re welcome to enjoy all the cognitive dissonance you can find. But you’re either blind or playing dumb if you think Captain America isn’t an overtly, inherently and obviously political character and comic book, and all the behind-the-scenes Perlmutter horseshit can’t change that no matter how rich and Machiavellian he is.

  4. Matthew, hence the revised edition still plays up the fight for equality, justice, etc. Even Waid himself had said that his previous draft was taken out of context and mischaracterized. The problem with the former was how “radical” it was, not how anti-fascist/anti-hate/anti-bigotry it was.

  5. There’s been more blather about that Captain America #1 cover and its “iconic significance” in the last three years than there was in the previous 75 years of its existence.

  6. I see there are some using the tired trope of “but muh Captain America has always been political”. There may have been political elements to various stories but Captain America himself has never been partisan and he’s not anti-America whereas the woke self proclaimed sheriff of comics Mark Waid is and was trying to use cap as his mouthpiece.

    As for Art Spiegelman, he’s a has-been living on past glories to stick it to Drumpf with an “Orange man bad” spiel.

  7. For years now the marvel characters have beaten up on each other, with cw1, cw2, X-men versus Avengers, X-Men versus Inhumans, the Illumninati blowing up worlds full of innocent people, treachery and alliance changes have become so common they’re not even noticed anymore, and this is what upsets you? How about Tony Stark kidnapping and torturing someone, how about Carol Danvers completely ignoring the US constitution and throwing people in jail for as long as she wants to… What about all of that?

  8. It always surprises me that, of all the online comics news sites, this one’s consistently the best at attracting Comicsgaters.

  9. Don’t be surprised, Mark; it’s because The Beat is run by a woman, and you know how happy THAT makes them…

  10. I think this is a safe space on the internet for dialogue about the intersection of comic books and real world issues. Group think is just as bad as tribalism in political discourse. Here on the Beat, Heidi curates a spirited conversation where people aren’t afraid to agree or disagree with her (or other columnists’) opinions.

  11. Calling Trump “the Orange Skull” is nothing compared to what Steve Englehart did to Nixon (in the pages of Captain America, 1974).

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