“I’m interested in characters only as each is a locus for allowing certain sorts of sentences to be uttered–by the character or about the character.” – Samuel R. Delany
One of the cruelties of the slow subsumation by megacorporations of the two former mom and pop titans in the comics genre is that popular superheroes–at least in their original words-and-still-pictures format–have become disconnected from their respective popular cultures.
In an interview regarding Fallen Son, a series of comics developed on the theme of the five stages of grief over the assassination of Captain America, writer Jeph Loeb talks about his part in the process of an entertainment corporation taking part in the killing off of a “living symbol” of a nation’s identity:
Spotlight: …what was your initial gut reaction to [first learning of the planned death of Captain America]?
Jeph: I was surprised. Not that we were doing it but I had somehow missed that we were doing it. That’s what happens when you miss a creative retreat! (emphasis mine) But, once I was brought up to speed, I thought it was going to be huge. Lead story on Nightly News, Joe Quesada going back on Steven Colbert, that sort of thing…and what’dya know!
Spotlight: …Why did this story grab you so firmly out of the gate?
Jeph: Some of that is I’m a huge Captain America fan. He’s the closest thing the Marvel Universe has to Superman and still he’s very much not Superman…Secondly, on a more personal nature, I unfortunately have too intimate a knowledge of grief and the process of losing a son [Jeph lost his 17-year old son Sam Loeb in 2005 to cancer – Ed.] and hopefully, I can bring some of that to this project.
Spotlight: How is Captain America different from other heroes?
Jeph: He was created to be a living symbol. By wearing the flag, he separates himself from the others in that he has a name and purpose that is about country and heritage and loyalty…
And the company killed him to impress the media and satisfy their diversity-first, readers-last agenda. But setting aside the fact that actual “comic book” sales are seen as mere cost overhead for the far more lucrative film, video game, and graphic design sales, the thing about popular heroes like Captain America and Superman and Batman is that their ideal form is represented far more accurately outside of the relatively unnoticed books. Ask any non-comic book reader what Superman stands for, what Captain America’s occupation is, or the name of Batman’s vehicle, and they’ll tell you with a smile on their face…even though the comics themselves have abandoned the core identifiers of these characters.
Every Halloween, there are folks running around as Supermen who believe in “Truth Justice and the American Way”, Captain Americas who have not died in a horrible explosion, and Batmen who inspire the “Nananananana” song from the 60s, without a trace of “darkness.”
In short, the essence of these heroes, these characters, these alleged creatures of a corporation, live–and live fully–beyond the page, outside of copyright, outside of “creative retreats,” far from the clenched pencils of their would-be masters.
Sometimes, the best hero is an outlaw.