Friday, February 08, 2008


It was nice knowing you Jack. Over the last few days the blogosphere has mourned the betrayal of 24 by its new hand-wringing writers. Dirty Harry for one, is not amused with the news that next season’s Jack Bauer will be guilt-ridden by his past zealous prosecution of the war on terror, possibly even digging ditches in Africa as penance. Hello shark.

Hollywood does not get it. America wants heroes to kill the bad guys before they kill us. Many comic book writers do not seem to get it either. At a time when America faces a grave threat from Islamist terrorism, Marvel Comics decided to off Captain America. It sounds like he was dying a slow death anyway, with the final storyline for the Steve Rogers’ Cap fighting more against the American government and its fictional policy requiring the public identification and registration of superheroes.

Marvel has already announced a new Captain will rise again, but based on their polemical plot points in the past, it is hard to muster much enthusiasm. There is however, a new updated Captain America surrogate for the War on Terror. His name is Matamoros. Sgt. Chuck Sobietti was seriously wounded in Iraq, but is reconstructed by the Army’s experimental medical treatments, which seem to give him heightened physical abilities, much like the late Captain (whose comic death they directly reference).

In true government fashion, once the army rebuilds him, they thank him for his service, sending him back to civilian life. In the first issue, he uncovers a terrorist ring and takes care of business. Matamoros, so-dubbed by a fuming civil liberties attorney after Santiago Matamoros (St. James the Moor-Slayer), is not about to dig ditches. Written by Sleet and Darius Lamonica and illustrated by John Cox of Cox & Forkum fame, it is definitely not politically correct, but it might become the only outlet to get your Bauer on.

Frustratingly, there are very few graphic novel depictions of the courageous service of our troops in Iraq. Yet depicting heroism is what comics have always historically done. Naturally, there have been several anti-Iraqi Freedom comics published. Several came from companies affiliated with my publishing house, so I can not discuss them even if I wanted to (thank you conflict of interest).

There has been one notable exception: Combat Zone: True Tales of GIs in Iraq. Written by former embedded journalist and AEI scholar Karl Zinsmeister, and published back in 2005 by—give them due credit—Marvel Comics, Zone depicts the on the ground realities of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Throughout Zone, the American forces take great pains to avoid civilian casualties. The Fedayeen though, have no such scruples. Col. Kirkwood tells his men:

“We’ve all seen things here we never thought we’d see in our lives. Gunmen dragging women and children by the hair, using them as human shields. Shooters attacking us from hospital windows, with patients lying in beds next to them.” (p. 95)

While the names have been fictionalized in Zone, the heroism is real. It is much more compelling than the standard fare coming from both Hollywood and graphic novel publishers. Zinsmeister is now with the administration, making a sequel to Zone unlikely, but at least we can presumably look forward to the next installment from Matamoros.