The truth is out there, and like the man in the movie said…some of you can’t handle it.
For those slightly distanced from the loop, Wizard Magazine, that bastion of journalistic integrity, lifted the veil behind a ‘secret’ mini-series being released from Marvel Comics later this year. Ominously named The Truth, the series exposes the sinister origins behind one of Marvel’s most popular and historic characters. This fall Captain America and his humble beginnings in the program that ultimately left him a titan wrapped in a flag will be exposed…and for some reason people are already losing their damn minds about the whole thing.
Set firmly in historical context, creators Robert Morales, Kyle Baker (King David), and editor Axel Alonso mean to examine the super-soldier program from an informed perspective only allowed to those with access to contradicting histories that result from the passing of time. They present the possibility, and the likelihood, that the government, before injecting Steve Rogers with a formula that may’ve caused his head to explode, used a series of test subjects to ensure that the radical procedure wouldn’t kill their icon. Bringing things even further, they posit that some of the soldiers used as guinea pigs were in fact African-American, subsequently making the first Captain America a black man.
At the risk of appearing stereotypical, I feel slightly compelled to quickly address the predominantly negative outcry, if you can believe the consensus of some message boards, over this proposed story. As with other ‘controversial’ moves from Marvel Comics like the Origin mini, and the birth of the Ultimate universe, online fandom takes to shitting on projects nearly six months from completion, while assailing Marvel’s guerrilla marketing campaign that their inane yet explosive commentary contributes to. But this one feels different to me…the negative comments are more passionate, subsequently less thought out, and tinged with some sort of juvenile sense of betrayal.
A common complaint is that it’s going to violently contradict Cap’s original origin, which is a gross exaggeration. Marvel has stated that The Truth isn’t meant to subvert the original story that few of the most passionate critics have even read, and will serve as a companion to it, a back-story if you will. Something that with sixty-some years of history under our belt will paint a more realistic and believable picture. This practice isn’t even unheard of in comics, modern or otherwise, because for as many different writers that have used Captain America as a storytelling instrument (because that’s what all characters are) there have been as many slightly skewed interpretations of his beginnings. And this is established, writers are constantly tweaking origins to fit their interpretation of what encompasses modern sensibilities. It’s happened with Spider-Man, it’s happened with X-Men, but present a story in which the color of Captain America’s skin takes on a darker tone and people hit the fuckin’ ceiling.
The altering of an instrument’s origins shouldn’t even register on the pulse of fandom anymore, but yet and still there are those that are content to throwing temper tantrums, ignoring the fact that very little is set in stone. Fifty years of continuity is akin to a bag of rocks attached to a creator’s ankles that threatens to drag him to the bottom of the lake with little warning, ensuring that anything he attempts to do with his instrument will only be a soulless rehash of what’s come before. Perhaps we’ve just become uncreative in the new millennium, but sometimes it’s necessary to remove the ballast from one’s ankles. There are few origins that hold weight under fifty years of history, and so creators are gradually being allowed greater liberties in gradually modernizing certain concepts. The Truth is no different.
Can someone explain to me what the huge deal is?
Another common objection to this five-issue storyline is that it’s merely a response to a politically correct climate sensitive to the lack of minority representation in nearly all forms of commercial entertainment. Is there seriously anyone out there with a functioning brain cell that will argue there are too many minorities on television, in movies, and in comics? Of course there aren’t. Now we can have a circular debate about why that is exactly, but I would rather ask you…what’s wrong with being politically correct?
Political-correctness is looked upon as some virus that’s infected the human condition preventing us from saying what we think and feel, when in fact it’s a balm that keeps society’s assholes in check. You should have to be sensitive to the sensitivities of others, even if it takes the possibility of a little public guilt to make it happen. But perhaps that’s just the optimist in me? Regardless, casting Captain America as a black man in some ‘lost adventure’ isn’t the end of existence. It doesn’t negate the battles and victories of Steve Rogers’ character, his hit book isn’t being cancelled, and Steve isn’t being permanently replaced. The story is built as a footnote in Marvel history, nothing more, nothing less.
There is already an historical precedent for the United States government’s experimentation on African-Americans for scientific purposes, most notably an incident in Tuskegee, Alabama that took place from 1932-1972 in which the US Public Health Service wished to observe the complications that resulted from syphilis infection. And with sordid events like this littering any decent history book, the best argument people can offer why this series should never see the light of day is that it’s only a knee-jerk politically-correct response? Come on…you’ve gotta do better than that. Are we that afraid of the truth?
Also ironic is that in a climate where a vocal minority preaches an over-reliance on superheroes and a lack of relevant subject matter, a series of this sort that confronts dirty politics and race is looked upon with a dismissive eye? Accusing Marvel of performing some grand stunt for media attention and market share misses the point…of course it’s a stunt. Changing creative teams is a stunt, re-numbering titles is a stunt, the dunk tank is a stunt. Stunts make people money. And stunts can make good stories.
People should just enjoy them and leave all the hollow bullshit excuses at the door.
Next time: Wizard World. Direct from the show floor…