So, in case you haven’t heard, Captain America is apparently a Hydra Agent now. The revelation occurred in the first issue of the newest volume of Captain America. I’m skeptical that it will stick. In my opinion, if Jack Flag is dead (who Cap throws out of an airplane) then he has actually been turned, and I will simply cease to read that comic. If Jack Flag survives, then I think it is pretty clear that Steve Rogers is undercover.
Either way, the fallout from the first comic has been insane. The internet is abuzz with people proclaiming that they are boycotting Marvel and basically acting as if this is the worst thing that has ever happened in comics. Little kids, who have idolized Captain America, are crying because their hero has become a turncoat. Now, I don’t want to sound heartless, or unsympathetic to the plight of these children. When our heroes become fallible is the beginning of the end of innocence. But what I would tell those children is that it could have been a lot worse. To whit, they could have been 7 years old in 1993.
I distinctly remember being told by my Mother I could get one comic book at Wyndall’s Foodland. Up until that point, I had only ever received comics at second hand book stores. I had never gotten a new comic before, and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity. I picked out a comic featuring my favorite superhero, Batman. Unfortunately, the comic I chose was the first part of Knightfall. Now, 6 year old that I do not know, I realize that Steve Rogers saying Hail Hydra is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you, but I need you to understand that the first story I ever followed in continuity begins with Batman having an existential crisis, and ends with Bane breaking into Wayne Manor and breaking Batman’s back over his knee. That was the world I grew up in.
Of course, I could switch over to Superman right? After all he’s a boy scout, and his stories are not as dark as Batman’s. Well in 1993, Superman was dead. Which means that my first in continuity story was Reign of the Superman, which features John Henry Irons becoming Steel (later played by Shaq), a psychopath named the Eradicator, and a creepy Cyborg dude. Oh, and fictional 7 year old, you are about to receive a comic wherein your Superboy is a precocious 13 year old, who has been raised by Clark and Lois. Enjoy that, because my Superboy was a petulant teenager, with a godawful haircut, an earring, and a leather jacket that was only slightly bigger than Rogue’s was at the time. Basically he looked like a member of New Kids on the Block, only not Joey, Jordan, or Donnie, but one of the other two that no one remembers.
And man, what a strange story this was. We were basically told to choose our favorite of the 4 Supermen, but every option was bad. Irons was the most likeable, but he was basically a poor man’s Iron Man. Eradicator’s first appearance sees him literally set a man on fire. Cyborg blows up Coast City, and he is still somehow more likeable than Superboy. And yeah, Cyborg destroys Coast City, which is Hal Jordan’s home. He creates a big machine that just blows up the whole city. Geez. I can hear what you are saying, imaginary 7 year old. You are asking why I didn’t just go back to Batman? Good idea. I did and much to my surprise Batman had been replaced by a crazy cult member. And he would be Batman for almost AN ENTIRE YEAR!
Basically, Batman becomes a paraplegic and leaves Gotham to be healed by this holistic healer and to fight ninjas. He leaves Gotham to be protected by Jean Paul Valley, who has been brainwashed by a cult…
What’s that 7 year old? Why would Batman leave his city to be protected by a guy who is clearly crazy? I have no clue. What matters is that he does, and Azrael, as he is called, decides to pick a fight with Bane, which he wins because he has a crazy suit with all types of enhancements. But Azrael soon proves to be a lunatic. He still hears voices and becomes obsessed with being better than Batman.
Meanwhile, Pa Kent goes to limbo to fight demons who want to take Superman’s soul to hell (this is all true), Superman returns with a mullet, and defeats Cyborg to take back his mantle. However, Green Lantern tries to rebuild Coast City and the Guardians keep him from doing so, because he cannot use the Ring for personal gain. Hal Jordan goes to Oa and decides it would just be easier to kill everybody. One of the Guardians escapes and gives a Ring to Kyle Rayner, who receives it while wearing a Nine Inch Nails shirt. How can I properly describe Kyle Rayner in the 90’s? Imagine if Rob Liefeld was writing a character, and an editor told him that he would be fired if he did not make the character more off-putting and incompetent. That was basically my Green Lantern, my young friend.
So over a two year period, Superman died, Batman had his back broken, 4 pretenders to the Superman throne emerged and they were all horrible, Azrael took over the mantle of Batman and he was a brainwashed cultist, and Green Lantern killed all of the other Green Lanterns and was replaced by a brand new character who is just the worst. Oh, and you heard me correctly; two years! Whereas it is very likely that Captain America will be back to normal in about 6 months, comics in the 90’s drug things out for as long as possible. So listen my young friend, try not to cry too much. Things will be back to normal soon. I promise you. Sometimes you must deal with the pomposity of editors and creators, who are always wanting to make a splash. But usually, it all turns out right in the end.
What’s that? Why didn’t I try Marvel? Well I did a little bit after this, but the X-Men were living in a hellscape run by Apocalypse, and Spider-Man was a clone named Ben Reilly, and Tony Stark was a teenager… Oh you’re crying again. Sorry about that…