About a year ago Marvel did something kind of drastic that had me shaking my head…at first. In what seemed like the ultimate no-no they pulled the most drastic heel turn in entertainment since Hulk Hogan joined the nWo. I mean, that was a pretty big deal when I was a kid. It totally changed the landscape of wrestling and actually made me appreciate Hogan more. A gamble that paid off instantly. The world had grown weary of the super wholesome/do gooder Hogan, causing his act to run a bit stale. Why cheer for something that just seemed like such an endorsement of an out dated way of living in a time where people could be pretty jaded (it was the 90’s after all). I’m aware that using a wrestling analogy here is a bit much and may be losing some of you, but trust me, it totally fits when I think about it. Hulk Hogan was the say your prayers, it your vitamins, God loving, super hero of the 80’s and 90’s. Hogan took on giants and Iraq, he fought for the people and tore his shirt off in the most spectacular ways. Come on, who among has not tried to rip your shirt off Hogan style? That’s what I thought.
So, when Marvel decided to turn Captain America heel thus revealing him to be a sleeper agent of Hydra, it’s not an exaggeration to say that people felt a little betrayed. Yet the funny thing was, for me at least, I didn’t feel betrayed by the character but by Marvel. How dare they do this to Steve Rogers. What are they thinking? It just came across as a stunt to get people to buy Captain America books, and granted, there’s nothing wrong with that, but couldn’t we do that with another character? Steve Roger is supposed to be sacred.
And that’s the beauty of the turn, no one expected it. No one saw it coming. No one would ever suspect Captain America to be working for Hydra. The idea was ludicrous. The internet had a field day with it, as meme after meme after meme depicting the above moment littered social media and Imgur. Long time comic fans verbally gave Marvel the finger for desecrating their most wholesome hero, and Chris Evans himself seemed heart broken.
And after a few months (two or three issues) people stopped complaining. The attitude changed from “how dare they” to “holy shit, this works”. Nick Spencer has done a masterful job making Steve Rogers, the most wholesome and pure of Marvel’s long list of heroes, into this puppet master who just about has the Marvel Universe on it’s knees. And they don’t suspect a thing! Much like Hogan and the nWo, Rogers has been pulling the strings in the background and manipulating events to bring his evil plans to fruition. Just look at the conclusion of Civil War II, an event that was all sizzle and no steak (I’ve always wanted to say that) where Cap tells a catatonic Tony Stark (mirroring the first Civil War) what he plans to do.
Insert chills here.
Now whenever you pull a heel turn like this the bigger question becomes, “where is this going”? With Hogan’s hell turn it lead to Sting coming out of hiding to “save WCW”. That was the big watershed moment, that WCW dropped the ball on, but what drove the angle. With Hydra Cap we are finally starting to see a finish line with this April’s Secret Empire. All the plans, killing, and behind the scenes manipulating will finally come to a head as the Marvel Universe learns that Captain America has been using them.
One of the greatest things to come out of Hogan and the nWo angle was how it changed the landscape of wrestling. Suddenly it was alright to cheer for the villains and lines became blurred when it came to characters and story lines. The audience was given the ability to choose who they wanted to invest in sort of removing the cookie cutter characters a bit. Some would say that it lead to the golden years of wrestling (the Attitude Era), and if anyone could use a change in landscape right now it would be Marvel.
Civil War II was a complete bust and while it ushered in a movement of younger super heroes having the spotlight (which I’ve loved), the event itself fell on it’s face. When you look over at DC and all the success they’re currently having with the Rebirth movement one would have to believe that Marvel could benefit from something similar. A moment so large that it brings hope to the universe. While it’s fun and entertaining to see super heroes fight super heroes it’s also becoming a bit tired. Shouldn’t these guys be focusing on fighting evil? You don’t all have to get along but shouldn’t you all share the common thread of wanting to keep the world safe? Marvel needs to get back to this way of living and in order to do so the established order of things needs to be torn apart. What better way to do that then with Secret Empire? Having the Marvel characters see the very best of them turn evil and having to save the world from him. Make this event about heroes mending fences and seeking the greater good together so something like this doesn’t happen again.
On top of that, Captain America is going to make for the ultimate badass villain. Right before Hulk Hogan ditched the red and gold for the black and white no one would have believed that a Hogan heel turn could work let alone change the course of wrestling. When Steve Rogers uttered “Hail Hydra” the comic book world rolled their eyes and took their frustration out in memes. Now, now it seems like there might be something here. Something that could change the landscape of things, for real this time. There are times when the biggest gambles pay off with huge dividends, and here’s hoping that Marvel cashes in on the Captain America heel turn. The potential for awesome is high and who better to take us there then Steve Rogers who essentially, whether good or evil, is the catalyst of Marvel comics.