He’s no blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Nazi-fighting super soldier – and that’s the point.
A skinny, bespectacled, turban-wearing Sikh cartoonist is challenging racial intolerance by strutting around New York City in the red, white and blue uniform of Marvel’s Captain America. His goal? He wants to “kick some intolerant ass.”
Vishavjit Singh says he picked up the Captain America shield because he wants people to re-think what a true ‘American’ looks like.
“I’m trying to push people’s perceptions when I step out as Captain America,” Singh told CTV’s Canada AM on Wednesday.
He says the public reaction has been largely positive since he started sporting the uniform three years ago. Strangers take photos with him, police pat him on the back, and many want to know why he walks the streets of the Big Apple while wearing his star-spangled getup.
Singh says his current crusade against intolerance started three years ago, when he drew a turban-wearing Captain America to call attention to his art booth at the New York Comic Con. “Just relax, it’s called a turban,” the cartoon Cap says in the drawing.
Turbaned Cap turned heads, and soon, friends were pushing Singh to take the idea further by wearing the costume himself.
Singh says he resisted at first, but he was motivated to take a stance against intolerance after six Sikhs were killed in a shooting massacre at a Milwaukee temple in 2012. That’s when Singh decided to take a visible, public stand against hate crimes by dressing up as Captain America.
“I’m a skinny guy, very body-conscious,” Singh said. That made it tough for him to picture himself in the costume, but he got over that fear after the deaths in Milwaukee, he said.
“I was very nervous wearing a skin-tight costume, but it worked out very well,” Singh said.
Singh stars in a recently-released short documentary on his exploits, titled ‘Red, White and Beard.’ The documentary filmmakers followed Singh on the streets of New York as he asked people what they thought of him.
One man said it was “odd” to see such a different image of the classic Marvel superhero. “I’m pre-programmed to have a certain image of Captain America. Unfortunately, it’s a 1940s image,” he said.
There are no prominent Sikh superheroes comics these days, but Marvel Comics has been pushing hard to make its characters more diverse.
Marvel recently ushered in a new set of ‘Avengers’ heroes, including an African-American version of Captain America and a female Thor. The company also re-launched its Ms. Marvel character last year with a young Muslim girl in the titular role, and introduced a half-black, half-Hispanic Spider-Man in 2011.