Captain America never meant anything to me, until now.
The idea has always seemed absurd: He’s a military jock who represents a racist country ruled by the rich — and we’re supposed to root for him? The character turns eighty years old this year, and as far as I was concerned he’s overstayed his welcome.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself looking forward to a new Captain America issue, thanks to a new approach to the character: No longer a creaky old symbol of America’s imagined might, The United States of Captain America introduces a legion of local heroes across the country, each one heroes in their own communities.
One Captain America is a homeless gay teen named Aaron Fischer; another is a Filipino American college student named Ari Agbayani; another is a Black woman named Nichelle Wright. Rather than pretending that America is a blond chisel-jawed liberator, these Captains reflect a multiplicity of backgrounds, values, and first-hand experiences of injustice. Opening the issue, the first image my eyes landed on was of Rosa Parks’ dress next to Harvey Milk’s bullhorn.
To my further delight, Issue #1 is written by Josh Trujillo, a friend with whom I used to grab weekly lunches and talk about our various writing projects. I reached out to Josh to ask about this new approach to an old character, and here's how he responded. (Through Marvel's PR dept, lol thanks Disney)
Josh: Captain America is all about honor and idealism. The flag he wears on his chest comes with a lot of history, both good and bad. These are questions and issues that Captain America has to deal with every day, because he’s a hero grounded in our world. He’s fighting harsh realities in the name of ideals that he truly believes in. Freedom, equality, and brotherhood are all central to his character, and they sometimes put him at odds with the nation he is sworn to protect. He’s not fighting for a flag, he’s fighting for all of us.
Were there specific people you had in mind when you created Aaron Fischer?
Aaron is inspired by a combination of everyday heroes. The main question I had was, “If he’s a protector of queer people, what is he fighting for?” For me that meant he’s fighting for tomorrow, fighting to give a chance to the most vulnerable in our society. I don’t see that from our government, I see that in grass-roots efforts and communities working together. He’s an activist in the purest sense, in that he’s taking direct action to uplift and protect others. Like Steve Rogers, he’s taking on the mantle of Captain America to become something greater than himself.
I wanted to tell Aaron’s origin story and establish his motivations going forward. He’s a kind kid who has overcome a lot, and isn’t afraid to fight for others. Aaron’s villains aren’t super-villains. He’s battling foes that are more insidious than that, ones that undermine and harm us all. He can’t save everyone — not yet at least, but that won’t stop him from trying. And along the way he’ll find allies, and build his own community to help him in that mission.
Do you remember where you were when you first saw the art for the story, and how it felt?
Jan Bazaldua’s talent blew me away long before I worked with her on this project. She has an incredible gift for storytelling, and was able to wring so much humanity out of my script. Every day I got art from her was a treat! It’s honestly a dream come true to collaborate with someone so talented.
I’d also like to mention Nick Robles, who did one of the Aaron Fischer variant covers. It was when I saw him render the character that I knew we had something really, really special on our hands.
What do you see in the future for Aaron?
Aaron Fischer holds a really unique place in the Marvel Universe. He is a chance to explore queer issues through a superhero lens, and tell stories that have never been told before. I hope we get to learn more about his backstory, his struggles, and the life he ran away from. I also hope we get to meet the heroes that inspired him, less so superheroes than activists and other unhoused youth.
The character is obviously very special to me. If he inspires readers to act with empathy and compassion then I’ll consider him an enormous success.