Columnist’s Note: Due to personal issues, your intrepid author was unable to pull together this week’s column. Rather than deny you, the faithful reader, your bi-weekly dose, he’s running a column from the previous volume of TAKE THAT, formerly posted three years ago at Popcultureshock.com. He appreciates your understanding and has revised the text slightly for comedic effect. Please note that this particular column was written before the Ed Brubaker CAPTAIN AMERICA run and first appearance of the Winter Soldier and should be read in that context. Share, enjoy and return in two weeks for fresh TAKE THAT! As in the past, heartfelt thanks to Scott McCloud for allowing us to use his wonderful book, Understanding Comics, as the structure for this column. If you have yet to read Scott’s books you should be ashamed. Check out Scott’s experiments, inventions and intelligent crackpot schemes at www.scottmccloud.com. It’s a long one, too, so breathe and enjoy.
Artwork copyright Scott McCloud, 2008
CHAPTER ONE: SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
When I was younger, I knew what Nazis were. Nazis were soulless, jackbooted fascists filled with bad intentions, evil thoughts and stupid names.
And though I was dying to fight them, America labeled me too skinny and weak for Nazi-fightin’. Then I was enlisted into a top-secret super soldier program where government scientists altered my muscles, strength and endurance, changing me into liberty’s greatest weapon – Captain America! With a shield on my arm and partner by my side, they sent me to the European Front.
Soon, I was hooked. In less than a year, I became obsessed with Nazis! I decided to become the world’s greatest Nazi hunter and began to practice, practice, practice! I felt that Nazis were lurking everywhere – able to blend into crowds of regular, upstanding Janes and Joes living the dream of freedom. But whenever I tried to explain my feeling, I failed miserably. The other Invaders did not understand my obsession with Nazis, preferring to tackle Japs and Italians. Sure, I realized that Nazis were cruel and calculating, overrunning the Earth with blitzkriegs and sauerkraut — but – WE DIDN’T HAVE TO LET THEM!
The problem was, Americans felt Nazis were performing acts of evil far, far away from. And as long as the Nazis remained overseas, America would be fine. The problem was that people failed to understand Nazis, that this enemy was not going to be content with remaining far, far away. Proper definition of Nazis – from Hitler to the Red Skull to that dude with the glasses in Raiders of The Lost Ark – would give greater understanding to those who could not realize that stereotypes were fact – and show that the potential of the Nazis was limitless and dangerous.
This is where our journey begins.
The world of Nazi is a huge and varied one. Our definition must encompass all types – while not being so broad as to include any evil groups which are clearly NOT Nazis, like say Commies, Hippies, Skrulls, The Justice League and one quarter of the Bendis Message Boards.
But what are Nazis?
A German political party of the twentieth century, the Nazis controlled Germany from the early ‘30s until the end of the War. The party’s full English name was the National Socialist German Workers’ party; Nazi is short for its German name. Despite the word socialist in its name, the party was fascist, requiring from its members supreme devotion to the Third Reich. Desiring to form a master race that would rule the world, they fought the influence of peoples not of “pure” descent, particularly controlling Jews by depriving them of property and confining them in camps. The Nazis killed an estimated six million Jews and marked for extermination the mentally and physically handicapped and “enemies of the Reich” such as Slavs, communists, Gypsies, homosexuals, Christians who resisted the government, and defenders of intellectual freedom.
I hate them so much.
Much has been recorded about the psychological and military tactics Nazis used in books, journals, films and old back issues of All Star Squadron – but to define Nazi, we must first do some aesthetic surgery and separate form from content, much like I want to separate the Skull’s head from his wormy little body jabbing my FINGERS INTO THE BLOODSHOT SOCKETS OF HIS FASCIST MASK AND….
Oh. Sorry about that.
The structure known as “Nazi Germany” was a vessel that held any number of evil ideas and images. The content of those ideas were, of course, up to their vile and terrible creators: Hitler, the Skull, Arnim Zola, Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker, Colonel Klink, U-Man, Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List and of course, Baron Helmut Zemo.
Ahem. Again, sorry.
At one time or another virtually all the evil in the world has received critical examination: Communism, Terrorism, Hippie-ism, the Masters of Evil, Michael Moore and that guy from No Country For Old Men with the oxygen tank. But for Nazis, this attention has been rare. Well, rare in comics, anyway. Let’s see if we can help rectify the situation by crafting a proper definition:
Nazis (naht-seez, nat-seez) n. plural in form, used with a singular verb. 1. Kraut Fascists Operating from 1939-1945 that blew Captain America’s poor partner Bucky to patriotic bits at the end of the War. 2. Zemo.
