GateHouse — Pasted above other, less-important news stories on the television last week – such as the ones in which creatures referred to as “actual humans” died in some desert or something – was the news that Captain America, legendary superhero, friend of justice, total Spandex fanatic, Guns N’ Roses lyric reference and noteworthy shieldsmith, had been killed.
Not just killed – murdered! Murder most foul, in fact, as the hero was felled by a sniper’s bullet. (A sniper? Really? Oh my God, that is sooooo Green Hornet).
Now, I’m not a comic guy by any stretch, but Captain America was always one of the lamer superheroes to me, down in that B- or maybe C-level strata. Down there with, you know, Iron Man, the Silver Surfer, Potato Jack, the Cheesesmith, Donald Rumsfeld and the Purple Pieman. (Note: Clearly I made most of those up. None of the last four are remotely attached to reality – particularly Rumsfeld – although I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon writing the back story of Potato Jack. By this time next month he will be the comic-book pride of Idaho).
Anyway, though I’m just a court jester with a broken heart, news of Captain America’s death failed to shock me as much as it did every other news organization on the planet, which ran the story as if he were – what are the words I’m looking for here? – an actual person. Reminiscences were reminisced, video tributes were aired and, needless to say, the Internet sagged from the weight of comic-bookers taking to the Discussion Boards to weigh in (Note: That is a volume joke, not a weight joke. I am fully aware that there are plenty of extremely skinny comic-book nerds).
For instance, a fan calling himself “Union Jack” (no relation to Potato) opined on a message board: ”I didn’t like it when they did it to Superman, and I am no fan of it now that they have done it to Captain America.” Another asked: ”Is it true? If so, then I think my days of buying comics have officially come to an end.” Sigh. It’s always tragic to watch innocence fade, dreams shatter, adolescents forced to consider going outside and possibly doing their own laundry.
Death in the comics, of course, means nothing at all: Superman kicked the bucket in 1993, then came back shortly thereafter. I fully plan to kill off Potato Jack in about Issue 8, I’m thinking, at the hands of a nefarious supervillain called, most likely, the Masher. Or Pringles McGee. Or The Dark Ruffler. I can do this all day, folks.
Some angry fans asked their moms to postpone the cleaning of their computer rooms for a moment to issue the cockamamie theory that the death might have been a publicity stunt, as if the killing of a fictional and no-longer-popular cartoon might have been done for reasons other than narrative purity. You’ll notice that “publicity stunt” has become the first line of defense for anybody arguing anything these days: The Stones put an anti-Bush song on their last record because they needed publicity, because if there’s an anonymous rock band in the world these days, it’s the Rolling Stones. Hillary Clinton makes campaign announcements for the “publicity,” otherwise people might not realize she’s running for president. Potato Jack keeps a massive, showy fortress on his home planet of Carbohydratrix for the “publicity.” You get the idea.
But to these people and their claims of disingenuousness, I’d argue the following: You think?
I’m not sure anyone actually thought of Captain America in 30 years; I’d imagine the writers of the comic book couldn’t think of a single new thing to do with an American Gladiator from the ’50s, so they slammed some gin and took him out. The down side is going to come when they have to devise some crazy scheme to turn him around and take him back to the start (I’ve seen it all a million times). Perhaps, and I’m just throwing ideas out here, he could feud with new, up-and-coming superhero. I even have a title: “You say Potato, I say war!”