Marvel Would Like You To Know Captain America’s Turn To Fascism ‘Has Little To Do’ With Politics

Marvel Would Like You To Know Captain America’s Turn To Fascism ‘Has Little To Do’ With Politics

In a few weeks, Marvel will kick off Secret Empire, the culmination of a year-long arc that has seen Steve Rogers, a walking symbol of American exceptionalism and patriotism, revealed as a life-long agent of a fascist supervillain organisation. But aside from that minor detail, they’d really like you to know that somehow the event is not inherently political in the slightest.

Image: Marvel Comics. Secret Empire Free Comic Book Day #1 cover art by Mark Brooks.

In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly about the upcoming series, editor-in-chief Axel Alonso and Secret Empire writer Nick Spencer discussed some of the details surrounding the storyline of Secret Empire and the events that have lead to it in the pages of Captain America: Steve Rogers. The interview with worth reading, but it’s a sentiment delivered by Entertainment Weekly from the two Marvel employees ahead of the interview that are the most… let’s go with interesting (emphasis in bold):

Secret Empire shares its name with a previous Marvel event, a ’70s Captain America storyline by Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema in which a mysterious evil organisation infiltrated the highest levels of American government. Written in the wake of Watergate, the story had high political resonance, but Spencer and Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso insist that this Secret Empire has little to do with contemporary political parallels. It’s an age-old battle of good vs. evil, with the top superhero in Marvel history on one side, and all his friends and teammates on the other.

That’s right, everyone. Unlike the past Secret Empire storyline — which included a moment that heavily implied that Richard Nixon himself was the head of a shadowy cabal ruling the White House — this new story is a “good guy versus bad guy” brawl with little to no political leanings or commentary. Except, if you’ve been reading Spencer’s work on Captain America lately (which, wider controversy aside, has been surprisingly gripping to follow), you would know that this sentiment is an extremely baffling interpretation of what Secret Empire is about at its very core, and why the event has become such a controversial talking point.

Putting Spencer’s work on the extremely politically-minded Captain America: Sam Wilson series aside for a minute, this is a story arc featuring Steve Rogers — a super soldier bred to win World War II and an icon of freedom, justice, and the ideals America sets for itself, a comic character created with explicitly political intentions that even lead to his creators, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, to be offered police protection to avoid being assaulted by actual Nazi supporters — being revealed, even through cosmic-cube-reality-altering-shenanigans, as a life-long agent for an organisation that, even ignoring their murky historical associations with Nazism, explicitly wants only the strongest to rule the world through terror and dominance. Whatever Alonso and Spencer say, this twist, at a time when people are looking towards Captain America as an important symbol of the beliefs they cherish, is an inherently political one that is also very much rooted in current world events, and current politics.

Further to that, in the run up to Secret Empire, Marvel have been more than comfortable with rooting this storyline in the language and imagery that has sat at the heart of American political discourse throughout the 2016 US Presidential Election and the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency. Although this week the balance of power within the current Hydra changed quite severely, since this storyline began Steve Rogers had shared a platform in Hydra (albeit begrudgingly) with a Red Skull touting far-right, nationalist views of immigration:

Steve Rogers himself, talking in the aftermath of Civil War II, alluded that his subversive actions behind his fellow heroes backs were all part of a wider populist movement, with thinly-veiled allusions to refugees, LGBTQ rights, and the discourse of Donald Trump’s election campaign:

Further on, in the biggest teaser for what was to come in Secret Empire so far, the imagery of Hydra’s takeover of the US is presented in an inherently political manner: Control of the media, frequent security checks, propaganda-as-patriotism in the heart of school classrooms. Although not pictured in the page below, the issue it comes from, Civil War II: The Oath (also penned by Spencer), even includes a direct parallel to internment camps.

To deny the inherent political nature of this event and the current context that it is deliberately rooted in — presumably in an attempt to quell the ongoing controversy Marvel faces over Secret Empire — is to deny the facts of reality itself. Art by its nature is shaped by the beliefs and agendas of its creator. To say that this new event, couched in the imagery and language dominating American politics in 2017, has “little to no” political parallels is as boldly untrue as saying something like Star Wars is unpolitical.

Don’t get me wrong, all this does not bear on Secret Empire‘s quality — I’m looking forward to seeing how the culmination of this long saga turns out. But Marvel should at the least be honest with its audience about the story it is telling, especially if it expects the controversy surrounding it to die down any time soon.


  • Is this only contravercial because it’s too close to home. Just like when the Nazi’s were in power, your not going to admit that your work is anti the billigerent ruling party. Seems like ol’capt is nailing the current state of America. Any foriegn tourist need to hand over phones and social network passwords when entering the country is on the cards. It is sounding more and more like a dictatorship under the guise of democracy by the day. And most everyday Americans seem to be happy about it.

    • Uhm, could you answer what about that handing over stuff on the border, what is this law?

  • Claiming that Secret Empire is not political is likely just a marketing tactic hoping to win back readers who have been put off by how much Marvel have become more left-leaning in recent times. I’m just guessing based off their recent comments about how diversity is having an impact on their sales, their way of thinking is changing.

    I’m not making an opinion either way here on which way Marvel should be heading, just telling it how I see it.

      • I assume the alt-right would probably prefer that being alt-right not be obviously considered the bad guy.

  • Of course not – it’s about overloading on “events” that long since stopped being ‘special’ when they happen every few months now, having the good guys fight each other instead of the actual villains, and whatever character heel-turn/death/replacement combo they get from the giant Bullpen wheel of plot fortune.

    I miss 90s comics… sure, they were stupid, but they were still fun.

    • Agreed. 90s comics were awesome 🙂

      That said there’s still some good, fun books being published by Marvel of late: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Unbelievable Gwenpool, Unstoppable Wasp, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat!, Great Lakes Avengers, Slapstick!, Hawkeye, Silver Surfer, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, USAvengers, and America are all good, fun reads 🙂

      • Which are probably the ones facing the chopping block because “diversity’s to blame” and not their own cynical crap and ‘waiting for the trades’, with my luck.

        I miss Demon Knights – that was one thing the New 52 did right.

        • The problem though is that these titles aren’t the ones people have taken issue with, they are in fact what people were asking for. These characters seem to fill out new roles within the Marvel comic universe, the diversity issue is directly related to characters being replaced.

          • “Sales are down in general… better cut the ‘niche’ titles and churn out a 5th Spiderman/Batman book each month” is an old, old trend.

  • I believe there is a term for statements like this one from Marvel… Damage Control.

    Marvel knows this is going to crash and burn due to how political in nature the whole event is and since it’s two of the things (Political messages in comics and event comics) that has been costing Marvel a lot of book sales, they are going to the media hard about how this story has “nothing to do with the current political climate”… BULLSH*T!!

    • Regardless of where you fall on the political compass these stories are likely going to annoy you, if not because it may be sleights your side (moderate right wingers), it also normally shoe horns characters into silly roles (Carol Danvers).

      I think it is just better if these kinds of stories are explored after the smoke has cleared, when people aren’t being emotionally compromised.

  • Sure it wasn’t cause Donald Trump is the new president, hell I get the impression his enough to make anyone jump sides (Hydra in disguise?)

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