Excuse me while I indulge in some comic book geekery.
I have to admit, I was never a Captain America fan. I came to comics when comics came to TV, where Wonder Woman, Hulk, and Spider-Man were visible and adored. The late-70s movies for Captain America weren’t interesting and didn’t tap into the 1940s FDR-loving ideals of the comic – I know I watched them, but I don’t remember them at all. So I went on my way, blissfully ignorant of what an amazing character Cap was at start.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like Cap was an easy character to write after 1960. In the 1940s, assigning a compelling enemy was easy. Super heroes fought Hitler. Wonder Woman, my favorite, started that way. Thing is, Diana Prince has a rich history of Greek mythology to work with when Nazis are not the most popular villians (the fact of which astounds me but is completely true). Cap came of age in the Great Depression, in Brooklyn, with the Axis powers as the greatest evil America had faced. Once they were gone? That made it tougher. Who else was out there for Cap to fight, to stand against in the name of American values? While one would think, based on his history as a Great Depression kid, poverty would be pretty high on the Cap hit list? That never quite flew in a politics-averse publishing industry. DC Golden Age had characters with a lot of options for stories. Golden Age Marvel is not half as rich with characters we know and love today*.
But really, while I love Wonder Woman/Diana (will always love Diana), America is not her people. I admit that. Paradise Island/Themyscira is her people. She leaves her people to help us. Superman is set up with the same scenario but more distant, and Batman? Well, only Gotham is his people. In the Marvel world, Hulk doesn’t have *any* people because of his situation, and most of the Avengers kind of have that “do we have people?” conundrum.
But Captain America?
His people fill the United States. We are his people.
He explicitly fights for ALL of us, not just white folks or an ambiguous American Way that you just put on a flagpole to pay lip service. In the 40s he used to fight corporate tax evaders. (I’d love to see one of those stories resurrected these days.) He fought in WW2 with a multi-cultural group of people. He fought for Jewish folk, for black folk (though all-too-briefly for my taste), for immigrants, for anyone threatened by fascism.
And that leads me to my point today.
We need the spirit of Cap. We need the lessons he provided. We need the memory of his shield, given to him by President Roosevelt, nearly indestructible.
We know who we are. We take care of our people.
Together, we will be that shield.
*(Side note – it’s interesting to me that Groot existed before Guardians of the Galaxy did. I’m hoping someone at Marvel will resurrect Warwolf.)