It’s no secret to regular readers of this blog that I love comics. I read them all the time as a kid. Batman, Superman, Green Arrow, Spider-Man, Nova, The Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. I was particularly fond of books like The Avengers, The Justice League, Teen Titans and The Legion of Superheroes because you got a big dose of superheroes in one story. But as The Green Arrow stole my Robin Hood wanna be heart in the DC Universe, when in came to Marvel Comics, my favorite was always Captain America.
Yep. Cap. The shield slinger. When it came to truth, justice and the American Way, Captain America was the Marvel version of Superman. He was unfailingly good. Other heroes derided him for his morals, his honor, and his sense of right and wrong. He shrugged it off. To Cap, there was a right way and a wrong way to do things. You protect the weak and innocent. You root out evil. You stand up to the corrupt. You lead by example, not by hollow words. And no one led better than Cap.
I often wonder why I found Captain America comics so compelling. I think it has a lot to do with the era I grew up in. Captain America was a vestige of World War II, the greatest generation. For someone who didn’t grow up in the 1960’s and 70’s it is hard to understand the impact of World War II on America during those years. My father was a veteran. Nearly every adult male his age that I knew in my hometown was a veteran. Not all of them, my father included, served in combat. But they shared an experience and stood up for something. And they did it without complaint, without question. They served their country. But you have to understand what the word ‘generation’ means as it is applied here. Nearly every able bodied man in the nation, between the ages of 17 and 26 during the years 1940-1046 served in the War. Millions upon millions of men.
In the 60’s and 70’s America was changing. Things were no longer as black or white as they were during the World War II era. Back then we knew who our enemies were and we not afraid to confront them. But in the 60’s and 70’s sometimes our enemies were among us. There’s a line I love from the movie Three Days of The Condor, when the great actor John Houseman, who is playing a CIA officer, is asked by a subordinate if he ‘misses the action of the World War II years’. He replies “No. I miss the clarity.”
And I think that’s why I loved Captain America. All around me the world I knew was changing. As the world always changes. But Captain America was a constant. Standing up for his country. Doing what needed to be done. And always foiling that pesky Red Skull in his attempts to resurrect the Third Reich. Captain America stood for something. The best in us. Maybe not what America always was, but what it should be, and sometimes he failed but he never stopped trying. Sometimes Cap even went up against those in charge. He lived his fictional life by the Mark Twain maxim of ‘love your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.’
I knew then and I know now that the comics were a little corny. A little jingoistic. Maybe even a tad simplistic. But Captain America was a hero. He was my hero.
And he always will be,