Chris Peruzzi is a comic book superhero historian who is passionate about how today's comic book heroes are the new mythology for America.
They've Lost Their Minds
Marvel has gone too far and jumped its own hot mess. Tom Brevoort, Senior Vice President of Marvel Publishing, announced that Captain America is secretly a member of Hydra. What's more, he's always been like that. Just breathe and wait for the bright colors to swim away.
In what looks to be a franchise-killing move, Tom Brevoort greenlit a story from writer/politician Nick Spencer where Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, is a subversive deep cover Hydra agent. Hydra, the bad guys . . . the really bad guys that kill people.
What Is Hydra?
What is Hydra? They are the Nazis 2.0. Their goal is world domination. Their motto is "cut off one head and two shall take its place.” They gained prominence under Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker (and unless you’re Mozart, if your parents name you Wolfgang, you’re destined for evil). Typically, Hydra is the antagonist group to Nick Fury’s SHIELD. Strucker used them to extend the blood war between him and Fury. When Fury wasn’t fighting against Hydra, Cap was working with SHIELD to stop them.
They are fascists. They are the shadow governments. They are THE BAD GUYS!
What Was Marvel Thinking?
I’m not alone when I say this idiocy upset me. It's a slap in the face to almost all Marvel fans. The Internet has been on FIRE about this. I can't imagine what Marvel was thinking.
If Joe Simon or (God forbid) JACK KIRBY were alive to see this, someone would have gotten beaten. I'm not surprised Brevoort and Spencer waited until Joe Simon passed away, because they never would have gotten away with this.
This storyline couldn't have come at a worse time. Captain America: Civil War is still a juggernaut at the theaters. In this movie, Captain America has stood out as the lone force against the United States' near-totalitarian stance on superheroes. The entire advertising campaign created a schism between Team Cap and Team Ironman. Millions were spent.
Captain America is the moral compass of the Marvel Universe. He's the role model who the other heroes respect and admire. He's a man with peak human powers standing against evil with nothing but a shield and his wits. Marvel just made this man a subversive slimebag.
Why Did They Do This?
I know what you’re asking: Why did they do this?
It All Started With Spider-Man
I’m looking for answers outside of the obvious. My take on this is it all started with Spider-man. Back in 2013, Marvel, as part of their Marvel NOW! event, introduced a new plotline to The Amazing Spider-Man title. Spider-man's mind was taken over by his arch enemy, Doctor Octopus. This culminated into the temporary ending of The Amazing Spider-Man title at issue #700 and launched the new title THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #1.
The Superior Spider-man's premise was that Peter Parker’s personality was permanently submerged by the dominant personality of Doctor Octopus. Spider-man’s body was controlled by a bad guy. This new Spider-man, while not truly evil, used the tactics and machinations of a villain. For the first time ever, Spider-man had money, minions, a lack of scruples, and wasn’t afraid to beat the living hell (brutally) out of criminals.
While fans were outraged at first, sales increased. Fans were curious. The Spidey/Octopus storyline ran for almost three years (thirty-one issues). Eventually, Peter Parker's personality reemerged, and life went on. Marvel saw dollar signs and thought this “superior” thing was working.
Good Guys Acting Bad
Good guys acting bad was the way to go. Then Marvel did the same thing with Iron Man. As a consequence of the Axis events, the Red Skull had telepathically inverted hero and villain roles. This led to bad guys being good and good guys being bad. After Axis was over, everyone went back to normal except Tony Stark.
The Dark Tony Stark
Tony Stark’s darker personality emerged, making him the alcoholic, manipulative, profit-mongering, bastard we always knew he could be. He developed Extremis 3.0 for consumer use (where subscribers were made younger, stronger, and the perfect versions of themselves for $99 a day).
Ironically, it was Stark who had introduced Extremis as a virus to the city’s water supply. This made anyone who drank the contaminated water addicted to the service. To control the crime rates, he released fly by drones with face recognition programs to monitor and identify anyone breaking the law. That is totalitarianism mixed with drug-pusher marketing.