I admit, this isn’t the sort of thing that comes up a lot in casual conversation – and if it does, you tell me which slimy rock that scum Zemo is hiding under – and in most cases, the only definition we’re likely to need is “Ratzi Scum.” But with a definition under our belts, perhaps we can shed some new light on the history of Nazis in comics.
If the history of Nazis in comics’ varied past is any indication, the future will be virtually impossible to predict – for example, knowing where and when the Red Skull will next rear his murderous crimson head. But our definition can offer some clues, and this time the secret is not in what the definition says but in what it doesn’t.
For example, our definition says nothing about Nazis relating to DC Comics, Image Comics, Oni Press, Dark Horse Comics, whatever’s left of Platinum, IDW, Top Shelf, films, books, CNN, actual historical textbooks or first hand accounts of the Nuremberg War Trials. No names are listed in our definition, no types of evildoings other than blowing my poor partner Bucky to patriotic bits, god bless his soul.
Nothing is said about HYDRA and AIM. No one cares who fought Namor, the Human Torch or Dum Dum Dugan apart from the times I was schooling them and the creep in question wore an ugly purple mask with a foofy fur collar. Unless we’re talking about the Red Skull or Hitler, of course. They’re pretty evil, I guess.
Those of you who hunt Nazis for a living – or would like to someday – probably know that keeping up with names and dates is a full time job. There are so many Nazis in comics that it would take an army of readers to study them all. Well, I fought with an army, son. The United States Army. I’m here to tell you however much you may try to understand the world of Nazis in comics, part of that world will lie in shadow… a mystery, out of reach… inches from my clutching grasp, waiting to be gripped and strangled BETWEEN MY STAR SPANGLED FINGERS—
Anyway, our attempts to define Nazis in comics are an ongoing process which won’t end anytime soon. A new generation will no doubt reject whatever mine discovered and this one finally decides to accept… and so they should… but I’m here to tell them they’re wasting their time.
CHAPTER TWO: THE SIX STEPS
So far, we’ve mostly dealt with unique properties of Nazis. To recap: evil, killing, Bucky’s death and who cares what those pansies in the Justice Society did.
But there are properties that Nazis share with all other forms of evil. Though it seems innocuous enough now, there was a time when the idea of National Socialism was ridiculed. Then Hitler wrote that damn book, they took over Poland and invented giant swastika robots. We kicked their asses, of course, but today many, “Can Nazis return?”
It is – I’m sorry – a really stupid question. If we must answer it, the answer is “yes, stupid.” Especially if your definition of evil is as broad as mine.
Evil, as I see it, is any human activity that doesn’t grow out of purity, goodness, the American dream and not killing people with giant swastika robots. Humans cannot spend every waking minute being good and pure, otherwise I’d be out of a job. There will inevitably be times when humans don’t have the American dream in their hearts. And because those humans attempt to assert an evolution-bred instinct of trying NOT to do the right thing, evil is the way they assert their identities as individuals and break out of the role goodness casts us in. This is how we get people like the Serpent Society, M.O.D.O.K and Rich Johnston.
The genius of society is such that even these individuals have their uses from a standpoint of the American dream. Three, in fact.
First, they provide me with a purpose in life.
Second, they provide an outlet for emotional imbalances, aiding in women’s’ penchant for getting weepy and needy whenever I save them, helping me get girlfriends.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, they give me something to beat up.
The “evil genius” says to the world: “I want money! I’m not doing this to get laid or fame or power or greed. Okay, maybe power and greed – but really, I’m doing this for money! And to see Captain America DEAD!” And in the end, they provide me with the above three uses.
But the Nazi – pure evil – says to the world: “I don’t do this for money! I don’t do this for power and greed! I do this to see people die! Especially plucky young sidekicks!” And while I enjoy kicking their jackbooted asses, in the end the price is too high.
In other words, Nazis have no practical value whatsoever and sometimes it might take half a century for the rest of the world to find out. I’m talking to you, Italy.
“Pure evil”, or Nazi evil, is tied to the question of purpose – of deciding what you want out of evil. The creation of evil in any person will always follow a certain path:
First, the impulses, ideas, emotions, philosophies and purposes of evil. Evil’s content.
Second, the form it will take. Will it be a book like Mein Kampf? A drawing, like Albert Schweitzer’s newspaper propaganda? How about stealing the Cosmic Cube, the most powerful weapon known to man and using it to recreate the world? Or perhaps through the greatest evil of all – a comic book?
Third: the “school” of evil. I’m not talking about that place the Taskmaster runs, damn his oily hide. I’m talking about the style, vocabulary and subject matter – the company line they hand out to the rank and file, making them believe that building giant swastika robots will somehow make the world a better place.
Fourth: Putting it all together. What to include in the Master Plan. The Final Solution. Who to include and who to leave out. How to arrange and orchestrate war on the peace lovin’ men and women of the U S of A and the known free world.
