Captain America #335
Issue(s): Captain America #335
First, some Commission to Coordinate Superhuman Activities housekeeping. Valerie Cooper is relegated to being in charge of Captain America's training, while an Adrian Sammish is put in charge of Cap's field activities.
It also seems that sometime between last issue and this one, John Walker has learned why Steve Rogers gave up the role, and it doesn't seem to have caused any soul searching on his part.
Now for the mission. A group of concerned citizens have organized under the name "Watchdogs" and have taken it upon themselves to burn down pornography stores, even executing the owners...
...and attack other similar bastions of "immorality": sex education, abortion, and evolution. Walker thinks to himself that he supports their goals, if not their methods (although we saw in Captain America #327 that his old gang wasn't too far off on their methods either).
As much as i've wondered and postulated about Steve Rogers' ideology, i can't think of a scene like the one above where he's explicitly stated where he stands on any particular political issue. The one exception is Civil Rights, which i have to keep reminding myself was a bigger deal and was more controversial at the time than it seems reading those issues today.
Actually, the question of Civil Rights is relevant to this issue too. Walker and his partner Lemar "Bucky" Hoskins go back to Walker's old home town to see if they can get Walker recruited into the Watchdogs. And while they're walking around town, separately, Lemar encountered some racism. Walker dismisses it as the people of his town being "provincial"...
...and heads off to have dinner with his sister.
The scheme for getting Walker recruited into the Watchdogs has Lemar setting up a fake photoshoot for "Looker Magazine's Chicks of the South".
Walker shows up to send the "black butt" of the guy corrupting his town's fine women packing.
He gets very enthusiastic fighting Lamar.
But the ploy works and based on that he is inducted into the Watchdogs.
Despite the Klan-like rally, he still feels something like sympathy for the group.
His dilemma is furthered when the Watchdogs bring in Lemar, with plans to lynch him. You'd think an attempted lynching would be enough evidence to bring the Watchdogs in on, but Walker feels like he needs to let them go ahead with their lynching so that he can catch them in the act of doing something worse (he claims he can't sneak away to become Captain America in time, but really). When he shows reluctance to leave the lynching, they tell him not to worry because they do plenty of lynchings so he's sure to catch another one.
So instead of beating them up for a lynching, he beats them up for attempting to burn down a library.
When the library burning plan is foiled, he's free to go back and check on Lemar, who is fine thanks to his super-neck. At this point Walker says that he's figured out that the Commission set this up deliberately to test him. He states it as a fact, not a suspicion, and that may be Mark Gruenwald putting words into his mouth. In any event, this causes him to start to not trust the Commission.
I can see where Gruenwald is trying to go with this but it's not really thought out very well. If i had more faith in Gruenwald, i could imagine his unwillingness to see the racism of his townspeople as a blind spot on Walker's part, but it gets ridiculous when he sees the all white group show up with Lemar and a rope and his first thought is still that he agrees with their basic moral stand.
I take all of this to be clumsy writing on Gruenwald's part, not that Walker is meant to be overtly racist. It is debatable - the scene from #327 comes to mind again, but at the same time how did Lemar come to be a partner of his? Walker is accidentally a very complex character, but i don't think it's what Gruenwald was going for.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Walker says at one point that the "past couple of months" of practice with his shield have payed off. I'm assuming he's counting from before the Taskmaster came in, not that it's been a couple of months since last issue. This story takes place over the course of several days.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAdrian Sammish, Battlestar, Henry Peter Gyrich, Lewis Guthrie, USAgent, Valerie Cooper
This issue was criticized for the racial aspects at the time.
Posted by: Michael | April 18, 2014 6:50 PM
If I recall, the Red Skull, who is secretly manipulating the Commission, is the financial backer of the Watchdogs, so it could have been a test, I suppose (or perhaps a way to embarrass Cap by having something go wrong).
Posted by: MikeCheyne | April 18, 2014 7:21 PM
Gruenwald had some good ideas, but often failed to execute well. I really like the Watchdogs. At the time, I thought they seemed very outdated. Just a few years later, learning more about the Militia Movement and books like the Turner Diaries, I thought they were a very good concept to explore things like that.
