captain america ta-nehisi coates alex ross

Ta-Nehisi Coates Is Taking Over Captain America and We Can’t Wait

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Ta-Nehisi Coates announced today that he will soon be taking over the Captain America comic book series. While Coates began writing comics only recently, he’s an incredibly exciting choice. For starters, his run of Black Panther, which laid the groundwork for the perfect piece of art that is the movie, was beyond brilliant. But his work in journalism also gives him a unique and exciting perspective on this character and comics in general.

Coates has built a career, both as a senior editor at The Atlantic as well as in his books, on analyzing cultural and political issues, specifically issues relating to race. His article in The Atlantic titled “Why I’m Writing Captain America,” Coates explains why a comic book neophyte might not see the direct connections there.

“Those of you who’ve never read a Captain America comic book or seen him in the Marvel movies would be forgiven for thinking of Captain America as an unblinking mascot for American nationalism,” he writes. “In fact, the best thing about the story of Captain America is the implicit irony.”

It’s only through “sheer grit and the wonders of science” that Steve Rogers–”a man with the heart of a god and the body of a wimp”–becomes a national hero and “the personification of his country’s egalitarian ideals.” On top of which, “Rogers’s transformation into Captain America is underwritten by the military.” Yet Rogers doesn’t care so much about obeying commands of the military or any specific leader. He’s not loyal to anything but “the dream.”

Of that, Coates writes, “I confess to having a conflicted history with this kind of proclamation—which is precisely why I am so excited to take on Captain America. I have my share of strong opinions about the world. But one reason why I chose the practice of opinion journalism—which is to say a mix of reporting and opinion—is because understanding how those opinions fit in with the perspectives of others has always been more interesting to me than repeatedly restating my own. Writing is about questions for me—not answers. And Captain America, the embodiment of a kind of Lincolnesque optimism, poses a direct question for me: Why would anyone believe in The Dream?”

He continues, “What is exciting here is not some didactic act of putting my words in Captain America’s head, but attempting to put Captain America’s words in my head. What is exciting is the possibility of exploration, of avoiding the repetition of a voice I’ve tired of.”

“I’m not convinced I can tell a great Captain America story,” he says, “which is precisely why I want so bad to try.”

Coates will be joined by artist Lenil Yu with covers by Alex Ross. The book will launch, appropriately, on July 4th.

(via The Atlantic, image: Marvel)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.