Once again, sales rose for Marvel, and the plot to Iron Man was never resolved because that’s when they initiated their All-New All-Different Marvel event (retcon) that combined the Ultimate universe (and other popular alternate realities) with the 616 main continuity.
I'm guessing Marvel decided to “let 'er ride” and double down on the hero/villain twist stories with Steve Rogers: Captain America. A rejuvenated Steve Rogers is back in action after the super soldier formula wore off back in 2014, leaving Rogers in his 90s. He has a new shield and a new lease on life.
The final panel of the first issue leaves us with Captain America saying “Hail Hydra” right after he kills one of his old partners, Jack Flag.
In an interview with Time Magazine, Tom Brevoort told us that issue #2 will tell us about a pre-WWII Steve Rogers and how he became a subversive Hydra agent. He hopes it will make people second guess the thoughts and actions of a subversive Captain America and that a new second layer of interpretation might develop. The only real issue is there are 75 years of continuity to the contrary.
Why Cap Can't Be Evil
There are several characters in the Marvel Universe that have earned redemption. Hawkeye, Swordsman, Captain Mar-Vell, and Spider-woman (she was a Hydra agent) are among them. They have dimension and depth. It is because they started bad and it makes them suspect among their peers.
Cap is not one of those characters. He's pure.
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby wrote him that way. He's a Brooklyn kid who saw his country in trouble and went to serve the cause. In an almost mythological way, Steve Rogers is initiated in almost a Masonic ritual where he commits to his American mission in Project Rebirth. He is given the power to fulfill it through science and the spirit of patriotism. It's not an uncommon archetype. It follows Fawcett's Captain Marvel and Marvel Comic's Thor.
The weak initiate gains the power for the mission and is transformed into the hero. Captain America is what he has to be.
Characters like Captain America and Thor are pure. Thor is the god of thunder. That’s who he is. The mantle requires Thor to be worthy. If he's not, he can't lift his hammer. When Thor is unworthy of the hammer, he's no longer Thor. This is why Jane Foster is Thor now.
The product of the super soldier serum treatment (according to Doctor Erskine) turns a good man into a great man. Here’s why Steve Rogers is a good man and can’t be a subversive Hydra agent.
While we're on the topic of Thor, let's talk about his hammer.
Comic book aficionados know that Odin’s enchantment is written on Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. It says: Whosoever holds this hammer, if ye be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor. Other than that, the hammer can't be lifted by another living being.
There are only a handful of people who have been worthy enough to lift Thor’s hammer. Essentially, it's everyone who's owned it before Odin: Odin, Thor, Beta Ray Bill, Jane Foster, and Captain America.
How Could a Bad Guy Lift Mjolnir?
Cap lifted the hammer—more than once. I ask, “Can a subversive Nazi be worthy enough to lift Mjolnir?” The answer is no.
In order to be a subversive agent, he'd have to lie . . . a lot. Lying and betrayal are not qualities that would make a man worthy of Mjolnir. The good man the readers have known as Steve Rogers for the last seventy-five years could do it. A man working toward the goals of Hydra could never do that.
Jesse Black Crow is a Native American medicine man with mystical powers. He’s also a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair. His powers are provided by the spirit of Earth, and when they manifest, they transform him into a mystical warrior: The Black Crow.
Peace Between Black Crow and Cap
By virtue of Black Crow’s ability to walk, his powers have to be genuine. The spirit of Earth (Gaea) powers him and sends him on his mystic missions. The spirit sent him to fight Captain America (CA #292) because he was the symbol of America that had to be killed to appease the Earth spirit. Through that gesture of appeasement, Captain America made peace to it. This created a spiritual bond between the Black Crow and Cap.
Later in the landmark issue #300, after Captain America was poisoned by the Red Skull. The Black Crow appears to him and used the spirit to heal him, saving his life. Could a Nazi subversive fool the spirit of Earth if he wasn’t genuine?
