Why I Wrote a Letter to the Editor

So, Marvel Comics has made some recent decisions that have a lot of people, myself included, pretty upset. This article has a really good rundown of what’s going on, but basically they’ve revealed that Steve Rogers, A.K.A. Captain America, was actually always a fascist spy and the Nazis actually won WWII until the Allies messed with reality and “cheated” to make sure they didn’t. So now things are being set “right” and Cap is making sure that Hydra (a fascist organization that is essentially indistinguishable from Nazis) takes its rightful place in control of the world.

There are a lot of problems with this, not the least of which that it’s grossly anti-Semitic to take a character created by Jewish people to punch Nazis and turn him into a Nazi, and a lot of people have written about why this is terrible over the past few days.

As a Marvel fan and a Captain America fan, I felt compelled to write in to Marvel to express my own personal frustrations with this storyline. Here’s what I wrote:

To the editors of Marvel Comics:

Many of the letters in your letters pages begin with the writer’s long history of reading comics as evidence that you should care about their opinion and want to keep them as a customer. While I may be relatively new to comics, I think I’m a pretty desirable customer. Not only do I have disposable income and a willingness to spend money on physical books in a brick-and-mortar comic shop, but I’m also a teacher and librarian with the power to get your books in the hands of the next generation.

Until recently, I was thrilled to do just that. I teach at a school that serves a very diverse population and I wanted to expose my students to heroes who look like them. I bought them Miles Morales, Sam Wilson, Ms. Marvel, Silk, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, various team books, and more. I did this not with the school’s budget, but with my own money (and I of course took the opportunity to read them myself first).

For myself (although I also share most of them with students), I have every issue of Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!, The Mighty Thor, Mockingbird, Storm, and most of the recent Black Widow and Captain Marvel runs. I’ve been eagerly awaiting Nick Fury and America, and was not disappointed by their #1s. I’ve loved so much of what Marvel has given me over the past few years; I got to see parts of myself and the people I love in these books, parts that I don’t always get to see in popular media.

But none of the above were the characters that got me into comics; that honor belongs to Steve Rogers. I fell in love with him in the movies, with his steadfastness and his sense of justice and his belief in doing the right thing and protecting individuals. I went back and read Brubaker’s Winter Soldier arc, but was too intimidated by the vastness of the Marvel universe to read many of the books he was currently appearing in when I first started reading comics.

And then I found out he was being restored to his young self and getting a new series. I was ECSTATIC. I couldn’t wait to get it and see what new adventures this amazing character would go on. When I found out about the twist at the end of #1, I was upset, but everyone assured me that this is comics – it’ll be mind control or a decoy or some other trick. Soon everything would be back to normal. But as I realized how committed everyone at Marvel was to the reality of Steve-the-Hydra-Agent, I also realized that this was a book that didn’t want me as a reader. This version of Steve Rogers seemed to have nothing in common with the Steve Rogers I had fallen in love with. As a queer woman with Jewish ancestry, I felt like my concerns were dismissed and that I was unwelcome.

So I didn’t buy the book. I kept my other subscriptions and continued to enjoy them, all the while waiting for the trick-behind-the-trick that everyone else seemed sure would come. And then Secret Empire began.

I don’t know if I can put into words how it felt to find out that according to this new story, Steve Rogers has never been a hero at all. The closest I can get is that it was a punch in the gut, although I feel the cliche fails to accurately convey the strength of my response.

Stories matter. Heroes matter. And in a world that feels full of pain and fear and darkness, stories and heroes matter even more. The people I love are living with a lot of fear right now – fear of deportation, fear of losing access to health care, fear of being attacked for who they love or the color of their skin – and so am I. We need heroes who can remind us of why we fight, why we resist, why we rise above, why we plant ourselves like a tree and say “no, you move.”

Steve Rogers used to be that hero for me and for many others. To take a hero like Steve Rogers and destroy everything that made him who he was, everything that he was created to be…I don’t know why that is a story that Marvel wants to tell right now. Or ever. It is incomprehensible to me.

And it leaves me torn. I have asked my shop to not pull any books related to Secret Empire for me, and a part of me wants to firmly declare that Marvel will never see another cent of my money at all. The other part of me remembers how much I have loved and appreciated my other experiences as a Marvel fan, the encouragement that your characters and stories have given me, the ways they’ve made me laugh and given me something to look forward to, a bright spot in the middle of the week.

I don’t know if I will keep buying Marvel comics. I want to, but I’m not sure you¬†want me to. Right now, it seems like I’m the type of customer that you don’t want at all – the customer who values the diversity you’ve blamed for the sales slump and who wants her good guys to be good, even when it’s hard.

Hoping to remain a fan,

Rachel

  • A collection of ramblings and musings on Jesus, life, education, family, and anything else that pops into my head.

    Twitter: @rachel_heather
    Email: raltsman@gmail.com
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