Dec 9, 2016
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 653: Captain America v.1 #280, April 1983
They don't come much more iconic than Cap, really. It's all right there in the name. Where the previous characters I've looked at become icons through popularity, Captain America has his iconic status built right into the character. And that's actually what makes him so fascinating. I used to get a lot of flack from people for being a Captain America fan, especially one that lives outside the United States. But Cap brings out some of the most interesting questions about that nation, and the overriding one that has dogged its checkered history. It's the question of ideal versus praxis - what America was supposed to be, and what it has become. And, really, always was. Steve Rogers, both in his civilian and secret identities, spends a good deal of his time struggling with this, especially in the late 70s and early 80s. I've been meaning to read DeMatteis' run on Cap for a while, so perhaps this will spur me to track down the issues.
One thing that has been both surprising and unsurprising about a number of the comics I've read from this era is how clearly they are asking the same questions, and dealing with the same issues, that we are in our current socio-political climate. Today's comic revolves around a group called the "Coalition for an Upstanding America." Their poster has a picture of Cap accompanied by the words "America As It Once Was. America As It Could Be Again." So, basically the Orange Man's campaign slogan (not sure if I've mentioned it here, but I will not be using the President-Elect's name. Name connotes identity, identity connotes respect, and I have less than none for him). In the end , it's revealed that the Coalition is nothing but a sham, set up by a corrupt businessman who sees a way to turn a profit from the disenfranchised.
So there's that.
Zeck's art, like Perez a few days ago, is for me emblematic of my introduction to superheroes. Along with Crisis, the original Secret Wars, illustrated by Zeck, was one of the very first comics I ever bought at the Hasty Market just down from where we lived in Mississauga. Like Perez, he skirts the divide between realistic and stylized in a wonderful way. I read an interesting post on superheroes last night, one that noted that while it's great to see a character as mythic or godlike, in the end it's their identities as everyday people that draw us in. And the drawing of such characters draws us in further. If I see a musclebound impossibility (I'm staring straight at Rob Liefeld, wherever he is, right now), I can't imagine that person having the same kinds of problems or experiences I do. But when a character is drawn perhaps slightly impossibly, but still within a stylized realm of possibility for the human form, all of a sudden the superhuman becomes more relatable. I think that makes sense.
Who shall be our next icon?