Marvel Heroes never die…

The new Captain America— They just get reinvented. Way back in March I commented on the ‘death’ of Marvel Comics iconic hero Captain America and cynically suggested the character would not stay dead for long.

Well, the original Steve Rogers remains dead but now Captain America is reborn, with character designs by Alex Ross…

Here’s some promotional hype for you to savour:

Six months after the death of Steve Rogers captured national attention, Marvel is proud to unveil the new Captain America as designed by renowned, award winning artist Alex Ross!

This bold new look… also serves as the variant cover to January’s Captain America #34, featuring the first appearance of this new Captain America!

After the death of Steve Rogers, and the climactic events of Captain America #33, there must be a new Sentinel of Liberty and now Ross, one of the industry’s most renowned artists, has created a dynamic new look for the seminal hero…”

The new Captain America stories are written by Ed Brubaker and Ross talks about the new design over on the official Marvel Comics web site, revealing that the costume redesign, which he and the rest of the creative team know will cause controversy (the original Captain America, like Batman, did not use a gun) and says he was inspired in part by the 1940s Captain America film serial in which the hero did carry a weapon.

So not only will someone other than Steve Rogers step into the Cap costume come January, they’ll be armed with both a gun and a knife to go along with Cap’s classic shield.

Reaction is sure to the new look will be loud and varied, and Ross knows it, even though America’s National Rifle Association might be delighted. “I think in many ways we want people to react with whatever emotions that come to mind,” says Ross. “The idea that Captain America would have an offensive weapon like a gun… if it’s an upset feeling, we want it to be so. We want it to feel like, ‘Oh, he’s got a gun now. Captain America with a gun?!’ You know, it should stick in your mind that that’s something. This is not your father’s Captain America, so to speak. It’s a more brutish interpretation, at this point, for the modern age.”

Yes, you read that right. The new Captain America is apparently a brute.

“I’m not worried about it that much because the costume design looks so cool I figure everybody [will] love it, but I’m sure that there’ll be people who are furious about it,” Brubaker says. “You know, nobody’s really complained about it, but after nine months I think people will be glad to have at least somebody running around in a Captain America costume in the book.”

“There are going to be some who’ll love [the new look] and some who’ll loathe it,” says Captain America editor Tom Brevort. “But it does have the advantage that this isn’t Steve Rogers, so what might seem right or wrong for his Captain America won’t necessarily hold true in the same way for our new guy.”

Marvel’s PR department must surely be rubbing their hands with gleee at this news. A controversial new look for such a seminal character is another golden opportunity to stir up fan outrage is bound to ensure plenty of (free) coverage on comics blogs (look, even I’ve been suckered in, and this is usually a blog about British comics).

I can’t help but think there’s an element of reader manipulation going on, and my feeling is that it’s a pretty sorry state of affairs that the sentinel of liberty has apparently been recast as some kind of brash thug (for some reason, I used to quite like Captain America – that ‘out of place, out of time’ aspect of the character resonated).

But given the way many beyond America regard American foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere, perhaps Brubaker, Ross and company are right on the money, and we’ll be treated to a savage critique of the modern USA in January.

Hey, maybe the NRA won’t be so happy after all.

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