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Knowledge Waits: A Reader Poll About the Greatest Challenges Captain America and America Would Face During the 1980s

This is the latest in a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me.

Today we look at a poll that Roger Stern did in Captain America as 1980 began, asking readers what they felt that Captain America’s biggest challengs would be during the 1980s as well as what the biggest challenges that America itself would face during the decade.

Read on for the results!

cap250

35 Comments

Socio-political cynicism? All the kids are doing it these days.

Also, I feel for the eloquent reader who penned such a great summation but wasn’t worthy of being named.

Travis Pelkie

June 4, 2014 at 2:50 am

What about the War on Drugs, Cap? Huh? Or do you just love your “Super Soldier Serum” too much to give it up, huh?

F***in’ junkie.

@D.C. Sheehan: I doubt it. 1980 was sort of the last year of idealism.

I would say that “Making a go at a civilian life” is a major (and perhaps unsolvable) challenge for Cap to this day.

Interesting to see that the Iranian Embassy crisis was indeed perceived as a Major Thing back then.

Captain America is such a difficult character…

Thanks for sharing this, Brian! Always fun to go back to looks “ahead”.

Couple points on comments – I laughed at the War on Drugs comment, it was a funny – but Reagan was elected at the end of 1980 – there was, as yet, no “War on Drugs” that came later from Reagan. A history nit, picked. Sorry.

And Luis, the Iranian Hostage Crisis DOMINATED the news back then. On TV, we only had 3 networks and only got the news evenings. CNN was just about to start, came on in ’80. Every night the network news carried a building total of days the hostages had been held. There weren’t even many other news “shows” – ABC’s NIGHTLINE actually grew out of their Hostage Crisis coverage, changing it’s name from “The Iran Crisis–America Held Hostage” after it ended, for example. It was capitalized upon by Reagan and used to defeat Carter. So it wasn’t A “major thing”. It was THE major thing.

Now, you kids get off my lawn!

Kidding. Just felt older and older as I typed…

Very interesting to look back at what readers were thinking then. And Mike is right, the Iranian Crisis was huge news back then. I’d have been surprised if it WASN’T first in this poll. It really dominated the headlines. I’m old enough to remember that. It may have played a role in Jimmy Carter not getting re-elected. I remember Carter’s ill fated attempt to rescue them with commandos.

Hey, I’m 45. I remember that. And I personally sure think it was a major if not decisive factor in getting Reagan elected.

It is just that in retrospect it seems so overblown.

The poll does say “the Iranian situation” though, which was a much larger thing than just the hostage crisis (though I guess the crisis must’ve been a big for Americans). If this poll is from 1980, it’s just a year after the Iranian Revolution, which had (and continues to have) an huge effect on the power balance in the Middle East. And USA was particularly concerned about it, since the ruler who was overthrown was practically America’s lapdog, which Khomeini obviously wasn’t. So Marvel readers were actually pretty realistic in their concerns.

LouReedRichards

June 4, 2014 at 8:41 am

Luis,

I’m only about 3 years younger than you. Out of curiosity why would you say ’80 was the last year of idealism?

That’s not a criticism, just genuinely curious. I thought idealism had gone out the window at the end of the 60’s and was totally dead after Watergate.

@Travis – good one.

We’re sorry, the correct answer was, “reaganomics”. Reaganomics.

@ Michael P.

So true!

Unfortunatly, Reaganomics and Thatcherism were also the biggest challenges faced by the world in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s.

We’re still struggling with those who have a semi-religious faith on “free markets”, just see Thomas Piketty.

yea, travis. very. funny.

@LouReedRichards: because that is when Reagan was elected.

LouReedRichards

June 4, 2014 at 11:39 am

Oh, OK, I thought you were referencing something more deeply embedded in the American psyche than Regan’s election.

Thanks.

And in fact, Reagan turned into a killer lizard man and attacked Cap, so he proved to be pretty relevant.

Actually, if anything, 1980 was a return to the idealism that had become very cynical after the Vietnam War and Watergate. Tying it to superheroes, Christopher Reeve had said they probably couldn’t have made Superman a few years before it.

And of the things on the list, if you co-sign it with “terrorism” the crisis in the Middle East is still probably the biggest concern of those items listed today.

So it continues to be relevant. Cap isn’t really that hard to write, if you understand him. But Travis made me literally LOL, anyway.

Uh, the Superman Movie came in 1978, under Jimmy Carter.

