Monday, 26 November 2012

On "Captain America" #1

          
     
In a world that's ever tending towards the post-modern, it's inevitable that just about every fictional hybrid that's conceivable - no matter how ludicrous and counterproductive - is eventually going to appear. Slamming together the qualities of previously distinct and apparently incompatible work in the search for novelty and sensation will inexorably inspire the kind of ill-worked fusions which would previously have been considered fit only for media-mocking parodies. So it is with Rick Remender's new take on Captain America, in which the writer and his artistic collaborators have appropriated a great deal of Jack Kirby's latter work on the character for a comic featuring not just super-adventuring hi-jinks, but also graphic wife-beating, physically invasive torture, and childhood trauma. It's a bizarre, enervating collision of substance and surface, in which the reader is pushed from a savage beating of the youthful Steve Rogers' mother - by his drink-sodden father - to a  battle with a crew of clearly pathetic eco-terrorists spouting later-era Kirby-speak. "You're far too late, Prince Protector of Pollution." embarrassingly shouts one of the Earth-threatening minions of the "Green Skull" at the entirely indomitable Captain, who's capable of clinging onto a vertically crashing bomber with a single wounded hand. How disconcerting, to find a grab-'em-by-the-pants, Saturday-Morning-pictures punchup following on from a sincerely meant if hammy kitchen sink mini-drama wherein a mother's face is beaten to a pulp by her drunken husband. From a scene in which we're faced with the traumatic consequences of one man's brutality to one in which there's no physical consequences of any importance for the brave and true Captain at all. It's a case of narrative whiplash which leaves the book's scene of spousal abuse feeling at best out-of-place, and at worst a gratuitous self-indulgence. Similarly, all the planet-saving punching in the world can't make the physics-defying powers of the adult Steve Rogers seem impressive, or even interesting and worthwhile, after his mother's been shown suffering such an excess of domestic violence.
     
Above is from scene 1 in Remender's Cap. It's a full-on, realistic depiction of spousal assault delivered in what appears to be a well-meaning and committed mix of cliche and sincerity. In the panels below the following paragraph is the scene which succeeds Mrs Rogers' beating. In that, very bad and entirely unrealistic super-people behave with a maximum of kitsch and a minimum of sense.The two scenes appear to come from quite different stories, with each of them following quite different rules. Put them together and the two seem to come from quite different planets, with the trivial content of most of the book finally seeming to swallow up everything that's anything but.

It's not that there's the slightest suspicion that the book's creators are approaching their work cynically. In fact, quite the opposite seems true. Although the excess of torture which appears later in Captain America is regrettably framed as just another playful marker of heroism and villainy, there's no doubt that all concerned are horrified by the idea and meaning of the beating at the beginning of the issue.  And yet, the shift from the tone and content of the first scene to that of the rest of the book means that Remender might as well have added a caption between the two stating "Don't take anything of what you read in this comic seriously at all". The rightfully serious shifts on a penny into the totally ridiculous, and little so undercuts the value of a depiction of savage domestic abuse as does it leading straight into a jamboree of absurd characters and out-there, deliberately silly plots. This is a book which is trying to mix and match form and content that just doesn't belong together unless a tremendous degree of care is invested in the matter. As such, everything in Captain America becomes reduced to popcorn entertainment, because most of it's so self-consciously daft and purposefully unconcerned with logic that it's impossible to take seriously. Yet. domestic violence is far too serious an issue to be used as the soap operatic seasoning for a superhero potboiler, no matter how Kirby-referencing it is, and the deleterious structure of the book works against its maker's best intentions.


