One of the biggest stories in comics and pop culture over the summer was from Marvel Comics showing their efforts in creating diverse characters. Much to a lot of fans’ dismay, they made Thor a woman and Captain America a black man. Sam Wilson (aka The Falcon) is now officially Captain America.
While working today through my anger at the Ferguson, MO story — which is still unfolding — I wondered what Sam would do if he were a real person.
So, I did this image to deal with the madness.
8 thoughts on “If Captain America Were in Ferguson…”
Just for the record – if by some metaphysical alchemy Sam Wilson violated the no-fly zone in the skies over Ferguson as Captain America, I’d hope he’d have more to offer the civil liberties debate there than a worthless solidarity selfie.
Of course, there are no wrong ways to express one’s disillusionment over the aftermath of Mike Brown’s murder, but for me, this comes awfully close. Just a fail on so many levels ….
That idea of “failure” is exactly what inspired this cartoon.
As you said. It represents “a failure on many levels”.
Being a black Southern man growing up in the shadow of Emmett Till, it just pained me to see our president’s lack of outrage around what’s been happening in Ferguson,MO. Despite my understanding around President Obama’s immense responsibilities, I felt extremely let down and frustrated. I had, like many black Americans, a “make me wanna holler moment”. James Baldwin said once that “to be black and conscious in America is live in a constant state of rage”. However, at some point…one gets tired of being angry.
I know I am.
This cartoon was a direct response to exactly the kind of “worthless solidarity” you speak of. Except, it didn’t come from a web meme, it came from the President. It came from a black President. He seemed tired too, didn’t he?
Sam Wilson was introduced in Marvel Comics in 1969; the first African American superhero. He was part of response to a wave of capitalist-fueled diversity and inclusion that seemed to be the zeitgeist at the time. Even with that well meaning attempt at diversity in mainstream comics, it was difficult for Marvel to imagine the first black American superhero NOT being a criminal. That’s right, Captain America has a criminal record and he is black (unless that’s been ret-conned? I honestly don’t know. I’ve only just started reading mainstream comics again. Let’s just say the Sam “Snap” Wilson I know was a former criminal). Forty-five years later and the character still represents a performance of false diversity in the comics industry that merely seems to camouflage the deeply intrenched systemic racism that still pervades in all facets of our society.
Before Obama spoke, Representative John Lewis compared the events in Ferguson to what was happening almost 50 years ago in Montgomery, AL. Many older black Americans have been saying this too. It’s no small coincidence that Emmett Till lost his life to racialized violence 59 years ago in this very same month. LIke a superhero in a comic book, it doesn’t’ seem to change. It just pretends to.
It doesn’t seem to matter if you are a black President, a black Captain America, or a black teen in a hoodie. If you are black in America you’re still a target. Just ask the family of James Craig Anderson.
At the end of the day, Sam Wilson is just a character. He really can’t deal with all these issues we face in our country. However, I truly hope that Marvel/Disney really takes this opportunity seriously and deals with, to some extent, what it means to be a black man in that PARTICULAR uniform. I hope it’s not just a stunt to connect the comics to the films. I hope…
Thank you for your very insightful and powerful words. J.
I truly appreciate them.
“While we breathe, we hope”
– Barack Obama.
Mr. Jennings, Thank you for this powerful image. It is moving and a testament to the anger and frustration over the events of Ferguson these last several days.
Also your dignified response to Snoopy’s insensitive comment is also admirable. He was essentially saying the way you’ve chosen to express your frustration over Ferguson was “wrong” (or at least “awfully close”) and I find that reprehensible. Mr Jenkins, how dare you call out this artist’s dignity? Are you an artist? Do you understand the power of imagery? Mr Jennings’ art isn’t engaging in a “worthless solidarity selfie,” it is expressing his anger and frustration at the current situation.
To paraphrase: of course, there are no wrong ways to express one’s interpretation of another person’s artwork, but for me, your insult to Mr. Jennings’ art comes awfully close.
It’s not clear to me how expressions of anger and frustration serve much purpose outside of catharsis for the artist. We have different expectations of this President – while Mr. Jennings finds his response unworthy, almost trite, I find his situation rather banal. No American President has ever found himself really invested in the plight of lower income Black Americans; the assumption that President Obama should be different is … a difficult one.
That being said, Sam Wilson has been Steve Rodgers Negro sidekick for so long, he’s existed as a bad joke for many Black Americans. Seeing his dressed as Cap in solidarity with people opposed to state-sponsored violence against Black men forgets, in my view, that Captain America is as much a symbol of Establishment authority as the President himself. In essence, Marvel’s diversity nod, according to this image, should somehow forget the Establishment he serves long enough for a ‘worthless solidarity selfie’, like when Lebron and Wade et al. posed in hoodies after Trayvon Martin’s murder.
Visual solidarity from Establishment figures is as effective in political activism as tepid speeches on race from American Presidents. If’s that offensive to point out, oops.
I just have to say – this was the most powerful comment I’ve ever read on this site. Well done, Mr. Jennings. I really wish that more comic creators and interested people would respond to political criticism with such substance. I can’t pretend that I agree wholeheartedly, but you make a well-reasoned argument here. Seriously, well done.
Thank you, J.
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