Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

March 7, 2007

Roscoe Disrespected By National Media


Some notes on Marvel's publicity success yesterday and today, the apparent storyline death of Steve Rogers/Captain America due in part to fallout from events in their Civil War mega-crossover. This plot point that unfolded in Captain America #25 led to a mini-avalanche of feature stories that explored the death of iconic characters like Captain America as a fictional device as well as Marvel potentially asserting a point about the divisive national mood, as mirrored fun-house style in the hero vs. hero mini-series.


* I don't know if any reporter out there has mentioned this already, but death and rebirth as a device in heroic fiction hasn't just been going on since 1992's Death of Superman storyline. It can be traced all the way back to Sherlock Holmes (or, if you're James Cameron, Jesus Christ). The vacuum tubes and steam powered pipes of the Victorian Internet were almost certainly afire with poetic fan invective the day "The Final Problem" was released, followed by multiple polls determining whether Dr. Watson or Mycroft Holmes should take up the pipe and violin.

* You can read modern fan reaction here and here and here and here and here and here.

* I think it's interesting that after several decades of death and rebirth in not just comic books but on TV shows and in books, a lot of people outside of comics looking in join fans of comics thinking this will likely not remain the status quo with Captain America until the end of time.

* There's probably something to be said about death/rebirth as a plot point in the last 30 years, the way that apocalyptic storylines were all the rage in the late 1990s. I think in comics a big part of it is the natural result of the ramping up of realism kick that began in the 1970s. Death had to come out onto the table as a potential consequence to satisfy increasingly sophisticated older readers, but the fantasy element is used to bring these characters back to life to continue servicing the trademark and because it's an effective way to open up a string of new stories in increasingly tired concepts. Plus fan service.

* Current Captain America scripter Ed Brubaker is a very good writer with considerable skill writing superhero comic books, and he will probably write some very effective pulp adventure stories in the coming months using this plot point as a springboard. Ed's reaction here. I'm less confident that something like this will be any good at all.

* There was in some comics shops a flurry of speculative sales behavior by which fans latch onto a comic thinking it will one day go up in value; in others, not at all. For the most part I don't think this was pushed in that way as it was back when DC killed Superman back in '92. Modern comics tagged as events and speculated upon by collectors frequently do not go up in value because of the number of copies printed and held for that purpose.

* As Reason points out, it's hard to track exactly what kind of point Marvel wants to make regarding moves like these, or wants to say they're making, although I'd cut Marvel some slack in that these sorts of stories aren't exactly facilitators for nuance and specificity on any subject, let alone snapshots of national mood.

* Roscoe was a character that donned the Captain America costume when Steve Rogers was walking around making mopey 1970s thought balloons about the burden of wearing the costume. He was killed by the Red Skull, largely because the Red Skull is an insane, homicidal dick. This makes him a Captain America that died. But did 341 articles surface on his passing by 1:30 AM the next day? No. Poor, poor Roscoe. Roscoe would be played in a Captain America movie by Wilmer Valderrama or Loren Dean.

* This is way more than any sane person should ever write about Captain America, but it's either this, According to Jim or a conference final basketball game starring two schools I've never heard of.
posted 8:04 pm PST | Permalink

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