Conservatives Outraged That New Captain America Is As Political As Original Captain America
Captain America: Sam Wilson #1, by Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna, has caused a stir since its release last week. The second launch for former Falcon Sam Wilson in his role as the current thrower of the mighty shield sees him taking on the Sons of the Serpent, who are abducting Mexicans attempting to cross the border into the US. The same issue also sees Cap making a public call for national unity, which gets him branded as a partisan, anti-American, and a socialist.
Conservatives on social media are riled up, with some petitioning for writer Nick Spencer's 'resignation'. Political advocacy group The MacIver Insitute was apparently the first to claim the Sons of the Serpent as its ideological peers in a YouTube video objecting to the storyline, while Saturday morning's Fox And Friends TV talk show saw co-host Clayton Henry pine for for the days when Cap was "punching Hitler" and fighting typical Captain America villains, rather than "going up against conservatives."
The Sons of the Serpent are actually pretty typical Captain America villains, of course. The violent white supremacist hate group has been around since the mid '60s, and fought Cap in their first appearance in Avengers #32-33. Notably, they're often secretly led by people with a different agenda, because white supremacists make useful dupes for villains. One version was even led by a... right wing television talk show host! (His partner in crime was a bogus civil rights activist.)
Yet even before the Sons of the Serpent, and long before Sam Wilson took up the shield, Captain America was fighting political extremists. Yes, starting with Adolf Hitler. And yes, punching Hitler was political.
Captain America co-creator Joe Simon, speaking to Bradford W. Wright for the book Comic Book Nation, said that he and artist Jack Kirby "felt good about making a political statement" when they created Captain America. That was their intention; to take a stand against fascism. At that time, in late 1940, the US had not entered the war, and let's be blunt; plenty of Americans wanted the US to join on the other side. 20,000 people attended a pro-Nazi rally in Madison Square Gardens in February 1939, and Simon and Kirby had their own encounters with people who, in Simon's words, "opposed what Cap stood for." They received "threatening letters and hate mail" because of their controversial anti-Hitler stance, and the mayor of New York issued them with police protection.
The intensity of Captain America's politics has waxed and waned in the hands of different creative teams over the years --- and the upcoming storyline may see former Cap Steve Rogers and current Cap Sam Wilson clash over how politically active Captain America should be. But the Steve Rogers version of the character has always inclined towards progressive politics --- pro-equality, anti-fascist.
There's a popular misapprehension that all patriotic heroes must be conservative, because patriotism has close ties to exceptionalism, imperialism, and xenophobia. But there is another version of patriotism that holds up aspirational ideals of shared burdens and shared responsibilities. Maybe there are better ways to reach those ideals, but patriotism can get you there too.
As for where Cap should stand on the politics of scapegoating entire groups of people as a threat to 'our way of life' --- whether it's the immigrants in this latest comic, or Muslims, black people, LGBTQ people, and so on --- you need only recall Cap's origin as the product of two Jewish men from immigrant families who were fully aware of the campaigns of hatred being waged against their people in Europe. Captain America always stood for compassion and courage, and against the hatred and fear embodied by the Sons of the Serpent.
The Sons, with their weird Ancient Egyptian snake-themed costumes, are really a peculiar comic book version of the Klu Klux Klan, using dehumanizing rhetoric to justify violent acts. (Note the apt use of sound effects in the panel above.) That makes them exactly the sort of villains Captain America should face, whether it's Sam or Steve or Bucky. That the Sons are targeting Mexican immigrants rather than black Americans is only a sign of the shifting focus of fear-based politics in America.
So if you're a conservative and you find yourself identifying with a group of snake-themed Klansmen who are abducting Mexicans for presumably super-villainous purposes, consider this possibility: Perhaps Captain America is still punching Hitler --- and people are still sending the creators hate mail because of it.