Later, Remender has his artistic collaborators - John Romita and Klaus Janson - present us with several pages in which Steve Rogers is brutally tortured by Arnim Zola. As a very long metal probe is fearsomely thrust into our hero's chest, blood spurts and howls echo, and yet nothing will stop Captain America from wrenching himself free and escaping. It would be a shocking business if it wasn't so blatantly manipulative. In the foreground of the most explicit of the panels concerned - see the bottom of the page - we're presented with the appallingly violated and screaming superhero, while behind him is the patently silly figure of Zola spieling out his B-Movie villain banalities. What's both remarkable and depressing about all of this is that Remender and Romita have again made no serious attempt to reconcile the gratuitous use of real-world concerns with the comics-for-boys fun of it all. At the book's beginning, domestic violence was followed by light-hearted heroic adventuring. Here the appalling and the daft are all mixed in together. Consequently, torture is reduced, as it so often is, to a trope to show how butch and brave the victim is, and the silliness of the situation reduces the whole business to thrill-a-panel conflict and nothing but. (As with torture, so with wife-beating, as catastrophic social problems are reduced to drop-in melodramatic seasoning for the important business of showing how tough and admirable Roger's is.) That's particularly obvious when the tortured superhero hauls himself out of the hi-tech he's been insecurely strapped to and stumbles before a monster crying out, "I tried to tell! Why leave his body with arms?" Of course, why would any super-genius leave Captain America's arms largely unrestrained while he's being tortured, and how can we take anything seriously if that's so? For when the majority of the plot is actually a celebration of the nonsensical aspects of the super-book, everything in the book is tarred with the same brush. As such, Captain America is nothing but a parade of the most enthusiastically-presented and shallowly-constructed fannish cliches, with the reader being left to mash it all together - or not - into a consistent and satisfying narrative.
 
Above, we have explicit torture, and below, we have the gag that's supposed to make the whole business of Remender's I'm-only;y-playing-so-why-should-the-plot-make-sense approach amusing. Because torture in this context is, it seems funny, which leaves the sense that it and spousal abuse only exist to spice up and thicken what's otherwise a grimly thin comic.
    
It's not the logic-be-damned, anything-for-sentiment'n'thrills storytelling that so condemns this Marvel Now title, although it does mean that Captain America really isn't a comic that's for anyone who likes their books tightly-plotted and internally consistent. (Start listing the plot-holes in Remender's script and you'll be at it for a very long time indeed.) What ultimately sinks the comic is the suggestion of emotional and moral depth that the presence of the wife-beating scene combined with Rogers' "liberation" of Zola's child attempts to create. We're clearly supposed to associate Captain America with the boy he's escaped with, and the implication is that they've both been abused and they'll both end up bonding over their common suffering. It's a suggestion of meaning that seems designed to ground all the go-for-broke spectacle in a vague, eye-moistening air of emotion and importance.

But it doesn't succeed in achieving anything of the sort. The attempts to lend weight to Captain America #1 are as awkward and ill-judged as they're saccharine and unconvincing. For this isn't a book that actually deals with the real-world horrors which it tries to put to use. Instead, issues which should only be raised in order to be discussed in their own terms seem here to exist simply to make the superheroics of it all seem more substantial and affecting.  In truth, Captain America's an enthusiastic if paper-thin and shiny shoot-'em-up  which - inadvertently, no doubt - exploits serious social problems which ought to have been been left alone or treated with the immense respect they're due.

     
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23 comments:

  1. It's a complete mystery to how did Remender came up with the idea of starting the book with the wife abuse scene. We would need to be a lot euphemistic to label it as tawdry... worse yet the joke about the sexual innuendo a few pages after just get... creepy (maybe that is the point... through a projection of his mother suffering Cap. now enjoys pain? Because a motto like" we always stand up is just dumb and noneffective). It is terrible to see that things keep happening even after the wake up call that was "women in refrigerators"...

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    1. Hello Thomaz:- The shame is that if the spousal abuse had been so awkwardly ill-mixed with the rest of the book, it wouldn't have seem so - as you say - tawdry. There's no reason why the superstructure of RR's story can't work, there's no reason why Cap can't be motivated by his childhood memories and find a measure of himself in looking after Zemo's nipper. There's no reason why he and Sharon can't settle down with the boy either. It's the throw-it-all-in, mix-it-with-some-abstraction-of-Kirby and make-a-big-splash mentality which sinks it.

