If we were to use the following iconic characters from comic-to-screen depictions of the American ideal in super-soldiering spandex, which of these American heroes represents the truest representation of OUR American ideal? I am not saying any of these wonderful depictions of heroic greatness is actually the spitting image of modern American military policy, BUT IF ONE HAD TO BE…
The Boys‘ Soldier Boy: Metahuman icon of a bygone age, Soldier Boy was one of the first and most effective manufactured product of Vought Industries.
Soldier Boy was a legend among the first test subjects; one of the most powerful individuals ever produced, Soldier Boy was superhumanly strong, incredibly durable, and had one of the largest egos ever produced by medical science. He also had the ability to project his internal energy into a radioactive explosion.
As the leader of the super-team, Payback, Soldier Boy fought in multiple wars, lead troops to battle and had one of the biggest media campaigns hiding his misdeeds from the American public. Soldier Boy was killed in Nicaragua and Payback was retired from military duty, soon after.
It was discovered decades later that Soldier Boy hadn’t died. He was imprisoned, tortured and left for experimentation in the hands of the Russian government, presumably to discover the source of his superhuman abilities. His time with the Russians as well as the general contempt of non-powered individuals, has left him a social and cultural anachronism, with more offense in a single sentence than most people will utter all month. Drug-addled, porn-addicted, socially-toxic in almost every way, Soldier Boy has only the legend of his greatness, most of it as manufactured as he was, to fall back on.
DC Entertainment’s Peacemaker: Christopher Smith was the abused son of a failed Aryan supervillain, was originally, a pacifist diplomat. (Or failed military operative, depending on when you lived) With an inability to follow orders well, Peacemaker was headed for the trash heap of life.
An uninspired thinker, an under-performing moral center, the only thing Peacemaker had going for him was his impressive physical ability and preternatural ability with any weapon of violence. Peacemaker wants the world to be peaceful at any cost. He wants peace so much, he is willing to kill for it.
Unable to be weaponized by his father, Smith finds himself at the control of the United States government and Task Force X. Unlike most of the people who work in Task Force X, once Smith learned of its existence, he volunteered to work with the agency against any enemies he was directed toward.
A mindless tool, Peacemaker is inordinately affective, if you don’t mind the condition of the target when he is done with it. Curiously enough, Peacemaker has no metahuman abilities though his ability to sow destruction can often seem extraordinary. For a time, he used specialized helmets with advanced technology built into them. While these helmets routinely defied the laws of physics, each helmet only has a singular ability, which doesn’t make them any better looking, only more tolerable for their single super-power.
Marvel Entertainment’s U.S. Agent: An actual certified military medal-earning star spangled veteran, who was still on active service when he became the new Captain America. Steve Rogers had left surprisingly large boots to fill when he retired from active service after the Thanos Incident and the Snap. Steve had been exposed to a super-soldier serum and vita-rays which gave him a peak performance human body, capable of astounding abilities. Yet, the greatest accomplishment was the heightened morality of Steve Rogers, a humble boy growing up in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Johnny Walker was none of those things.
Jonathan F. “John” Walker is a former Captain of the United States Army’s 75th Rangers Regiment who was chosen to succeed Steve Rogers as the second Captain America. Believing his own hype, he thought he was ready to succeed Steve Rogers which lead to his partner Lamar Hoskins being killed in action. Walker would then murder a surrendering foreign national in public, losing the title of Captain America and being stripped of his rank and discharged. Somewhere between getting his partner killed and losing his job, he manages to gain access to a new version of the super-soldier serum which he believed was the vital difference between he and Rogers. After getting the serum, he was owned by the Dora Milaje, and his shame led to the death of his friend.
Walker would then be recruited by Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, he was given a black uniform and rebranded as U.S. Agent. Walker is stronger than Steve Rogers physically, but is still learning the difference between his performance before the serum and after it. He is brash, overconfident, arrogant and with the serum enhancing his gung-ho, get-it-done by any means necessary approach to problem solving, he is poised to be a hammer to every nail dictated to him by his new shadowy masters.
Edward Morgan “Eddie” Blake, also known as The Comedian, was a masked vigilante and paramilitary operative for the United States government. He was a member of both the Minutemen and the Crimebusters. Blake had been active for forty-five years through the aid of government-sponsored activities and the press conjuring him into a patriotic symbol of war and victory.
Another fine specimen of humanity, Eddie was described as a “particularly vicious and brutal young man” who was an effective vigilante, managing to expunge most organized crime from the New York harbor.
He would go on to enjoy his career as a soldier and abused his power whenever he was able to do so. Despite his abusive nature, he was a fine military operative and was often successful enough in his work he managed to maintain a career as both a superheroic icon and a covert operative for a time. He would be court martialed for killing Prisoners of War but the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. Lesser known was his cruelty to women and he was accused of rape at least once by another costumed adventurer.
The Comedian was an unsympathetic individual both in terms of how he moved through the world and how little he cared for the ruin left in his wake. Ironically, he would be one of the only costumed adventurers after their banning by the Keene Act leaving Doctor Manhattan and the Comedian in the employ of the government.
Dastardly, savage, cruel, selfish, and completely vainglorious, the Comedian was a savage weapon directed by whomever or whatever passion Blake was involved in at the time. Willing to do harm to anyone, at any time, without warning or provocation, Blake was feared by anyone who truly understood him and despised by anyone who recognized what a monster he was.
A rabid dog, the United States unleashed the Comedian on anyone they needed to die and didn’t care how it looked. He would die as he lived, thrown from the penthouse window by an opponent who understood him and did not make the mistake of underestimating him as so many others had in the past.
Which Super-Soldier represents your America?
Soldier Boy: Heart-throb, manly, drug-addled, porn-addict with abs of steel and a mind filled with rage and PTSD. Soldier Boy isn’t a hero any more. He’s a weapon of mass destruction, looking for a target. Right after he gets his rocks off with this granny porn.
Peacemaker: Willing to do anything for peace; even kill for it. Completely unconcerned about collateral damage. Is, in fact, surprised there is a word for those people who accidently die because they’re in the way.
U.S. Agent: A failed Captain America, who is on the comeback trail, now boosted with the super-juice, he is certain he has what it takes and as US Agent, he is going to show that Black guy who has HIS shield who should really be wearing that uniform. They’re going to beg him to come back. Just wait. Dark deeds done dirt cheap until then.
The Comedian: Grizzled murder-vet, The Comedian has been killing people as fast as smallpox for forty years. Unable to turn off what he was, Blake would bring destruction to his personal life, his heroic life, his military life, and eventually, to himself. But until then, he surfs a tide of destruction, few men have ever had the opportunity to enjoy nearly as much. Unhinged in every meaningful way, willing to do whatever to whomever, without a thought. Send me in, coach.
Then again, there’s always the original.
The distorted reflections of Captain America wouldn’t exist without the original, who still offers us a vision of who we can be if we choose to be. No matter who carries the title, it’s still an idea that matters. A lot.
So which Captain America do you choose?
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.