RIP, Captain America When heroes die

Posted: March 12, 2007

When a hero dies, do we all follow?

Even when he's imaginary?

On Wednesday, Marvel Comics issued the final panels of the colorful career of Captain America. In the midst of a civil war, Steve Rogers, the little-guy alter ego of the Captain, is gunned down on the steps of the Manhattan courthouse by a sniper.

Captain America, like his country, has faded and come back before. A wartime creation, he first appeared in 1941, enjoyed popularity as a Cold War superhero, then dwindled. But he was resurrected - "retconned," in industry parlance - in the mid-1960s and held strong and steady since.

In his many incarnations, he mirrored the changes in American life. He started out a defender - remember his shield? - of freedom against Nazism, then against communism, then against corrupt government, most lately against violence-for-violence's-sake.

Through some trick of art or wit, Captain America may well rise again and raise the shield on behalf of us all. Joe Quesada, editor in chief of Marvel, says it's possible. And comics forever kill and resuscitate heroes in "imaginary" issues about already-imaginary characters.

But anxiety nags. O Captain, our Captain - if you're gone, what about us? So many people, both here and abroad, are wondering: Is America somehow past it? On the down side? Subheroes in a comic book that's not even funny? Does the end of Captain America portend the waning of his namesake land? Stay tuned.

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