Comic Odyssey: What’s in a name? Keeping the Patriot in Patriot-1

This scene depicted here is the moment Patriot-1 gets his callsign. Responding to a deep betrayal and confronting a corrupt enterprise after finding himself caught in a conspiracy, the title character – a disillusioned solder – decides to make a statement and fight for what he believes in. That’s the basic premise behind Patriot-1.

 In the aftermath of the insurrection riot at the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, I found myself questioning whether or not I wanted to keep his name because of the way “patriot” has been co-opted by enemies of democracy. Now this all may seem inconsequential because my book is a small independent title. But it’s not insignificant to me, especially as I am working on the sequel, shopping around a screenplay and trying to expand it. So humor me for a second and I’ll give a quick history of how the character came to be.

It’s no secret I am a big Captain America guy, so keep that as a preface. It was 2007 when I initially came up with the idea for Patriot-1. There was a time where I’d create characters in already existing universes and flesh them out from there. In Patriot-1’s case, it was in the aftermath of the “Death of Captain America” storyline. That early prototype of the character – then called U.S.Avenger – was meant to be a soldier in the War on Terror returning home only to find the Avengers torn apart by Civil War and Captain America dead. Fleshing the character and his supporting cast out, when I started to take the idea a bit more seriously, I moved it away from a pre-existing universe and into its own. After a few years of development and a couple of starts and stops, U.S.Avenger became Patriot-1 and in late 2014, the first edition of the book was released.

My elevator pitch for Patriot-1 is “Tom Clancy’s Captain America.” It’s a real-world based story and combines my interest in Special Forces, Tom Clancy-esque military and spy stories and Captain America. Now I didn’t serve in the military, but like any writer worth their salt I immersed myself in research and talking to veterans and active duty to create this character and the world and continue to do so.

The reason I’m giving a brief history of the creation of this character is simply to preface where the character came from. The theme of Patriot-1 is also pretty simple; it’s about a guy and a group of people fighting for the IDEA of America. Not what America is, but what it can be. If you know me – or follow me on Twitter, for that matter – you know I wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to politics and social issues, and a lot of my personal beliefs are present in Patriot-1. The famous panel from Daredevil #233 where Captain America says “I’m loyal to nothing, General – except the dream,” is one I often cite as an easy way to sum up those beliefs. At its simplest, Patriot-1 is my version of Captain America.

I’m immensely proud of the book and its upcoming sequel – Patriot-1: Conviction – and I consider Patriot-1 my signature creation. However, over the course of the past few months, I’ve grappled a bit with keeping the character’s name. The reason for this is because the word “patriot” has been co-opted and denigrated by many on the far-right for years and now most recently, by those who carried out a wholly unpatriotic insurrection.

I’ll be as blunt as possible, I want ZERO association or assumption of association with anything anyone who supports the insurrection or anything in those circles. There have been times where people will see the military angle and the red, white and blue of Patriot-1 and make that assumption, which sucks, but that says more about the climate than anything else. But even having those assumptions does not sit well with me, hence my weighing to rename the character.

After the Jan. 6 riot, I gave renaming the most serious consideration. My argument for it was simple. As mentioned, I don’t want myself or my character associated with any of it. It’s clear in the story and when I pitch it that it isn’t, but at first glance I can see how it can be construed. However, my argument against changing the name is that I want to use Patriot-1 as a way to take back that word from the far-right and changing the name would be giving in to them. After all, they aren’t patriots. They don’t represent the idea of America and how that idea – which this country hasn’t even lived up to – applies more broadly to humanity.

My feelings were amplified by the discussion surrounding the Punisher skull logo and how that has been co-opted by this same movement of far-right believers and militias (spoiler alert: Frank Castle would hate them). Regardless, there has been a lot of discussion about Marvel and Disney retiring the character, changing his logo or going after people who use the logo with litigation. That’s a whole other conversation, but it did make me look closer at Patriot-1.

In that discussion over the Punisher came Garth Ennis, one of Frank Castle’s most famous and best writers. I’ll just show the whole quote:

It was after reading this that I decided that yes, I’m going to keep Patriot-1’s name. Not only do I want to associate that word with something better, but Ennis is right. Those people would do what they did if they called themselves something else.

They call themselves patriots because they know they aren’t. American patriots are those who believe and accept truth and believe in democracy and believe in the idea and the dream and don’t pledge loyalty to one man or stage an insurrection on his behalf. American patriots are people who can recognize this country’s sins and flaws and still believe that it can be a better and more equal place for everyone.

Patriots are people like the black Capitol Police officer who faced down a racist, white supremacist mob and made them chase him to keep them from finding hidden Senators in an unguarded room. That is a true patriot.

We’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of the country’s darkness is embedded in its DNA, but as long as we strive to live up to the idea, we will prevail.

That’s why I will keep the Patriot-1 name.

Patriot-1: Conviction will be coming to Kickstarter in the next couple of months. Hope to see you there.