A couple of years ago, Marvel began their Noir line, re-imagining their classic characters in a gritty portrayal of the 1930s and 1940s. While not all of them were great, I think they all qualified as a fun “what if?” kind of diversion. Yet, there’s one iconic Marvel hero that didn’t make the transition that would have been ideal. No, not Thor you wise guys. I’m talking about Captain America. Remove that skeptical expression from your face. Not only could Cap work in a noir setting, he could be the very embodiment of what noir is all about. Follow the cut and I’ll explain my madness.
Now, I’m no expert on noir. There are many people that have been fans of the genre for a much longer time than I have, and who have written detailed essays on the genre. Even so, it only takes a little bit of knowledge regarding noir’s history to know what caused the noir boom of the 40s. The world had just been wracked by war (or, depending on how you view it, was still in the death throes of said war), and a bunch of young men that were still pumped full of wartime aggression had to readjust to “normal” life. One of noir’s many goals was to exorcise that aggression so that these men could once again reintegrate with society. I’ll admit, it’s a much-abridged description, but you get the basic idea.
With that incredibly truncated noir lesson out of the way, I can’t be the only one who sees how well Steve Rogers could be sculpted as a noir character. There’s a ton of possibilities. Maybe he’s a former soldier that imagined himself to be the embodiment of America’s righteous fury, and who, being unable to cause violence in the name of a greater good, has found less savory reasons to fire a gun. Maybe he’s a former poster boy used for recruiting a la Uncle Sam that now finds himself out of a job and will do anything for the fame that he used to have. Or maybe he’s the Captain America that we know, only he never was frozen in ice and time and has to become part of a culture that doesn’t need him anymore.
The obvious barrier? A lot of hardcore Cap fans probably wouldn’t support such a series. No matter how you spin it, if such a comic existed it would most likely be about how and why Captain America doesn’t “work” – unless it was more like the last idea I presented, and even then trying to take it in a more positive direction would probably bring it out of noir territory. Still, I consider myself a Cap fan and I think such a take on the character would be interesting (obviously, or else I probably would not have written this). Just because one comic/movie/novel says “_______ doesn’t work” doesn’t make it true; rather, it’s just another thing to consider. This isn’t a look at Steve Rogers as a character, it’s an exploration of the concept of Captain America, and all things must be considered.
Much like my Authority edition of this column, this has become me doing some unsolicited pitching, rather than the usual “Wouldn’t it be cool if _______ wrote ________?” You know what? I’m fine with that. This is an idea that needs to be done before Marvel completely closes the book on the Noir line (if they haven’t done so already). If an already established writer borrows this idea, I might shake my fist at you a bit, but on the inside I’ll be thanking you. It’s too fitting to pass up.