Superheroes, Patriots Mourn Death of a Symbol

Cap's death and funeral heavy in solemn symbolism.


July 7, 2007 — -- It's raining as a lone white horse draws the flag-draped casket down the street toward Arlington National Cemetery. Thousands line the street in silence, paying their respects to a hero who served their country selflessly for more than 60 years. Sam Wilson, the Falcon, delivers a touching eulogy and then it's done. Captain America, also known as Steve Rogers, the quintessential symbol of goodness in America, is buried.

The funeral appeared in the fifth issue of Marvel's Fallen Son mini-series, which hit newsstands Wednesday, nearly four months since readers read about sniper bullets downing the red, white and blue crusader in Captain America issue No. 25.

But unlike his death, which was highly controversial for its strong political undertones, the Sentinel of Liberty's funeral was inspired more by a personal tragedy for the writer, Jeph Loeb.

"He lost his son to cancer," said Ethan Sacks of the New York Daily News, who was the first to break the story about the Captain's death when it hit newsstands in March. "A lot of that seeped in. It was one of the best issues I've ever read in a while, very moving."

During Captain America's funeral, Sam Wilson asks those who had been influenced by the fallen hero to stand and show how their lives had been connected to "Cap," a gesture based on something Loeb had done at his own son's funeral.

"I wanted to show how many lives the boy had touched," said Loeb in a interview. "It was just extraordinary to turn around and suddenly realize that we're connected."

"And that's a really important moment for me in the story, because it's where it's all building to."

Captain America first appeared on newsstands in 1941, literally punching Hitler in the face.

Since then the shield-wielding superhero has battled Nazis, communism, corrupt politicians and, finally, overzealous national security measures.

Rarely did Cap's world shy from reflecting the struggles of the real one, and the latest fictional conflict was no different.

Before his assassination, Captain America had rebelled against the government to protest the Superhuman Registration Act, which required all individuals with paranormal powers to register with the government and reveal their identities.

Rather than comply, Cap led an underground movement of superheroes against the act and against the other half of superheroes, led by Iron Man, who support the act. In a real world of wiretaps and the Patriot Act, the symbolism isn't lost on Sacks.

"It's not subtle at all," Sacks told "There's the national security side, led by Iron Man, and the civil liberties side, led by Captain America. The restriction of civil liberties resulted in the death of the symbol of America."

However, unlike the real world, death is not always final in the land of comics.

Superman was killed off in 1993, only to return a year later. Captain America was also thought dead after an explosion in 1945, but he was miraculously found frozen solid and alive in the North Atlantic in the 1960s.

"They're always going to bring someone like that back," explained Sacks. "There's no way that a character that's been around for 60 years will just be thrown in the bargain bin of history."

With all the uncertainty in the world, it seems likely that fans will be hoping for the return Cap's steadying force.

In a Newsweek interview, former Captain America writer and Spider-Man creator Stan Lee gave words to the feeling:

"America could use a man like that now -- the ultimate patriot."

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