Another week another head scratcher from Marvel Comics. We’ve already discussed the announcement of yet another event “that will change everything” (Secret Empire) and why it’s many levels of problematic to put it lightly. Apparently, Marvel decided to double-down on the “ick” factor by releasing variants of the Secret Empire event featuring several Marvel characters with the ‘Secret Empire Villains.’ Including long-time X-Men figure, Magneto.
Yes, let that sink in. For those of you who aren’t in the know, Max Eisenhardt (or Erik Lehnsherr if you watch the movies) aka Magneto is a survivor of the Holocaust. And someone in Marvel, or several someones, saw this variant/line-up and didn’t stop to think that people might have a problem with this implication.
It seems in recent years that Marvel has tried to retcon HYDRA away from its Nazi stand-in history by giving us an additional history of the organization. By claiming that HYDRA had existed centuries before World War II and the Nazis, Marvel and Nick Spencer are trying to make the case that this terrorist group currently being showcased with its shiny new Boy Scout leader, Steve Rogers, is more your garden variety fascist network than actual Nazis.
The retconned history then implies that Captain America, or characters like Magneto, aren’t actually dabbling in pro-Nazi sentiments. HYDRA totally wants to get rid of the Red Skull! Those Nazi hold-ons are totally counterintuitive to the cause!
To quote a show that deserves far, far more love than some people give it:
None of the retconning changes the fact that HYDRA did join the Nazi cause. It doesn’t modify the fact that, after WWII, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker relaunched the organization with monies from a Nazi hoard of stolen wealth. Where did that money come from? Based on historical data, we know a lot of it came from the peoples the Third Reich deemed inferior and set for “Liquidation” in the Final Solution, Porajmos, and more.
Just to reiterate. HYDRA as we “know it” today was relaunched off the stolen funds of murdered Final Solution victims. That alone makes HYDRA indelibly tied to Nazism.
Then there’s the not insignificant point that the Nazi supervillain poster boy, the Red Skull, also had a large hand in Captain America’s current and total brainwashed HYDRA loyalty. So yes, while Steve might think Skully’s served his purpose, those fingerprints are still all over Cap’s rewritten memories.
HYDRA has been the stand-in for Nazis for decades in the Silver and Bronze Age of comics. More than that, HYDRA joined Nazi ranks and were actual Nazis. It doesn’t matter that they existed before Hitler. It doesn’t matter that Marvel is trying to have their cake and eat it too by saying they’re garden-variety fascists.
This is a terrorist organization built off the deaths of millions of people via genocide. Its leadership, for decades, were overt Nazis, or at the very least did not hide their ties to Nazism. Superheroes who have escaped being raised in HYDRA ranks have commented multiple times at how they would rather die than go back.
So Nick Spencer wants to say Cap and Co are fascist overlords who want to rule the world under an authoritarian regime and totally have no ties to a group who implemented a Final Solution?
Really, Marvel? Didn’t anyone teach your editors and creators history in school? Empirical data suggests that where fascism and authoritarian regimes reign supreme, a genocidal cleansing campaign is almost sure to follow. We saw it with the Nazis in WWII. Then we saw it with Stalin’s gulags. We saw it again with Pol Pot’s Killing Fields, and in the Rwandan Genocide, and in the Srebrenica Genocide.
Those real world horrors are tied to the ideology you’ve tried to retcon and present as “not so bad as HITLER, I mean, c’mon!” We’re living in a present day world where Neo-Nazi populism and tribalism are on the rise. Instead of Captain America dusting off his shield and saying he’s got some work to do, you’re trying to convince us he’s not a “total Nazi” as we go into yet another unnecessary event where he and his Nazi fascist HYDRA buddies once again try to take over the world.
Who’s side are you on, exactly?