The biggest story in comics right now is, without question, that Captain America is actually evil and aligned with the shadowy organization Hydra thanks to some nefarious meddling with the universe. That storyline, which kicked off about a year ago with a now-infamous reveal, is about to come to a head in the upcoming Secret Empire miniseries, which will make Cap’s evil secret known. You’d think that Marvel would be thrilled, but there’s a small problem: People are really mad that Marvel made Captain America a Nazi.
It’s an understandable reaction, given that the character was created by two Jews and punched Hitler in the face in his very first appearance. It’s not, apparently, one that Marvel was expecting — at least not to this extent. In the year since Captain America switched sides, Marvel and especially series writer Nick Spencer have tried to explain themselves … a lot. Here’s a thorough rundown of all the ways Marvel has tried to clarify the twist and explain that Captain America ~technically~ isn’t a Nazi:
The Initial Response
Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, which closes with the iconic hero killing a teammate and declaring “Hail Hydra.” was certainly a shock. After this first issue, fans didn’t quite know exactly what happened to make Captain America break bad, so Marvel was a little more “wait and see” in their response to the initial backlash.
“I’m the most hated man in America today,” Spencer told The Daily Beast on March 25, 2016 — though he defended his creative decision even while saying the response was understandable.
“When you decide to do something like this, you understand obviously that people aren’t gonna throw you a party for it,” he says. “You understand that this is the kind of story designed to upset people and shock people and worry people. That’s the response you’re supposed to have to something like this, when you’re seeing a bad thing.”
“This is certainly the kind of response I expected, but in terms of the magnitude of it and just how many people are chiming in, that part’s unreal,” he clarified. “That surpassed any expectation that I had.”
Just Give It Time
Both Spencer and Marvel’s executive editor Tom Brevoort, who spoke to Time stressed that the twist wasn’t a gimmick. Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso told ComicBook.com that he seemed to think that the bulk of the outrage came from people who didn’t understand the monthly flow of comics and didn’t understand that the second issue would explain things:
“We’re trained to anticipate a strong reaction to change or a big plot twist like this, whether it’s a female Thor or the new Ms. Marvel or the Korean-American Hulk. We didn’t expect the reaction to be anywhere this big. It was comparable to the way that people reacted to the death of Captain America. I think a lot of the people reacting most violently aren’t people that go to the comic book stores every Wednesday and are trained to understand the way the comics work and the rhythms and how we could do this kind of thing with our heroes.”
“I’ve seen a lot of people say things like, ‘Oh, it’ll be wrapped up in the arc,’ or ‘Give it six months.’ And I can tell you, that’s not the case,” Spencer said. “This has real lasting repercussions that are gonna be with us for a while.”
He wasn’t wrong.
Okay, He’s Technically Not a Nazi
Even after fans learned that, actually, Captain America was a Nazi because Red Skull has used a Cosmic Cube (an object of immeasurable power) to alter history, lots of them were still pretty pissed off. That feeling only became stronger when Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, and somehow actual modern-day Nazis came back in vogue.
Nick Spencer’s response has been, for the most part, to insist that members of Hydra are technically not Nazis in the Marvel Universe, despite the long-term association and strong connections in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The organization is actually thousands of years old, but that technicality is small comfort to many.
Spencer, who tweets a lot, has also posted several critical takedowns of Nazis, even as he insists that he didn’t turn Captain America into a Nazi. He’s also written that he does not support punching Nazis in the face, which many people think is somewhat antithetical to what superheroes are all about.
It’s Not Political
Even though there are lots political parallels to be drawn between Captain America’s highly un-American infiltration of government and our current cultural climate, Marvel claims we’ve got it all wrong. Spencer and Alonso “insist that this Secret Empire has little to do with contemporary political parallels,” according to Entertainment Weekly.
This, really, is at the crux of the beef people have with Marvel’s whole handling of this storyline. Marvel’s response seems to be willfully ignorant of the possibility that there could even be unintentional parallels, and they’re not empathizing with angered fans — the very people who have strong connections with the characters they created.
Secret Empire #0, the first issue of the event series that’ll escalate this storyline even further, hits newsstands on April 19, 2017. We’ll see what Marvel has to say once it’s out.