Sam Wilson has been Captain America for some time now, but his big shot was with the release of Captain America: Sam Wilson at the forefront of Marvel’s All-New, All-Different relaunch. If you’ve been reading the title, you know Marvel and Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuña have given Sam one hell of a comic book. It struggles with tone and pacing and may try to do a bit too much (each issue–and page for that matter–is full of stuff happening), but overall it’s strong, and a great way to kick off a new era of storytelling for Marvel.
One of the pillars of that new era of storytelling? Diversity. Now, I’m not going to get into the pros and cons of diversity such as they are (ultimately, there is no con to it–just in how its implemented) because that’s a post for a different time. What I want to discuss here is how Marvel is using it. Marvel never flat-out said they were poor at presenting a diverse roster of characters that reflected the range of age, race, ethnicity, sexual identification, and so on of their readers and that their All-New, All-Different rebranding primarily existed to address that but… that’s kind of what it is.
Yes, there’s the hope of streamlining their continuity (which, if you’ve been paying attention, is not happening), but for the most part there’s a collective effort to be more inclusive with their roster of characters.
So far, though, Marvel seems to be paying a lot of lip service and not following through. If Marvel is serious about honoring their readers and respecting their experiences and trying to represent their stories, it’s not enough to just have a non-white, non-male character–you have to trust that character.
Brian Michael Bendis is on record as saying that Miles Morales’ Spider-Man is not a Spider-Man, not “the diversity Spider-Man”–he’s the Spider-Man.
That’s a great sentiment, and exactly the kind of attitude Marvel should embrace but… Marvel’s made Bendis a liar. Miles’ comic hasn’t even launched yet, and Peter Parker’s Spider-Man has three titles to himself (Amazing Spider-Man, Spidey, and Spider-Man/Deadpool). If you’re trying to streamline continuity, and Miles is your Spider-Man… why is there another one? Let me be clear: I love Peter, and all of his titles are great, but it smacks of hypocrisy, no? Or at least messiness?
Enter Steve Rogers.
Marvel announced yesterday that in the wake of the upcoming “Avengers: Standoff” event (which precedes “Civil War II”, which at once seems a cheap way of cashing in on Captain America: Civil War coming out in theaters in May but also another instance of Marvel’s confusing need to make their heroes fight one another), Steve Rogers is going to get his power back, get a shield, and be Captain America again.
Marvel claims he will be a Captain America, and Sam Wilson will still be Captain America. There will just be two.
You only need to read the interview with creators Daniel Spencer and Jesus Saiz (especially Saiz) to see how they consider Rogers to be the “real” Cap.
I think it’s telling that the title of Sam Wilson’s book isn’t Captain America, either, but Captain America with the qualifier: Sam Wilson.
This new Cap title will be Captain America: Steve Rogers, but it shows that Steve and Sam are on equal footing. It’s not “Here is our Captain America, Sam Wilson, and here is Steve Rogers.” It’s (as Spencer says in the interview) “here are two Caps.” You get to pick.
Considering how much Jane Foster “not being qualified” to be Thor/wield Mjolnir is still woven into the plot of her arc, you can feel how it’s just a matter of time before Odinson comes back as “Thor”–just, y’know, another Thor. “No,” you can hear Marvel begin to say, “he’s not wielding Mjolnir, but he’s, y’know, Thor.”
If Marvel is truly committed to an expanded and diverse roster of characters, it needs to trust the characters it’s creating. It can’t keep undercutting the heroes it has in place, the non-white, non-male heroes, by having a white male hero waiting in the wings. Don’t get me wrong: I love Peter Parker and Steve Rogers and the Odinson, and I am glad I get to read more of them, but Marvel can’t piss on my neck and tell me it’s raining. If they want their diversity effort to stick, Sam Wilson should be Captain America, Miles Morales should be Spider-Man, and Jane Foster should be Thor. Otherwise it looks like they’re trying to have their diversity cake and eat it, too, and that’s just not gonna cut it.