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Cultural Watch Dogs & Captain America

captainamerica385Writers tackling social issues in comics have good intentions though the products of those intentions range the gamut from outstanding to just plain bad. The two part story in Captain America #385 and 386 from 1991 falls closer to the bad side than not. It came to my attention in an Ebay search because of the seller’s description: “Cap rescues pornographers, gay rights activists, rappers and others from the right wing Watchdogs who are out to enforce their brand of All-American morality with the unwanted “help” of US Agent who is out for revenge”. Captain America rescuing gay rights activists? How did I not know about this story?

It turns out  gay activists are never mentioned as I discovered while recently reading the pot boiler two parter with the titles “Going to the Dogs” and “For Righteousness’s Sake”. However, including the LGBT community as targets by  the right wing group Watch Dogs, who are the villains in this tale from Mark Gruenwald and Ron Lim, isn’t a difficult stretch of imagination. They have more back story than seen in this story including a connection with USAgent, which you can read here and here. The Watch Dogs are ostensibly stand ins for the Ku Klux Klan. White robes were swapped out for purple spandex uniforms and orange metal vests emblazoned with a snarling dog face symbol and topped off with visor helmets. The color scheme practically shouts comic book villain though who can imagine macho, right wing villains actually choosing purple and orange as uniform colors? Their mission statement is spelled out in their initiation vow:

“I solemny vow to walk the virtuous path, to safeguard society from the forces that would corrupt it, and destroy the enemies of decency, of morality,and of the values upon which our country was founded”.

They sound like the kind of people you want to share Thanksgiving dinner with, don’t they? As if your crazy uncle or aunt isn’t bad enough. Of course their idea of virtue is subjective when their ideas and practices of safeguarding society are looked at. This includes setting fire to a hip hop record office, letting a drunk, passed out janitor die in the fire, bombing, kidnapping people they find guilty of “immorality raps” and holding them prisoner in their Vermont hideaway and brainwashing them, which includes electro shock courtesy of dog collar devices. It’s easy to imagine a longer list of criminal actions in their march for a moral Amerca when taking into account this group had previous appearances in Captain America. Thankfully, Cap and USAgent give them a good trouncing before shutting down this cell and rescuing the abductees, leaving room for a closing panel confessional Watch Dog asking to be arrested for his involvement.

In one sense this people are benign despite their arrogance and condescension. They can affect their cities, states, and our country by voting, as is their right, and, certainly do affect government and politics when their candidates win elections and pass conservative legislation. I don’t mean to down play that. They’re different from a small subsection of the fundy community whose tactics the Watch Dogs might approve. They go far beyond the patronizing “love is [their] truth”. A fundy poster tried to intimidate a transgender woman by inferring he’d contact her employer about her personal life and political views. A rabidly anti-LGBT forum admin spread defamatory lies and images about an LGBT ally and her family to the degree that she  contacted police. Threats of physical violence directed at specific LGBT people or allies are made occasionally as are the more rare calls to round up gays and force them into isolation on an island until we die out, as if such an extreme action would put an end to homosexuality. Most recently comments are beginning to appear that express the desire for to fight a second civil war over marriage equality or the outrageous of “Second Amendment rights” as a solution. It’s these real world, self appointed cultural Watch Dogs including national evangelical figures such as Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Scott Lively, Michael Brown, Bryan Fischer, Brian Brown, and Peter LaBarbera that are most concerning as acceptance of LGBT people and marriage equality makes inevitable gains. This is my long winded way of encouraging you to vote your conscience in the November elections

March 7, 2015
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