Thursday, March 08, 2007

Rest in Peace, Steve Rogers

I'll admit it.

I still read comic books.

Mostly I keep up with the Dark Knight--a.k.a., the Batman--and his compatriots in the DC Comics universe, but I grew up on the exploits of Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four, so from time to time I will pick up one of the comics that spin their stories and those of their friends and foes in the Marvel Universe.

Since my move to Cape Cod, however, I no longer live near to a comic book store, so I sometimes get my comics news from unexpected places. This morning it was National Public Radio!

That's right, such august journalistic institutions as the BBC, the Chicago Sun-Times, USA Today, NPR, and CNN have all been covering the death of Steve Rogers, also known as Captain America. (In case you don't know Captain America, here's a link to his official biography.)

His death came at the end of the Civil War that's been raging in the Marvel world--following a particularly destructive battle, the United States government passes the "Superhuman Registration Act" which requires costumed crime fighters to register themselves (and reveal their secret identities in the process). Some think it's necessary to protect the populace, and others think it's a violation of their civil rights. The two groups fight. There are fairly explicit parallels to the battles raging in our country today around the question of how many freedoms can be sacrificed in the name of protecting freedom.

Pretty heavy stuff for a comic book. Although not unheard of. In fact, comics have often tackled some heavy things in their pages. (See the Wikipedia article on Registration Acts in comic books for some examples, or Wiki's larger article on the so-called Bronze Age of Comic Books during which many titles confronted issues such as drug abuse, racism, etc.)

Yes, a lot of heavy things were going on, still I'm struck by the death of such an iconic figure as Captain America. I put it up there with the death of Superman in 1993 and the breaking of the Batman's back in 1993-1994. These figures--each of whom I grew up with--were legendary, unstoppable, unbeatable; for generations they've been "living symbols" of strength that is good, and honorable, and indomitable. And in the last decade they've been knocked off their pedestals.

It's true that Superman came back from the dead, and the Batman's broken spine was healed, and we may well not have seen the last of Captain America, but we'll never again be able to see them as invincible. And if heroes such as these are not invicible, who or what can be? Perhaps this more acurately reflects the world we live in, but Cap . . . I'll miss you.

In Gassho,

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