Captain Confederacy, from the cover of the 1987 special. Artist: Vince Stone.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: SteelDragon Press
First appeared: 1986
Creators: Will Shetterly (writer) and Vince Stone (artist)
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Alternate history in comic books has been popular since DC Comics began publishing "imaginary stories", in which key elements of the Superman mythos were altered, to see how events might have played out under various scenarios, without affecting mainstream continuity. The first was an out-of-continuity Superman/Lois marriage in Lois Lane #4 (October, 1958). Marvel didn't respond until 1977, when it launched its title What If?, exploring alternate versions of its own continuity. In the 1990s, DC inaugurated its Elseworlds line of specials, graphic novels

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… and mini-series, expanding on the "imaginary story" to include its entire universe of characters, not just the Superman-related ones.

In the outside world, a popular and well-explored "what if" scenario was what might have followed if the 19th century American conflict dubbed "Civil War" by the victors had turned out differently. In a majority of the books and essays exploring such a timeline, Texas wound up seceding from the Confederacy and Woodrow Wilson was its president in the 19-teens rather than that of the U.S.; but otherwise, they were all over the map. In the only major comic book exploration of this theme, the postulates included superheroes. If there's a Captain America, a Captain Britain and a Captain Canuck, why not a Captain Confederacy?

The first and most obvious question about Captain Confederacy is, was he a champion of slavery?

No, of course not. The Confederacy of the modern world had long since abolished the "Peculiar Institution", as its real-world apologists were already calling it even before the conflict that, in this comic book, was known as the "War of Secession". Most historians agree that it was doomed for economic reasons by the late 19th century, whether the war had been fought or not; and indeed, it did end during that period throughout the developed world. Despite the survival, even today, of wartime propaganda, people who are familiar with American history during that period, know the Southern states actually seceded over the issue of tariffs.

This is not to say the economic and social situation of most black people in the Confederate states was ideal — any more than it's ideal in any part of real-world America today. In fact, it was considerably less ideal. More like it was in pre-World War II America, before modern strides were made in our race relations. The first Captain Confederacy storyline at least partially concerned the modernization of that country's race relations.

As the story opened, Captain Confederacy was less a superhero than an agent of government propaganda, much like Mark Verheiden's contemporary hero The American was in the undivided U.S. He and his sidekick, Miss Dixie, had real super powers, induced by a government program, and used them to fight for their country's cause. But they did so in front of cameras, for the TV news. Off camera, the masks came off and the white heroes and black villains hung out together like any actors do offstage.

Captain Confederacy's world was different from ours in more than just the continued existence of the Confederacy alongside the Union. All told, there were eight independent countries made from parts of what we know as the United States and contiguous parts of Mexico and Canada, including Deseret (real-world Utah and surrounding areas); the Louisiana Free State (founded by runaway slaves); and a nation in the central part called "Great Spirit Union" (run by Native Americans). The continent of Captain Confederacy's world has been referred to by commentators as "Balkanized"; but each part (with the possible exception of Louisiana, which included only the Southern parishes) was bigger than all the real-world Balkans put together. None qualified as world-spanning empires, like the U.S. does in reality; but American international politics were a good deal more complicated in Cap's world than in ours.

That world was created by science fiction/fantasy author Will Shetterly, whose novels include Cats Have No Lord (1985), Nevernever (1993) and Chimera (2000). His artistic collaborator was Vince Stone, a commercial artist who lacks comic book credits other than Captain Confederacy. It was published by SteelDragon Press, a very minor player in comics, but which also did Ant Boy in 1987 and Omaha the Cat Dancer in '84. SteelDragon put it out as a 12-issue limited series in 1986; also as a Special in '87. In addition, Marvel's creator-owned Epic imprint (Dreadstar, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs) put out a four-issue series in 1991, in which Captain Confederacy had been replaced by a black woman.

Captain Confederacy has engendered more than its share of controversy, mostly from people responding only to its title and/or a superficial description. It has this in common with the 1930s Chicago Tribune comic White Boy. For those interested in judging for themselves, a collected edition of the original 12-issue series is kept in print.


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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © SteelDragon Press.