      You're right, folks in comics aren't learning. And that goes for the heroic torture scenes as much as the violence against women. Either could work, but not in this way .... :-(

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    2. Hy Colin,

      My issue with the domestic violence is: it is much more crude and 'realistic' than the whole rest of the comic making anything that follows seems to be only a delusional running for the ultimate reality of the everyday dramas. By showing Steve's wife being beaten and the fact that she stays up to get another punch (and not any initiative to change the situation even the more than cheesy "enough!" is brought to the scene)I believe that the more sexists of the interpretations may be risen. And when she says then "you always stand up" as if standing up was a virtue in itself it sound rather plain since... well it is a motto that may well be applied to any sociopath, including the Cap. arch-nemesis Red Skull, for example. It brings to mind all the events in which Cap. acted as if he believed that he had some sort of natural gift of being right despite any consequences or regards to any other opinions.
      Of course, only looking at the whole comic we can evaluate how these first pages feel so bad... because I can't see actually what was the point of that first two pages at all and to me they seem to be there only for the joy of the sadistic audience...

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    3. Hello Thomaz:- Unusually, for I usually agree entirely wityh you on such issues, I'm not comfortable in agreeing with you here. Or rather, I share your concern about these aspects, but I don't see the links between, for example, Steve's mother and the matter of his sex life. I'm not suggesting that there's not a case for an analysis which does draw that material together. But it's not one I'd go for. I think those scenes are far enough apart in terms of pages and content to mean that they don't relate to each other as you've interpreted. Mind you, if you're interested in a psycho-sexual analysis of texts, then what I've said there will seem short-sighted. You've an interesting point, I'll say that. But it's one I'm interested in reading even as I think it's not for me.

      I think that the first few pages were there for sincere reasons, I really do. They seem to have had the function of establishing that Steve's mother was both abused and yet inspiring, which sets up Roger's heroic career and his saving of Zemo's kid. Yet it's a terribly misjudged scene, as you say, and it does seem sadistic rather than compassionate. At the very least, there was no need to see such brutality framed in the conventions of a superhero punch-up. In fact, the more I think about it, the more uncomfortable I am.

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  2. It's safe to say I enjoyed this one more than you, Colin.

    Well, we could probably say, 'I enjoyed this one'. As you note, there was likely sincere intent behind the presentation of the domestic abuse, and while I'd rather it wasn't there - I like a Cap who's good because he's innately good, not because he's trying not to be his father - I appreciate that Romita showed that even non-super fists can hurt.

    The different art finish underlined that this is indeed a different story from the one in which Cap hangs onto a rocket - everything about Steve Rogers' world has changed. I'm OK with a super-hand being able to grab onto a rocket, and a super-acrobat being able to balance his body to make that hand count.

    As for the torture, I must be inured to This Kind of Thing, I read it not as torture - Zola wasn't trying to get Cap to reveal anything - but as Zola stealing something from Cap, painfully. The 'hero hooked up by mad scientist' bit is an old trope, and here we have it with the added screams and blood today's readers are assumed to enjoy. I'd have been thoroughly upset had it been a civilian being tortured, but Zola is an evil nutter, so he's being vile to the hero for his rotten plans.

    But perhaps we should be crying out against all depictions of events that could be read as torture? Hmmm ...

    While I linked the flashback to Cap's breaking free of the machines - it's made pretty explicit - I missed the idea of the rescued being a Young Steve analog.

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    1. Hello Martin:- Of COURSE I'd read your review of this issue before I thought of doing mine, and as always, I think your balanced review helped me try to sift the "outraged-of-East-Anglia" tone from the above. I fear not enough, mind you, but the presence of your review certainly helped. Quite seriously, this would've been FAR more HOW-DARE-HE if not for your welcome, calming influence.

