Monday, March 19, 2007

Captain America: RIP?

I have resisted posting anything about the disputes surrounding the recent deaths of singer & entertainer James Brown, or model & celebrity Anna Nicole Smith, on this blog. Yet I feel compelled to note the recent reported death of Steve Rogers, 89.

An obituary for Steve Rogers appeared in the
Times-Tribune (Scranton, PA) on March 7, 2007, followed by other newspapers, such as the New York Times on March 8, 2007.

In March, 1941, in a world at war and with America teetering on its brink, Steve Rogers volunteered to aid humanity. He was a frail
& scrawny arts student, ineligible for the army because of his poor health, who underwent months of steroid treatments, surgery, & the Super-Soldier formula to become . . . "Captain America".

Bucky is a childhood friend who follows him on his missions as a photographer rather than as a costumed sidekick. Rogers' last mission as Captain America sends him to a Nazi stronghold on the coast of Iceland to stop a prototype hydrogen bomb created using alien technology. He causes the rocket carrying the bomb to explode and falls into the freezing Arctic Ocean. Rogers falls into a state of suspended animation until Tony Stark's deep sea exploration team pulls him out of the water 57 years later. Bucky survives the war, and, thinking that Rogers had been killed in action, marries Rogers' fiancée Gail.
I first heard reports about the death of Steve Rogers on Thursday morning, March 8, 2007, in a "Morning Edition" radio segment broadcast by National Public Radio, entitled "Marvel Comics Kills Off Captain America".
A red, white and blue superhero, born to fight the Nazis, has been rubbed out.

Marvel Comics has killed off Captain America.

In the latest issue of the long-running series, the character is shot by a sniper on the steps of the federal courthouse in New York City.

"On the last page of the issue he's on a gurney, looking out with lifeless eyes," said Ed Brubaker, who writes the series. "He's been killed."

In recent years, NPR has displayed great sensitivity to the cultural aspects of Captain America and to his diverse comic book compatriots, as created by writer Stan "The Man" Lee. See:
Television reporter & commentator Stephen Colbert may have experienced a premonition of sorts when he noticed the glaring omission of Captain America from the list of superheros celebrated by the United States Post Office's superhero stamps, released on July 20, 2006. You should view his video commentary, Colbert Report: "Superhero Stamps".

So, it came as no surprise to me that Mr. Colbert was among the first to comment upon the reported death of
Captain America. See: Video commentary on March 8, 2007, Colbert Report: "Comic Justice" ("Captain America's death teaches us that fighting to protect civil liberties is dangerous.").

But, is there more to this story? A week later on his television show, Colbert proudly announced his receipt of
Captain America's "most valued possession" -- his "indestructible shield". He read a letter that delivered this item to him, as supposedly specifically bequeathed to him in an alleged Last Will & Testament read the prior Friday by executives of Marvel Comics, who are administering the superhero's estate. See: Video commentary, Colbert Report: "Captain America's Shield". But, there was no mention of the super-situs of the estate's administration, or even the issuance of a comic death certificate for the fallen warrior.

Colbert then displayed the superhero's shield publicly on his television show, tapping it to prove its indestructibility. Although Colbert promised to "take this responsibility very seriously", he then appeared to mock his charge by saying to his audience, "Ladies -- anybody want to touch it?"

Other more independent commentators, such as those working for NPR, have questioned these reports of
permanent death for the "star-spangled avenger":
Morning Edition commentator John Ridley says it's not that easy to kill an icon.

"I believe that he will be back, and as he rises I think we can all believe no matter where we are — from left to right or middle that America will continue to rise," Ridley said.

"We have to believe that as a nation, that we will continue to go on and I think Captain America's legacy will be his rebirth."

Last Friday, I sent an email message to Professor Gerry Beyer, who authors the well-read and highly-esteemed Wills, Trusts & Estates Law Prof[essors] Blog. I expressed my concerns regarding these events -- and the lingering legal questions.

Gerry confirmed my intuitive sense of the importance of these developments when he posted the following entry on his academic-level blog:

Captain America Dies -- What Does His Will Say?

Captain_americaThe superhero world continues to reel from the untimely death of Captain America (Steve Rogers) at the hands of Sharon Carter who fired a pistol into Captain America's stomach after she was hypnotized by Dr. Faustus. See Events Leading Up to the Death of Captain America.

The terms of Steve Rogers' will are starting to come to light. Here is what we know so far:

  • Steve's will leaves his shield to Stephen Colbert. Mr. Colbert has accepted the shield and has stated, "“Cap? I hope I make you proud.” See Stephen Colbert on the Death of Captain America, March 15, 2007.
  • S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division) is conducting an investigation regarding the authenticity and/or validity of the will.
  • There is some speculation that Steve is not actually dead.

Special thanks to Neil E. Hendershot of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania law firm of Goldberg Katzman, P.C., who also authors the PA Elder, Estate & Fiduciary Law Blog, for recommending that I report on "these weighty matters of great significance to all of us."

Just as in the world of popular television media, developments in the world of comic superheros can occur quickly and without logic. In its article, dated March 8, 2007, entitled "Oh, no! Captain America dead? -- Superhero's demise catches comic book dealers by surprise", published by Inside Bar Area, in San Francisco, California, an insider was quoted:

Although Captain America is presumed dead, the comics will continue as the aftermath of the story plays out, said Lee Lewis, employee at The Comic Shop in San Leandro, which sold out its 35 copies in hours.

"Right now it's a pretty big deal," Lewis said. "But I don't think it's going to last."

So, what does this mean? Can the pulverizing patriot really be dead, shot down on the courthouse steps after 66 years of battling villains from Adolf Hitler to the Red Skull?

Livermore resident Tim Ferreira, a comic book enthusiast, believes that while Captain America's alter ego Steve Rogers might be dead, "Captain America" in some form or another will likely be back. * * *

"When you live in a world of make-believe, a lot of things are possible," he said.
In the meanwhile, we can derive reassurance from the fact that G.I. Joe is still being sold in stores.

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