Adopting hope: Rick Remender on 'All-New Captain America'
On sale this Wednesday, All-New Captain America #1 marks the beginning of Sam Wilson’s tenure as Captain America. Following last month’s Captain America #25, former Captain America Steve Rogers has named the hero formerly known as The Falcon as his successor after an encounter with a villain known as The Iron Nail removed the Super Soldier serum from his blood, rendering him an old man. With a new Cap comes a new comic book series and creative team. While Captain America writer Rick Remender is staying on board, he’s joined by Stuart Immonen on pencils, Wade Von Grawbadger on inks, and Marte Garcia and Eduardo Navarro on colors.
To get a feel for what to expect, EW spoke with writer Rick Remender about Sam Wilson’s upcoming tenure as Captain America, and the reaction he’s gotten following the announcement that Wilson, and African-American character, would be taking on the role. Read on for the interview and an exclusive first look at the cover art to All-New Captain America #4.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: All-New Captain America may be the first time some readers read a comic about Sam Wilson. What’s important about him?
RICK REMENDER: Well what he’s not, is perfect. Steve is somebody who was put in a situation that was really tough, growing up in the great depression—and he learned a lot of lessons. And I think that on some level, Steve kind of is perfect. Sam, when he was growing up, he has this father who is this well-respected minister in Harlem, who people come from miles around to listen to. He was this very inspirational speaker who is optimistic and impassioned and has these beautiful dreams of the future for the American people. His mom was a community organizer, and they are a huge part of the community that they live in.
But Sam was a bit of a sullen teenager. To him, what he saw, was—he was the sort of cynical pragmatist that many of us can become as teenagers, where all he saw was the negative. But at the same time, he was still there, listening to his father’s sermons and all of these things were sinking in. Then, in a very short period of time, he has to overcome two very very difficult and horrible experiences in his life—the first being his father is killed in front of him, stopping a fight.And then later, his mother is killed by a mugger not too far from their apartment, leaving Sam to raise his brother and sister.
This is his transformation into a hero. This is the choice of a human being confronted with their own cynicism in a world that has proven that to be correct. He was kicked in the head by fate. And Sam, instead, he raised his little brother and sister, and he swore to try and fill the void that his mother and father had left, with their passing, in the community. So his dedication was to make sure—to put himself between good and innocent people, and the forces of evil conspiring around them.That really is what drives Sam to this day, to try to live up to his parents, and to fill the void left in their absence.
It’s a very different sort of American experience than Steve Rogers’.
Different and similar—tragic but with the choice to turn the tragedy into something that inspires them to try harder, instead of crumbling or collapsing under it. And they’re very different in that Sam is not a soldier. Sam is just a guy—he’s not Daredevil, he doesn’t have sixteen different abilities where he can do anything other than be a human being with the ability to fly, and he’s going to go out there and put his life on the line to try and save people. And that part of Sam really gets me excited. That there was no radioactive spider that lets him lift a car and he goes, “well I guess I’ll go stop a bank robbery.” He’s just a guy. He’s just a human being with resolve and a desire to do good.
That’s very strongly reflected in the comic, especially at the moment where Sam mentions that he hopes his parents would be proud.
The way I have it written down in a notepad next to me to keep in mind where he was at is that, at Sam’s most hopeless, he had to adopt his parents hope. So they are constantly living inside of him the way Superman was hearing his father in the Donner film. There’s a constant connection to these parents who are so beloved, and so wonderful, and so inspirational—and then they were taken away from him, and taken away from their community. He could see the damage left from their absence. So that is a constant thing that lives with him, that he wants to live up to. To fill a hole that was left in their passing.
Is everyone on board with Sam as Captain America?
In terms of respect, I think everyone knows him and respects him. The question is, they all know Steve is a tactician, and somebody who can run military campaigns—so the question is ‘has Sam picked up enough of Steve’s knowledge on that?’ That’s really the only place where he’s going to have some sort of wall to get over with some people. But he’s in a very fortunate situation where Steve Rogers is not out of the picture. Steve Rogers is back at Avengers Mansion, in a command station, playing eye in the sky and running the mission ops and giving tactical advice.
But the beautiful thing is that the difference between Sam and Steve is that Sam is not trained to fall in line the same way that Steve is, to follow the order of command. So there are going to be moments of conflict coming in the story where Sam is not always going to listen to what Steve would have him do and Sam is going to do it his own way. Some of the choices coming up are really going to define him against Steve.
How are Sam’s ideals different from Steve’s?
The joy for me, and the reason I pitched this to Marvel as something I wanted to do, and the reason I really wanted to develop Sam, was because it’s the Greatest Generation handing off the mantle to Generation X. That allows me to write from my own perspective, and the people that I know—it gives me a deeper pool to fish in for ideas as to what it means to be a patriot in modern America. It doesn’t mean to simply accept that what your government does is always right, because I think we all understand that we all have different ethical compasses, and look at the things that the government decides to do that maybe we don’t think it’s right. Steve is a man out of time who is thrown into this modern world and trying to navigate it, while Sam is a part of this modern world with a modern perspective. Somebody who is soaked in the modern zeitgeist, as opposed to being thrown into it.
There’s been some pushback to the idea of an African-American Captain America. Is this something that will be reflected in the story?
I think that most thinking people can appreciate that when a new audience can see themselves reflected in a character like Captain America, America is better off. When our culture can better reflect who we are as a people, and everybody can feel that this is our nation, this is us, and not see a culture that’s predominantly white guys with blonde hair, then everybody’s better off. The country is more unified at that point.
As for how that reflects in the comic book, it’s a very difficult topic to tackle, and one you have to handle very carefully. It is something that I have some plans with, and there is an aspect of this that we’ll see in issue three, when Sam is faced with the daughter of the Red Skull, Sin. I use that fight and I use that conflict to unearth some of the uglier aspects of what’s been done with Sam in the past as a character in-continuity, as well as dealing with what a modern neo-nazi would do to try to undermine a new African-American Captain America.
But I think that ultimately, the ugly responses in the people who have perceived this as an affront —I received some ugly tweets, for sure, from people who think their Captain America should be white. And he was for a real long time! But that’s not America, America’s not all white. On the other side of that, though, I got photos from schoolteachers that had predominantly African-American classes of grade school kids, that were cheering and yelling and holding up Captain America shields. And the elation on their face to see themselves reflected in the super hero that they love.
For me it did come from a place where I wanted the first African American super hero to take this mantle, and I wanted to tell a really exciting story and hopefully do what Frank Miller did for Daredevil and flesh him out in a way that I haven’t really seen done. But if the side effect is that one kid feels that he’s reflected in society a little bit more, then all of the naysayers and all the negativity and all of the ugliness that certain factions of society will want to spew are worth it. Because, let’s face it—this shouldn’t be that progressive. I grew up with Iron Man as an African American with James Rhodes, and that was thirty something years ago. I was surprised there were still people that were taking up their pitchforks and getting upset about it.
At the end of the day it’s a big, fast-paced spy tale with Sam Wilson thrown into the role of Captain America, and finding himself immediately immersed in a Hydra plot that’s been going on for a number of years—an escalation of Hydra across the Marvel Universe that we’re building to. A rise of Hydra that has brought together all of Captain America’s famous rogue’s gallery and pits them against Sam in his infancy as the leader.
He’s gonna have a hard time.