Editorial: Brubaker's Captain America

We try to stay away from politics here at Omnicomic; afterall, we are a site about comic books. Sure, we've done our fair share of stories about President Obama's increased presence in comics, but we've also touched on Sarah Palin, Condolezza Rice and Hillary Clinton also making appearances. Comics, like every other avenue of pop culture, have a tendency to look outside of itself for influences in stories. The latest look outside the box came in Captain America #602 (the first of the two-part "Two Americas" storyline, and it's upset a small subset of the American population. See, the issue in question has a three-page spread (after the jump) that features Captain America and the Falcon (I've heard his costume sucks) viewing a protesting crowd in Boise, Idaho, being led by a madman (in comics this is referred to as the villain). A brief exchange has gained the ire of the Tea Party movement: “A grassroots anti-government army” “…looks like some kind of anti-tax thing” “I don’t exactly see a black man from harlem fitting in with a bunch of angry white folks…” Why is this a big deal? The Tea Party movement (which I didn't know read comics to begin with) feel that the issue presents Captain America as fighting an "anti-tax, anti-government" government. The movement's disappointment with the exchange is further exemplified by the inclusion of signs in the crowd that read something to the extent of "Tea bag the libs before they tea bag you." Now, Fox News (notorious for being associated with the origins of the Tea Party) feel that Marvel is in the wrong for knowingly including the signs. Ed Brubaker disagrees. "I don't know who did it, probably someone who thought it was funny," Brubaker wrote in an e-mail. "I didn't think so, personally. That's the sign being changed to something more generic for the trade reprint, because I and my editor were both shocked to see it." I tend to agree with Brubaker here. If you look at the most offensive sign (the teabagger one) it's pretty apparent that it's Photoshopped in there. I would assume that a writer such as Brubaker would want a more refined lettering included in the scene than one that just looks like font plastered on the page. Joe Quesada has even backed this statement up with his Cup O' Joe, saying the following: "The book was getting ready to go to the printer, it was on fire already from a deadline standpoint, but the editor on the book noticed that there was a small art correct that needed to get done. On the first page featuring the protestors, the artist on the book drew slogans into the protest signs to give them a sense of reality and to set up the scene. On the following page featuring the protestors again, there were signs, but nothing written in them. From a continuity standpoint, this omission stood out like a sore thumb, but was easily fixable. So, just before the book went to the printer, the editor asked the letterer on the book to just fudge in some quick signs. The letterer in his rush to get the book out of the door but wanting to keep the signs believable, looked on the net and started pulling slogans from actual signs. That’s when he came upon this one. And used it in the scene and off it went to the printer. Unfortunately, to make the deadline, the work wasn’t double-checked thoroughly, and it was printed as is, which is where we as an editorial group screwed up. We spoke to the letterer, and he was mortified at his mistake and was truly sorry as he had no political agenda." So the sign is in the comic, and both Quesada and Brubaker deny knowing it was in there and have vowed not to make references to it in future issues. What about the "racist" remark by the Falcon? Sorry, just don't see the racist undertones. A quick check of Wikipedia (not the bastion of knowledge it would like to be I know but bear with me here) and the population of Boise, Idaho, is 92% white. The black population? .77%. That alone would be reason enough for a black character to hesitate causing a scene considering the explosive past this country has been through. Civil rights were passed barely 40 years ago, so it's expected that there will still be pockets of anger about it that would prompt such a comment. It seems to me that what happened was an honest mistake. Now Brubaker is, admittedly, a Democrat, so his motive for including such a sign would be there. If he did intend to include it, whatever happened to free speech though? The Tea Party is loosely based on the ideals behind the Boston Tea Party, where colonists were upset with being taxed without representation. Wasn't the destruction of the tea a precursor to the first amendment of the Constitution freedom of speech? Freedom of speech is ok when you're destroying tea, but not when writers are destroying the tea party? Comics and video games tend to have in common that when one of them feature a message, it gets completely blown out of proportion. Video games contend with this when there's scenes of simulated violence (Grand Theft Auto comes to mind). I think the big issue here is that the comic book in question, Captain America, featured what the Tea Party perceived as anti-American sentiments. Captain America was created as a response to Nazi Germany and his meaning then was much more patriotic than it is now. To foist upon the character the current ideals of the country is a little bit unfair as I don't believe Marvel intends to use him in the same way he was used originally. Getting up in arms about a print medium featuring a message that is unagreeable is what's really un-American. As mentioned earlier, the country was built on the idea that we the people speak for ourselves and Brubaker being one of the people gives him the right to write or say whatever he wants, whether it's viewed as inflammatory or not. Both Brubaker and Marvel have apologized for the sign's inclusion, which you could argue is just damage control and not sincere. What shouldn't get lost in this is their realization that a more mature audience reads comics, so including sentiments relevant to the times adds a bit more gravity to the story at hand. It's just unfortunate that one of the more relevant modern-day movements (Tea Party) is nonplused by being featured in a comic book. If the Tea Party can't handle that I'd like to point out that Archaia has a new Fraggle Rock comic launching that they can check out. I'm sure there won't be any "insulting" signs in that book.