A social-media firestorm that erupted late last week urging Marvel to fire Captain America writer Rick Remender fizzled out by Sunday as the Twitter hashtag was hijacked and a Tumblr post explaining that the Falcon didn’t have drunken sex with a 14-year-old gained traction.
The controversy began shortly after the release on Wednesday of Captain America #22, which depicts Sam Wilson waking in bed next to Jet Zola (aka Jet Black), the daughter of Arnim Zola, after the two shared a little too much wine. Although Jet appears to be a prepubescent child when introduced in the first issue of Remender’s run, time passes rapidly in Dimension Z, where we’re told Steve Rogers spent at least 12 years. A rough estimation that Jet would now be in her early 20s is confirmed by a reference to her 23rd birthday during a brief flashback in the issue in question.
Perhaps some readers didn’t fully understand the timeline, or they confused Jet with her significantly young brother Ian (in fairness they did look a lot alike), and skipped over — or, in some cases, disregarded — the mention of the 23rd birthday. Whatever the case, some concluded from the three-page scene that Sam Wilson committed statutory rape.
One early and widely circulated Tumblr post, noting the many “heinous and massively harmful stereotypes there are about men of color and sexual violence,” called on outraged readers to stop buying any comics written by Remender, and to email Marvel to express their views.
Under the headline “Why Marvel needs to fire Rick Remender,” Examiner.com’s Gloria Miller dismissed the reference to Jet’s 23rd birthday as contradictory to “everything Remender has told us,” before stating that even if she were 23, “It’s still hard to ignore the fact that she’s still mentally immature and has suffered some pretty massive emotional trauma of late — not exactly a stellar example of unhindered ability to consent.”
Like Miller, Eat.Geek.Play’s Mark Stack framed the Falcon/Jet scene in the context of Remender’s other “offenses” since taking the reins of Captain America, including the (apparent) deaths of Sharon Carter and young Ian Zola. (It should be noted that both Stack and Eat.Geek.Play expressed their dislike for the #firerickremender campaign; after reading this Tumblr post explaining the timeline, Stack tweeted, “I am genuinely embarrassed and ashamed,” and to Remender, “I owe you an epic apology.”)
Remender had his fair share of defenders, both on Twitter and on blogs. The Daily Dot chimed in early with, “Relax, Captain America comic fans — that Falcon rape scene never happened,” while Marvel’s Tom Brevoort offered his thoughts on the controversy on his active Formspring.
“First off, rape and the possibility of rape is an omnipresent danger for at least half of the population, and one that many people are extremely sensitive about,” he wrote in response to an anonymous question. “It’s a serious issue, and should never be taken lightly. But secondly, there are a few readers who are upset with Rick for slights real or imagined who have no compunction about misrepresenting the work he’s done in order to stir up anger among people, in the hopes of getting him fired. [...] I think readers are allowed to feel however they want to about a particular title and a particular creator, and to follow or not follow that title/creator as they see fit—and even to rail against it or campaign against them if they so desire. But this sort of behavior crosses a line for me, it is a disgusting use of the very real and very emotional concerns of a great deal of the population to further an agenda that has nothing to do with the issue in question — and those doing the campaigning know it. Just leaves a bad taste around our entire community.”