Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Captain America turns 75

Captain America is celebrating his 75th anniversary this year. This August, they'll be unveiling a bronze statue of him in Brooklyn.

An interesting bit of history: One of the classic images of American comics is a cover depicting Captain America punching out Adolf Hitler. But many people don't realize that at the time it first came out, which was before America entered WWII, this was an extremely political statement, and the creators received threatening letters and hate mail for suggesting that Nazism and America were incompatible.

We often forget that when Simon and Kirby created this image, in February 1939, at least 20,000 Americans attended a pro-Nazi rally in Madison Square Gardens. The premise of "America first" was taking hold, along with an isolationist mindset that the US should just let Hitler conquer Europe then negotiate with him and become allies.

Because of their work as artists, Simon and Kirby had to take police protection assigned by the mayor of New York. Just something to think about.

For more on this, you can go to Joe Simon's 2003 memoir with Jim Simon, "The Comic Book Makers," by Vanguard Press, which discussed the roots of Captain America and how Mayor LaGuardia stood with Simon and Kirby.

Meanwhile, in recent years, there have been attempts to identify what would have happened if China had a similar hero, only operating under more modern Chinese ethos and political philosophy.

The question for Lao Americans, then, is what might a Lao hero out of time be like, and what conversations, what themes might we well explore with him or her? There are some intriguing possibilities. What might happen if Captain Laomerica's uniform was put on by members from different ethnicities common to Laos, such as the Hmong, Khmu, Tai Dam, Lu and Iu Mien? As they fulfill their mission, how would each community bring their own perspective to their application of justice? What might be the villains they face? Variations of the Red Skull or Hate Monger, for example, are a possibility, but who else might Captain Laomerica confront? As we explore the limits of our imagination, these are things to consider.

No comments: