O Captain! My Captain! Terrorism in Post 9/11 Captain America Comic Serials

  • Abstract:

    In 2002, Marvel Comics published two ongoing Captain America series with narratives that responded directly to terrorism in America, Marvel Knights: Captain America and The Ultimates. Because many superheroes have a publishing history that spans decades, scholars suggest that continuity created from ongoing narratives in monthly publications respond to political discourse in American popular culture. Jenkins asserts that forms of media with greater production times and costs, like films or television, use comics as a testing ground to decide which direction to take their discourse. This paper will respond to Jenkins’ claims examining both a brief history of the character of Captain America and how the difference between the Captain Americas’ separate narrative histories affect the discussion of terrorism with the same character. Using the continuity, writers and artists can encourage readers to draw specific connections between the current political discourse and events within the serial’s history, both in the comic continuity and actual world. Comparing the Captain America in the Marvel Knights series to the Captain America in The Ultimates reveals two unique commentaries on American politics surrounding terrorism that began sooner following 9/11 than in other popular media. In one series, Captain America is a weapon used by the state to directly combat terrorism, and in the other title he actively challenges the rhetoric throughout popular culture that would justify the, now infamous, War on Terror. This early dialogue with the issue of terrorism is directly related to the way narratives in literature interact with their audiences, the political and personal views of the writers, and the speed with which comic serials are published.