Wait, was he even on the ballot?
Sometimes, desperate times call for politically disparate measures. So Marvel Comics — in a story line laced with comment on the current climate — will elect the First Avenger as the country’s next commander in chief in Ultimate Comics Ultimates No. 15-16, a story arc that hits stores and shelves Wednesday. In the alterna-universe of the Ultimates, the star-spangled “Cap” (a.k.a. Steve Rogers) is a non-campaigning write-in patriot who. despite the electorate’s deep fissures, wins by a landslide and agrees to answer “the people’s call.”
On one level, jaded real-life Americans might see the election of Ultimate Captain America as another narrative stunt intended to juice comics sales like so much Super-Soldier Serum. Yet on a creative level, having a superhero assume the presidency allows Marvel to amplify, on a wild fantasy-scape, some points of contention and dissension on the election-year landscape.
“We wanted to dramatize an extreme version of what we see in America today,” Ultimates writer Sam Humphries says. “In the face of all [this] divisiveness, what do we have in common? What does it mean to be an American? What can we agree on? And what makes America the place that it is?”
And what are the consequences, Humphries asks, of “the nation dissolving in front of our eyes?”
“This is a United States that’s being torn asunder by special interest groups — by opportunists looking to divide and conquer,” Marvel Entertainment Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso says in an exclusive to The Washington Post. “This is a metaphor for what goes on in real life, but on steroids.”
Alonso’s reference to such anabolic scale subtly alludes to the fact that Captain America – as fans of the Joe Simon/Jack Kirby creation know— was a Brooklyn pipsqueak whom the Army injected with test serum, creating the brawny, shield-wielding Super Soldier who was introduced to readers on the first issue’s iconic 1941 cover, with Cap delivering a haymaker to Hitler. This is the same character who, 70 years later, has helped Disney/Marvel deliver a wallop at the box office. “The Avengers” has grossed more than $1.5-billion worldwide this year, and Captain America has his own movie sequel (starring Chris Evans) landing in 2014, three years after “Captain America: The First Avenger” grossed nearly $370 million globally.
But in terms of narrative, Ultimate Captain America also faces national crises that have grown way out of proportion. In the Ultimates world — which Alonso, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, calls “the fun-house mirror of Marvel” — “West Coast Nation” is teeming with refugees and a virtual dictator is running Detroit. As for the East Coast, well — “Washington, D.C., has been decimated.” Amid a recall election, the nation needs a leader who can reunite these breakaway States.