For the second edition of our Saturday Showdown series, Matt and I discuss one of the hottest topics in comics today: should Steve Rogers or Bucky Barnes be Captain America after Captain America: Reborn. Matt felt very passionately that Steve is the one and only Captain America, while I took a slightly different approach. Which one is right to you as a reader? Who do you think should be Cap? Please share in the comments and join the debate!
Matt – For Steve Rogers: When it comes to the question of “Who should be Captain America?”, I feel that it’s an absolute no brainer that the answer is Steve Rogers. Cap getting shot down after the events of Civil War was one of the most tragic deaths in comic history, but leave it to Brubaker to resurrect him only two years later and make the reason why not suck. How much of that was changed in the events of Dark Reign is up in the air, of course, but even so. Now that Cap is back, I believe it’s 100% obvious that he deserves his ol’ shield and cowl back. But since David doesn’t necessarily agree with me, let’s get down to why.
1. Captain America is Steve Rogers
Without Steve Rogers, we wouldn’t have the mythos of Captain America either. Captain America is more than just a man in a suit, it’s a suit and a symbol. The only reason Bucky was made Cap after Cap died was to keep his legacy going, but now he’s back. He can continue his own legacy! If we look at the origin and history of Cap, what do we have? Skinny little Steve Rogers who wants nothing more than to join the army and serve his country. We have a man who inspired others to be all that they could be. We have a symbol so important that when he died, even the news covered it. By my recollection, the news has only covered three stories: Superman’s death, Archie’s marriage, and Captain America’s death.
And when we look at Bucky, what do we have? We have a petulant boy who should be dead (and was one of the “classic three” of characters who wouldn’t return from the dead), a man who most of the other super heroes looked down on as he took over Cap’s role, and a guy who just doesn’t really know how to fill these shoes.
2. Captain America IS STEVE ROGERS
Look, heroes change their colors all the time. Look at Clint Barton! Died as Hawkeye, came back to life and took over the role of Ronin (although he was offered the shield by Stark after Cap died). But as heroes constantly give themselves makeovers, comics tend to get a bit wishy washy over details and, in the end, everyone is just pining for the old days. Can you name one person who actively doesn’t want Barton to return to his old role as Hawkeye? I can’t. And now that Steve Rogers is coming back to life, is there any real reason why he shouldn’t take his old suit back? Not really! Plus, with promises of a status quo fix after the events of Siege, I believe it’s time to get the original Avengers back together, and that means giving Cap back his shield.
Besides, what character would Steve Rogers be if he couldn’t be Cap? It’s not like he’ll sit on the sidelines of superherodom and let everyone else run around while we sits at home watching the game. Steve needs to get out there and do his duty, and that involves getting the suit he’s had since the 40’s.
3. Did I mention Captain America is, and always has been, Steve Rogers? (Minus recently)
We have years and years and years worth of continuity in regards to Steve Rogers being Captain America. The stories, the adventures, the laughs and the tears — they’ve been here almost the entirety of Marvel’s history. As I grew up, it was a staple, and all my favorite Avengers stories involve Steve Rogers under the mask. He symbolizes so much outside of comics that is impossible to ignore. Even the news covered his death! When you replace a character with such stature like this you’re bound to rock a few boats the wrong way, and while I believe the replacement of Cap inside the book by Brubaker has been handled well enough (since it was his story to begin with), it’s pretty impossible to ignore that not every writer has a good idea of how to write for Bucky Cap, and often times he just appears awkward and out of place (like in most of New Avengers these days). Bringing back authoritative Steve, who was a natural leader, will restore a natural set of order to the Marvel U that the writers, as well as the fans, desperately need.Continued below
4. Bucky sucks at this job
Everyone hated Bucky as Cap right away, and I’m not talking about fans. I’m talking about people in the Marvel U. Remember how much of a dick Clint Barton was to him? It was pretty deserved. It’s not that Bucky doesn’t have the skill, but Bucky has a checkered past that taints the role of Captain America, most specifically, ALL THE WINTER SOLDIER CRAP. Yeah, ok, let’s let a communist be Captain AMERICA indefinitely! That makes sense. He doesn’t even really wear a Captain America outfit either, he has jeans on and straps a gun. That’s not very Captain America-n, even if it is fairly American in general.
So do we want the guy the suit was made for in the suit, or do we want a dirty Communist in the suit? You tell me, America. You. Tell. Me.