Doctor Faustus is an evil psychiatrist.
When he’s not working directly for the Red Skull or for the Neo-Nazi group, National Force, he’s trying to drive Captain America and his allies insane. I don’t mean frustrated, either. I mean literally insane.
Shortly after Captain America’s came out of hibernation, Faustus worked to drive Steve Rogers out of his mind. He did this by introducing psychoactive drugs and hallucinogens into his system. Even knowing how the super soldier serum works, we know by Rogers' own internal dialogue that it nearly worked.
Doctor Faustus was responsible for mind controlling Agent 13, Sharon Carter, into shooting Steve Rogers and “killing him”. In actuality, it sent Steve Rogers into a space/time phase shift where he fought many battles in the past. The Red Skull retrieves Cap into the present and then mind controls him. When the Red Skull retrieved Cap into the present again, he placed him in mind control.
Why Would This Happen to an Agent of Hydra?
If Cap were a member of Hydra, why would Faustus try to drive him crazy? If he were a member of Hydra, wouldn't the Red Skull use him more effectively in the past?
Telepaths and Sensitives
As an Avenger, Cap works with different types of superheroes. He works with Nordic gods, witches, cosmic aliens, Wakandan and Atlantean monarchs, androids, Eternals, and TELEPATHS. Do you know what telepaths do? They read minds.
How Would He Fool a Telepath?
Cap spends time with some powerful telepaths regularly. Moondragon, Mantis, Professor X, Jean Grey, Psylocke, Franklin Richards, or Phoenix have encountered Captain America. Don’t you think that the thought of “I’m a Hydra agent” might have tripped an alarm? After all, I don’t think psychic resistance was part of the super soldier serum.
Even if none of the telepaths had discovered Captain America’s dark, subversive history, I’m pretty sure Captain Mar-Vell might have gotten it with his “cosmic awareness” or Spider-man might have picked it up with his spider-sense (at least one or two tingles). Leave alone any lie that Captain America might have said in front of someone like Daredevil.
Steve Rogers—Agent of Hydra
This gives me a headache. All superhero logistics aside, Captain America can’t be a Hydra agent because, traditionally, Marvel has used the character as a compass to true America. Don’t believe me? It’s okay; I have facts.
- For as long as we’ve had the character, Marvel has either brought Steve Rogers forward to work with the government or work against it.
- Captain America was brought forth purely because Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were repulsed by Nazism. Cap made his first appearance a year before Pearl Harbor, and he was shown on his first cover beating the hell out of Hitler. It sold nearly a million copies.
- He was the first of the patriotic politically themed heroes. He served as American propaganda during the golden age of comics.
- When Communism and “The Red Scare” were part of the landscape and Cap’s stories were in alignment with the off-color, racist plots against the Chinese, he was retroactively written out of the stories as Steve Rogers. The person in the Cap uniform was an impersonator later written into the stories while the real Cap was in suspended animation. This fake Cap was a product of a bad batch of super soldier serum that caused him to lose his mind. Stories brought the impersonator back and put him on ice until a cure could be found for his insanity.
- Steve Rogers is the voice of Marvel either agreeing or distancing itself with American policy. During the Viet Nam War, it was the fake Cap who went insane fighting that war.
- Later, in the mid-seventies during the Watergate scandal, when Steve Rogers grew frustrated with the American government, he gave up his uniform entirely and took up the guise “Nomad: The Man Without A Country.” When it was over, Cap came back.
- During the Reagan/Bush years, Steve Rogers lost the right to wear Captain America’s uniform and took the alias of “The Captain,” changing his uniform to a red, white, and black design and used a new complementary shield designed by Tony Stark. The New Captain America was John Walker, aka The Super Patriot. Walker, who was already strength enhanced, took the mantle and his style was more reflective of America's neo-conservative view.
