Welcome to the first installment of Coffee and Comics. Where we, the writers here at Capeless Crusader get to voice our opinions as a group by discussing the big topics of the previous week. Think of it is a salon, only less pretentious. A round table but not as serious. Just a bunch of nerds nerding out to a bunch of nerdy stuff, really. But that’s why you love us and why you love Capeless, right? Good. Stick around and you’ll get a chance to get some insight into who we are as the content creators and as individual people. And always, always, always feel free to interact and engage with us if you agree or disagree. That’s the entire point, after all. We want to hear from you as much as we want to create a place for us, so do not hesitate to start a thread in the comments section. : )
Keeping in the spirit of this weekend we thought it best to start off by talking about America’s favorite Star-Spangled Avenger, Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America. As of Thursday, Cap has set a new record for pre-release ticket sales at the box office and looks to dethrone Noah as the number 1 movie in America. In the world of comics, he has evolved from an archaic trope of a bygone era to the principled moral compass of an every-expanding Avengers team and arguably the most popular of the entire bunch to transfer from print to the big screen. We sat down, I asked a few questions about the guy; some of us had short answers, others had long ones that veered a little more on the other side of the spectrum. Enjoy.
This week we’re talking all things Steve Rogers. I’ll start with a basic, two-part question.
Do you have an affinity for Captain America? How did you see him as a child, growing up?
Mai Byers: I don’t have much to contribute other than this: I’m not a fan of the captain. He’s too much of a goody-goody for my tastes. Same reason why I’m not a Superman fan. Although I did have a big crush on him from the 1990 movie. I think I was like 6 or 7 when I saw that. lol.
Jesse Quick: My initial opinion of Captain America was not a warm one. He struck me as the same kind of cookie cutter, generic, white bread hero fantasy that I placed Superman in and I didn’t want anything to do with him. Even I had to admit that at least Superman had cool powers; Cap just didn’t cut it.
Alex Byers: Affinity for Captain America? Not particularly. I remember him as a kid and I know I dressed up as him and made a shield. I’d say I had an affinity for the shield more than the man. I thought his super power was the ability to throw a shield and always have it come back. Other than that he was just a moral compass, and that’s pretty boring until you’re an adult.
Asaph Bitner: I think Captain America is a fine super-hero with an interesting origin story. I do think that the idea that the super soldier formula was all in this one scientist’s head is somewhat of a plothole (okay, it’s actually a pretty big plothole), but other than that, Cap’s origins are quite compelling.
Mike Sains: So far as a group, we’re seeing a mixed bag of feelings, already. Personally, when I was a kid, Cap was always one of the characters that drew my eye but not my attention. He, like Silver Surfer and Ghostrider, were so cool to look at but for very different reasons. He was the American ideal incarnate, which to an 8-year old me was the lamest possible thing that you could be. But he had this great costume and a bad-ass shied. So at least there was that. And for the record, that movie Mai mentioned is still the worst movie I ever saw as a kid.
How do you see him now? Has anything changed?
Jesse Quick: As time has progressed I’ve come to love something about the character. What I love most about him are two things, one is that he is a soldier which is rare for the Marvel universe. There are soldiers of course—Carol Danvers, Rhodey, etc.—but Marvel doesn’t like to play with soldiers too too much, and it’s cool to see someone with a military mentality doing superheroics. Second, and this is probably more important, I like the fact that he is one of the few Golden Age heroes who is still relevant from either of the Big Two. Sure DC has the JSA but they are kind of old and washed up. Batman, Superman, and Wonderwoman all had to be rebooted to some vague “now” time. Cap is one of the only characters around that is just as relevant as he used to be but also has some connection to that original explosion of comics that cemented the genre.
Alex Byers: My view of him has changed a lot since then. I now see him as a hero because of his dedication to being a moral compass. Now I see a sympathetic hero that’s been glamorized through modern media. Which he is pretty bad-ass in the media side.
Mai Byers: Nothing has changed, really. My only experiences with Captain America are:
1. A really old Captain America movie probably from the 1990s
2. The Avengers movie (2012)
3. Captain America: The First Avenger movie (2011)
4. His brief cameo in Alias
5. My recent brush with the first two issues of Marvel NOW! Winter Soldier: The Bitter March.
Asaph Bitner: Many times, Steve Rogers is hard to relate to. He just seems too good; he’s honest, loyal, kind, brave, altruistic to a fault, etc. The result is that he feels to me, as a comic book reader, like the poster boy that he was portrayed as by the in-story US government, and not a real person. Or, rather, not like a real fictional person. I think that Marvel has managed to make the film universe’s Steve Rogers into a pretty compelling character so far, mostly through his relationships and interactions with other characters. I think we also see some flaws in his character (in The Avengers he and Tony Stark severely mistake each other’s personalities when on the SHIELD helicarrier). I personally don’t like seeing politics and religion shoved where they don’t belong, and when I see political and religious messages that go too far in comics I tend to be bothered by them. One such case is in the Ultimate Captain America series. In this limited-series comic book (spoilers ahead, not that anyone should really care in this case) Captain America is caught by Nuke, who was an attempt to create a new super-soldier to act as the new Captain America during the Vietnam war. However, Nuke went crazy and is now doing some nefarious stuff (I don’t remember exactly what right now and it doesn’t matter). Steve Rogers is sent to stop him, gets captured, and is about to be executed. When Rogers is sitting in his cell, he prays to God for a way out, and it’s revealed that there’s a venomous snake in there with him. Next, Nuke opens the cell door, Cap spits venom in Nuke’s eyes, proceeds to defeat him and win the day. The book ends with Captain America sitting by Nuke’s bed, opening the bible and starting to read from it. I’m not a religious man. Maybe to some devout Christians, this book was a great read. However, I’d like to think that my personal opinions wouldn’t cloud my judgment on this. I’d like to think that a book that send a clear, strong political or religious message would bother me even if I happen to agree with that message, because there are times and places where such messages aren’t appropriate. If a writer wants to create a character and mold their personality in a certain way, that’s their right. I also don’t see a problem in someone making a comic book with a religious or political message. After all, artistic expression has had all kinds of messages attached to it throughout the years. My problem comes when someone uses an inappropriate platform to send an overt religious or political message. If you want to characterize Steve Rogers as religious, that’s fine. But when you take Steve Rogers, a character whose purpose is not sending religious or political messages (well, some might say his very open love of the U.S. counts as a political message, but anyway) and use him and his story to preach to readers about religion, you’ve crossed the line as far as I’m concerned.
