The Beautiful Captain America
"PATRIOTISM, n., Love of country, public spirit, good citizenship, nationality, nationalism; see also 'loyalty'.----From 'Webster's New World Thesaurus'-by: Charlton Laird © 1983.
"PATRIOT, n., One who loves his country and zealously supports its authority and interests."---Definition from 'Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Company, publishers © 1967.
For the love of one's country do its citizens unite against a single cause, whatever that cause may be! This shared unity, this instinctual formation of organized-individuals is known as Patriotism. Patriotism is usually represented by readily identifiable symbols. Every country's patriotic symbols are different, whether it is the image of a country's national bird, national ideal, or military might, these symbols often help to incite people to act on behalf of the very welfare of the nation they happen to represent. Americans have at times rallied around the American flag to show a unified support for our branches of armed forces protecting our nation's interest on a global scale. Everyone needs this type of patriotic symbology to help feel safe, secure, and proud of one's own national heritage. I believe that the comic book golden-age artistic team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the artists responsible for designing the dynamic "Captain America", understood national patriotism pretty well. They watched in horror, the newsreels that depicted a genius-level madman, enslaving a nation, Germany. Adolf Hitler issued a promise of making the country, that was weakened by a great depression, strong once more. After World War One, Germany tried to pay off its many war debts by simply printing more and more money. Any economist will tell you that too much or too little money in an economy will cause national problems with severe economic fallout. That is why the United States employs the FED (The Federal Reserve Bank) headed by Allan Greenspan, to make sure there is the correct amount of money in our economy at any one time (this is determined through many ways, but chiefly by raising and lowering interest rates).
Germany had mistakenly pumped too much money into its economy, which then spun out of control. Money became nearly worthless as German politicians desperately tried to resolve this blunder through political means. Stock market investors in the United States saw what was happening to Germany, so they decided to withdraw their money from most of their stock holdings in America, other concerned alarmist Americans removed their lifesavings from national banks; this happening almost all at once. This is what caused the snowballing effect of the American Great Depression, not enough money in the American Economy. Either way is bad, too much money or too little money in an economy. Now Adolf Hitler enters the picture in Germany, an economically depressed country, looking for a way
out of its desperate money problem. People are starving, people are losing homes, and nothing is being done to correct the spiraling gross governmental neglect of the situation. Think of Hitler as the Tony Robbins of his day, the inspirational 'feel good' guru. He vows to turn the country's economy around, and make Germany strong once more!
Hitler has gained friends in high places. He has political backing for his Nazi party, he has business backing, he has alleged organized crime backing. He has spent years learning and studying the ins and outs of the political game. He presents himself well to the public, and gives them the hard sell, that he, Adolf Hitler, and his Nazi Party, will take the necessary steps to recover Germany's many loses, and make Germany united, economically, and politically. You can see why Hitler gained the nation favor that he did. But, bear in mind that Hitler was only in control of about ten percent of Germany, and look at all he accomplished under the umbrella of united patriotism represented by the symbology of a 'Fatherland' with a father figure in control, the showmanship strength of the Nazi military, and the distinctive symbols of the German Eagle and the Nazi party swastika. (along with the fearsome Gestapo secret police, and the dreaded SS officers, Nazi elite).
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1941 invented an American Icon for comics that still endures to this day; Captain America! When America began waving its flag in protest against the threat of a new German World War, (against a focused megalomaniac), Captain America would be that symbol that made comic fans across the country feel safe, secure, and united. Captain America has the red, white, and blue of the American patriotic flag emblazoned upon his costume and shield. Yes, he carries a shield; a mostly defensive weapon, to help protect himself and his country! Injected with the Super-soldier serum, Captain America has the strength of ten of our regular fighting soldiers! He resembles a modern 'Thor' for a country missing cultural mythos. He has the wings of freedom attached to the sides of his mask; and he carries his signature weapon, the shield, which has Thor's hammer, Mjolnir's 'boomerang' effect! He will not rest until he has fought back against every nazi, effectively protecting American Interest, both abroad and nationally. He would challenge and upset the plans of the nazi called the "Red Skull". The Red Skull would go on to symbolize all the atrocities of the nazi party, in the comics, for Captain America. Yes, Captain America started out as a propaganda tool during World War II. But he has grown as a character to mean much more. Why else would we not leave this old American hero in the war he served? No, he is needed, and lives on through comics to this day, in 2002 and perhaps beyond. After the tragic events like September 11th, 2001, do comics need a more enduring character to lean on and look to for moral strength and an appealing sense of community and unity? Captain America is one hundred percent dedicated to his sense of duty, and the comics readership is confident that his sense of duty is unwavering. Writers have often tried to place their own imprint on the good Captain, but through it all Captain America has remained constant. Captain America's moral fiber seems incorruptible, able to resist the temptations of extreme evil that threatens our national stability with every story! He has fought opposing armies, radical extremist groups, vigilantes, and many types of alien galactic threats!
Since the 'rebirth' of the 'no-overprints' Marvel, that company has tried to recapture the excitement of their key characters by cutting away years worth of continuity, and past storylines. In Marvel's Ultimate line Captain America is given a more heavily armored suit missing the wings form his mask, and replacing his red 'disco' boots for more combat style boots. His attitude has shifted from that of the average superhero to the more grim outlook of a character like DC's 'Batman'. Will this new direction benefit or hinder Captain America? I really feel that Marvel Comics doesn't even know what the have in Captain America, because they haven't really used him correctly yet, in my opinion. The ultra-cheap Captain America, straight-to-video movie Marvel produced years back is an ugly reminder of this. I mean, with box office successes under their belts with Vampires (Blade 1 and 2), and Mutants (X-Men 1 and soon-to-be 2), Spider-Man, and now the Hulk and Daredevil to surely follow suit, why not try to appeal to our instinctual sense of national pride and patriotism that lives inside all of us? Why not make a great movie worthy of a great character like Captain America? Captain America would cross all audience demographics from the very young to the young-at-heart! In times like today, when terrorists seem to lurk around every corner, and our very freedom seems to be a fragile shell of its former self, a Captain America big-budget movie could do wonders for national unity. The Sam Raimi directed 'Spider-Man' movie was injected with New York pride, as the New Yorker Onlookers on the bridge, in the major conflict scene, threw things at the Green Goblin and yelled something to the effect of, "Hey! You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us! Leave Spider-man alone!"
This added on the heels of the Sept. 11th tragedy, and 'Spider-Man' would go on to earn $807 million worldwide! Captain America is now enjoying an anniversary of more than sixty years in the comics medium! Jack "The King" Kirby is long-passed, but Joe Simon is still around and I hear he is trying to get the rights to his creation, 'Captain America', back from Marvel, so he can pass his legacy on to his kids. After seeing how foul Marvel can get with the mishandling of its key characters, and knowing how poorly the comics industry can treat its real life heroes like Joe Simon, I must say I don't blame him for trying; no, not at all.
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