- Steve Rogers stayed with the public throughout the Clinton years. However, shortly after September 11th, Rogers worked with the government until his “death” at the hands of Agent 13. While he was gone, the mantle remained empty until his return from “death” during the Bush's second term. Rogers gave the mantle to his old partner, Bucky Barnes, in his guise of the gun-toting “Winter Soldier.”
- Steve Rogers returned shortly after Bush’s departure and became the head of SHIELD. After the super soldier serum wore off and returned Rogers to his chronological age, he passed the mantle to his other partner, Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon—a Captain America who reflected many of the ideals of the current administration.
When we look at Steve Rogers, he’s America. It is a bold statement. Making Steve Rogers part of that repulsive movement would kill Joe Simon if he were still alive.
I’m offended when Marvel Comics takes a look at America and says, “Sorry, but didn’t I mention it? You’re a bunch of Nazis. You’ve always been Nazis. And if you don’t shape up, you’ll always be Nazis.”
This Steve Rogers isn’t us. This Steve Rogers doesn’t represent me and saying so only makes me angry.
How do you rate this article?
© 2016 Christopher Peruzzi
Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on October 29, 2017:
I won’t pay money to read the Secret Empire conclusion. I won’t feed energy to Spencer’s ramblings. It is vile and cheap. However, I will read it eventually for history sake.
In my mind, it was counter productive to who Cap is. In the long run, Cap is America. Spencer may as well say that Cap has emboldened the neo-nazis who marched at Charlottesville. After all, when Marvel’s symbol of patriotism goes bad we have to ask “Who’s good?”
If Jack Kirby were alive today, he would have smacked the shit out of Spencer.
Nathan Kiehn on October 28, 2017:
Man, I didn't even think to blame Superior Spider-Man for this. Gosh darn it, it makes me hate Dan Slott even more...
Cool job going over his history. That's really the main thing that's bugged me about this whole Cap thing (aside from the fact that, y'know, Spencer made him a Nazi): can you seriously make a reader believe that, for the past seventy five years historically, he's been a Hydra member? And, yeah, the Cosmic Cube scrambled with things and his memory and what not, but even with all those cosmic machinations, can you really claim it all added up? It makes no sense, the number of changes or retcons you'd need to explain it all. Joe Quesada tried to do something similar with his "One Moment in Time" to explain away the "One More Day" stuff with Spidey, and it just falls flat. You can't fill a hole if you don't have any dirt.
I know you posted this over a year ago, but with Secret Empire having come to its (underwhelming) conclusion, I wonder what you'd think of all that.
At least we have Waid writing Cap now. He's not your guy to do typically outlandish storytelling.
Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on May 03, 2017:
This is not a mistake on Cap's part. This is bad writing.
The literature gymnastics that Nick Spencer has employed to make this abortion of a plotline happen would make Simone Biles seem like a paraplegic.
No one wants to read this story. Secret Empire #0 has only appealed to people who don't mind seeing an evil Cap - most true Marvel fans know that this cannot be. Spencer literally had to use a gestated version of a cosmic cube to make Cap evil - which essentially is like saying, "Well, all I really need to do is change, reality, history, and logic and it's all really... possible."
I respect the audience that has boycotted this terrible story. It's a disaster and it really sends a bad message about who Captain America is and how a true patriot figure in this medium has not ever existed.
Personally, I'd like to think that there are people who truly love this country as a patriot would. I'd like to think of Cap's line from Civil War.
"Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — 'No, you move.'"
This story and the stories based on this story are wrong. For what Marvel is charging per issue on its title, you have every right to let idiot writers know you're not buying crappy stories.
