“Impossible! Captain America would never say that, he’s a Nazi-punching, America-loving hero!” you might be shouting. And you’re partially right-after all, Steve Roger’s iconic appearance into comics was none other than PUNCHING HITLER IN THE FACE, which is certainly something we all should aspire to be able to do at some point in our lives (come on, time travel!).
And yet, Captain America-Steve Rogers-DID say that line! And he wasn’t a Hydra agent or mind-swapped or anything when he said it! HOW CAN THIS BE? IS THIS SOME TIME TRAVEL TRICKERY, OR SOME SIMILAR SHENANIGANS (hint: yes)?
In What If ? Issue #44 (a long-running Marvel series that looks at the hypothetical realities the weird bald guy in the above panel is talking about), Steve Rogers isn’t unfrozen in the 60’s, while the world keeps on turning. When Nixon goes to China though, this ruffles some feathers. Some people feel like America’s being sold out to a foreign power-a Communist one at that! And that causes this dude to take matters into his own hands, to take action instead of just talk as the politicians do…to thaw out…Captain America and Bucky?!
“HOLD UP! You said Steve Rogers was stuck in ice and you didn’t say anything about Bucky being in ice WHAT’S GOING ON HERE”-many readers, including me, when I first read the comic.
Luckily, Professor Fury at Pretty Fakes gave a damn good explanation, so I’ll quote that: “[Turns out that in mainstream Marvel], two men who idolized the original Cap and Bucky and who stepped in to fill their bright-red boots when the originals vanished near the end of World War II. In any case, 50s-era Cap and Bucky did just fine until they succumbed to their intense paranoia about Communist infiltration; eventually, they became so violent and unstable that the government had to put them in suspended animation. (This all came to a head in the regular Marvel Universe in Cap 154-156).”
But in this alternate reality, these two copies are brought back to run around, and while they do some good (they’re physically pretty much the same as the originals, and can fight crime and supervillains), their fervent anti-communism and hyper-nationalism pretty quickly catch the attention of some shady folks. Specifically, the Secret Empire (it’s secret so I’m using italics), whose name kinda gives away their goal. Imposter America believes that the only way to make America great again is to make sure people stay in their places, so he’s more than happy to help.
Since Captain America is so beloved by people, and since the Red Scare is still pretty high up there, the Secret Empire gets Imposter America and Bucky to speak out/fear-monger and drive public opinion further against civil rights movements and minorities in general.
Because of this, by 1983 a Harlem Wall is built to keep most of the
uppity minorities subversive elements of society in place, a National Identity Card is created to make sure that only Americans get American jobs (“A Card for Americans, A Plan for America!”), the press has been suppressed, and much of the United States is a police state.
It’s around this time that Steve Rogers is found in the ice by a diverse Navy submarine crew sick of
Trump’s Imposter America’s America. After being brought back to life, Captain America finds America. Or rather, a nightmare version of the country he loved.
After meeting up with the resistance (Jonah Jameson, Nick Fury, Spiderman, and the Black Cadres), Steve Rogers decides to take the fight to the government. The stage is set for a climactic showdown between Captain America and Imposter America.
The showdown does come, and it delivers.
In each panel, how fast can you tell which Captain America is which?
Which Captain America best represents the majority of Americans in that world? In that government? In our world? In our government?
Which one should be our Captain America?
After beating the imposter, Captain America steps onto the stage….and the crowd starts throwing stuff at him, yelling that he’s a traitor and not the real Captain America after all.
And that prompts one of the single greatest pages in comic book history.
Does the rhetoric about removing the
minorities impurities and doing whatever it takes to keep America “great” sound familiar? If it doesn’t, I suggest you listen to more sources of news more often and more carefully.
How about the part where Captain America says that without its ideals-the ones we espouse in our Constitution and Bill of Rights-America is a piece of trash?
We as a country and people are not great simply because we are American. There is no intrinsic moral value in that title, our flag, or even our nation. It is what we do as people and as a people that determines the value of those things. Imposter America was Captain America for many of those Americans because he reflected the values that they held.
This is the same reason that this Captain America is ours, and why he fought against tyranny, against injustice, and against Imposter America. But Captain America also knows the danger that a demagogue poses-after all, a version of him just proved to be an excellent example. And thus:
That’s what we have to do now.
Look to our hearts, join with those that some deny to be our brothers and sisters, and reach out for the ideals that make our country great.
And find America once again.