In recent years, many evil versions of Clark Kent/Superman and Steve Rogers/Captain America have appeared in “mainstream” superhero media. With Superman, there have been the Injustice games, Omni-Man from Invincible,Homelander from The Boys, and the film Brightburn. Even the last proper Superman film, Man of Steel, depicted Superman brooding instead of showing his traditional, hopeful self. With Cap, there has been John Walker/U.S. Agent in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Peacemaker in The Suicide Squad, Soldier Boy in The Boys, and Red Guardian in Black Widow. Even in comics, Marvel unleashed the ridiculous publicity stunt that is Secret Empire, making Cap a sleeper agent of the terrorist organization H.Y.D.R.A.
Theoretically, superhero universes’ shift toward these evil archetypes could be coincidental, and, to a certain extent, it has been. The superhero genre’s domination of modern popular culture certainly means more obscure characters, like Peacemaker and Red Guardian, will make an appearance. However, the dominance of these evil depictions of Superman and Captain America is also a somber reflection of our present cultural depravity.
Evil Characters as Anti-Americanism
Superman and Captain America are the quintessential American superheroes. Clark Kent epitomizes the success story of the American immigrant. And he stands for “truth, justice, and the American way” against all odds. He inspires hope across the world and is the classic superhero. Similarly, Captain America was desperate to serve his country, and ended up becoming the greatest American soldier. And, though many do not know this, Steve Rogers was born to poor Irish immigrants who raised him Catholic during the Great Depression. Both Clark and Steve are ideal patriots who fight for America and justice.
However, in modernity, good men who fight for America are viewed as evil. Many Americans hate our great nation, or are at least being taught to. This anti-patriotic sentiment manifests in evil interpretations of Captain America and Superman that undermine the characters’ traditional values.
Peacemaker tries to cover up awful crimes the U.S. government committed in the name of “peace.” John Walker brutally kills someone with Cap’s shield and he implies that he committed questionable acts when serving as a Marine. In Injustice, Superman snaps, kills the Joker, and becomes a dictator. Homelander refuses to save a plane full of innocent people, including a little girl. These are not standard supervillains; they are perverted versions of Superman and Captain America who reflect increasing hatred toward American heroism. Such hatred has even manifested into direct attacks on the characters, such as when a hit piece article on Steve was released on Memorial Day of 2020 or, more recently, when the director of The Marvelsblamed Steve for the Snap.
To be clear, these are not bad characters. The Injustice games were super fun, I lovedThe Suicide Squad, and John Walker is the most interesting part of Falcon. Additionally, not all evil versions of these characters reflect modern America’s lack of patriotism. Many of the evil characters were created decades ago, and there are plenty of “canonical” versions of these characters (General Zod and Ultraman, for example). But the recent prominence of these characters, especially in the mainstream, reflects a worsening tide of anti-American sentiment.
Politically Correct Modifications to “Good” Characters
Our culture’s anti-Americanism has also manifested in attempts to “fix” pre-existing characters. Sam Wilson in Falcon becomes race-obsessed as Captain America, in order to “deal with” America’s past crimes. Steve Rogers, written by Ta Nahesi Coates, calls the American Dream the “American lie.” In a comic series called The United States of Captain America, Marvel introduced new versions of Cap, including a gay man, a black female activist, a Native American, and a female Filipino-American, as a part of a “Captain America network.” In themselves, there’s nothing wrong with portraying these characters, but their introductions as part of a five-issue, woke series demonstrates that they were created to satisfy diversity quotas. Rather than focus on crafting interesting characters, Marvel made the dehumanizing and divisive decision to emphasize immutable characteristics over character.
Superman has suffered a similar fate. DC introduced a Chinese Superman who is called Superman, in addition to Clark. Additionally, DC is developing a new Superman film, written by Ta Nahesi Coates with J. J. Abrams producing, with a black lead. Instead of creating great, new characters that are black or Asian, DC would rather race-swap Superman to fulfill their diversity quotas and have a marketable name.
Furthermore, DC has decided that Clark hates capitalism, despite previously standing for America, and that his iconic motto of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” is outdated and will now be “Truth, Justice, and a Better Tomorrow,” a decision that former Superman actor Dean Cain predicted over a year ago. Finally, enter Jon Kent. He is the son of Clark and Lois Lane, and is currently going by the mantle of Superman, along with his father, so that DC can get more headlines about their big decision: Jon will come out as bisexual by sharing a kiss with another man, which was announced two months after they made Tim Drake/Robin bisexual.
When asked about the decision to make Jon bisexual, writer Tom Taylor said “Superman’s symbol has always stood for hope, for truth and for justice. Today, that symbol represents something more. Today, more people can see themselves in the most powerful superhero in comics.” Taylor’s words are very telling (and demeaning). Superman has indeed stood for hope, truth, and justice. In so doing, he’s been a unifying exemplar of “the American way.” But writers like Taylor have gotten the inspiring nature of our superheroes all wrong. A superhero should not need to be of a certain race, sex, or sexuality for fans to see themselves in him.
Characters Are Not Interest-Group Representatives
One of my favorite superheroes is Stephanie Brown/Spoiler (who was the long time girlfriend of Tim Drake before DC made Tim bisexual). I see myself in Steph, not because of our physical commonalities, which are admittedly scarce, but because she is undyingly optimistic and her superpower is “trying her best.” My favorite character on The Flash show is Cisco Ramone/Vibe, not because he’s Latino, but because he is a scientist and a nerd like me. I can see myself in Captain America and Superman not because I am a super-soldier or alien, but because of their values and how these principles move them to action.
Jon, the new bisexual Superman, will be intentionally defined by his bisexuality, in order to increase “diversity” and to make Superman “accessible” to those who are not straight. And instead of using his powers to fight for good in a way most people cannot, he will embrace tired left-wing talking points to protest climate change.
Today’s writers are not creating characters; they are intentionally producing tribalist propaganda. Their agenda of division is clear: they prioritize immutable characteristics over principle and personality. After all, given the concerns about “diversity,” why are the evil versions of Captain America and Superman all white?
DC and Marvel’s Abdication of Heroism
DC and Marvel refuse to write Superman and Captain America like they once did. The old, patriotic characters are “problematic”: they stand for America, truth, and justice, and, as Taylor puts it, they are “straight white savior[s].” Thus, they need to be reimagined as “diverse,” whether they be gay, female, or of a different race, and as paragons of left-wing values. Meanwhile, the original versions are parodied and turned into evil caricatures.
DC and Marvel can still save these great, American heroes. For decades, these heroes fought for America as heroes of their universes, as symbols of hope and liberty throughout the world. They were not great heroes because of their immutable characteristics, but because of the heroism that defined them. And this has still been presented in recent years:comic readers celebrated Tomasi and Gleason’s approach to Superman, when Jon was ten years old and the stories were about Clark, Lois, and Jon as a family. This was a Superman of traditional American values, raising his son with his wife. He was a Superman of hope. But, with the way these companies are going, I’m incredibly worried about the future of America’s great superhero icons.
*The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.
Chad Berkich is a Senior Editor for the Chicago Thinker. As a junior at the University of Chicago, he is majoring in mathematics. He is a Christian and conservative, and his other interests include superheroes and science fiction, video games, and rock music. He is also the president of the University of Chicago's chapter of College Republicans.