More Anti-Semitism in Marvel with Hank Johnson: Agent of HYDRA

I’m not entirely sure what Marvel, a company who has otherwise done very well recently at promoting diversity, is trying to accomplish with the new comic Hank Johnson: Agent of HYDRA. It seemed like I’d just finished discussing anti-Semitism in the MCU and then news about this new comic was released. I was regretfully unable to discuss this issue immediately, because I was dealing with getting married and then getting a new job (yay!). But now I have some time on my hands, so let’s talk about Hank Johnson: Agent of HYDRA.

Hank Johnson Agent of HYDRA

The basic synopsis of Hank Johnson: Agent of HYDRA is, as writer David Mandel from explains:

“He’s an everyman,” Mandel reveals. “That’s the beauty of Hank Johnson—he’s you, he’s me, he’s your best friend. He just happens to work for HYDRA.

“He’s dealing with everything we deal with. Credit card bills, mortgage payments, ‘do I send my kid to public or private school?’ It is all of those things, just happening to a guy who happens, for his day job, to put on a uniform and goes to work to help HYDRA take over the world.”

Before I get into why this comic is so bad, let me just say that I get it. I get what Marvel is trying to do here. They are trying to create a funny sort of Venture Bros-esque shenanigans by portraying the story of the lowly unknown henchman whom no one really notices, but still gets beat up all the time by the heroes.

On paper that sounds awesome! Hilarious even! Definitely something that, under any other circumstances, I would probably buy. But here is the thing: there is a difference between laughing at the henchmen who work for a guy who dresses up like a giant butterfly, and the henchmen who work for HYDRA—an organization whose stated goals have always been to institute the Fourth Reich. One Tumblr user by the name reindeercurt said it best:

the dumb thing about hank johnson and the whole conceit of the idea is that i see what marvels idea was: do a silly satirist comic about a middle-american everyman who’s one of the nameless henchmen you see the heroes beat up in droves every issue haha isnt every dead-end job just like being a faceless mook haha

but like, marvel doesnt seem to wanna acknowledge that HYDRA are literal nazis. hank johnson could have been working for ANY other supervillain organisation but they had to make this dumb book the most ignorant, insensitive version of itself didnt they

Because seriously, you could throw a rock in any direction in the Marvel universe and hit a villain. A lot of people work for Doctor Doom; make Hank his henchman. Or hell, just pick any random villain and give him henchmen if he doesn’t already have them. But no, Hank has to work for the Nazi organization, because of reasons.

HYDRA nazisThis is something I discussed in my last post about Marvel and anti-Semitism: the recent move by Marvel to erase the fact that the HYDRA organization is a Nazi one. They are shown to be evil, yes, and want totalitarian control, yes, but they’re not Nazis. Let’s be clear: if Hank Johnson is an agent of HYDRA, then he is not a down-on-his-luck everyman who just got sucked into a bad crowd/job; he is a Nazi, or at least complicit with an actual Nazi organization. But hey, Mandel argues that Hank is just at a rough patch employment-wise and trying to get by—so he joins the Nazis. You know, like most people. (She said sarcastically.)

“Look, let’s be honest, the majority of college graduates are unemployed or living with their parents so you are at college and a company comes along recruiting,” Mandel explains. “You might not have been interested in them, but…someone comes along and offers you a steady gig for 52 weeks a year with really good benefits, decent vacation, and chance for advancement and helps to pay off some of your college student loans? It’s not the worst job in the world.”

You know, except for the whole totalitarian, racist, anti-Semitic part of the organization, it’s not the worst job in the world. So you help Nazis? Who cares! The benefits package is great and you get decent vacation! What’s a few lives? Seriously, Marvel, what the hell? Again, any other criminal origination would have worked fine, but no, it had to be HYDRA. Did no one at Marvel stop and think, “Hey, maybe this will look really bad if we pick HYDRA, better think of a different group”? I just really don’t get how anyone though this was okay. This push to downplay HYDRA as a Nazi organization and to show someone complicit with Nazis as a funny everyman is extremely problematic and definitely anti-Semitic.

A lot of people get down on DC Comics for their often stupid comments and decisions, but just because Marvel has been putting out better more diverse comics recently does not mean that they deserve a pass on this. Do not buy Hank Johnson: Agent of HYDRA. Please do not support this anti-Semitic comic.

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8 thoughts on “More Anti-Semitism in Marvel with Hank Johnson: Agent of HYDRA

  1. I can’t seem to find that part where Modern Hydra was anti-semitic i any recent issues, did I miss it?

  2. Hydra has been a long standing organization in the Marvel universe. Of course it’s origins are founded in the third reich but modern hydra has not been a nazi organization in the comics in many years. They’ve always had nazi ties and always will, it’s their history. I fail to see how this book promotes Anti-Semitism just because tghe main character works for Hydra. It doesnt even romanticise working for them, it actually shows how rough it is to work for a criminal organization. I think the author of this article is reading into something that isnt there. This is a comic book about a character working for a Marvel created villainous organization. They’re not supposed to be the good guys, that’s their point. Stop trying to bash Marvel with inaccurate claims.

  3. Hydra has moved away from its Nazi roots a long time ago. Its been retconned so that Hydra was basically using the Nazis as a smokescreen to build up resources and broke away from them afterwards and their boss, the Red Skull, hates EVERYONE equally except himself. To state that Hank Johnson has Nazi beliefs is like saying an American Federal Government employee is automatically racist/ segregationist/ imperialistic and misogynist because the US government and its laws were all those things in living memory.

    Trying to create drama out of this highly contrived argument falls flat.

  4. They went with Hydra because its currently the evil organization most people are aware of due to movies and their TV shows. A one shot comic that plays on that familiarity is an easy pull to bring non-comics people into the comics world, which can then lead them to checking out more books.

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