Captain America: The 98 Pound Weakling of the Marvel Universe

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From the blog  Super Connectivity

by Charlie Esser for the Nuff Said Podcast


Captain America, like many of the Heroes in the Marvel Universe of late is undergoing a grand story shift.  Robbed of his super soldier serum by the Iron Nail not only is he back to his old 98 pound weakling physique but the past 70 years have caught up with him as well.  Now, in truth, the de-serumed Cap, and the old Cap have all been done before, and there is little doubt that in time Cap will return to his regular vim and vigor if not before, then at least soon after the handsome young hero is portrayed in Avengers 2.


This again?

But in the mean time the Uniform is to be worn by long time partner, and friend of cap Sam Wilson. Sam was also featured in Cap’s recent block buster film, and was noted in said film with the line “I do what he does, just slower”.  That slowness, however, is important.


Slow still being a relative term

The origin of Captain America is a standard audience wish fulfillment fantasy.  Weak and powerless young man is gifted with amazing abilities that allow him to be the hero he’s always dreamed of.  Captain Marvel (Shazam) before him and Spider-Man after him likewise fill this audience wish fulfillment fantasy for the young, nerdy, and generally powerless audience who enjoyed these heroes’ early adventures. 

All heroes are to some extent wish fulfillment, we imagine ourselves once gifted with great powers accepting the great responsibility of wearing a colorful costume and punching far weaker people in the face.   Even Human level Character’s like Batman (whose rouge’s gallery is primarily other human level villains) are all but universally shown as being so far beyond their opponents, that when Frank Miller decided to have Batman beat Superman in fight, people just accepted the idea. 

Early Marvel was full of these kinds of heroes, in addition to the Aforementioned Spider-Man, Thor in Don Blake, and the Hulk in Bruce Banner were likewise weak or infirmed men suddenly granted unimaginable power.  By Contrast Tony Stark and Stephen Strange were both great men brought low and made weak by accidents, and only then were their true powers revealed.  So it makes perfect sense that Stan Lee would see in Cap the perfect hero to fit into the new Marvel Universe he and the Bull Pen were creating.


Ok maybe not the best picture of Bruce Banner and Don Blake but you get what Stan was going for here.

Captain America is different than these other heroes however, because his journey to heroism starts long before becoming a hero.    Other Heroes must come to balance their hubris and their powers to find the moral strength to be a hero, but Captain America came first to that moral conviction, and sought to be one of many who fought against the evil he saw as rampant in his world at that time. 

Steve Rogers just wanted to be another soldier, and while he knew his own weakness would not make him an ideal soldier, he saw a wrong that needed addressing and did all he could to be a part of that fight.  That he was granted amazing powers because of that is beside the point, because, even though Cap is said to be at the peak of human physical and mental ability, he is still only human.  Cap may recover from injury as fast as humanly possible but he’s no Wolverine, he may be as strong as a Gold Medal Weight lifter, and as limber as a Gold Medal Gymnast, but he’s nothing compared to the strength and agility of Spiderman, let along the Hulk or Quick Silver. 

Even in his early days, the Whizzer was faster, the Submariner was Stronger, and Characters like the Human Torch, Toro and Miss America had powers that were completely alien.   To this day Captain America fights alongside heroes with powers that make him very much still just another 98 pound weakling trying to be a hero.


Cap Still holds his own

But that very much is the point of Captain America.  He will never be the strongest, he will never be the fastest, and he is painfully aware of this.  Yet, when Galactus lands, or Thanos shows up, or the Red Skull starts waiving around a Cosmic Cube giving him the power of a god, Steve Rogers is still the first in and the last out because someone has to take that stand.

Captain America is the wish fulfillment of every skinny young man who dreamed of being a hero, and while it’s easy to see the Super Soldier Serum as a cheat, he only received it because he was willing to first be a soldier and fight, and likely die for a cause he believed in.  And he still believes in the causes he did then, and even though he is grossly outmatched by both his team mates, and his opposition, he still fights on, because someone has to be the one to rise to the challenge and to be the one to fight.

I’m glad Sam Wilson, another human character is taking up the mantle of Cap, because I think if it were given to someone who was truly super human, the Shield wouldn’t mean as much.  Steve Rogers will come back of course, but when he does, he’ll still be the same 98 pound kid from Brooklyn that he was in 1941, and will always be, and that is what makes him a hero.  Not the serum or the shield, but the desire to just stand up and be counted as part of the wall that stands against the dangers of the world.


I’m really hoping this guy gets to be the new Bucky.

Posted on September 2, 2014 .