“As someone who has had military in my family, it was personally humbling to see Inman take such great care in ensuring that all aspects of the military, war, and the after-effects were touched upon in Super Soldiers. Each comic book character he explored he went in depth with and I felt that this sort of exploration is not something people would often take the time to construct. For all of the pages in this book, I really felt that these characters were more than just fictional people in comic books. They were personifications of things we have dealt with in history and still feel to this day.” – Tia Fabi
When you take a look into comic books, you can see that many of them have origins with the military. In both DC Comics and Marvel, many of the superheroes we love started off as a soldier. Real-life veteran Jason Inman takes a moment to explore 16 characters and examine them in depth. I have to begin by saying that the research that Inman partook in is absolutely commendable. Each character he looks to examine is fleshed out and he takes care to really dig deep into the character’s history and what they mean to real-life.
Inman’s experiences are scattered throughout the book. We get a real-life view into what he went through during his time of service and those who served around him. He goes into past wars and the nitty-gritty details that are so often forgotten by history.
The book, of course; starts with the most well-known soldier in comic book publication. Captain America. He digs deep into the symbolism that Steve Rogers was intended to exude. Inman also goes into the propaganda that Captain America was first used for. How this idea of following orders blindly was something very common in pushing the ideals of war. And then Captain America transitioned. Explored what it meant to really be a soldier. What it meant to do good. To question orders, to question the government. To do what he could for the good of the people and strayed away from simply being a symbolism of war. For comic book fans those who are fans of the MCU, we see this in Captain America. It’s one of the biggest reasons fans have fallen in love with his character, because he isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right.
Inman also gives us insight into characters you may not be familiar with. Gravedigger. Isaiah Bradley. Characters who pushed back against the prejudices against their skin color to fight for their country. For the grit and determination they had. Inman goes into the hardships characters like this had to endure and it’s honestly, honorable for Inman to make sure he put these characters in. So the masses know.
Inman also goes into characters like Captain Marvel and Batwoman; how both women were in the military and faced their own brand of resistance against them.
He also went into characters like Flash Thompson and explored how joining the military can change people. How making this decision actually helped shape someone like Flash, who had been Peter Parker’s bully.
An Ode to Tony Stark’s Best Friend aka War Machine
One of my favorite chapters is the one he wrote on War Machine. MCU fans have fallen in love with Don Cheadle’s portrayal of the character. If you aren’t a comic book reader, you may not know his origin. You may not know of the history that he and Tony Stark had. It’s a chapter that explores Rhodey’s loyalty and really feels like a love letter to this fantastic character.
The Ugly Side
The author also isn’t afraid to honestly explore how every victory the U.S.A. has had was usually paired with something horrific. Hiroshima. Nagasaki. And others. He explores how heroes were ignored due to who they were. This is the case in comics and real life. He also goes into “extreme patriotism” with the character Nuke. How this sort of hyperactive sense of righteousness is dangerous. How this obsession with the “red, white, and blue” could cause someone to lose sight of what being a soldier is.
Who is Frank Castle to America?
Of course, being such a big fan of Netflix’s iteration of The Punisher, I couldn’t wait until I got to this chapter. Whenever we speak of Frank Castle, there are so many angles you can explore with him. This is a deep character with so much to dig deep into. Inman talks about The Punisher bringing the war home with him and asks if this is someone who we should root for. How should we feel about a man who takes the law into his own hands?
Inman also goes into how Frank Castle is a metaphor for soldiers going home. How it’s often perceived that this means they will finally have peace. Yet, peace is ripped from Castle’s hands when his family is murdered. Symbolic of the PTSD that some soldiers live through; though they are home, they’re never at ease. Inman makes a great point in this section. How Frank is essentially how we feel about soldiers. Instead of giving Castle the help he needs aka providing help for soldiers, we fill them with propaganda to serve again. To go out and be weapons again, which is what the Punisher always is. Inman questions the use of the Punisher symbol in law enforcement, feeling that the police who use it do not understand the reality behind the character.
He also provides a great quote that creator Gerry Conway once said [of the Punisher and the end of the Vietnam War and how veterans were treated once they came home]:
“The Punisher as a character is a bit of a Rorschach test in that, as time has passed since his creation, we’ve gone through different cultural eras and through each of those the character has been reinterpreted to reflect the concerns of society, If society feels what we are doing is justifiable, the respect for the military is high, if the society feels guilty or shamed in what we’re doing, we project that onto the military.”
Why You Should Read Super Soldiers
Inman explores characters like Deathstroke and Nick Fury. As well as a handful of honorable mentions. It’s clear that Inman really thought long and hard on this subject. And he takes great care in making sure all these stories are told. For anyone who wished to write a thought paper, Inman’s Super Soldiers is a great example of how to do one. It’s also incredibly personal and you are gaining an inside look into much of what he dealt with overseas. Super Soldiers is a perfect reference for anyone wanting to read up on the heavy theme of superheroes and the military.
It’s also a perfect way to use these characters to speak about the reality of different aspects of war, politics, doing what’s right, and the aftermath of battle. Super Soldiers is an informative and poignant read. You think you are going into it simply to read about some of your favorite heroes, but you walk away learning so much more than just the fictional history of DC and Marvel characters.
Super Soldiers is available June 18th and I would love to hear what anyone else thinks about this book. Thank you, Inman, for your service and for your dedication in highlighting the heroes both on and off the comic book pages.
A girl with too many fandoms to count.