Sunday, November 1, 2015

Captain America: White #2

Captain American: White, like Hulk: Gray, Spider-Man: Blue and Daredevil: Yellow, is a limited-run series by the dynamic duo of writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale that attempts to define the mythological essence of the character.

In the case of Captain America, Loeb defines the superhero mythos as loss, the loss of his World War Two sidekick Bucky in a fatal encounter with a drone. Bucky's death is also the event that leads to Cap's two decades of suspended animation. The drone explodes, killing Bucky and blowing Captain America into the icy waters of the North Atlantic and eventually into a block of ice worshiped by the Inuit.

All of this is from the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Avengers #4 reintroduction of the character in the 1960s. None of it was actually from the WWII era when then Marvel precursor Timely Comics mothballed Captain America in 1949 due to a shift in popular appetites to true-crime and horror fare.

It is interesting that Lee and Kirby brought Cap back soon after the Kennedy assassination and just prior to a massive U.S. ramp up in its commitment to war in Vietnam; and that the reborn Captain America should be so heavily freighted with loss and alienation -- the loss of his boy partner and his own era. Captain America is "a walking anachronism," a man out of time in an age of protest and lost credibility.

What really shines through in the Loeb-Sale retelling of Captain America is the psychological dimension of lost childhood. It is downright Jungian. Captain America is constantly flagellating himself for not living up to his inner child, Bucky, who repeatedly put his life on the line for Cap during their WWII exploits.

This made me realize that what superhero comic books are all about is juveniles letting go of their childhood and acclimating to the ways of the adult world, which, as Freud says, is all about accepting loss.

But what makes Captain America particularly potent as a myth is the idea that man creates himself (autogenesis) and therefore man can heal himself. It has something to do with his relationship to his inner child. Most men end up going to women to maintain the inner child, and to my mind that is a Faustian bargain (Nietzsche's line about, "When you go to woman be sure to bring a whip"). But man need not go to woman to maintain the child. The child is there for the man, and the man the child. The relationship oscillates. That is the beauty of it, and its potent dynamism. You just have to think about it and not run to the nearest woman for coddling.

All of this is on wondrous display in Captain America: White #2. Below are ten scans. Captain America, Bucky and the Howling Commandos are headed for Nazi-occupied France on a secret mission when their transport plane is shot down and crashes into the sea. Bucky saves Cap but is unable to retrieve his iconic shield. The last page has Cap consoling Bucky in loving embrace, what every man must learn to do for himself if he is truly to stand alone and be a "tough guy" and independent.

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