Mike Sains: Asaph, you can’t see it, but I’m applauding my screen right now. Wow. How to follow that? Well, while I agree with almost everything Asaph said, I find myself liking Steve more and more the older I get. He is the moral center of the group, which again, isn’t the coolest thing. But, he has the sternest sense of what is right and what is wrong. There is something to be admired in that. Again, though, Asaph nailed it on the head when he said that maybe not every situation calls for that. As a matter of fact, I can say without a doubt that that is true. There is a particular kind of Christian value system that comes along with Cap, a kind of judgmental hypocrisy that is more overt than a lot of other Marvel characters. Black and white, concrete beliefs are not something that I personally subscribe to, as life isn’t always black and white even if The Shielded One says so. But like I said before, I still like the guy. I still respect him. He’s the guy I would most constantly disagree with, but find myself working with him, nevertheless. What I’m saying I would be Tony Stark.
Where do you rank him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Jesse Quick: In the movies I think he is doing okay. I was disappointed with his relative power level to Thor, Hulk, and Iron Man. He seemed to be on the same level as Black Widow and Hawkeye and that didn’t really make sense to me. I’m also not sure if Chris Evans was the right choice, he’s a little baby faced which I’m sure works for the ladies but not so much for me. Let me put it this way, if I met Steve Rogers from the comics in real life I have no doubt in my mind that he would call me son at some point in our conversation. I can’t see the movie cap calling anyone son. He is supposed to be young but I think he’s too young.
Alex Byers: One of the best, I would say.
Mike Sains: I wasn’t sure how I felt about Chris Evans getting cast, but once I saw him on film, it all clicked for me. Enough so that the first Captain America film, to me, was the best of the Phase One bunch, besides The Avengers movie. As far as the stand-alone films go, it narrowly beats out the first Iron Man. There’s also something to him being the hero that takes a beating and keeps getting up. That trope on screen is very effective in both Cap 1 and Avengers. It grounded him in a way that stood out from the group. As odd as this sounds, the chemically engineered, propagandized super soldier is the every-man of The Avengers.
Mai and Asaph abstained from the last two questions.
BONUS: Who would whoop his ass / who would you LIKE to see whoop his ass?
Alex Byers: I would like him to fight Sgt. Slaughter from G.I. Joe and wrestling. I would also like to see Mr. T whoop his ass. However, as for a real match up I would like to see Captain America versus Lobo. Cross universe action between Mr. Moral and Mr. Crude. Who will win? Who knows!?
Jesse Quick: Whew, I kind of feel like no one can whoop his ass. Cap has always been the Mario of the group (let me explain a phrase from my friends. In Smash Bros Mario is the middle character. Strong but not the strongest, has a high jump but not the highest, has a good down-B but not the best—just the best generalist) which means that his whole thing is that he is the hardest to beat. That’s a good quality in a leader because it means that he will always be the last to fall giving orders. As to who I would like to see though: Batman and Cyclops but done well, not like in the Marvel-DC crossover where they fight or Avengers versus X-men.
Mike Sains: I thought I was being cute when I asked this question, but I am genuinely having a hard time with the answer. It seems obvious to say that most of his Avenger buddies, along with lots of the other heroes could beat him up. But he is a tactician, a physical force, and I think he could hold his own with a lot of folks. He’d lose to the god-like heroes in a heartbeat. Thor, Hulk, etc. would make quick work of him. This is a hard one to call.
But the second part is easy to answer. Who would I like to see get a crack at the Boy Scout? Frank “The Punisher” Castle. That’s right. I would love nothing more than to see the dealer of death bust a few shotgun rounds into Steve Rogers’s chest, pick him up by the helmet wings, and launch him into the sky with an RPG. Best of all, it wouldn’t kill him. He could just keep doing it, over and over like a game of Angry Birds with high-powered explosives. To me, there’s something so sweet in imagining the polar opposite of Cap getting his due. Then again, I’ve always been a fan of Frank. I know in my heart that Cap could rip his arms off if he really wanted to. But he’s not that guy, and Frank should feel lucky about that.
Be sure to check out Captain America: The Winter Soldier in theaters now!
Mike Sains is a Writer, Interviewer, and the Editor of the Reviews Department for Capeless Crusader as well as other outlets online. He is also a podcaster and an avid collector of vinyl records and collectibles.