Captain Confederacy, a series published by Steel Dragon and Marvel’s Epic in the 1980s, has attracted the attention of the media, decades after it first came out. A mother, unknowingly, bought the comic book as part of a bundle for her eleven-year-old son. The son was alarmed at the presumably racist overtones found in the comic book.
Captain Confederacy is set in an alternate universe where the South won the secession war of 1965, in the United States. It turns out that the creators who created Captain Confederacy, had meant for the situation of blacks in the South to change progressively until the racist state was overthrown.
When we interviewed one of Captain Confederacy’s creators, writer, Will Shetterly, we had nothing but partial information on this comic book series. So it wasn’t clear for us whether the series really was written from a racist point of view, or if it was a denunciation of this attitude. Thus, we tried to ask questions which would allow Shetterly to present his case fairly, whether he was a racist or not.
Our goal was to present each side of the story whether we agreed with the political views as objectively as possible. In recent years, there have been debates about non mainstream ideas in North American comics. Major publishers shy away from most controversy. Creators expressing unpopular views, are pushed aside, like former JLA artist Mike S.Miller when DC Comics announced that he would not work for the company again.
The Comic Book Bin finds it important to cover all aspects of comics, and that includes controversial topics. Shetterly’s responses to our questions are quite interesting, and we’ll leave it up to you the reader to determine whether he is promoting hate or not.
Can you tell me more about this series?
But of course!
What prompted you to create this series in the first place?
I was thinking about the nature of the nationalistic superhero. A year or so later, Mark Verheiden did something similar with The American.
How was it cooperating with your partner on the book?
Vince Stone is a pleasure to work with.
How has the book changed publisher?
SteelDragon completed one storyline. Then Epic was looking for creator-owned projects, so we did another. The market for independent comics dried up after that, and I was more interested in prose, so Captain Confederacy went into comix limbo.
What's the intent of this series?
To entertain while commenting on politics and history.
Where were you going with it when you created it?
Ah, it's got to speak for itself ultimately.
What's the difference between say, Captain Confederacy and Captain America?
There've been so many versions of Captain America that it's hard to say. They both start off as white men who think their countries are good places.
What is the place of blacks in the series?
Slavery has ended, but when the first series begins, people of color in the South are living in something analogous to apartheid.
How do you feel about having created this series back then, today?
We had some minor frustrations. We were one of the first to experiment with computer production of comics. The colors of the Epic series are too bright, and the lettering is terrible. That's the price of being an early adopter of new technology.
Do you feel that comics presenting your views are censored by the media?
Is the comic book industry capable according to you to discuss sensitive issues such as those presented in your series?
To some extent. When I wrote Captain Confederacy, the major companies were very protective of their properties, so I could explore aspects of racism that they couldn't touch. I was amused when Marvel came out with Truth: Red, White & Black, a miniseries about a black man who was given Captain America's serum before Steve Rogers. We did that first.
What are typical Southern values and how did you want to depict them in the series?
There are no typical Southern values. It's like saying "typical Quebec values." People are people.
Are series like Captain Confederacy still relevant Post 911?
I'm sorry to say that the neoconservative jingoism of the Bush supporters makes Captain Confederacy extremely relevant now.
Why would a typical comic book fan want to read the series?
Because it's about another world and people in bright costumes who fight for justice.
To find out if Captain Confederacy is racist, check out writer Shetterly's blog at http://captainconfederacy.blogspot.com/