Posted by: Chris | April 18, 2014 8:00 PM
Gru has said he intended the scenarios early in his Cap run to be allegories for American political issues. The Serpent Society was a union, and now the Watchdogs are a hybrid Moral Majority/KKK. Gru deserves more credit than you give him for blending the racial/ideological elements here--the idea of blacks and/or Jews debasing white women and morals is a major theme with some of these kinds of groups and does indeed allow racial animosities to be coded as moral vigilance instead.
Just to be clear, I don't think Gru was likening the Moral Majority itself to the Klan, any more than he thought the UAW would murder MODOK for a commission. (Though I'd buy that comic for a dollar.) He's created a hybrid, but it's a hybrid he probably knew to exist at several levels. Race and pornography, especially, was an incendiary mixture: remember, interracial marriage didn't command majority approval in the U.S. Until sometime in the '90s, if the stats I've seen are true.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 18, 2014 11:39 PM
Well, perhaps the watchdogs being responsible for his parent's death later on is a bit of karma for his even mild acceptance of them.
Posted by: clyde | April 19, 2014 9:44 PM
"I take all of this to be clumsy writing on Gruenwald's part, not that Walker is meant to be overtly racist. It is debatable - the scene from #327 comes to mind again, but at the same time how did Lemar come to be a partner of his?"
I posted on that situation. If the people in that issue had come from, for example, Ghana, Ethiopia or Zambia, countries unassociated with terror attacks against the U.S., and belonged to the ethnic groups from the Kushite strain or Darfari strain, in contrast to the Shemite strain, then they would have I suppose left them alone.
Arabs descended, one supposes, in-universe, from the people of Shem of the Hyborian Age, such as Belit. Artists usually draw Belit as bit lighter skinned than her crew, who mostly belong to proto-sub-Saharan Africans.
Posted by: PB210 | April 20, 2014 9:15 AM
@PB210: racists often actively seek "token" connections to serve as evidence that they are not. Not always or even often consciously so.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 20, 2014 3:51 PM
But Walker DIDN'T seek Lemar out. We've seen flashbacks where they were thrown together in the army and became friends.
Posted by: Michael | April 20, 2014 4:02 PM
What fun it was for me to buy this comic book in my hometown of Rome, GA (conceptual birthplace of the West Coast Avengers; ha, I left there for California myself in 2005)! Of course, I was like, "oh, great, a racist Moral Majority, yee haw!" but I liked the implication that the new Cap was from my neck of the woods. Make no mistake, this was indeed an interesting time to start reading Captain America! I would've liked to see more of the deliberately complex John Walker, too; I love for a hero to really challenge you rather than provide a too-easy moral stand-in. Arguably, we were never meant to get overly-attached to anyone as Cap besides Steve Rogers. Heh, but I truly wouldn't mind seeing how well they'll write a Sam Wilson Cap. I loved the Bucky Cap issues.
Posted by: Cecil Disharoon | July 28, 2014 9:47 PM
"If i had more faith in Gruenwald, i could imagine his unwillingness to see the racism of his townspeople as a blind spot on Walker's part, but it gets ridiculous when he sees the all white group show up with Lemar and a rope and his first thought is still that he agrees with their basic moral stand."
The Watchdogs aren't killing Lemar because he's black, but because Lemar's posing as a pornographer (though obviously that doesn't give the Watchdogs anymore right to kill him). Granted, I'm sure a group like the Watchdogs would attract its fair share of racists, and I guess the fact that they're lynching Lemar instead of just shooting him like the white bookstore owner should raise a few eyebrows, but when Walker says he believes with their basic beliefs, I'm pretty sure he meant the stance on pornography.
Still, I can see your point that Gru's writing could be a little clearer, and Walker's characterization better defined at this point; it seems like Gru is shifting Walker's personality as he goes.
Posted by: mikrolik | January 3, 2017 3:51 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|