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Archive Binge: Steve Rogers, American Captain

G D Penman By G D Penman Published on May 1, 2016

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Of all of the webcomics that I have reviewed up until this point none of them have succumbed to the inevitable fate that seems to befall the majority that do not choose to end on their own terms. Steve Rogers: American Captain is the first to succumb to a quiet death by abandonment.

American Captain is based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe's interpretation of Captain America but it deals with the time when he is not dressed in full costume, barrelling around punching pseudo-nazis and aliens. It deals with his time adjusting to life not only in the modern world but also outside of the constant warfare that characterised the majority of his life. So instead of stars and stripes we have discussions of modern television, contemplating going back to college, awkwardly flirting using outdated lingo and post traumatic stress disorder portrayed with painful realism. It brushes against the world of superheroics on occasion, without it there could be no central character, but the emphasis is always on the internal world of that he occupies.

The framing device of the story is that it is a journal comic being drawn by Captain Rogers, one time art student and amateur cartoonist, himself as an exercise to sharpen up his artistic skills. While we are seeing events from a very open and honest perspective there is also the distinct possibility of an unreliable narrator. While parts of the story clearly lay out embarrassing moments from his current life and later strips admit to uncomfortable facts that may interfere with him achieving his goals if they come to light, there is still a deliberate distance in the comic caused in no small part by the ridiculous amounts of denial that Steve goes through. Denial of his feelings, denial of his own impending mental illness and denial of his entire situation at times. Accompanying the comic and adding more faux-realism to the framing device are recipes that Steve prepares that come from his original time period and that he readily admits don't taste very good but remind him of home.

It takes a very cold heart not to feel something when you are reading the journal of this obviously damaged war veteran as he struggles to deal with depression, trauma and the bizarre world of modern art all while desperately trying to convince his superior officers that he is healthy enough to return to active duty. To dive straight back into the violence and chaos that is simultaneously the only place where he feels comfortable and the cause of so many of his problems.

The comic ends before the cinematic universe picks the Captain back up and tosses him into the grinder, as though he was forced to abandon his hobby when active duty called. That is how the comic appears, abandoned at an odd point, as Steve sits on a park bench and tries to overcome his depression and find the strength to get back up again. Steve obviously got up off the bench or the comic would have continued forever and there is a hidden thread of positivity throughout the comic. In the end all of these problems were overcome or at least beaten back, but seeing the soft underbelly of such a beloved character, seeing the humanity of a superhuman and the weakness of a character who is meant to be perpetually strong is inspiring in a way that punching any number of evil robots will never be.


G.D. Penman writes about queer monsters for a living. He is the author of Call Your Steel, The Year of the Knife, Heart of Winter, Apocrypha and many other books. He is also a full-time freelance ... Show More

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