The original Captain America sits poised to make his triumphant return but some fans haven’t gotten enough of Bucky Barnes under the cowl. Marvel has announced a December one-shot titled Who Will Wield the Shield? and readers are speculating that it might not be a black-and-white decision. This week, Comicscape poses the question: Is the Marvel Universe big enough for two Captain Americas?
You’ve heard it a million times, but why not repeat it once more? When Bucky came back, nobody thought it would work. Turns out it was awesome. When Ed Brubaker killed Cap, it was the shot heard ‘round the world – the comic community as well as mainstream press was all over the story like stink on a turd. So far, so good is an understatement; it’s been more like so far, so awesome. Not only are the complaints about Brubaker’s run on Cap few and far between, most critics and fans are ready to put his run on that prestigious shelf with the “definitive” label on it. Walt Simonson’s Thor, Frank Miller’s Daredevil and Chris Claremont’s X-Men have a new drinking buddy and his name is Ed Brubaker’s Captain America. And the story isn’t even over yet.
That, in an incredibly abridged and tiny nutshell, brings us up to date in the world of the Star Spangled Avenger. Steve Rogers is locked in time but he’ll soon be back, once again slinging the shield and fighting the good fight. And it’s just in time for the end of Dark Reign. But every message board and comic shop across the country is asking the same question: What about Bucky?
Since his return, James Buchanan Barnes, aka Bucky, aka The Winter Soldier, has been a smash hit. Most everyone finds him to be a fascinating character and some (Comicscape included) wouldn’t mind seeing him stick around as a permanent replacement for Steve Rogers. Regardless of your opinion, he’s been a cash cow for Marvel and Marvel likes milk. Whether he’s wearing red, white and blue or not, we don’t expect Bucky to go away anytime soon.
Will he remain the new Cap while Steve Rogers retires from superheroing and beings a new life as a Supreme Court Judge or perhaps the new head of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Unlikely. Steve’s got a movie in the works and let’s face facts: Just as Bruce Wayne is Batman and Peter Parker is Spider-Man, Steve Rogers is Captain America. However, that raises another interesting fact: just as Jay Garrick is Flash, so are Barry Allen and Wally West. Hal Jordan is synonymous with Green Lantern… but so are Alan Scott, Guy Gardener, John Stewart and Kyle Rayner. Not to mention Kilowog, Soranik Natu, Sodam Yat and about a billion others.
Or to cut right to the chase, here’s an excerpt from a recent Newsarama interview in which Ed Brubaker was asked if the December one-shot would definitively answer who will have the shield:
“… maybe there’ll be two Caps. There’s like 85 Green Lanterns.”
Oh and here’s another:
“How many Flashes are there? There are like nine Flashes, like 85 Green Lanterns; there were at least two Iron Men at one point.”
Right? See where we’re going with this? Now, it’s quite likely these comments are just red herrings. Brubaker’s a smart guy – he wants you to be interested in what he’s selling, so he’s going to drop hints like these that will make you buy the book. He wants to generate buzz in the comic shops and on geek websites like the one you’re on right now. And if you’re reading this, his plan is working!
Again, it all boils down to the same question: What about Bucky? And now another question arises. Is the Marvel U big enough for two Captain Americas?
As Brubaker said, it’s not like we haven’t already seen it. DC does it all the time with their “legacy heroes” such as Flash, Wildcat and the Atom. Marvel has recently cornered the market on “dark” versions of heroes but they’re no strangers to offering multiple versions of a popular item, having done it for years now (two Hulks, two Iron Men, etc). Actually, they’ve already had Captain America and U.S. Agent, which is sort of like two Captain Americas anyway. So why not have two Captain Americas now, especially since both versions are so popular?
Best case scenario: you’ve got Steve Rogers to appeal to the traditionalists and Bucky Barnes to appeal to the fans who want a little something different. Hell, maybe Brubaker or some other writer could even find a way to put the two men on different sides of the political fence so that liberals and conservatives can each have their own Cap.
Worst case scenario: that’s a pretty stupid idea. We’re the ones who came up with it and even we think it’s a stupid idea.
As much as it might seem like there are two (or maybe even more) distinct and separate versions of America, the fact is there’s only one, baby. As such, there’s gotta be only one Captain America and he’s gotta represent all of us: even the ugly ones and the jerks. It’s fun to suggest that everyone in the country that we disagree with should all relocate to another part of the country and be allowed to secede from the nation but in reality, all these differences are what make the place so sweet. Having two Americas wouldn’t make the place any sweeter; it would make it weaker, just as having two Caps would make the idea of Captain America less original and less important. Like Batman, Captain America isn’t just a man; he’s an idea. You can have new heroes pop up who are inspired by that idea, but having more than one version of that idea kind of dilutes it and defeats the whole purpose.
Yeah, it works with certain heroes. Jim Rhodes can put on his own suit of armor and call himself War Machine. #1 - because he’s operating under a different name and #2 - because he’s been Iron Man in the past. He’s earned the right and he’s still distinct enough that it doesn’t feel like there’s two Iron Men running around. Green Lantern? They’re a police force, so it’s not really an issue. Most of them are off-planet anyway. But would you have two Batmen? Spider-Men? Supermen? No, you wouldn’t, and you wouldn’t have two Captain Americas either. You can have a replacement, but at the end of the day, there can be only one.
Whether it’s Steve Rogers representing the moral fiber of an entire world of heroes or Bucky Barnes assuming the role of the “man out of time” for a new generation, Captain America is a character that’s just too iconic to split into multiple variations. While we at Comicscape feel that Bucky is a strong enough character to justify his continued existence as wielder of the shield in Steve’s absence, we also think he’s a strong enough character to continue on his own without the red, white n’ blue. He doesn’t need to be Captain America in order to be interesting.
Long story short: If Steve stays dead and Bucky stays on as Cap forever, we’re cool with that. But if Steve’s back in the tights, slingin’ the shield - Mr. Barnes is going to have to go shopping for a new name. And for the love of God, please don’t choose Nomad!