      I would say that Zemo's procedure certainly is torture by any definition of the word. Even by the least liberal definitions of the act, that’s exactly what it is. Torture isn't simply an act undertaken to extract information. It's the imposition of physical – and in more progressive definitions - psychological pain on someone, and Zemo's certainly doing that here. So, I don't think it has to be read as torture, because that’s what it is. Now, I’m struggling to make these words reflect the good humour that I’m feeling as I type them, so I hope it won’t seem as if I’m doing anything other than chatting rather than ranting at you. (HOW DARE YOU DISAGREE WITH ME, EDINBURGH-BOY!!!!!) Yet when both spousal abuse and torture get reduced to ways of making us admire and pity a superhero in his lonely battle against evil, I tend to feel that I’m being had. But as you quite rightly imply when talking about your own opinion, it’s hardly a watertight and objective opinion. I just believes me those things.

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  3. Great work, as always, Colin.

    The strangest thing, I think, is that Remender's Captain America is actually less dour and creepy than his Uncanny Avengers, to the point I almost didn't pick up on just how jarring the tonal shifts of the book are from scene to scene. Then again, both titles suffer from identity disorders, down largely to Remender's fascination with the freakish and horrific clashing with Marvel's marketing as...whatever it is they think they're doing with the Now line.

    I didn't have the same adverse reaction to Arnim Zola's Rube Goldberg bloodmobile as you, but taken in conjunction with the opening pages (as Remender clearly wants to), it is at best a blunder. Mostly, I'm left thinking this hybrid could have worked if a little more thought had been given to it. Some subtext (Cap's apprehension about marriage, perhaps?) that could have boiled under the surface, rather than moments like the bloody slap (or "sklap," if that panel insists) shouting at the readers.

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    1. Hello Andrew:- Thank you. I too had a problem or four with that Uncanny Avengers debut issue. As you say, it seemed to jump around all over the shop and settle on odd moments which wouldn't always seem necessary or even particularly productive. And once again, as you say, the jarring shifts in tone, the B-Movie villainry placed right next to supposedly more heartfelt and serious material. It's not for me, I fear.

      I'm certainly with you that the book could have been made to work. It's the post-modern approach which is the problem. RR seems to feel that simply laying sequences containing quite different and clashing aspects is enough. His method throws everything back at the reader. MAKE SENSE OF THIS, his pages seem to demand, and that's not the kind of enigmas I want from my comic books :) I prefer the writer to do that kind of work, and to know that if we're dealing with domestic violence and "heroic" torture, it'd better be sensitively done to an ethical end that isn't just "aw, poor suffering, baby-bonding Cap".

      Not good, I fear, and not the kind of material that an industry with so many years of experience behind it needed to be printing.

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  4. The more negative reviews I see for this, the more I think I like it. It's not as good as the 70s Kirby stuff it tries to evoke, but it's drawn by Romita Jr and Janson so I can't really be objective about it.

    Give me all the torture in the world, fine, but please stop all the "daddy issue" plots. Clearly Steve is afraid of becoming his father but he's also strengthened by his mother, and he'll learn this by caring for a child in a hellish wasteland. Wrap it in an American Barbarian Kirby-inspired flag and I'll be fine.

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    1. Hello Bill:- I've no problems with Kirby-Cap. I've incredibly warm memories of the Bicentennial/Mad Bomb/Damn Brits run, for example. My problem isn't with that, but with the ill-mixed hybrid of that with what RR calls "soap opera" in the letters column. Oh, and the plot-holes, torture etc

      Again, there's nought wrong with social issues in the social book. But thrown in for spectacle's sake without taking the care that the issues demand? Not for me, I fear. Still, if it's thumbs up for you, then that's something good in my book to be said for the comic :)