5. KILL BUCKY
I hate you, Zemo. With all my heart.
Lose to Allied Forces and go underground for several years. Wait until your greatest nemesis returns from an icy tomb of suspended animation that he’s been trapped in for over twenty years and then show your ugly purple hooded face once more. Then, taunt America’s greatest living legend about the death of the only son he’s ever known and challenge him to a fight to the death in your favorite summer castle. Lose, die, pass family hate along to your son.
In all evil, it’s the re-surface that Nazis appreciate, like an apple chosen for its shiny skin with rotting worms beneath the crimson fruit. Yeah, Red Skull – I’m calling you a crimson fruit. Come and get me.
Any Nazi creating any criminal act will follow these six steps whether they realize it or not. All evil works begin with a purpose, however arbitrary. All take some form, belong to an idiom and possess a structure. They all come back. The learning process of evil is a slow and steady journey from end to beginning, and it’s at the core of evil that the most important question Is finally asked:
“Why the hell am I following a dude with a television for a head when I can be ruling Earth myself?”
It’s a cycle as old as evil itself. It begins all over the world, as young evildoers discover hate for the first time and in a few cases, develop a love for Fascism that will last a lifetime. These would-be Nazis experience ideas, events, idioms and emotions directly and an awareness of form develops, an awareness that evil is more than just words on paper – that making evil requires certain skills – and that those skills can be learned.
And it is my job to punch them all in the brains with my very heavy shield.
CHAPTER THREE: KILL ZEMO
So, why should we try so hard to understand Nazis?
We live in a state of profound freedoms. No human being can ever know what it’s like to be you and no one can take away your individual freedoms, no matter how many times you cut one of them down and two more rise to take their place.
Understanding Nazis is serious business. Today, with the new fangled electronic mail and mass media, voices have a chance to be heard the world over – whether White, Black, Asian, Jew, Gypsy, Red, Hippie or Dame. Those of us who tackle evil must understand it. I’ve been trying to understand Nazis for over sixty years. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
1) The first step in any such effort is to clear our minds of all preconceived notions from movies, books and television. We need to learn to separate the form of evil from its often-inconsistent contents. Some evil is great, some small.
2) The best definition for Nazis will, I think, be the most specific: Kraut Fascists Operating from 1939-1945 That Blew my Poor Partner Bucky to Patriotic Bits. With a little refining, such a definition can take Nazis far into the future – especially in comics, if Ed Brubaker has his way, damn him to hell.
3) Throughout their history, Nazis have harnessed the power of evil to command legions of followers into creating giant killer swastika robots and bombs that kill young, innocent masked boys. Sometimes they do all from behind ugly, ridiculous masks.
4) As evil grows into the next century, Nazis will aspire to higher goals, sometimes involving Cosmic Cubes and Spears of Destiny, sometimes hiding behind veils of secrecy. But the truth about Nazis can’t stay hidden forever. And sooner or later the truth will shine through. And then I’ll find you, Zemo. Oh yes. I’ll find you.
This is the world of Nazis as I understand it so far. I’ve learned a lot about them since the day I took that serum while my cowardly friends urged me to go 4-F. I know I have a lot left to learn.
I hope you’ll consider exploring evil and fascism on your own, fighting the good fight and ferreting out National Socialism wherever it rears it’s ugly, racist, terrible red skull head.
Think about it. And thanks for listening.
Captain America is a member of the Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and a founding member of the Invaders. He has held many positions in his lifetime including Agent of SHIELD, Marvel Comics cartoonist and presidential candidate. At the time of this writing, he is in the middle of working on his second book, THE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO KILLING M.O.D.O.K.
Xeric winning cartoonist Neil Kleid authored Ninety Candles, a novella about life, legacy and comics and Brownsville, a book about Jewish mobsters for NBM Publishing. His webcomic, Action, Ohio, was a competitor at DC Comics’ online competition, Zudacomics.com and he’s written X-Men for Marvel, The Intimidators for Shadowline, Ursa Minors! for Slave Labor Graphics and Tales from the Crypt for Papercutz. He co-founded the Chemistry Set webcomic collective where he wrote Todt Hill. He lives in New York with his wife and is working on four graphic novels, two mini-series, two webcomics, a trade paperback and no sleep. Pray for him at www.rantcomics.com
All characters are ™ & (c) their respective owners. All Rights Reserved.
Take That! is a satire published by Newsarama, and is not intended maliciously. Newsarama has invented all names and situations in its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody (permitted under Hustler Magazine v. Fallwell, 485 US 46, 108 S.Ct 876, 99 L.Ed.2d 41 (1988)). Newsarama makes no representation as to the truth or accuracy of the preceding information.