August 1982

Captain America 275

[Full Disclosure: I wrote the essays for Captain America 275 and 276 before August 12 – i.e, before the Alt-Right held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – replete with Nazi flags, salutes, and slogans – delving America into an ongoing discussion over the limits of false equivalence, tolerance, and free speech. I was tempted to rewrite my thoughts in light of that, but I think I’ll let my original argument stand as written.]

This issue from J. M. DeMatteis’ wonderful (and largely unheralded) Captain America run, got a bit of attention a few months back, when the internet freaked out over whether or not it was okay to punch a Nazi.

It all begins when Steve Rogers seems genuinely surprised when a Jewish protest at a (literal) Nazi rally becomes violent. (Millennials, I give you: 1982.) Of course, Steve slips away in the confusion, and Captain America saves the day!

A few months back, a lot of people argued online that Jack Kirby himself would rise from the grave and kick Captain America’s ass if he ever heard him utter such nonsense. In an early 2017 interview, DeMatteis stood by his portrayal.

Now, regardless of how one feels we all have to admit that the argument against punching a Nazi seems strained at least a little bit when it is being made by a guy who punches Nazis in the face professionally.

But, anyone who used Captain America 275 to argue that Captain America (or J.M. DeMatteis) was supporting passive resistance (or even pacifism) in the face of Nazism clearly didn’t read the next issue.

Captain America 276

Because, look what’s happens at the beginning of Captain America 276:

When confronted with physical violence, Captain America responds with physical violence. (And please note that Captain America’s violence – while effective – was not lethal, even though his enemy’s attempted violence was.) When read in context, then, it’s clear that DeMatteis’ point isn’t that non-violence is the best response to Nazism, but rather that physical violence should only be used defensively – when confronted with physical violence.

To put it another way: good guys don’t shoot first. In Star Wars, it’s important that Han shot first because it’s important that Han isn’t a good guy when Luke meets him. Making him start the film as the kind of guy who wouldn’t shoot first ruins his entire character arc. To be sure, not shooting first isn’t always the smartest course of action. And yes, it makes life more dangerous for the good guys. But those are the rules.

To further drive this point home, Sam – who is clearly presented a good guy – allows himself to be arrested for his attempted assault, and lets Captain America know that he was correct to stop him.

Other Comics I Read from August 1982

  • Amazing Spider-Man 234. 235, Annual 16
  • Avengers 225, Annual 11
  • Captain America Annual 6
  • Cerebus 41
  • Daredevil 189
  • Hercules 3
  • Ka-Zar 21
  • Marvel Fanfare 5
  • Marvel Team-Up 123
  • Twisted Tales 1
  • Vision and the Scarlet Witch 1
  • Wolverine 3, 4
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About Author

Rand Bellavia is half of the Filk Pop Nerd Rock band Ookla the Mok. They’ve been playing at science fiction and comic book conventions since 1994. Their clever, media-savvy lyrics, catchy melodies, and accessible power-pop sound have made them a cult-sensation with nerds everywhere. With song titles like Super Powers, Welcome to the Con, Arthur Curry, Kang the Conqueror, and Stop Talking About Comic Books or I’ll Kill You, it’s easy to see why. Rand and Ookla the Mok have won four Pegasus Awards, and the 2014 Logan Award for Outstanding Original Comedy Song. Ookla the Mok had the most requested song on Dr. Demento in 2012 (“Tantric Yoda”) and 2013 (“Mwahaha”). Rand co-wrote the theme song for the Disney cartoon Fillmore, and his vocals are the first thing you hear on Gym Class Heroes’ Top Five hit “Cupid’s Chokehold.” In his secret identity, Rand is the Director of the Montante Library at D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York. He has lectured and presented at international conferences on the subject of comics and libraries. Rand is like the Internet, except he smells nice.

2 Comments

  1. Feargal Gallagher on

    This is one of the first comics I ever read, and one of the handful that made me a fan for life. I’ve read the series around this issue piecemeal since then, so wouldn’t have realised that Thor as Deus-ex-machina was being over-used.

    I have since learned that Thor was off on a long exile from Earth, traveling through the cosmos in his own comics during these issues, so the creators had to push to have him in the Avengers at all (I guess they really wanted him there. Also the whole point of the Nefaria saga was to have them face an opponent who seemingly outclassed them all, and part of that would be letting the viewers see that even Thor couldn’t beat him.) So him appearing suddenly out of nowhere is a function of him having to zip across the galaxy for half an issue and then back again in time for his next appearance in his own comic.

    The last page above is still one of the best superhero entrances in all of comics, though.

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