NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for America #1
It’s the kind of image that enters into the American zeitgeist the moment it hit news stands: Captain America, on the cover of Captain America Comics #1, deflecting bullets as he enters a Nazi stronghold, knocking out Adolf Hitler with a punch. For many, it stands as a piece of propaganda typical of the 1940s, with American media bolstering public sentiment for their men overseas. But that wasn’t the case. At the time of its publishing, a large majority of Americans preferred to sit out of World War II, seeing no need to make an enemy… but Marvel Comics disagreed.
Eventual legends of the industry Joe Simon and Jack Kirby took their stand, embodying America in a musclebound superhero – and showing their country should choose to join the Allies. The human atrocities of the Nazi regime weren’t completely known then, but the decision to punch a bully – and the head of a sovereign nation – was met with anger from Americans of German descent, among others, while the mayor of New York personally commended the act and promised the creators’ safety. It made waves then, and Marvel apparently feels a reminder is in order.
Adolf Hitler getting punched out by a Marvel superhero dressed in the American Flag still sends a powerful message. But this time, it’s Miss America doing the honors.
Ms America Chavez
Casual fans of Marvel Comics, or those who prefer their Marvel dose in a movie theater may not be familiar with America Chavez, born of a pocket dimension brought into being by the Demiurge. If those words don’t make sense, then we’ll put it this way: America Chavez was born in a magic dimension, and when her mothers sacrificed themselves to protect their home from destruction, America smashed through the barrier between her reality and that of the Marvel Universe, and never looked back.
Her superpowers (a product of her magic home dimension) make her a flying, super-punching, dimensional barrier-smashing powerhouse, which has led her to successful careers in the Young Avengers, the Ultimates, A-Force… the list goes on and on. Now that she’s getting her own solo comic series, America is tackling a new kind of enemy… higher education. She’s enrolling in college to reconsider her future, and selecting Sotomayor University to do it – an apparently popular school for the mutant/superpowered community.
Now, a Latina character attending a university named for not just one of the youngest Supreme Court Justices, but the first of Hispanic heritage is no coincidence – America Chavez has been embraced as a figure of freedom of expression, sexuality, and nonconformity since her debut. The first issue alone introduces her as (in America’s words) “a super-strong queer brown girl who can punch star-shaped holes between dimensions.” So breaking down walls is kind of her thing.
Captain, Meet America
Upon arriving at Sotomayor, America is reunited with an old friend, Prodigy – former member of the New Mutants – who has been without his powers since M-Day. Proving that superpowers aren’t the full story, Prodigy has enrolled to help push his own intellect in new directions. Apparently, that new direction is the ability to travel through time itself. He’s put his brilliance to work on an experimental time machine he calls ‘The Wayback.’ And while he’s been having trouble getting it to function properly, he theorizes that combining it with America’s ability to literally punch holes into alternate universes could be the missing ingredient.
Ever one to act before considering the risks, America kicks the machine into gear, and is soon tossed across the Multiverse without any predictable target. Having been born of magic in a magic-infused realm, America does her best to guide herself through this maelstrom of theoretical physics, filling her mind with images of the life and loved ones she left behind in the Utopian Parallel (the name of her home dimension). It’s all for naught, since The Wayback has a different plan for America, dropping her onto the battlefields of World War II-era Germany.
Now THAT’s a Punch
She gets her bearings just in time to spot Steve Rogers, instantly recognizing the scaly blue suit and triangular shield as… well, something familiar. But it’s his claim that Hitler is about to be finished – the iconic moment immortalized on the cover of Captain America Comics #1 – that gets her attention. Because that’s a party she doesn’t want to miss.
Let’s be honest: there are very few Marvel superheroes that fans wouldn’t love to see punch Hitler out in one way or another. And as powerful a political statement it was for an American to literally knock out fascism in the 1940s, seeing a queer Latina take the shot on behalf of the Red, White, and Blue makes as loud a statement today.
In the 1940s, some felt that cartoonish pictures of Hitler-punching were offensive to their sensibilities or politics. We hesitate to wonder if people will take issue with the messages at work in America‘s version.
America #1 is available now.