If you are crediting Carter for a surge of idealism, fair enough. So do I.

Well, if you consider “idealism” as simply the priority of ideals and principles over concrete realities, then sure, let’s call the Reagan era an age of idealism. It’s just that the principles and ideals in question were rotten, if you ask me.

But it’s hard to say whether optimistic movies like SUPERMAN reflect an optimistic world or if it’s the opposite; that people were starting to tire of the grittiness of New Hollywood and demanding more escapism, and so we have STAR WARS, SUPERMAN, GREASE, etc.

Travis Pelkie

June 4, 2014 at 6:00 pm

I thought Carter didn’t get re-elected because he lusted in his heart for a second term, no?

LouReedRichards

June 4, 2014 at 8:56 pm

I was in 3rd grade when Reagan was elected, and obviously not tuned into much of the larger world at the time. The fate of Han, Luke and Leia occupied much more of my mental energy than the hostage situation, recession or the rise of Reaganomics.

Luis: If you’re crediting Carter with inspiring a sweeping sense of idealism, then it seems like the sort of idealism that accompanies any new administration esp. after the other party has had a two term or longer go at it (and esp. how tainted the one that preceded Carter had been). The kind of idealism that quickly fades, much like the idealism I felt in ’92.

Surely most of America had no great sense of idealism by the time the ’80 election rolled around.
I’m not trying to discredit whatever personal feelings of idealism you (or Rene) may have felt at the time.
Portraying Reagan’s election as the end of idealism just strikes me as a completely partisan personal judgement.

I was quite happy to see Carter go. In my human form I share the same last name as the 39th President (and the same first name as his brother) and to grade school kids NOTHING is as funny as having the same last name as the President. I did feel sympathy for any kid with the last name of Reagan though.

Fortunately Obama is at least a far less common name.

Piketty has been discredited. He falsified his data.

Yes, and we all know newspapers never get things wrong and are all completely impartial.

Picketty has published a lenghty response to the Financial Times’s allegations.

http://blogs.ft.com/money-supply/2014/05/29/piketty-gives-detailed-response-to-ft-criticism/

Nice try, though.

Lou –

I think marking the Reagan age as the end of idealism is a little exaggerated myself. I have no love for Reagan, but “idealism” has died so many times and returned so many times…

I do think though that Reagan marked a return to the noxious “free market” orthodoxy that existed in the 19th century and up to the Great Depression.

LouReedRichards

June 5, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Rene: Yeah, that’s pretty much what I was thinking. Idealism comes in many different flavors.

I’m no great lover of Reagan, mostly for civil libertarian reasons. I certainly side more with the free market side than against it, but I guess that’s a discussion for another time or place.

Yes, and not too long before 1978 (pre-Star Wars and such as well) the country was in a state of discord, and hating itself, where the ideals of a Superman would have come across as corny, and someone flying around with a flag would thought to be a bad guy. It’s not too much different than James Bond going from a government agent to basically a silly superhero under Roger Moore. But attitudes in the country were shifting, and flipping back to more traditional feelings, as they usually do, in an up and down cycle. (Things got more cynical again, then very patriotic after 9-11, and we’re probably back into a shift the other way.

Reagan didn’t create this; but he did capitalize on it, and accelerate it by making it seem ok for Americans to feel good about themselves with his rhetoric. If Carter was any good at it he probably wouldn’t have been trounced in the election. That and not being up there with Bush the 2nd as one of the worst presidents of the modern era would have helped.

But hey, we can’t have all the prospering governments of idealism and the crushing of the free market like the Soviet Union has…uh, had.

And I mentally pictured a child being made fun of because he had the same name as President Richards…. (Young classmate Vic shouting RICHARDS!!! all the time at the poor tyke).

Lou –

Yeah, the funny thing about “idealism” is that I think George W. Bush’s was a very idealistic administration, actually.

What can you say of an administration that absolutely doesn’t care about how the real world works and just tries do what they think they should, and damn everyone who disagrees? That is a textbook definition of idealism.

M-Wolverine –

Yeah, I get it that it was a joke, but the only thing worse than the free market elevated to God is the free market “crushed”. There are more nuances than crazy Marx on one side and lunatic Ayn Rand on the other.

Lou –

Yeah, the funny thing about “idealism” is that I think George W. Bush’s was a very idealistic administration, actually.

What can you say of an administration that absolutely doesn’t care about how the real world works and just tries do what they think they should, and damn everyone who disagrees? That is a textbook definition of idealism.

