This likely isn’t news to any of you, but I am a comic book fan. Unless you’re new here, then it is likely news. So, there you have it! I won’t bore you with the history of my love for comic books and comic book characters, that is perhaps another post for another day. All you need to know for the moment is that I love comics, and I have a lot of feelings about them and some of the characters contained within those pages.
I don’t profess to know everything, nor have I read all of the comics featuring one of my favourite characters – Captain America (he is outranked only by Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier on my personal favourites list). Though I’ve not read all of the Captain America comics, and I suspect that there are few who actually have, I’ve learned as much as I can about his past, his story, and continue to do so. It never comes as a shock to me when I discover something new about Steve Rogers. This is a character who has been in print for seventy years – there is always going to be something new to discover!
I was a huge fan of Ed Brubaker’s run of Captain America. The man was by no means perfect, and his treatment of female characters was at times extremely flawed in my opinion, but overall, for eight years, I was absolutely thrilled to pick up the latest issue or trade of the Captain America title, excited to see what Brubaker had in store for us and Steve Rogers. You can imagine my heartbreak, when earlier this year Brubaker announced that he was stepping down from writing Captain America (and Winter Soldier). Who would wield the shield? – so to speak.
When Marvel announced Marvel NOW! (the relaunching of several of their ongoing titles) I was hesitant to be excited. I could see what they were doing from a marketing standpoint, wanting to capture the new fans that they had acquired through the Marvel Studios’ release of The Avengers, and other titles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It’s difficult to first get into comics, you’re not really sure where to start, and Marvel was creating an easy way for new fans to jump into purchasing and reading titles that they may not have before.
Along with the announcement of Ed Brubaker leaving the Captain America title, and Marvel NOW!, came the announcement that Rick Remender would take over the writing of Captain America for the MARVEL NOW! relaunch.
I was less than pleased. Remender has not been one of my favourite comic book writers. I personally find his style of writing too reliant on tired, old tropes that we have seen before. I also find his treatment of women in his comics to be extremely misogynistic, which I take more issue with than tropes. However, I wanted to give Remender a chance – he’d been given creative licence with one of my favourites. And because Captain America is a favourite of mine, I felt I owed it to the character, and all those who had written him before, to at least pick up the first couple of issues and support the character and the writer.
Suffice to say, I truly wish that I hadn’t.
In the first couple of pages, we are transported back to Steve Rogers’ past, and we watch as Joseph Rogers, his father, slaps and beats his mother, Sarah Rogers.
I found this appalling. In the seventy years of the Captain America story, many people have tried something new with Steve’s past, however this was the first instance I had ever encountered of his father being abusive. Steve has often recalled his father with fondness, though Joseph died when Steve was very young, during WWI. There have been mentions of alcoholism in the past, but alcoholism is not synonymous with abuse. Tumblr user, Wondy Girl, compiled a fantastic post of mentions of Joseph Rogers here – I strongly recommend that you check it out!
A couple of people, myself included, took to social networking to inquire about the sudden change in Joseph Rogers. Though Steve’s parents died when he was young (how young depends on the writer), he seems to have happy memories of them. Surely there was a reason for this change in character!
Hold up, we’ve got a bad ass over here.
First off, my apologies that the Tweets look kind of wonky. I had to screen cap each one individually, as it appears that after our little exchange that I was blocked from Remender’s account.
Rick Remender, professional comic book writer for one of the most recognizable comic book publishers in the world, exercises an extreme amount of unwarranted sarcasm when I merely question him about canon (or as he refers to it, “cannon”). My knowledge of canon, as stated earlier, has Joseph being referred to as an alcoholic a handful of times, but never abusive. However, Remender states to another user on Twitter that it is in fact canon.
When all I did was basically call that into question, Remender gets defensive and says in what I can only assume is the most sarcastic tone he can pull from his butt hurt asshole, that he’ll only write established canon – nothing new! – from now on. And you can see my retaliation to this comment. So, which is it, Remender? Is it canon or something new? Pick one.
An adult may have informed me that they were trying something new, or that perhaps I was wrong and it was done in the past, as you can see in Issue X of Volume Y, at which point I would have tipped my cap and said thank you! But, no. Not Rick Remender. Sarcasm, ahoy! Yes, because that’s how to treat people who are purchasing your comics. Oops, slipped on some of my own sarcasm. My bad.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with exploring new things for a character that you’re excited to write about. But when your original defense is that something is canon, when you damn well know that it’s not, or you can’t be an adult about it and tell me that it has in fact been explored before, I’m afraid I have to call shenanigans. Especially when it’s a character I adore, such as Steve Rogers.
Furthermore, Remender’s treatment of people messaging him who basically aren’t fawning over his awesomeness with this latest issue of Captain America is deplorable. As a writer, one needs to recognize that not everyone is going to be on board with what you’re doing, especially when you take the helm of writing a title for one of the most adored characters under the Marvel banner. And as a good writer, being open to criticism and accepting that not everyone will be kissing your ass is what makes you an even better writer. All Remender appears to be doing is taking tired old tropes, and using the abuse of Steve Rogers’ mother as one the reasons he learns to “stand up to evil.” And heaven forbid that people aren’t cool with that!
Actually, it is extremely gross and misogynistic, whether you seem to think so or not. Responding to someone’s comment that what you’re doing is not sexist does not absolve you of sexism. Sarah Rogers has always been a hero to Steve, but she never needed to suffer abuse in order for that to be true. You’re using violence as a crutch for your story, and it is in fact extremely lazy writing and piss poor storytelling. There is absolutely no denying that children have found strength in parents who stand up to abuse, who never back down, but it was never necessary for Steve. His mother taught him well, raised a good boy who turned into a good man. Is there something so wrong with that? No. I assume it was merely too “boring,” and instead Remender decided to take a more “edgy” approach.
Mr. Remender, I was willing to give you a shot, despite you letting me down in the past. However, I’m afraid that after this current arc that I will not be purchasing any more of the Captain America title written under your name (I’m a bit OCD about my comics – once I start an arc I have to see it through. Trust me when I say I wish I could drop this now). You’re acting like a petulant child who isn’t getting your way when fans of Captain America are calling you out on your bullshit, and not kissing your ass because of how lucky we are to have you write for us. The fact that I will not be supporting one of my favourite character’s titles is disheartening, but only serves to reaffirm what I thought upon hearing the announcement of Marvel NOW! – it’s going to be a disaster.