2016 has found America in the midst of a historic – and historically nasty – political season. The rift between the two sides and their ideologies seem deeper than ever. The struggle for the very symbolism of America is at stake. I’m talking, of course, about Captain America vs. Superman as America’s greatest symbol. This isn’t Red vs. Blue; this is Red, White and Blue vs. Red, White and Blue. Yet like Democrat vs. Republican, this is not a new struggle. It’s been going on since the ’30s. But it’s not the typical hypothetical that fans usually discuss. Those are usually JLA vs. the Avengers, Superman vs. Thor or Hulk, Batman vs. Cap. Those are physical battles. This is more of the ideological variety.
In these two characters we have two of the most recognizable representations of America: it’s ideals, its dreams, its values. One guy flat out represents the Republic, in name and in attire. The other also wears the colors, and his fabled motto of “truth, justice and the American way” sounds like it came straight out of the Constitution. So in this highly-charged election season, it’s our intent to explore how these two characters’ representations of American ideals in their cinematic incarnations has evolved and whether or not there’s even room for – as Cap put it to Coulson once – “old fashioned” patriotism. Oh, and if you’re of the hardcore comic variety and thinking this should really be Cap vs. DC’s Uncle Sam, just…no.
So what do we see in Captain America and Superman when it comes to the American ideal? Muscle-bound, physical perfection immediately comes to mind; super-heroic, muscular instruments of justice smacking down (super)villainy in the name of Uncle Sam. Considering that Cap was the physical embodiment of the perfect Aryan, and Superman may (or may not) have had parts of his origin coming from a renowned German philosopher, yet both fought against the Nazis for America, the irony is notable. Also with Cap, the whole “America” thing is as overt as it gets. Cap’s raison d’etre – both in the comics and in real life – was to embody the fight against Hitler and human evil. In terms of true American-themed heroes, only Captain USA is exceeded by Captain America. Meanwhile, Superman doesn’t wear the stars and stripes…but they ain’t exactly strangers.