by A.V. Eichenbaum -
SGN Associate Editor
America's a melting pot.
If you work hard and believe in the American Dream, you'll make it places.
That's what the after-school specials told us. That's what we've heard echo in classrooms for generations. So how could it be wrong?
Maybe it's not, but defining the American Dream on its own is a near-impossible task. In the past few years, we've experienced open hate and division on an enormous scale. In the last year alone, we've been shown time after time that the government doesn't care about the working class, minorities, or even what's left of the middle class. From what I saw through the tear gas, the BLM marches may have been about race and oppression, but the ensuing riots were just as much about classism in a society that doesn't care about its hungry masses as they were about police brutality.
Who do you turn to when you feel alienated by your country? Where do you look for hope when you've got no heroes in government?
Well, a lot of us turn to superheroes, the modern-day myths sold to us by a very savvy marketing team.
Enter Aaron Fischer, the Captain America of the Railways. This folk punk teen is an openly Gay, everyday admirer of Captain America who will be introduced to Marvel Comics in June's The United States of Captain America limited series.
Now, I have a confession to make. I'm a huge geek.
While I don't wear it like a badge of honor like some of my millennial counterparts, there's no denying that growing up a queer Jew divorced from my own heritage and weaned on superhero comics instead influenced the way I think. In fact, Peter Parker and Clark Kent are early heroes of mine - before Anthony Bourdain or Hunter S. Thompson even entered the picture. The X-Men were there for me when I couldn't quite figure out why I was different (besides having webbed toes).
The superheroes of my youth stood up for the little guy. They helped the helpless, and sometimes fought cosmic, psychedelic aliens. In the case of the X-Men, they gave homes to those who couldn't find a place elsewhere. In theory, Aaron Fischer is a dream come true for a fan like me.
The character, created by writer Aaron Trujillo and Trans artist Joshua Trujillo, is modeled after "activists, leaders, and everyday folks pushing for a better life," according to a statement released by Marvel. He helps fight for the houseless and forgotten. Fisher even looks like some friends of mine: tattooed and angry, his very body language and lean physique acknowledging his ongoing fight against impossible odds. He doesn't have any powers. He's got nose piercings, for Christ's sake. There's no doubt he could be inspiring for younger generations of queers for years to come.
As far as it's known so far, the Captain America of the Railways will only be in one issue. He's not replacing Captain America; he'll be on display as a queer who is inspired by the super patriot to do good in his community.
So why does his introduction feel hollow?
It might be the fact that Marvel already has openly Gay characters like Hulkling, Northstar, and Miss America, but they're often overlooked by the more extensive movie-loving fans of Marvel, and honestly, I think more representation is needed.
It might be that this Aaron Fischer character is being blown out of proportion, having incited AIDS jokes within days of his announcement from every half-assed hack trying to fill Limbaugh's shoes and half-hearted write-ups by every straight comics journalist in the country.
When it comes down to it, maybe it's my own jaded thoughts getting in the way. I can't imagine any queer, activist teen actively donning the ol' Red, White & Blue in earnest to help people. These days the American flag makes me wince when I see it flying from the back of a pickup. I grew up in a mid-sized rural town. I've had bottles thrown at me from trucks like those, and I've seen Neo-Nazis piled up in the back. This character feels like an attempt to call us back to whatever version of America we thought we were in pre-Trump.
This upcoming series is supposed to remind us, the fans, that America is one big melting pot, just working together to try to get by. For this humble writer, however, it just serves as a reminder that we refuse to see our country for what it is.
I don't share the hope of the young, fictional Aaron Fischer. It was beaten out of me by an SPD officer's boot last summer. The oppressed remain oppressed, even as the media shifts its gaze. And there are still people starving in the streets, unable to afford rent, food, or medical care. A patriotic twink with bad tattoos won't fix that.
Even if he is kind of cute.