From the blog Superconnectivity
by Charlie Esser for the Nuff Said Podcast
What makes superheroes great?
We are currently living in the age of superheroes. They are dominant in our movies, television shows, videogames, and of course comic books, but do we ever ask why?
To me, the answer to why lies with another question:
Who killed Hitler?
Marvel Comics fan thought they knew the answer to this. You could ask any deep roots Marvel Fan, and they would answer Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch.
Then one day, this happened.
Newly minted Captain American, Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, says he killed Hitler.
This change, made people angry, to say the least, but to me, this was what makes superheroes as a genre great.
Sixty years ago, the characters of Bucky and the Human Torch were created. Since then scores of different writers and artists have told their stories. When we say somethinglike “who killed Hitler is well established,” what we are saying is, in the set of stories we read, that was the received wisdom that we internalized.
But the stories forgotten, the stories left behind, they are still there, they are still a part of the genre, just waiting for the next storyteller to bring it back.
Long after Jim Hammond (the Original Human Torch) is said to have taken out Adolph Hitler the Fantastic Four had this run in.
In the 1960’s the Hatemonger, the mind of Adolph Hitler in a cloned body, was taking over a small South American Country. Our heroes arrive to do battle, and the Hatemonger is killed by his own men. We never really see who shot Hitler in FF 21. It is off panel men firing their guns, so really it could be anyone, it could even have been an assassin sent by the Soviets to take out this rising dangerous man in South America.
And that’s the thing, there is no way in the world that when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created this story, thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if one of the soldiers who shoots Hitler here was actually Bucky Barnes, who after WWII became a brainwashed assassin for the Soviets?” But, decades later, another writer can look at this history, and add a new twist on the story we all know.
We don’t know if that is what Brian Michael Bendis meant when he had Bucky say that he killed Hitler, but it is just one of many possibilities.
The fact is, Hitler is an ongoing villain in Marvel, dying and being reborn again and again, in cloned bodies, and sometimes, just new bodies, but he’s always Hitler, and it often ends the same way.
Hitler gets shot by unknown assassins. It happens, and whether it was in South America, or in lower Manhattan, killing Hitler is in fact something more than a few people likely can claim at least some credit for.
Incidentally, one of the few times we actually see Scourge’s face (or a Scourge’s face) it looks like this:
Now, I’m not going to say that this is Bucky Barnes, and again any passing similarity in design between this Scourge, and the Winter Soldier is certainly coincidental. However, Even if it’s not all intended to be connected, it all can be connected.
When you have decades of obscure and odd little stories and secrets and threads that weren’t resolved, there is a rich and beautiful tapestry that each creator gets to play with to make something new and beautiful out of.
Superheroes dominate our culture now, not because of anything specific to the heroes themselves, but because of the expansive history that they carry with them. Many heroes get reinvented for a new age, but superheroes are unique in that, even in their reinvention, their history is not forgotten, and the follower of the tale is asked to not merely be a passive observer, but to reach back into this history and find the answers to the new questions posed. Long before the comments section of the internet dominated our world, the letter page of the superhero comic book was there allowing fans to come into the world of superheroes and be a part of their story as it grew over the years.
This is what I hope to explore in this blog, the obscure, the strange, and the interconnected throughout the Superhero genre, to spout my own crazed theories, and to hear yours. I hope you enjoy what I have to say, and let me know what you have to say in return (even if you didn’t enjoy what I said).