Saturday, January 23, 2010

Captain America

As a kid I never really got into comics. I hardly even watched cartoons on Saturday morning. The only cartoons I can remember watching are Smurfs and Justice League. Not sure why but those were the only two that I watched. As a kid I do remember watching the TV show Captain America. I even had a little bath mat that had Captain America riding a motorcycle! As I got older a lot of my friends started to tease me about all the "America, red/white/blue" stuff that I had in my apartment and office. I am not sure just who it was that first called me "Captain America" but it seemed to kind of stick and fit. I guess I always like what Cap stood for. But then I read this and it made me like him even more!
Not all comic references to gays in the past were hostile. References to gay characters in the early '80's in mainstream comics (Marvel and DC) were practically nonexistent. The publishers were timid, the Comics Code was a weak but present barrier, and the medium was still focused on children, by and large. But despite this, It turns out Captain America had a gay friend.

His was Arnie Roth, a fellow WWII vet and childhood friend of Cap's. Roth had a 'roommate' named Michael, and the point was driven home that the two were lovers. At no time was Roth reduced to a stereotype. At one point, none other than the Red Skull - a Nazi of the blackest dye - captures and mocks Roth for his homosexuality. Cap's response:

"You're as good and decent a man as I’ve ever known! They can’t corrupt your love for Michael with their lies…They’re the pariahs! They’re the disease!”

This makes sense; while Captain America started out as an anti-Nazi trope in the '40's and headhunted Communists in the '50's, by the '70's, Marvel turned him into a broadly left-wing patriot who would still kick ass. He had reservations about Vietnam and partnered with a black superhero. This has been the case ever since. After 9/11 he emphasized not taking out American rage on all Muslims indiscriminately. And then kicked ass.

I'm straight. But with all the crap and lies that gets served up to kids in entertainment, it got my attention at age ten. After all, if the guy who punched out Hitler had no problem with gays, who was I to argue?

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