Opinion: Some bold first steps for a Black Captain America

A while ago I wrote a post about the introduction of a black Captain America and a Muslim Ms. Marvel. But I never published it; by the time I finally got around to doing so, it felt like the moment had passed. Not to mention the fact that Joseph Phillip Illidge did a much better job talking about Sam Wilson becoming a black Captain America than I could.

However, All-New Captain America #3 got me thinking again. When I revisited my article, I noticed that the latest issue appears to be doing some of the things I had written that I hoped it would.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece I originally wrote:

“One of the most iconic covers features Captain America punching Hitler square in the jaw. If Falcon Cap were to punch someone on next week’s cover, who would it be*? I’m not saying that we need to see heroes donning I Can’t Breathe t-shirts or weighing in on what’s going on in the middle east…not least because such plotlines would inevitably be skewed by the political leanings of their writers and artists. But it might be interesting to get a look at Cap responding to the critics out there who say that there cannot or should not be a black Captain America.”

* Funnily enough, in an homage to said cover, this issue contains a panel of Sam Wilson socking Red Skull Jr (Sin) right in the mouth.

Now, take a look at these panels from All-New Captain America #3:

all new captain america 3 snap wilson race comics

Snap Wilson Captain America #3

Captain America comic book stereotypes

Sure enough, one of the key messages in All-New Captain America #3 is the contrast between Sin and her father’s hateful cause and Sam Wilson’s worthiness of being Captain America. The comic closes with Sam underlining a potent truth – even though he knows who he is, there are people out there who won’t accept him because of how hard it is to escape ‘that story’.

This isn’t the only place we’re seeing Marvel examine stereotypes and social norms. Over in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), Captain America: The Winter Soldier to be specific, we see a world in which the system is broken. This leads to Cap having to ask some tough questions about authority, freedom and American justice.

The reboot of Ms. Marvel featuring the Muslim Pakistani-American Kamala Khan clearly has the scope to do similar – it’s poignant that in early issues Khan uses her shapeshifting powers to appear more like Carol Danvers, i.e. white and blonde. However, other than that, we haven’t really seen the new Ms. Marvel get into the baggage of what it means to be a Muslim superhero. Of course, it’s too early to say that it won’t do so in the future.

Critics may argue that it’s not ‘necessary’ to talk about this sort of thing, but I’m of the mind that calling out tired stereotypes is always a good thing. All-New Captain America has been a little hit and miss in terms of story so far, but if it’s going to put issues like this under the microscope then it’s definitely a comic I can get behind.

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