As a writer, I try to avoid talking about choices made by other writers in regards to where they decide to take characters or storylines. I know how much thought must go into each story idea and how it grows, develops, and takes final form. I also understand how certain decisions are in the end solely up to the author.
When J. K. Rowling published the seventh book in the “Harry Potter” Series, I was very one of those readers who was screaming and jumping up and down in a rage at the loss of certain characters (I won’t mention names as there might actually be readers of this blog who have not read her series), because I felt their deaths served no real purpose to the main story itself, especially since some of them took place off camera. Since then, even the author herself has admitted regret in some of the choices she made.
However, all those characters were her own creation and she had full control to do with them as she pleased. Whereas, figures like Captain America and Superman, have been handed off time and again to new writers at their respective company’s behest. But sometimes, certain decisions are made or ideas proposed that are so far out, that one wonders who gave the “Okay” for them in the first place. Especially when those decisions leaves the fans wondering what purpose did it serve?
Superman, who has been one of the longest running characters in existence, had always lived by certain rules and tried to uphold them in even his darkest moments, had his nature changed in Zach Snyder’s “Man of Steel”, which left a sour taste in the mouths of a large part of the audience. Having a long-time hero violate their own code of not killing, was more a shocking disappointment than anything. But, Mr. Snyder wanted to take the character in new direction, making his world darker and more gritty, which was a total 180 from the bright colors and hopeful ideals Superman had always represented in the comics.
Now several years later, after a disappointing continuation of that dark world Mr. Snyder’s version of Superman exists in (“Batman Vs. Superman”), we have Marvel Comics publishing a storyline where on of their most iconic characters Captain America, who many have looked to for hope and inspiration, is and has always been a deep undercover agent for Hydra (an offshoot branch of the Nazis back in World War II). This new concept and ‘retconning’ of Cap’s stories over the last 70 years, seems like a slap in the face to readers and fans worldwide.
While Cap has gone down some dark roads at times, the idea that he was actually working for such a diabolically evil organization all this time seems like nothing more than a cheap gimmick by the parent company to sell more books. Unfortunately, I fear it may have just the opposite effect. Marvel higher-ups seem be banking on dragging the story out for a number of issues that will keep the readers coming back for more in order to find the real truth behind this supposed betrayal of everything Captain America has come to represent.
Of course, longtime comic book fans know that sooner or later this whole storyline will be retconned or weeded out when another writer takes over the book down the road, but still it seems to make little sense to even do it in the first place. This fascination some people have of “dirtying up” iconic heroes who have inspired children for decades, is quite frankly bewildering to me. I see no reason for it.
Yet at the same time, I can understand the allure (from a writer’s standpoint) of putting your own spin and touch on characters you’ve read about for years. So-called Fanfictions do it all the time. People insert favorite characters and sometimes themselves, into dark or unusual stories and taking them places one would never expect. This to me is normal. I did it myself for newsletters, and just for fun, among some of the science fiction fan clubs I’ve belonged to over the years. But those stories were always for a specific audience, not for the general public. And this is where I have to question the wisdom of decisions like making Superman darker, or muddying Captain America.
The challenge of taking characters to dark places can be exciting, but if you want them to still shine or be even greater beacons of hope than ever before, you better have one helluva finish for that storyline. At present, I’m not sure what Marvel’s writers have planned and will be sitting on the sidelines to wait and see what they do. Based on interviews with the editor and writers, I don’t have a lot of confidence at this point, but then again writers, like magicians, never shows you what they have planned. They lie and use misdirection constantly in the hopes of giving you a breathtaking finish that leaves you spellbound and wanting more.
I pray Marvel does have something spectacular in mind, because if they don’t, I fear they will have destroyed an iconic character who was created by two Jewish men (Jack Kirby: born Jacob Kurtzberg, and Joe Simon; born Hymie Simon) in 1941, who wanted to create a beacon of hope and justice to a world that needed one more than ever.