Culture Trips

Captain America creator’s son hits out at Capitol mob’s use of superhero imagery | Books

The son of Captain America co-creator Jack Kirby has strongly condemned insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol last week wearing or brandishing symbols of the Marvel superhero, saying his father would have been “absolutely sickened” by the sight.

In a statement issued to CNN reporter Jake Tapper, Neal Kirby, 72, said he was “appalled and mortified” to see Trump supporters dressed in Captain America costumes or displaying his iconic star shield on 6 January. His father Jack, along with Joe Simon, created Captain America in 1941, with the comic’s first issue famously showing the superhero punching Adolf Hitler in the face.

“Captain America has stood as a symbol and protector of our democracy and the rule of law for the past 79 years,” Kirby wrote. “He was created by two Jewish guys from New York who hated Nazis and hated bullies. Captain America stood up for the underdog and, as the story was written, even before he gained his strength and process from Army scientists, always stood for what was righteous, and never backed down.”

While watching footage of the storming of the Capitol on 6 January, he wrote, “I thought I noticed someone in a Trump/Captain America T-shirt! I was appalled and mortified. I believe I even caught a quick glance of someone with a Captain America shield. A quick Google search turned up Trump as Captain America on T-shirts, posters, even a flag!

“These images are disgusting and disgraceful. Captain America is the absolute antithesis of Donald Trump. Where Captain America is selfless, Trump is self-serving. Where Captain America fights for our country and democracy, Trump fights for personal power and autocracy. Where Captain America stands with the common man, Trump stands with the powerful and privileged. Where Captain America is courageous, Trump is a coward. Captain America and Trump couldn’t be more different.”

Kirby said his father, who died in 1994, and Simon, who died in 2011, would have been “absolutely sickened by these images”.

“These images are an insult to both their memories. If Trump had the qualities and character of Captain America, the White House would be a shining symbol of truth and integrity, not a festering cesspool of lies and hypocrisy.” he added. “Several of our presidents held the same values as Captain America. Trump is not one of them.”

A Trump supporter in a Captain America costume at the Women for America First rally in Washington on 12 December 2020.
A Trump supporter in a Captain America costume at the Women for America First rally in Washington on 12 December 2020. Photograph: John Lamparski/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

In Kirby: King of Comics, biographer Mark Evanier described an incident where Kirby received a call in the offices of Timely Comics, which would become Marvel: “A voice on the other end said, ‘There are three of us down in the lobby. We want to see the guy who does this disgusting comic book and show him what real Nazis would do to Captain America.’ To the horror of others in the office, Kirby rolled up his sleeves and headed downstairs. The callers, however, were gone by the time he arrived.”

Marvel has yet to comment on the use of Captain America iconography by the insurrectionists, nor the use of the skull logo made famous by the Punisher, another Marvel character. The skull has been worn by US police officers on their uniforms for years, and has come to signify white supremacy and vigilantism in their ranks. In 2020, the character’s creator Gerry Conway launched a Black Lives Matter fundraiser in an effort to take the symbol back from the far right.

In an interview with Syfy, Punisher writer Garth Ennis called those who stormed the Capitol “halfwits”.

“The people wearing the logo in this context are kidding themselves, just like the police officers who wore it over the summer,” he said. “What they actually want is to wear an apparently scary symbol on a T-shirt, throw their weight around a bit, then go home to the wife and kids and resume their everyday life. They’ve thought no harder about the Punisher symbol than the halfwits I saw [on Wednesday], the ones waving the stars and stripes while invading the Capitol building.”

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