Uyty on December 31, 2016:
I hope Captain America returns to his true senses its ai'nt fair. Because Hydra is not for him and Steve Rogers does boy look like to Hydra commander at all. Please stop this annoying pitiful twist here stories become complicated misleaded. So make hear that he hadnt killed one of his friends except red Ghost who was a villain however i m really sure that he killed him him a fit of rage not willingly. Make it this a reality and try to realize that Cap's turn to evil immediatly makes no sense nor adventure just After Avengers Standoff where he finally retriever his youth. But now Captain America has returned totally changed with nous longer a will to save or protect the innocents but to harm them. I hate this i dont recognize Steve Rogers and I think if creators transform their honest Heroes into jerks it would be an outrage for the majority or the admirers. Then i hope that next year Captain America turns against his torturers (yes they tortured the poor Captain America into creating à fake story making him loss his senses). Poor Steve Rogers ! I desire that Steve Rogers return with the Heroes and Avengers to correct his misdeeds and help them to figjt Hydra once for all even other heroes have discovered his obvious secret and I hope they help steve Rogers to annhilate his Hydra tendances because he is not himself. Ok Cap makes mistakes like everybody but he cant be Hydra member its too bad since Hydra are murderers supremacist and criminals everything Captain America is not. I hope with Captain America's return to his senses vu finding kobik and obliging the little girl to destroyer his fake life of Hydra and he will return wurh his own circular Shield. Sorry Sam Wilson but there is just only Captain America and its Steve Rogers but dont worry Sam Wilson will return as the Falcon and he had done a good work being Captain America. Please make Captain America heroic again with his own shield later that Sam Wilson drop being Captain America and he will retrieve his popularity with fans and even his friends and allies. Thanks
hostilary on December 30, 2016:
I hate this new concept accorted to Steve Rogers though I think is Iron Man had been bad for a long time its because he is not blameless Tony Stark has shown it during great "Civil War" event coming from 2005-2007 however, it's not the case for Steve Rogers AKA Captain America who is blameless. But now its not the case and how much I dislike it, Captain America has never been an HYDRA member even during his childhood but Red Skull's clone (he is not the original Red Skull who has died and I hate the clone he is worse than his real counterpart) has manipulated Rogers into changing his past who is not real and used to Red Skull's advantage. I have found this theme horrible, nonsense and meaningless. Normally, Captain America is the "correct" hero though he can does mistakes like everyone but he is not evil and intolerant like HYDRA or nazis If you know Steve Rogers's true story, he has grown up within an American jew family, and later he has accepted the experience to become a great super soldier known as Captain America. So; Cap wasn't HYDRA member at all and he has still fought against them, he will do it even if he must pass by this hypocritical theme. I reproach to Marvel writers to have desired to change Captain America's blameless behaviour into an unforgivable one. If it's done, it's just to sell more comics whatever the character is, they don't care and its really despicable. The character that I still love became full of hate even his friends will lose their trust of him if he continues to act hypocritically. So, even if Captain America will pass in his unacceptable theme he will still end up return to his senses like he can do and will turn against HYDRA. I hope it will happen and the series "Captain America Steve Rogers will become the greatest comic of our still favorite blameless hero we have always know.
Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on June 20, 2016:
That is an awesome point. It was Cap's personality that was able to calm down an "erupting" cosmic cube. It was when he teamed up with the Aquarian that the cube got an imprint of his mind and did a lot to counter the effects of the Red Skull and Thanos. (Captain America Annual #7 1983)
A subversive Nazi would have been found out.
AngelofSwords on June 17, 2016:
Let us not forget that he's also held a Cosmic Cube and the Infinity Gauntlet. One would think that, if he were, in fact, SEEKRIT EEEEEVIL, that those MIGHT have been opportune times to reveal it, yes?
The whole stoyline is absurd on its face.
Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on June 10, 2016:
Dinah - It might be nice to get a Marvel writer who respects critical continuity. The mjolnir factor can't be ignored. The fact that cap has worked with telepaths like Moondragon and human lie detectors like Daredevil make the Hydra plot device ridiculous.
Dinah on June 09, 2016:
Thank God somebody else (with an audience) thought of the issue of Thor's hammer. Bless you, sir.
Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on June 08, 2016:
Exactly. I can't see a good story explaining how they got around this.
Ghoul on June 08, 2016:
Even Loki the god of mischief can't fool the Mjordin, but a simple agent Hydra can do it not once but several times