Welcome Back, Captain America
Cap’s back and not a moment too soon.
Just as Russian President Vladimir Putin reasserts his old Cold War bravado, infused with Olympian juice after Sochi, this weekend will launch Marvel Comics’ sure-to-be blockbuster, “Captain America – The Winter Soldier.”
With a jolt, Cap’s patriotic pose will swoop in on our collective conscious, heroically appearing just as the world wonders what the red, white, and blue is going to do about Putin’s provocative push into Crimea.
The back-story of The Winter Soldier is that the Winter Solider is kept in a cryogenic stasis by our old foe, the Russian bear – we thought both were de-clawed, but both are now reasserting their angry paws.
In comic book lore, The Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes) was once a friend, ally, and even a sidekick to Cap. Can you say “Yalta”? But at the end of WWII after failing to defuse a bomb, Bucky gets blown up. Thought to be dead, he’s actually hurled into freezing waters of the North Atlantic and eventually found by a Russian submarine. He’s then revived and taken to Moscow, but suffers amnesia and is missing one arm that’s replaced with a bionic one. He’s brainwashed and becomes a Russian version of the super soldier, like Cap, and given the name Winter Soldier.
Cap on the other hand, was born on the 4th of July in 1922 and burst prophetically onto the comic book scene, just 6-months prior to Pearl Harbor, with the iconic image of the superhero punching Hitler in the face and knocking him for a loop.
That’s no surprise. See Cap (like Superman, Batman, X-Men and so many other superheroes), was created by Jews: Joe Simon (born Hymie Simon) and Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg). Kirby grew up on the tough streets of New York’s Lower East Side, the hub of the Jewish immigrant experience and he made it Cap’s address too.
As Kirby recalled, “the neighborhood was rough and tumble, with street fights a common occurrence.” Likewise, Kirby’s doppelganger, Steve Rogers (Cap’s alias), who started as a small weakling too feeble to join the military, was picked on and bullied. But after an experiment performed by Dr. Reinstein (sounds like Einstein), he quickly became a super soldier tasked with aiding the Allied war effort.
If it all sounds a bit silly and a little too fantastic, it was a different era then without the jaded cynicism we have today.
Indeed, that Cap still occupies space in our collective pop-culture consciousness, after some 70 years, is a tribute to humanity’s spiritual quest for something greater than ourselves. Just as Greek gods and biblical heroes were vital to their epoch, Cap and assorted comic book stars have woven themselves into our lives, enveloping us like a super suit.
While Captain America is pure fiction, the palpable need he collectively fulfills, for someone to come along and punch out the next Hitler or Winter Soldier, is a meme buried in America’s psyche. Never really dead, it resurfaces.
This upcoming weekend’s renderings are only the latest in a long line of wishful projections onto one of those imaginary surfaces – a screen that we’ve used to both hide behind as well as reveal our true selves.
Abe Novick is a writer and communications consultant and can be reached at abebuzz.com. This article was originally published by The Jerusalem Post.