Sunday, June 12, 2016

Captain America: The Individual vs. the Collective

We went to see Captain America: Civil War on Memorial Day. The theater was practically empty, but that's what happens when you see a movie near the end of its run. I have to say that the Avengers movies are among the best superhero movies being made and that Captain America is one of my favorite superhero movie characters. The reason is that he is truly heroic, always striving to do the right thing and not in any way morally ambiguous or morally relativistic. It's clear to me that in Captain America: Civil War we're supposed to sympathize with the title character and his cause, far more so than with Ironman and his. Before seeing the movie, I had read that there is political content in it. After seeing it, I can't say there is much of that, but if you remember just two quotes, you'll get the idea. First, in the fight scene at the airport, the Vision, a follower of Ironman, proclaims:

[F]or the collective good, you must surrender now.

Later, Captain America explains that he fights for freedom and individuality. (Unfortunately, I don't have the quote as an illustration. If somebody can come up with it, please rescue me.) So that's the casus belli: the individual vs. the collective, freedom vs. centralized control. In the real world, the collective is of course BS. ("Language!") Okay, the collective is of course poppycock. And as every person knows, we are and by rights free. (One definition of a so-called liberal is someone who loves his own freedom and hates everyone else's.) Anyway, it isn't really convincing to me that Ironman would so easily side with the collective and with centralized control. He is after all Tony Stark, a guy who does what he wants. But there is precedent in America today for big business and big industry to side with government against individual freedom. Call it crony capitalism, corporate socialism, proto-fascism, or oligarchy. Whatever its name, it represents a threat to us all. So maybe it isn't so farfetched after all that Tony Stark, like so many businesspeople in America today, would be in the tank for government control of people's lives.

So what does Captain America have to do with Weird Tales? Well, how about this:

And this:

Those are the covers of the only two issues of Captain America's Weird Tales, from October 1949 (#74) and February 1950 (#75), respectively. Horror comics were very popular in the 1950s, and the pulp magazine Weird Tales still carried with it some cachet, despite the fact that pulps were on their way out after the war. I guess that explains the switch in the title. After these two issues, Captain America regained control of his own comic magazine, but only for a while: the original run of Captain America came to a close with issue number 78 in September 1954, the same month, oddly enough, that the pulp magazine Weird Tales met its end.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. I always thought that the change from CAPTAIN AMERICA to CAPTAIN AMERICA'S WEIRD TALES was one of the strangest transitions in comic book history. I can't begin to comprehend the logic in that one!
    Yeah, I too love the recent movie incarnation of Captain America. In both The Winter Soldier and Civil War our hero has had to wrestle with the issue of choosing morality over loyalty, making his righteousness more striking, more genuine that ever. I think Jack Kirby would be proud.

    1. Dear Michael,

      It's weird that they would change the title, then change it right back again after two issues.

      Here's another weird one: Moon Girl became Moon Girl Fights Crime, then A Moon...A Girl...A Romance at about the same time. Boy, were comic books confused in those days.

      Thanks for reading and for writing.