It’s pretty easy to draw a line between Captain America, the classic Marvel Comics character, and the Fourth of July, the U.S.’ most patriotic holiday.
The guy’s dressed in the Stars and Stripes, for pete’s sake.
But those who dismiss Cap and his alter ego, Steve Rogers, as an empty American symbol are wrong.
As a matter of fact, Cap’s real patriotism is what the Marvel movie producers got so right in “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “The Avengers.”
Like Superman, Captain America is a man without his own people. When Cap returned in Avengers No. 4, he was nearly 20 years removed from his era and his battleground, World War II. That “man out of time” feeling, which directors Joe Johnson and Joss Whedon captured so well in those movies, is what sets Cap apart from hip, funny heroes like Spider-Man.
Heck, the former Cartoon Network series “Superhero Squad,” which made Marvel heroes appealing and accessible to young fans, even got Cap right even as they poked fun at him. Cap in that series was always talking about some conversation he had with FDR or making some other “frozen in amber” reference. It was as funny as it was on-the-nose.
But besides Cap’s stranger in a strange land status, he’s also known for doing what’s right. Always. For a period in his comic in the 1970s, that meant forgoing the Cap name and costume and, thanks to disillusionment with the government, operating as Nomad, the man without a country.
I’m looking forward to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” next year in great part because it looks like more of a political thriller than a spandex slugfest and in great part because it looks to pit Cap against SHIELD. Cap’s character in “The Avengers” certainly showed more than a little skepticism about SHIELD and Nick Fury’s motives. That’s perfectly in keeping with the character and I couldn’t be happier about that.
So while Steve Rogers would, if he existed, be enjoying a hot dog and some fireworks today, he’d also be mindful of what enabled him to enjoy the Fourth of July, the sacrifices of men and women that allowed that and the individual liberties of the people around him.
Because while Captain America might have been a man without his own people, he has embraced – and been embraced by – his new people.