Film Crit Hulk responds to Vulture’s trainwreck of an article, ‘Why Captain America Is Only Interesting If He’s a Prick’.
Ugh, that article.
For the record, I love Millar’s Ultimate Steve Rogers. He is a brilliant critique of Silver- and Bronze-Age Captain America, and reading him was really important to me because I had been so frustrated with all of the 616 Captain America I had read up to that point: how his egotism and self-righteousness went unacknowledged, how he disrespected other characters’ authority because he knew best, and most of all, how the reader was just supposed to accept that because he’s Captain America. And yes, what makes him not only interesting but important and revelatory is that he is a prick.
But that article is so wrongheaded about Ult Cap that I want to puke on it.
1) Ultimate Steve Rogers being a prick is interesting not because he’s sexist and racist and homophobic and beats the shit out of Hank Pym but because he is a CRITIQUE of the Captain America that came before him, one that acknowledges 616 Cap’s flaws, and because he shows what can happen when you give a man a lot of power and make him a symbol of righteousness who can do no wrong without checking that he is actually an all-around great dude. Like, how lucky did MCU Erskine get that MCU Steve happens to be the most perfect sweetheart in the world? I know he was searching for the right candidate but they still got SUPER LUCKY.
2) Critiques are time-locked. Millar’s Ultimate Cap was relevant at the time and I continue to read him and enjoy him with that context in mind. But you know what Captain America we’ve had in the 12 years since The Ultimates was published? Ultimate Captain America. Plus a generally less idolatrous representation of Cap in main continuity, plus a bunch of Gritty Comics That Question The Man, plus an overall increase in paranoia and distrust of the government in America. It is not a statement on anything anymore for a superheroic symbol of good to be corrupt, nor is it cool and edgy.
3) “He clashes with the more progressive characters, but also is the only one with the moral conviction to take down a team member who beats his wife.” YOU MISSED THE POINT YOU MISSED THE POINT YOU MISSED THE POINT YOU MISSED THE POINT WOW CAP IS NOT THE “GOOD GUY” IN THAT SCENE IT WAS AGAIN A CRITIQUE OF SUPERHERO VIGILANTISM AND THE IDEA THAT A PERSON WITH A COSTUME AND SUPERPOWERS FIGHTING CRIME IS NECESSARILY A GOOD THING yeah we all hate Ultimate Hank Pym but Cap was so not in the right and I thought tonally that was pretty clear.
4) “You’d never find that kind of respect for authority in Iron Man or that all-American bluntness in Thor.” WHAT RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY. WHAT. RESPECT. HAVE YOU READ THE ULTIMATES. HAVE YOU READ ULTIMATE COMICS AVENGERS. “RESPECT” IS NOT A CONCEPT WITH WHICH ULTIMATE CAP IS FAMILIAR; THE TERM YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IS “ENTHUSIASM FOR SANCTIONED VIOLENCE.”
5) “In 2014, of what artistic good is a flawlessly nice soldier?” In 2014, of what artistic good is an asshole white male action hero? Do you know how many movies starring an asshole white male action hero came out last year? Probably like a thousand. I don’t know because I don’t watch those because I am bored of them. You know what we don’t usually get in 2014? A genuinely good protagonist who wants to protect people because he’s been in a position of weakness, who has suffered tremendous loss and been angry and grieved but makes the best of his situation, who fights not for his country but because he hates seeing people step over each other. That is fucking revolutionary in 2014.
6) “To borrow a phrase from the ultramacho Steve Rogers of The Ultimates: Hey, Marvel, what are you waiting for, ladies? CHRISTMAS?’” Y’know, the article says that, but what I hear is, “Captain America is as a prick is interesting because he’s a misogynist. Therefore, we should be misogynists, too, so that we can be as interesting as he is.” Byyyyye.