From the Watergate to Reagan Years: When Captain America Stopped Being a Soldier

  • Abstract:

    This paper will focus on Captain America comics published in the 1970s and the1980s. Those troubled decades were indeed a real challenge for the righteous and patriot super-soldier. Comic book writers Steven Englehart and Mark Gruenwald tackle this issue very interestingly, following the lead of Stan Lee, in what is now remembered as the Silver Age of Comic Books. The man who was the embodiment of the “common man” and the “American Dream” since the 1940s drops twice his stars and stripes suit in a decade. Suffering from PTSD and war trauma, disappointed with a treacherous president in a Marvel-style version of the Watergate scandal, Cap becomes the “Nomad”. Significantly, during the Reagan Years, Cap’s trust and loyalty towards the U.S. government is not reinforced and he keeps his distance, choosing to fight for “the American dream”, shown as different from the official U.S. policy. These two runs of Captain America (Englehart’s and Gruenwald’s) allow us to understand the role of comic books in helping American citizens (and especially the young adults who read them at the time) to negotiate their disappointment towards their leaders while at the same time reinforcing American values. Our main point is that the main continuity of the Marvel universe interestingly questions contemporary U.S. History, while at the same time reinforcing a sense of ever-lasting American values, and the immortality of the American Dream. And Captain America is the perfect metaphor of it.