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Why a Native Captain America is Kind of a Big Deal, by Angela Rairden

captain america Joe Gomez Native Native American

In the past few years, Marvel has pioneered a path of inclusivity in the comic book world by creating newer, more diverse versions of some of their classic superheroes. From young, Muslim Kamala Kahn taking up the mantle of Ms Marvel, to Hispanic Miles Morales becoming the new Spider-man, to Riri Williams, a fifteen-year-old Black girl who builds her own Iron Man suit and becomes Ironheart. These are just a few examples in an impressive list of newer heroes aimed at attracting a broader comic book audience.

A main theme throughout most of Marvel’s newer heroes is their being inspired by the older, well-known and well-established heroes that have been a part of Marvel’s wheelhouse for decades. This narrative sets the course for Marvel’s new, five-issue Captain America series titled The United States of Captain America. The series is set to release in June and will celebrate 80 years of Captain America.

Written by Christopher Cantwell with artwork by Dale Eaglesham, the series will feature the ultimate Captain America team-up as Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, and John Walker work together to hunt down a thief who has absconded with Captain America’s iconic shield. Along the way, our heroes will get help from a diverse group of people who have been inspired by the star-spangled Avenger and who have become heroes in their own right. These are people from different backgrounds, races, beliefs, etc. Marvel announced the first two new Captains already, starting off with Aaron Fischer, who is a gay teenager set to kick off the series’ June release, which coincides with Pride Month, and the second is Nichelle Wright, a black woman, who will be featured in the July issue.

Last week, Marvel announced that the third new Captain America that would be introduced in this series would be Joe Gomez, a Native American of the Kickapoo Tribe. Created by writer Darcie Little Badger of the Lipan Apache tribe and Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation artist David Cutler, Joe Gomez will debut this August in The United States of Captain America #3 and will be the first time that a major comic book hero has been portrayed by a person of Native descent.

In a way, a Native Captain America makes an astounding amount of sense. Native American and First Nation tribes are often dismissed as merely being a more tragic part of this nation’s history and are frequently overlooked in the present. In reality, they are a people who have endured in North America, and it’s past time that they had a superhero of Captain America’s caliber to look up to and see themselves reflected in.

Joe will not be Marvel’s first Native superhero, however. That was William Talltrees, who first appeared in 1970 and was a member of the Cheyenne tribe who took up the mantle of the spirit of Red Wolf, which gave him superhuman powers. However, despite a short but very enjoyable Red Wolf 6-isssue series in 2015, the character has been sadly underused in recent times.

In 1999, Marvel introduced Echo, the comic book giant’s first female character of Native descent. Echo is a deaf woman named Maya Lopez who first debuted as a supporting character to Daredevil (her first appearance is Daredevil #9). Although she’s had small roles in many comics, Echo has never had her own series. However, Disney+ has announced that the character will play a prominent role in its new Hawkeye tv series, releasing later this year, and that a spin-off series headlined by Echo is currently in development.

Although Marvel has had a few other largely unknown Native superheroes, including short-lived X-Men member Thunderbird and his brother Warpath, Native Americans have largely been left out of mainstream comics. Which is why the announcement of Joe Gomez, the Captain America of the Kickapoo Tribe, is kind of a big deal. The United States of Captain America #3 will explore Joe’s origin as well as what makes him a hero worthy of the title Captain America. Artist David Cutler, who designed Joe, gives us a bit of an insight into the character: “Joe Gomez is a construction worker, a builder in a world plagued by destruction. Every time a spaceship crashes into a bridge or a supervillain transforms a whole city block into rubble, people like Joe make things whole again. Work like that may seem thankless, but Joe genuinely enjoys helping his community survive and thrive. That's why he won't charge elders for home repair services (the Joe Gomez senior discount is 100%). That's also why he's willing to risk his life to save others.”

Is one issue in a five-issue series enough to fully explore the importance of Native culture in this modern age? Of course not. But, it’s a start. And, with any luck, hopefully Joe will stick around and have a larger role to play in the Marvel universe.

 

(Special shout-out to my friend Chrissi Ducotey, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, for the inspiration for this post.)

Angela “LaLa” Rairden is an avid fan of comic books, Star Wars, and most things nerdy. A cosplayer, she loves to attend comic cons dressed as her favorite fictional characters, particularly Harley Quinn. Although her day job is at a grocery store, writing has always been her true calling. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is currently writing her first novel.



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