Saturday, June 22, 2024

Rest in peace, Peter B. Gillis

Cover of What If? #44

Peter B. Gillis was a truly underappreciated comic book writer who was behind some of the most unique and interesting stories including Marvel's What If…?, The New Defenders, Doctor Strange, and Strikeforce: Morituri. He had also co-created 'Shatter', along with Mike Saenz back in 1985, which was the first commercially published comic book to be entirely drawn on a computer.

Among his many noteworthy contributions is "What If...? #44 - What If Captain America Were Not Revived Until Today?", published in 1984, with art by Sal Buscema, Dave Simons, and George Roussos, and lettering by John Morelli. The story deals with an alternative history where Captain America remained frozen for longer, while the US slowly sunk into far-right regime reminiscent of Nazi Germany, with a clear racist sentiment on the rise, corrupt politicians that demonised and restricted the civil liberties of minorities, and with a fake Captain America supporting this status quo.

Captain America shown in several panels delivering a speech that goes as follows:  "Listen to me -- ALL of you out there! You were told by this man -- your HERO -- that America is the greatest country in the world! He told you that Americans were the greatest people -- That America could be refined like silver, could have the impurities hammered out of it, and shine more brightly!   He went on about how precious America was -- how you needed to make sure it remained great! And he told you anything was justified to preserve that great treasure, that pearl of great price that is America!  Well, I say America is nothing! Without its ideals, its commitment to the freedom of all men, America is a piece of TRASH! A nation is nothing! A flag is a piece of cloth!!  I fought Adolf Hitler not because America was great. But because it was fragile! I knew that liberty could as easily be snuffed out here as in Nazi Germany! As a people we were no different from them! When I returned I saw that you nearly did turn America into Nothing! And the only reason you're not less than nothing-- is that it's still possible for you too bring freedom back to America!"  The last panel shows the crowd visibly affected by his speech, and the words "There is a long, silence, then..." and people realising that the one speaking to them is the actual Captain America.
The comic book ends with the actual Captain America delivering this speech as a wake-up call on the dangers of extreme nationalism that is based on hate and the oppression of others, and the fragility of freedoms that have already been established, especially when hateful ideologies are allowed to fester. 

Copyright © 2013-2024 All Rights Reserved