Hail Hydra


Poster by Eric Tan


This phrase, popularized in the second Captain America film, The Winter Soldier , is making front page news across the country. For the initiated, Hydra is an evil terrorist organization that first appeared back in 1965. While James Bond and MI6 had ‘Spectre,’ Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. had Hydra. These guys were so evil that they creeped out the Nazis.

In recent years, Hydra has been presented in comics and in film/tv as an organization so insidious that it had secretly infiltrated certain aspects of government over a long game tracking back to its inception on WWII. As of this week, that infestation has spread to the star-spangled Avenger Captain America.

The fate of a fictional character is making front page news. That means one of two things, America is a very sad place where pop culture icons are more important than actual news involving real people in actual places… or these cultural icons are important.

Avengers - Captain America_PosterAs a cynic, I’m torn. I want to brush the dust off my shoulders and stand tall with my imaginary degree of comic book lore, stating that these ‘funny books’ actually mean something and have a direct impact on our culture… but I’m also frustrated by two things; one is that it is indeed not as important as real news pieces which could uncover insidious deeds or help those in need and there are far more people today with opinions on Captain America than there were yesterday. And they are not buying the comic book.

comic-book-rack-1975I have a pretty basic rule when it comes to these things; if you want to play along, you pay admission. I’m down to talk about comics with almost anyone, but my pet peeve is the uninformed angry person on the street with maybe a t-shirt and a dvd supporting their interest and a vague memory of the character. This happens all the time and it always annoys me. If you want to get outraged, join in, read the book and have an informed opinion rather than just outrage.

Upset about Blue Beetle’s death? Why didn’t you buy *one* of his comics. Furious over Spider-Man’s new status quot? Why does your collection stop at 1996? Personally pained over Batman’s death? Well… get in line.

Strangely, Nick Spencer,  current writer of both Captain America: Sam Wilson and the newly released Captain America: Steve Rogers series (as well as the hit series Morning Glories), is all a-flutter with the attention and assures readers that there is more to come.

Via the Daily Beast:

When you decide to do something like this, you understand obviously that people aren’t gonna throw you a party for it. You understand that this is the kind of story designed to upset people and shock people and worry people. That’s the response you’re supposed to have to something like this, when you’re seeing a bad thing. So, yeah, this is certainly the kind of response I expected, but in terms of the magnitude of it and just how many people are chiming in, that part’s unreal. That surpassed any expectation that I had.

I think it just comes down to [the fact that] this character, particularly since the movies, has really exploded in popularity. Obviously he represents a lot to a lot of people. They’re emotionally invested, which is good. The worst thing that could have happened today is people shrugging, or even being reasonable. That would’ve said that we didn’t stick the landing on it. So this is what we wanted, we just have even more of it than we imagined.

we’ve been holding onto this for about 16 months now, so it’s been well over a year that we’ve been keeping this under wraps. And that was a hugely gratifying thing, especially in the last couple of months as we started work on the issue. There’s an artist drawing it [Jesús Saiz] and a letterer [Joe Caramagna], and you start to worry because obviously the book is getting passed through a lot of hands and there’s something tangible out there that can get leaked. So yeah, I mean all the credit in the world goes to Tom and everyone at Marvel, they really went above and beyond to keep a lid on this. They took a lot of special measures that we’ve never had before—and it worked! We managed to keep this until it started leaking out last night, which was inevitable because that’s when the book started arriving at various places. But yeah, it was a big success. I was really surprised. I thought for sure it would be ruined.

One of the first things most people will probably think is, “But hasn’t he spent the last 75 years fighting Hydra?” How do you reconcile the twist with the character’s history?

48807535.cached.jpgI can’t say a lot on that front, but what I can say is that that is not a huge point of concern in the story. That question will be answered, at least for the most part, in the next issue. That wasn’t something that we wanted to drag out. We wanted to make that stuff as clear as we could upfront. So now that we’ve gotten the big surprise, we’re going to go back and explain some things to you so that you, as a reader, have a much clearer vantage point. But your vantage point may differ greatly from the characters in the Marvel universe.

There’s a lot of uproar online about how this storyline insults the legacies of Captain America’s Jewish creators, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon.

Look, everybody who’s working on this story loves Captain America. I know that it may not seem like it today. But this book is edited by Tom Brevoort, who has been protecting this character’s legacy for a very long time now. He’s not gonna let me do anything that he thinks is going to endanger that character’s legacy and how the character is perceived. It’s always difficult when you’re at this point in a story, because you don’t just wanna tell people, “Everything’s gonna work out great!” Because that certainly may not be the case here. But what I think I can say with confidence is that with this story, our intention and our hope is that in its own unique way, it reinforces what everybody already knows about Captain America, which is his power as a symbol and what that means. We are approaching it from a different angle, but I think it illuminates the character in a way that we’ve never seen before.

It’s always tough. The eternal divide is the reader wants the character to succeed, to be happy, to win. Our job is often to put the characters through things and that can often be mistaken for a lack of respect or care for the character. It’s just the reality of what draws people into these stories, whether you realize it or not, and this is going to be a major test for a lot of characters in the Marvel universe.
(read more here)


So there you have it from the guy who is actually writing the book that has earned him death threats and the ire of millions of lapsed comic book fans across the globe, suddenly invested in a character they had forgotten about until yesterday.

Oh, and on that other thing bouncing around the Twittersphere? Nick Spencer had some diplomatic words for the Captain America’s boyfriend movement.

Have you been watching the #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend campaign unfold?

Yeah. I think the only thing I can say there is it speaks to people’s passion for the character. Which probably isn’t much of an answer, but people strongly identify with these characters, they’re strongly invested in these characters’ lives, and I think that this is a reflection of that energy.

More as it comes… but keep buying the books.

Not sure where your local comic shop is? Try comicshoplocator.com!

Not into the physical books? Get thee to comixology or Marvel.com for digital comics offerings.

One thought on “Hail Hydra

  1. My only complaint here… and I’ll preface with some backstory… It’s fiction, and I don’t get “mad” at fiction… I might not always like it, but it isn’t something to get mad over… and if I were reading Captain America I’d be willing to give it a chance and let it play out before I judged it. But my first thought was… this feels a bit like Dan Slott’s fairly recent take of Doc Ock driving Spidey’s body for a while. Now, that got similar hate/death threats too… but I found the story itself fairly entertaining and I did read all of Superior Spider-Man… so my “complaint” here about Cap would be… it feels like something they just did five minutes ago with another major character… so even if it is done well, won’t it feel like deja vu?


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