Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Two Caps for the Price of Two

There’s a scene in December’s Deadpool #3 in which the villain-posing-as-mercenary Madcap tries to boop Steve Rogers – a grizzled old man who used to be Captain America – on the nose. Rogers grabs Madcap by the index finger and says:

“You know what happened to the last man that tried to ‘boop’ me? He died screaming in the Ardennes Forest.

To escape Old Man Rogers’ fingerhold, Madcap cuts off his finger with a pair of scissors and jumps out a window.

I quite like this version of Steve – drained of Super Soldier Serum, showing every year of his age but oddly fit for a 90-something-year-old and still wearing skintight clothes and going on missions. But he’s not Captain America.

At least not for a few more months.

If you blinked toward the end of Marvel’s Captain America 75th anniversary special Tuesday night, you might have missed the company’s announcement that it is launching a new “Steve Rogers, Captain America” title that will de-age the character and return him to full superhero duty. The book is being marketed as a companion to “Sam Wilson, Captain America,” which will remain on Marvel’s schedule. Nick Spencer will write both books, and a preview of the cover to Steve’s first issue features Sam in his current Cap costume, alongside classic Team Cap members Bucky and Sharon Rogers.

I’ve made my love of Captain America pretty clear since I started writing for this site. Writer Ed Brubaker’s run, which reintroduced Bucky to the Marvel Universe as the Winter Soldier and saw him replace Steve as Cap for a time, is one of my favorite in superhero comics.

But I also love Sam as Cap. I was excited to see Steve’s longtime partner and friend take up the shield. It felt like a natural fit when it was announced back in 2014, and while writer Rick Remender didn’t get the job done for me, I really like what Spencer is doing. On the one hand, Sam is beset by the current divisive political climate, floundering public opinion (they love the bird, though) and a lack of funds and resources, having cut ties with SHIELD. On the other hand, the book is a love letter to Mark Gruenwald’s run in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Spencer brought back CapWolf, for Christ’s sake! And D-Man! Even Brubaker didn’t do that, and his run touched on nearly Cap’s entire history.

Technically, Sam has been Cap for almost two years, but there’s a huge gap of time missing in that period due to Secret Wars, which interrupted the entire line for four months. So we’ve gotten far more time with legacy characters who have been around just as long, such as Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel and Jane Foster/Thor. To me, Sam needs more time to stand on his own, and I would gladly make due with more of Steve as Clint Eastwood in his Commander Rogers Action Figure outfit.

But of course, there’s bigger forces at play. Captain America: Civil War, will be out in May, and Marvel likely believes if they put out a book with a face familiar to moviegoers, a few dozen extra people might buy it. Maybe. But as someone who works for a newspaper, I’ve been made to understand that our online product and our print product are two different animals with two different audiences and should be treated as such. Yeah, it was weird in 2000 when the first X-Men movie came out and the teams in the books looked nothing like what was on the screen (Cable? Thunderbird III? No Cyclops?), but the industry was still figuring out vertical integration then. We know more now than we did 16 years ago, and for character’s sake, Sam could probably stay the One True Cap for a little while longer and not hurt Marvel’s bottom line.

That said, I’m not gonna not buy Steve #1 when it comes out. So well played, Marvel, you got me.

In addition to writing for The Matt Signal, Dan Grote is now the official comics blogger for The Press of Atlantic City. New posts appear Wednesday mornings at His new novel, Magic Pier, is available however you get your books online. He and Matt have been friends since the days when Onslaught was just a glimmer in Charles Xavier's eye. Follow @danielpgrote on Twitter.

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