Last night, in addition to the news of a new Thor, it came out that we will be seeing another figure taking up the mantle of Captain America. Steve Rogers faces a new crisis, the loss of the super serum that’s been keeping him alive and strong for decades. Now old, he needs a new hand on his shield. To that end, his friend, Sam Wilson (AKA The Falcon, played fantastically by Anthony Mackie in The Winter Soldier) is taking the mantle.
If this last detail bothers you, I need you to stop. “But Cap is white!”
No. Steve Rogers is white. Steve Rogers was made into the perfect Aryan ideal from common, unfit stock in World War II and it was his perfect blonde hair and blue eyes that fiction needed to punch Hitler in his fucking face. He was the irony America needed in World War II.
But even then, he wasn’t the only one.
In 2003, Robert Morales (writer) and Kyle Baker (pencils, ink, and color) created Isaiah Bradley for the seven part miniseries, Truth: Red, White, & Black. Bringing a face back to the too-easily forgotten black soldiers and using the Tuskegee Experiments (not to be confused with the airmen, but shoutout to them, too!) as a basis for inspiration, Bradley became another face of the Captain for World War II.
(YOU NEED TO READ THIS STORY. THIS IS A GOOD FUCKING STORY)
Long debated as canonical or non-canonical, today Bradley and his family are a firm part of Earth-616 comics history. Still strong but recovering from decades of abuse from both the Nazis and his own country, Isaiah not only came to the wedding of Black Panther and Storm, but his bloodline lives on to fight - Patriot, his grandson Elijah, founding member of the Young Avengers.
Isaiah’s story has added much-needed dimensions to the history of the title “Captain America.” He challenged the status quo, and in the context of his own story, like countless more stories in the real world, he paid for it dearly. Isaiah comes out of his story still strong of spirit, but not without immense cost, as Rogers comes to learn at the end of the miniseries.
Steve Rogers is white. Perhaps he truly needed to be then, to impress into the children of and after WWII the hatred that had come in the name of the white man’s ideal he was forged in, and the good he could still be. But Captain America does not have to be Steve.
He (or she) needs to be America. And America has never been made of one color, or been represented by one, or should be represented by one.
With Ms. Marvel, Thor, and Captain America this year, we’ve seen Marvel at least *try* to see the faces of today’s readers. Maybe that’s not enough, and by God, certain contingents of ‘fanboys’ will scream about the new faces of Marvel. I am not here to listen to them, and in time they will dwindle.
If America as a story is strong, then Sam Wilson, Captain America, will be, too. I’ll be there to read it.