Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Captain America's Leadership

I have talked about previously the difficulty in writing complex legal questions for comics.  The idea of applying laws and philosophical conundrums to a world of super powered beings can break down really quickly, if magic, super science, ancient myth, and Hell can all be demonstrated to exist and multiple handheld objects have the power to destroy the universe the idea of a superhero registry sound kind of silly.  See my blog about the issues I had with Marvel’s “Civil War” comic for more on that.  (I should get around to writing a review of the movie at some point, I liked it, but kind of have more to say.)
Right now, I want to talk about an issue I have with Captain America.  Not the inexplicable Nazism that is in the foreground of the comics, but the issue of Leadership.  Captain Rodger’s skill as a leader is an ability we as readers are often told about, but we are rarely shown this ability, and this is for the simple reason that it is hard to show someone being a leader.  It is hard for writers to show leadership beyond characters yelling for other characters to do obvious things.
They have solved this leadership chestnut in the movies by-the-by, Cap has plans, he leads by example, and he is able to have mature forthright discussions with his friends, allies, protégés, and normal people in such a way that feels natural and reassuring.  The sort of thing you would want from a leader that is both from a bygone era (WWII) and yet still possess youthful energy and takes an outsider perspective on things (he was frozen).
My issue with Cap in the comics (and other leadership characters) can be summed up in this image.

I don't know who wrote this comic.
I do not know who made this inspirational poster.
I would link them if I did.  Even though I am calling them shit.
In this image, Captain America is telling Thor, the 1,000-year-old warrior prince, mightiest warrior from an interstellar race of warriors, champion and veteran of 1,000's of fights and battles to put out a fire using his most notorious ability as a storm god.  Captain America is pointless here and this does not show leadership, it shows him as a micromanager of his colleges.
Leadership is not telling people the bloody obvious in an authoritative tone.
Leadership is not having a striking profile.
This is not Charisma.
This is Lame.
The problem I have with that is that it short shifts the others on the team.  Iron Man has led his own team, so does Thor, so has Hawkeye, so has Widow, Wasp, Black Panther.  And they all have their own style.
Tony has a sit down with people and discusses issues, like management of a business would.  Widow mostly keeps her teammates in the dark about her thought process and instead internalizes their behaviors so that she knows how they will react when she acts.  Wasp is personable and coaxes people’s best out of them via encouragement and friendship.  Leadership is a complex concept.  Let me show you an instance of Captain America being a charismatic leader.
Click to enlarge.  Make a small effort to infer what is going on from context.
In this scene, he has been physically dominated by the deranged super soldier codenamed: Nuke (he is a character in the “Jessica Jones” Netflix series, but without the face tattoo).  Captain America appeals to the deeper philosophical underpinnings that define both he and Nuke’s roles in the world.  He identifies the illogical break from the nobler intentions that has led Nuke astray, and explains to him why he has been duped and why he should calm down and rethink his course.
It is not a perfect scene.  I actually wanted to juxtapose this with Wonder Woman being a great teacher/leader that I saw elsewhere but since her movie is out googling that character results in nothing but a torrent of inspirational stills from the movie coupled with people saying some variation of “best thing ever” which is fucking meaningless for this discussion.
My point is, being a leader has less to do with Captain America’s tactical acumen.  The scene in “Avengers” where he orders the police to better positions to fight off the alien invasion is cute, but a better illustration of who he is and what he does can be found in “Captain America: Civil War” when he talks to Scarlet Witch after Crossbones suicide bombs innocent people and they inexplicably blame her for it.  It is cool, reassuring, and touches on what she needs to hear at that moment.  Much like Hawkeye’s mini speech in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” or Yondu saying nearly anything in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2”.

I don’t know what else to say.  Maybe this, don’t write leader characters as the guy who just tells everyone else what to do.  Write leaders as people who get the best out of those they work with.

            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

No comments:

Post a Comment