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.