Friday, July 18, 2014
And now.....a new Cap (plus more on Thor)
OK, so after the big news about Thor's hammer being handed over to a woman we got the news that Steve Roger's role as Captain America will indeed be filled by Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon. Now this isn't anywhere near as controversial as the Thor news because Sam has been a longtime partner of Rogers in the comics and joined him on film in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I'd put Sam on the same plane as Dick Grayson in that he's fought alongside the main guy for years, but is more than a mere sidekick. Dick filled in for Bruce Wayne a bunch of times as Batman and Sam is equally capable of filling in as Captain America. And like with Dick, Sam won't be exactly the same as Steve Rogers and will have his challenges in the bigger job but should be able to handle it. The Twitter chatter over this was lot more genteel than for the Thor story,and I think a lot of that has to do with Sam's history as a character in the Marvel world. Another thing that helped is that the change in roles was announced after it was set up in the comics. Steve losing his power was the culmination of a story arc that took place over several months, so it looks like a story arc that is part of the long running Cap saga and not a quick change to drum up interest. Thor losing the hammer is tied into the Original Sin miniseries that's going on now, but if you haven't been reading that you wouldn't know. It was dropped on us in a publicity stunt, and now the story behind it will held to higher scrutiny. I've softened my own stance on it; I spoke with people who actually read the comic, both on Twitter and in person and got some different perspectives. Some are dead set against it but there are others who are fine with it. I don't read Thor but from what I've heard the writers have been doing an excellent job so there shouldn't be any worries about the quality of the story.
I still think that it is a stunt and I maintain my skepticism of it's biggest supporters. I jumped on a few Twitter threads over the last few days and asked some of the most zealous supporters whether or not it would make them more likely to read or buy the comic with a woman getting the chance to wield the hammer. In every case I got no answer. One person even admitted to not being into comics that much at all. I find that to be extremely problematic and a recipe for bad, ill-informed commentary on the whole thing. There is a distinct difference in perspective between comic readers and non-readers, and it's not just the stereotypical comic nerd thing. People who read the books have a much greater sense of the context behind every move that's been made, and a much greater appreciation of what constitutes good storytelling as opposed to something that was done for publicity and nothing else. And when you go around publishing thinkpieces about the lack of diversity in comics and the lack of role models for women and minorities in comics, while failing to acknowledge the ones that already exist, then you're doing it wrong. If applaud a move like giving a woman Thor's hammer but fail to so much as go to a public library and check out a free copy of it to read and enjoy, then your support is downright fraudulent and the subsequent complaining that you are bound to do when things are changed back will be without merit. Comics have a big thing in common the other subject I blog about here, the WWE: money talks. When the WWE tried to run with a Wrestlemania main event that no one wanted, the fans revolted and they listened because money was at stake. If the female Thor sells a lot more books you better believe they'll find a way to make it stick around longer than originally intended. But if the needle doesn't move, the Thor we're all used to will be back in time for the next Avengers movie.
As far as the Falcon becoming Captain America, there is a goldmine of storytelling that can come from it if the company is willing to go there. Given the history of African Americans in America with all its peaks, valleys, and complications the ascension of an American to the position that symbolizes American might and right can be a fascinating story. We've seen it play out over the last six years in real life of course, but there are some differences between presiding over it from behind a desk and delivering it with your fists. Seeing Sam Wilson wrestle with skepticism from some of his fellow African Americans who have major reservations about embracing full on patriotism, and how his reactions differ from Rogers when some of the more unsavory secrets about SHIELD and the US government in general are revealed to him would make for great stories. Or if he has to deal to with regular people who didn't question anything Cap did as long as it Steve Rogers but have unfounded worrisome feelings about Sam Wilson carrying them out? How does he deal with Luke Cage, Storm, and T'Challa? Do they feel proud to have someone who looks more like them in the role, or does it make them uncomfortable as well? Marvel was once at the forefront of social justice issues in their stories and this is a huge chance to get back on that here, whereas with Thor you're largely going to have a woman doing the regular Thor kind of stuff. We know Rogers will be back in time for Avengers: Age of Ultron but they could really make the most out of a story arc with this. Here's hoping they do.