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  5. I had some of the same problems you had, Colin, but I certainly didn't hate it as much as you did. The domestic violence scene was absolutely terrible, you're right, but I didn't have that much of a problem with Zola. I hope you don't think I'm being disrespectful, but are you sure you're not seeing torture just because you expect it? If Zola can't do that to Steve, as he's a supervillain and he definitely wants to extract something from Steve, we might as well get rid of the entire hero/villain dichotomy, because this kind of scene is as old as fiction in which villains and heroes match up. I don't think that's what you're advocating (it might be!), but I see a clear difference between torture and what Zola does to Cap. Is it the graphic nature of the scene that bothers you? I know that's something you've written about before, and I do think that Romita could have shown less and implied more, but I still think you're exaggerating a bit. By my count, there are four panels, not "several pages" of explicit "torture," by which I mean Zola's device plunging into Steve's chest, and your last panel there is one of the few with any blood, and I wouldn't call that "spurting." If you count the "torture" pages as any in which he's strapped to the device, because of the psychological aspects of it, then it's only 2+ pages - again, maybe that's too much, but it's not like it's a long, drawn-out, meticulously rendered scene. I'm on board with you with the idea of torture becoming more mainstream and that it's not a very good thing, but I'm not entirely sure how this comic backs up your argument. How are villains supposed to be, well, villain-y?

    I am glad you mentioned the plunging plane, though - I forgot about it in my review. More than just Cap clinging to the plane, it appears the Green Skull is not wearing straps on his shoulders, so how does he stay in the seat? And does the plane level out, or is Cap fighting the bad guys the entire time while the plane is plunging straight down? I don't like Romita's artwork on this book, and that goes for the storytelling, too, because those pages make no sense. NO SENSE!!!

    Cheers, sir. Always fun to read your thoughts!

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    1. Hello Greg:- Oh, I don't regard a good question as disrespectful :) I've nothing against a torture scene at all, as I said in the above. I struggle with the style and content of this one, as I tried - my fault, of course - to explain in the piece. However, on the definition of torture, it's got nothing to do with my opinion on the matter. It's just that that's what torture actually is. Cap is tied down and subject to a gruesome physical procedure which involves something rather solid being drilled into his chest. Now, in many definitions of the word, kidnapping Cap and tying him down - and particularly in such intimidating conditions - would be regarded as torture in itself.

      As for the panels which show the torture, the sequence in which Cap is shown bound and then wounded takes two pages. Part of the sequence is the confinment, threat and so on. I'd say that the panels that I've shown establish that the torture's 'explicit', but if you don't think so, then we'll just have to agree to differ. But by own lights, that's several pages of the rituals of torture. As for it not being "long, drawn-out" and so on; I'm sorry, but how much more needs to be shown? It's a gruesome scene, and yet, as typical, the superhero just suffers nobly, fights back and heroically escapes. I'll keep what follows as brief as poss, because I've known I said it, er, a few times, but we live in a world in which the very basics of what torture is and how it affects those concerned are obscured, and one of the ways that that's achieved is through the way in which torture is portrayed in heroic melodrama. Here, torture's a hoot, juxtaposed with ludicrous villains and idiot schemes. It's just a joke. And, as with spousal abuse, I'm not up for these things being taken so lightly.

      But that doesn't mean that torture can't be used. Yet if it is, then I believe that there's a moral obligation for it to be in some part the meaning of the scene, and that part of how it's used is to undercut the myths and establish the truth of what torture is. So, a villain who behaves in this way shouldn't be a laughing stock, or at least, should be played as such and nothing else. The origins and consequences of the act should be referenced. And that strikes me as being an interesting framework to discuss both hero and villain, as well as referencing real-world issues.

      As for such conventions being part of the heroic melodrama tradition, well, there's lots of traditions there. I mentioned quite a few in my review of Raymond's Flash Gordon Sundays a few days ago. There are conventions which, for all they've lasted, need to be rooted out, or at the very least, significantly reformed.

      Because we do live in a world where both of our nations are at the very complicit in torture, and where substantial numbers of citizens appear convinced that it's not only justifiable, but productive in a simple mechanical way too. And these are issues which even the simple-minded use of these tropes in pop fiction add to, in the way of the drip-drip-drip of prejudice-reinforming storytelling. So, let's have Zola torturing Rogers, but let's have it tell us something about the act and the characters too. Yet the truth is, the scene here tells us nothing about either character that isn't immediately obvious, and it certainly tells us nothing about how and why folks are affected by doing such things, or being subject to them.