M-Wolverine –

Yeah, I get it that it was a joke, but the only thing worse than the free market elevated to God is the free market “crushed”. There are more nuances than crazy Marx on one side and lunatic Ayn Rand on the other.

M-Wolverine: ” It’s not too much different than James Bond going from a government agent to basically a silly superhero under Roger Moore.”

The camp humor is a separate issue. Moore’s run actually emphasized the ideal–the fact that Bond is a patriot and a British champion–quite a bit. For example in Man With the Golden Gun where Scaramanga declares they’re the same person on different sides and Bond retorts that he kills in the service of his country, not for cash.

My hat’s off to all the folks who struggled with keeping Cap cool through the turbulent “anti-flag-waving” 60’s and early 70’s! There were some great Cap stories then. A lot of people have said that the 60’s didn’t really end until 1974, and I think there’s something to that, and in Cap’s own confusion in the Secret Empire/Nixon storyline.

@renenarciso- The problem is your posting seems to be a lot more on one of those fringes than anywhere in the middle….

@Fraser- Definitely a fair point, but I don’t think the camp humor/tone is completely unrelated. I think he was a “patriot and British champion” for sure. But more in the way that Superman is for “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”

What Bond was, as a 00, wasn’t a spy….as he really didn’t do a lot of hiding…or a Secret Agent….because every hotel manager in the world was ready to greet him with “Hello! Mr. Bond!” martini tray in hand. His License to Kill makes him a government assassin. He’s not really sent out to get state secrets. He’s sent out to investigate bad guys who are seen as threats to the British government and world peace, and if deemed to actually be a threat, neutralize that threat and eliminate them. He’s a government hit man. One who doesn’t get involved in toppling democratic governments or kill inexpedient people…he just gets sent out to kill really bad guys. Which makes him heroic.

But as his missions go on into the 70’s he’s less as a “government stooge” and more basically fighting super villains who want to take over/destroy the world. He gets a couple of chances to do the former (For Your Eyes Only) and does a well enough job, but it doesn’t really seem to stick until he leaves the role. There are obviously many factors, and playing up to the strengths of the actor playing Bond is always a major one. But getting away from being a brutal government agent when that role was looked at to be a bad guy was one of them.

Should have included this in the last post….

@Ganky – as an aside, I find that culturally decades seem to change/fit pattern more in the middle of the decade than the actually numeral change. 55-65, 65-75, 75-85, 85-95, etc. You go from an Elvis/Sinatra to Hippie to Disco eras, or still pretty traditional movies to the auteur era to the start of the blockbusters in film, and so on. Obviously there’s sme bleeding through and overlap, but I think less so than on the X9-X0 changes.

M-Wolverine –

The middle is different, depending on where you are.

Well, you be the judge. When we talk economics, I’m a big fan of John Maynard Keynes, FDR, European-style social democracy, the free market regulated by the government… is that fringe?

I admit that I do get carried away, though.

M-Wolverine –

Nice insight about the decades, BTW.

Well, I might be mischaracterizing your viewpoint…when I should be saying that you may have the tendency to illustrate the flip side of the compass as fringe. That a Hayek, Reagan, US-style capitalist republic, more laissez faire is fringe. Which might just be the self-aware last line. ;-)

But since there are so few changes to bring it up, I’ll just leave this here…

http://youtu.be/d0nERTFo-Sk

Thoughtful, intelligent, respectful discussion of political and social ideas, with only one anonymous troll?

A girl could start to like this kinder, gentler CBR.

LouReedRichards

June 6, 2014 at 1:41 pm

@renenarciso

Yeah, the funny thing about “idealism” is that I think George W. Bush’s was a very idealistic administration, actually.

What can you say of an administration that absolutely doesn’t care about how the real world works and just tries do what they think they should, and damn everyone who disagrees? That is a textbook definition of idealism.

In fairness, a Conservative could say the exact same thing about the current administration and then we’re right back to where we started from.

I don’t believe that (well not TOTALLY anyway) about either administration.

I agree with your larger point: that the middle is all a matter of perspective.

@M-Wolverine – yeah, trust me I would have loved to have had just about any other last name when I was a child. I swear I got asked “are you related to Jimmy” all the time up until about 1990 or so. Trust me, compared with some of the people I went to school with, Victor Von Doom would have been a pleasant relief.

@BeccaDannysWife – crazy ain’t it? ; )

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