July 05, 2009

Bernie in CAPTAIN AMERICA #600

In the recent anniversary issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA, characters reflected on what the supposedly dead hero meant to them. One of them is Bernie Rosenthal, a former girlfriend of Steve Rogers (Captain America) who became a lawyer. Her story is literally at the center of the comic, and it's figuratively at the center too.

In the story, her friend Josh is visiting her home in Santa Fe. After reminiscing about Cap, Bernie feels bad about not living up to his standard. Josh consoles her, sayingListen, you've already done a lot with your life. You're a good lawyer. The pro bono work you've done for Native Americans is proof of that.

So you can't be like Steve...well, neither can I. But it doesn't end with him.

We do what we can. We try to make things better in our own way. That's all anyone can do.
I believe this is the first we've heard of Bernie's working with Native people. That's worth noting.

The American Dream

The story ends with a "quote" from Steve Rogers summing up Captain America's philosophy:I have worked and fought all my life for the growth and advancement of the American Dream...

We must all live in the real world...but it is the dream...the hope...that makes the reality worth living...

You need but to look withing yourselves to keep this nation strong...and, God willing, to help make the dream come true!
The point is this: When challenged by Captain America to "help make the dream come true," Bernie chose to become a lawyer working for people in need--specifically Indians. She didn't become a corporate lawyer working to get polluters off the hook. Or a Wall Street shark who used his talents to make a killing for himself.

In fact, Cap has inspired thousands of people in thousands of stories. These people include other superheroes, soldiers, police officers and fire fighters, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and so forth. As far as I know, they don't include Americans who have been selfish and greedy. No conniving politician or businessman has ever said, "I want to become rich and powerful because Captain America said to pursue my American Dream and that's it." Not in a CAPTAIN AMERICA comic book, anyway.

Just something to think about as we finish celebrating July 4th and await Cap's inevitable return from the dead.

Captain America and Indians

Coincidentally, the image below is from CAPTAIN AMERICA #292. This comic features Bernie and the first appearance of the Indian superhero Black Crow.

We've seen several connections between Captain America and Indians, including:

The First Captain America
Captain America Meets Geronimo
Black Crow to Replace Captain America?

plus Cap's appearances in 1602, EARTH X, and WHAT IF? CAPTAIN AMERICA.

All these appearances reflect our complex history with Indians. If Cap represents the American Dream, then genocide against Indians represents the American Nightmare. A good story that delves into the heart of Captain America will address our relationship with Indians.

So it's pretty darn fitting that Bernie has chosen to work with Native people. For her, achieving the American Dream means undoing the American Nightmare. Good job, Bernie...way to make a difference!

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Comics.

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