In case you hadn’t picked up on the rumors, visited message boards, other blogs or Newsarama (spoilers warning) this morning, or read the New York Daily News (spoilers warning), I’ll save the juicy bits until after the jump.
Final warning: If you don’t want the revelations of this week’s Captain America #25 spoiled, do not read further.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, you can read the Daily News “exclusive” (the Post got the last one): The promised “shocker” in Captain America #25 is that Steve Rogers is (seemingly) killed by a sniper’s bullet on the courthouse steps.
I’ll leave the hand-wringing and second-guessing to message board posters and other bloggers. What interests me here, as with the previous Civil War surprise, is how the mainstream media cover it.
The Daily News announces, “Captain America killed!,” as if he were a real person, then follows it with a slightly more straightforward, “Marvel comic book hero cut down by sniper.” Hey, it’s the Daily News. I know. The bulk of the article deals with the character’s publication history, and some of the behind-the-scenes goings on.
But the “‘Life’ of an American Hero” sidebar gets a little maudlin; it’s part Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe entry, part obituary.
New York magazine’s Daily Intelligencer picks up on the news, and tries to provide some context: “A prominent, albeit imaginary, Lower East Sider has been viciously murdered today by a sniper’s bullet while exiting a courthouse: Marvel has killed off Captain America, né Steve Rogers. First Libby’s guilty and now this.”
At this point, most of the coverage is simply a reprint of the original article, or the barebones Associated Press story. However, the headlines range from the subdued — “Comic book hero Captain America dies on the page” — to the irreverent — “Ahead of the bell: Captain America KO’d” — to the, um, slightly less subued — “Comic superhero Captain America is assassinated.”
Update: CNN.com checks in with its report, and demonstrates its sensitivity to comic fans in the purposely vague headline (“Shocking event for Captain America”) and this spoiler warning, which tops the article: “The following story reveals information about the Marvel Comics’ Civil War storyline and a key character. If you’d rather not know, stop reading now.”
CNN talks with publisher Dan Buckley and editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, both of whom reinforce the 9-11/Patriot Act/”real-world” parallels to the Civl War storyline.
(You can view CNN’s video report here.)
Update 2: The Cherry Hill, N.J., Courier-Post carries the AP story, but I find the vaguely prophetic-sounding headline really funny, for some reason: “Superhero Captain America dies today.” It’s as if it were written by Edgar Cayce.
Update 3: CBSNews.com wades in, blurring the line between fantasy and reality with the headline “Captain America killed outside courthouse,” and a lead that could’ve been lifted from an obituary page: “Captain America, the stars-and-stripes-wearing crimefighter, was gunned down by a sniper as he left a courthouse today. He was 66.”
The article shifts gears with the second paragraph, making it obvious that we’re dealing with a fictional characters.
However, Variety takes the prize for almost pulling off the joke, such that it is. But for a few mentions of comics, the trade publication’s report could be mistaken for a standard death notice. It even ends with, “Rogers was never married and has no known living relatives.”
Update 4: Uh-oh. The story’s first major discrepancy has arisen: While some outlets, such as Variety, are glibly reporting Steve Rogers’ age at 66 — based on his first appearance in March 1941 — others are going with his fictional birthdate.
In the comics, Rogers was born on July 4, 1917, which makes him 89 years old. Don’t make the same mistake I did and try to overthink the merging of a fictional date of birth with the passage of real time. You’ll only end up with a headache.
Update 5: Reuters gets down to brass tacks, noting “flagging comics sales” of Captain America, which “sells up to 80,000 copies a month in the United States, down from about 150,000 in their heyday.”
Buckley acknowledges that, “This is the end of Steve Rogers, the meat and potatoes guy from 1941. … But Captain America is a costume, and there are other people who could take it over.”
Meanwhile, Washington, DC, gossip blog Wonkette trumpets: “Comic Book Version of America Dies, Too.”
“The stars-and-stripes-clad superhero has been deeply depressed since April 2005,” the blog writes, “when his manager convinced him to take part in a bizarre Pentagon propaganda stunt with since-deposed defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld — who was already widely considered a war criminal at that point.
“The embarrassing press conference featured a glassy-eyed Captain clearly wearing a fake muscle suit to prop up his flabby frame and Rumsfeld staring intently at Spiderman’s penis — it was all so weird that Spiderman’s very public turn to fascism was hardly noted.”