5. At the end of the day, Captain America is Steve Rogers
Walk into any coffee shop anywhere (preferably not near a comic book store, though), and ask them about Captain America. They’ll know who you’re talking about — Steve Rogers. However, mention that the man behind the mask is different? They’ll be confused. They won’t understand what you’re talking about. Now, go walk into any comic book store, and ask who you prefer as Cap, and the majority will all say that they prefer Steve (although then they might rant about how Marvel is bringing him back too soon and blah blah blah, not the point). We as a community want Steve back. The casual comic reader, the die hard comic reader, all want Steve. There’s a reason Captain America: Reborn keeps selling out, and it’s not because we aren’t excited for his return. We all want our status quo to be returned, and part of that involves Steve stepping back into his old suit and leaving Bucky to figure out his own place.
It’s time to stop playing games and for heroes to stop pretending who they aren’t. Steve? It’s great to have you back.
David – For Bucky Barnes: I want to start this with one simple fact: I love Steve Rogers. I grew up reading him and his battles against the Red Skull, against Crossbones, and for everything that is right in America. He was the living embodiment of patriotism in comics, and he was the heart and soul of the Avengers. In short, he was pretty much the bee’s knees.
One note to make though: the usage of past tense there.
I’m going to have a pretty basic argument here, and it won’t really be supported with anything like “Steve is a bad character” or “Steve shouldn’t be Captain America now that he’s alive.” My central argument is quite simple: Steve shouldn’t be alive.
I’m a huge fan of Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America, as it reinvigorated the character and the mythos that surrounds him. But the thing his run has done is worked as a nearly flawless rendition of progressive transitory storytelling. To me, when you read his run starting with issue one and culminating on issue thirty four, it reads as if Brubaker’s story from the very beginning was one that transitioned Steve Rogers out of the role of Captain America and into Bucky Barnes cybernetic hands. Often in the series, I wonder if Steve is the protagonist or Bucky is, as every single action that takes place is spent saving Bucky from his fate as the Winter Soldier, helping him get de-brainwashed, and then when Steve dies, helping him become the new Captain America.
And it works. It works perfectly. By the time Bucky puts on the new uniform for the first time in issue thirty four, as a reader you are totally signed up as a Bucky Barnes supporter. His first couple arcs are spent wrapping up the whole “Death of Captain America” arc, and once that ends the series sort of stalls a little bit. Why? To me, it reads like editorial interference, as it seems like Brubaker has to spin on a dime and transition Steve back into the story somehow slowly but surely. But the problem with it is, like all returns from the dead in comics, this simply reads untrue to me.Continued below
My theory: Ed Brubaker always wanted Bucky Barnes to be Captain America, and never wanted Steve Rogers to come back. If you think about it, Bucky has so many new stories to tell, so many new relationships to build, and so many things that haunt him. He’s absolutely ripe for another lengthy run on Captain America, as he is a blank slate who is more of a Captain America for today. Less idealistic, less entangled with archaic morals, and far more in line with the current street level feel to the world of Marvel heroes. Bru and the Marvel crew gave Steve Rogers a memorable death, and it was now time for the new kid to take over.
Yet, as per usual, because we are reading comics and they can do what they want, Marvel could not allow Steve to die his death and Bucky to become the hero Brubaker always meant him to be. Because no good hero can stay dead, they pigeonholed him back in with a Slaughterhouse 5 esque move that simply seems ridiculous, and we’re already transitioning Bucky out from the budding hero for tomorrow he was into sidekick mode.
So when you get down to it, my problem with the return of Steve Rogers is based around problems with the industry as a whole less than it has to do with problems with Rogers. We’re never allowed to have characters die, writers are never allowed to tell the exact story they want, and we’re never allowed to get the new version of a character for the next generation of readers.
But the good news is Steve Rogers will be back as Captain America with plenty of time to reacquaint themselves with him before The First Avenger: Captain America comes out in movie theaters nationwide in 2011. Ultimately, that’s what matters to Marvel — not telling the best story possible, but telling the story that best helps them sell their movies. It kind of reminds me of what Costco was like in Mike Judge’s movie Idiocracy. “Welcome to Marvel Comics. Fuck you.” No thanks Marvel, no thanks.
The more freedom Marvel gives their talented stable of writers (and let’s face it, this is the best it has been possibly ever), the more we’re going to get from them. The more original stories, the more headline stories about comics, the more legendary runs. The reason why Marvel ran into so many problems in the 90’s is because Marvel editorial altered the role of their writers from being one of a storyteller into one of a caretaker. A caretaker of multi-decade legacies of characters that do not age and always sell.
For once, I wish Marvel had taken a chance and given us time with this exciting new Captain America, who could be the Cap of a new generation. Of course, given Marvel’s aging audience (the average age of comic readers has moved from being late teens, early 20’s in the Golden Age to around 30 now) and their inability to onboard readers, why would they want to interest readers with a restart to a character with a convoluted history and start fresh whose continuity isn’t so dense that they could actually understand what is going on. God forbid something so reasonable as bringing new readers to a title would happen.