      It's not that this issue creates torture. I'm not suggesting - as one quite furious and apparently insane, deleted email suggested - that reading this will turn us all into bad people with pliers and wire. But it's one more drip, and one more wasted opportunity ...

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    2. cont;

      But beyond that point, which I'm very happy to shake hands with you and agree to disagree over it And I'm with you about the comic as a whole. The book really does make no sense. I mentioned in the piece about how listing RR's lack of sense in the plot would take a long time. You've made a good start, but, as you'll know, that's hardly the beginning of it. From Cap walking into what's obviously a trap while paying so little attention to what's around him to the idea of him smuggling a child out in the back of his SHIELD .... Quite why a piece designed to be out-there fun should have to contain such a sloppy script escapes me.

      And I guess all that reinforces my objection to the domestic abuse, drill-Cap-through-the-chest business. In a book which makes no sense, things which have a real-world importance are inevitably cast in a light which suggests they've far less importance than they ought to.

      But oh I know I'm out of step here, I really do. I wish I wasn't. Thanks, despite that, for engaging with me in such a friendly and fair way. You're an egg.

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  6. Colin: I understand where you're coming from, and I do agree to a point with you, as I don't think torture belongs in a comic book that is essentially ridiculous. That's my biggest problem with the opening scene, in fact - tonally it was so off from the rest of the book. I agree with you that torture is being used without regard to the consequences, and that's upsetting. We don't see the consequences of domestic abuse; instead we get a facile "you stand up" homily that helps no one. We don't see the consequences of torture; we see Steve heroically rising from the chair and escaping. I agree that if a creator shows torture, he should show the consequences of it.

    I guess the main question I have for you in regard to this issue is ... what would you have liked Zola to do? He wants the super-soldier serum in Steve's blood, and he's a super-villain. A goofy super-villain, sure, but still a super-villain. How's he going to get that blood from Steve? Ask nicely and hope for the best? I don't want to sound snotty, because I think your ideas about how superhero comics should work are really fascinating. So, if you have an idea where Arnim Zola needs super-soldier serum to help his "kids" and Steve Rogers' blood is the only place where you can get it, how do you extract it? How would Colin Smith's Captain America #1 play out? You know you want to write it!!!!!

    Man, if only writers wrote stories like Raymond's Flash Gordon series ...

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    1. Hello Greg:- What could Zola do? Well, I'm perfectly happy with the torture occuring. The story would need editing so that there was space to focus on why Zola chose to torture Rogers in that way! One of the minor and yet still disitracting problems with his villanous method of getting the super-serum out of Cap is how complicated and unnecessary it is. If Zola - I keep typing 'Zemo' - wants to get it, why not drug Cap? What not simply bind him down properly? What's interesting to me is that Zola has gone for an incredibly austentatious and complex mechanical approach that offers Rogers a hope of escape. This is sadism and arrogance, no doubt informed by an excess of hatred and Narcissism. Now that's a personality that deserves paying attention to. Here's Zemo claiming to be doing what he must, arguing that his approach is scientific and safe, and yet his motives and methods are anything but.

      And if we drop the scene with the Green Skull from the book, which adds nothing to the comic as a whole, we can even show Cap reflecting on his own experience after escaping and his knowledge of how he knows its going to haunt him. (There are pages of largely dialogue-free panels in the book.) Wouldn't it be terrific to have a hero who's broken free of such terrible punishment actually say to himself something along the lines of "I don't want to, but I know I'm going to have to seek out Doctor Samson to help me through the consequences of this once the adrenalin wears off?" It wouldn't make Cap any less admirable in terms of bravery and strength, but it really would mark him out as a good example too. Cap sitting before a fire while Zola's kid sleeps talking for a few brief panels about how he still gets nightmares from all the time's he's been tortured. Perhaps he makes a joke about it, listing a long litany of super-villains ... and then he stops, shuts his eyes, and, cut, next scene: CAP VERSUS ALIEN DINOSAUR.

