I don’t normally talk about Western comics on here, but with the recent reveal that Steve Rogers aka Captain America aka the personification of truth, justice and all things paragon was revealed to be a long time double agent of the Nazi organisation, Hydra.
Naturally, fans were not happy and were quick to point out all the ways in which this is out of character, made no sense in continuity and was just an egregiously stupid decision on Marvel’s part. Which it is, certainly. However, it’s also not surprising from a meta perspective.
This isn’t the first time Marvel has done their utmost to absolutely ruin one of their characters. Remember when Tony Stark was revealed to be a sleeper agent for Kang the Conqueror and he ended up getting replaced by his teenage self? Many comic fans remember it as the second worst thing to happen to his character after Civil War. How about when Spidey sold his marriage to the devil so that his old, sickly aunt could live for another week before natural causes caught up with her? (Yes, I know that Aunt May is still alive, I was being facetious.)
How about when Jubilee became a vampire? When Scarlet Witch had a breakdown and her power to affect probability somehow reconstructed the universe into one where Magneto rules and she had babies that were implied to also be her brother’s? When Magneto ceased being a complex character who did morally questionable things for the sake of safeguarding his people and became one-dimensionally evil for the evils? When Cyclops had sex on his wife’s gravestone? When Bishop saw the first signs of the future he was trying to prevent surface with a registration act and decided that it sounded like a good idea?
There are many, many other examples of horrendous characterisation. Some of which ultimately got retconned and some of which are, unfortunately, still part of the Marvel universe. Honestly, that whole pattern of shitty writing is a big part of the reason I stopped buying Marvel comics. Because they do this kind of thing all the time.
So, why does it happen? Well, part of it is a way to regress characters in age. After all, these are characters who have existed in comics as adults since the 60s, 70s or 80s. If they aged up along with the times, they’d almost all be retiring to make room for new, younger heroes.
Part of it is just that they don’t always hire the best writers and Joe Quesada was a completely inept chief editor. His replacement, Axel Alonso, doesn’t seem to be doing a better job. Judging by the Captain America thing. You’ll notice that most of these events happened during one of their watches. In fact, some of them, like Spidey’s marriage getting eliminated in a stupid way, were mandated. The combination of incompetent editorial oversight and writers who aren’t that great at writing results in some characters just getting screwed up.
There’s a third reason too. Mainly, it makes a good publicity stunt. These large-scale character butcherings usually get a lot of attention for the company. If it’s bad enough, they may very well undo the damage and wait for the praise to be piled on them for fixing their own stupid mistakes. Either way, they can rekindle a lot of interest in the book. At least on a temporary basis. It’s a lot easier of a method than actually writing good stories and letting the word spread.
So, what can we do about it? About the best we can do is, if you hear about something like this happening, don’t buy any comics related to it and send them an e-mail explaining yourself. If it really hurts them financially, they’ll undo it. as for stopping it from happening at all, that’s not going to happen. Just on a realistic level. Characters will keep getting dragged away from people who understand them for crappy company wide crossover events or being given to people who don’t really know the characters or who aren’t very good writers.
As for the Captain America thing, I don’t think it’ll last. There are just too many rightfully outraged people.