      So, as laughable as I'm sure it'll seem, that's what how my CA#1 would play out. I'd keep the jeopardy, keep the hero and keep the villainy. But I focus on the things RR didn't; what makes someone a torturer, how to cope as best you can with the terrible, terrible experience, and so on.

      Copyright, I'd-Have-My-Cake-And-Eat-It Productions :)

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  7. Colin: See, that's a perfectly fine way to have your cake and eat it too, and that's why I asked. I think the most crucial phrase in your response was "The story would need editing" - I had to laugh, as we both know that editors don't actually edit anymore. I'm trying out all the Marvel NOW! books, so I'm reading a bit more cape comics than I have in the past year, and as always when I dip into them, I'm amazed by how much they read like first drafts. Do editors even give them a once-over? Maybe the editors on this book (Thomas, Sankovitch, and Brevoort) don't share your ideas, but you can't tell me they thought this version was the absolute best we could get. I know you read Fantastic Four #1 (which I think you liked a bit more than I did), and you can't tell me that didn't need some editing. I don't think it's a consequence of the "cult of the writer" that has been reborn at the Big Two, because a lot of the art needs editing, too. I wonder if the speed with which these suckers come out not only means that an artist can't be on a book longer than a few issues, but the scripts get only a cursory glance before they're shunted off to whatever assembly line artist they have on the issue this week. But that's a whole different topic!

    But yeah - I think your version works perfectly well. I suppose that Remender didn't really think Zola torturing Cap is a big deal, but again, perhaps he was on a deadline and wrote down the first thing that popped into his head, thought it sounded "kewl," and moved on!

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    1. Hello Greg:- The lack of editing in the superbook is a terrible problem. It's probably the single most serious problem in the sub-genre. There are of course editors who we know both know their job and do it too, in terms of advising and guiding. But on the whole, the editing's either not getting done or it's not getting done very well. The example of FF#1 which you give is a prime example. The sequence with The Thing there, for example, simply doesn't make sense. How did that get onto the page? If that was edited ... no, it doesn't make sense.

      The thing is that there are scripts out there which are impressively well-worked. Work by Aaron and Gillen and Waid, Simone and Cornell and Williams; that tends to really smart, well-polished material. And all of those folks are - or recently have been - very prolific. If there are folks who think their productivity excuses their sloppiness ... well, impressed is not a quality I feel about that.

      I'm just listening to the RR appearance on Kieron Gillen's Decompressed podcast. I think, if you've not heard it, that you'd find it interesting. He's certainly a bright and enthusiastic guy that it's worth listening to.

      Which doesn't mean that I don't think his work needs editing, mind you ...

      The curse of "kewl"; I'm wondering where to go with the blogging at the moment. If you see a site called "The Curse Of Kewl" spring up, I'm trusting you to keep my identity secret.

      Mind you, who'd care :)

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  8. Colin, I'm at least heartened to hear reference made to Steve's abusive father at all - outside of J.M. DeMatteis & Mark Gruenwald, he's an unexplored commodity in the life of Captain America and it must be nearly 20 years since he was last referenced! Considering how many "daddy issues" stories we've had around Tony Stark (and his father wasn't so much a violent drunk as a verbally abusive drunk), Clark Kent (not his human father, his krummy Kryptonian dad), Reed Richards (whose father is still alive, just emotionally distant) or Bruce Banner (KING! OF! DADDY! ISSUES!), it's actually amazing to realize the sum total of Captain America's father's Marvel Universe presence amounts to maybe 2.5 pages of material over 30 years, rather less than you'd expect from one of the premiere Marvel super heroes.

    Instead of his father, Captain America's "sins of the past" stories (ie, Brubaker's entire output) involve an old ally of Cap's who feels betrayed or an old enemy of Cap's who somehow survived the war (in the Brubaker tales, they aim straight for one of Cap's friends). It seems as though Captain America's "daddy" is World War 2 itself, rather than Joseph Rogers.

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    1. Hello Michael:- Again, your knowledge of this material is both impressive and informative. I had a vague sense that Steve's dad had appeared before, but memory had it associated with Steve Gerber's brief tenure. So much for memory.

      As you discuss the issue, I'm more and more convinced that, yes, it's amazing that the man's been so little referenced, and that it's a shame that he had to be used this way. And for the reasons I've blahed-blah-blahed on about in the above.

      Of course, Daddy issues have always been a part of Marvel's super-book. Thor and Odin was perhaps the most obvious and constant of them. But as you've said to me before, the likes of Uncle Ben were rarely referred to in the early years. So even when Battlin' Murdock and his kind were part of a strip's backstory, they weren't often part of events. But I suppose soap-opera inevitably generates family conflicts, sensible or not, and yet, that brings us full circle to your original point. How is it that Cap's dad has been so invisible?

      I love the idea of WW2 as Cap's Dad. Or rather, I like the way you phrase that POV. Yet the idea that Cap's character can be rooted in a media-ised version of WW2 actually saddens me. The Twenties and Thirties are such a fascinating period, and so little used in a convincing fashion in the superbook beyond pulp pastiches.

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  9. I’ve yet to agree with a single thing you’ve written, but I truly appreciate the thought and effort you puts into finding things to not like about things I like. No joke. This blog MATTERS

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    1. Hello Jeremy:- It sounds to me that my finding something not to like about a comic is a sign that you'll believe quite the opposite. There are folks I read who serve that function for me. I very, very rarely find A A Gill, to take but one eample, ever likes what I enjoy and admire, and if he does, I quickly start to doubt my opinion.

      Oh, well. There are worse functions for a blog to fulfil. It's not the one I'd have chosen, but there you go...

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  10. Hi Colin- it's me, Colin, again :) Just read this again after picking up both Capt. America #1 & #2. I liked them- they were fun (aside from the domestic abuse, which I felt served it's purpose to illustrate the steely will of Steve Rogers). Sometimes I just want fun & ridiculous, and I found that here- I also enjoy Romita's art. I plugged you at my blog and keep a link on my sidebar for anyone interested in a more academic look at comics. Occasionally I read something here, and am (laughs) disappointed you didn't like something, but it makes me think- I'm only about two years into comics as an adult, having given up drinking at the time and in search of a more healthy distraction. It worked- I no longer drink, but have a ways to go as far as critical analysis of comic books I'm afraid. Still, you always give me a new way to think about them. Cheers!

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    1. Hello SDTB:- I'm rushing to assure you that I don't mistake my own opinion for fact! Those words "critical analysis" don't contain anything that promises objectivity! By which I mean, I've not a shred of a problem with your enjoying the new Cap. My feeling is that the book could've contained all the fun you mention without carrying the problems with tone, sense and the torture scene; the strengths of the book were actually undercut by those aspects of ther work rather than bolstered by it. I think that the new Cap could've appealled to the audience that's you AND the audience that's ME as well. I've no objection to out-there, daft books at all. Indeed, there's many I've dearly loved. My objections not to that, but to aspects that I thought were sloppy and dodgy. It's a frustrating business, because there are parts of this Cap book that seem promising.

      I have the same problem - albeit in a different context - with so many New 52 books. I've no problem with action packed stories. It's when they're done with little attention to sense, character or - as has happened over there at DC - ethics.

      Or to put it another way, fun comics should still be carefully crafted. I really don't want a world of deeply serious, deeply ponderous books. Gawd no.

      Thanks for saying that TooBusyThinking offers you something to disagree with. I can think of no better compliment. There's a strange attitude in the blogosphere amongst alot of folks that the best reviews are ones which the reader can agree with. Strange idea that. Since I already know what I think, I'm most interested in critics who may well disgaree with me. I'm always here to be contrary :)

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