Monday, July 10, 2006


"Civil War" Meets War On Terror

Navy Times reports on the impact Marvel's Civil War miniseries is having with readers in the services. While it is only anecdotal, it is rather interesting that -- at least at one store -- military members are against superheroes having to register with the federal government. The reaction to Iron Man being the pro-registration guy is intriguing:

In Fayetteville, N.C., home to the Army’s Fort Bragg and also to Dragon’s Lair, a 25-year-old comic book shop, owner Bernie Mangiboyat said he quickly sold his 200 copies of the first issue, and people are still asking for it.

He said about 75 percent to 80 percent of his customers are service members, and so far, most are lining up with Captain America.

“The big thing is Captain America,” he said. “He stands up for the ones who don’t want to give up their names [to the government]. ... Ninety percent of the customers coming in say they look at it in the Captain America way.

“They’re kind of against Iron Man because they feel that he’s like the corporation going in with the government. He’s kind of falling in line.”
I wonder what would have happened if the respective leaders of the sides of heroes had been reversed. What if Captain America had gone along with the feds and longtime big business corporate titan Tony "Iron Man" Stark -- a former U.S. Secretary of Defense -- decided that his lifetime membership in the military-industrial complex had come to an end and he refused to go along with the registration act?

I wonder if that scenario would have reshaped the allegiances of the military -- and civilian -- readership?

Mucho thanks to regular -- and bigtime Marvel enthusiast -- Damon for bringing this article to my attention.

UPDATE: Damon leaves a comment that should be addressed up here:

Robert, glad you found that article to be interesting. You raise an intriguing point as well. What if Captain America and Iron Man were instead representing the opposing viewpoint - i.e., what if Cap was pro-registration and Iron Man was anti?

For those not familiar with comics, Captain America is considered to be the pinnacle of integrity and nobility. He's the hero most heroes in the Marvel Universe look up to.When Cap stands for something, it gives that cause credibility.

While Iron Man is also highly respected, I don't think he enjoys the same trustworthiness level as Cap does. Iron Man, in his true identity as billionaire Tony Stark, has been known to be manipulative to get his way. His well-known bouts with alcoholism might cause some to view him with suspicion as well.

I'd like to think that if Cap were taking the pro-registration side, I'd still be against it. But it would sure give that side a level of credibility they've yet to reach with Iron Man leading their cause.

Of course it would. But, that's why my enjoyment of this storyline is somewhat tempered. While I like what Marvel has done with "Civil War" (hell, they've made me interested in one of their humungous omnibus storylines for the first time in about twenty years), I am cynical enough to recognize how it's sort of a fixed fight.

Author Mark Millar is an avowed British Lefty. I don't say that disparagingly -- he's admitted as much in interviews. When he was doing promotional stuff for his DC mini-series, Red Son (Essentially, "What if Superman had landed in Communist Russia instead of the U.S. heartland?"), he talked about growing up in a British working class household and being the farthest left member of the family. As good a writer as he is (though with a penchant for A Clockwork Orange-style "ultra-violence"), he can't really completely hold back where his political affections (in the context of who are the "good" superheroes in this sequence) truly lie.

Many of the choices for which side various heroes fall seem completely arbitrary. Reed Richards sides with the pro-registration Iron Man -- yet the Fantastic Four came into existence because Richards decided that he had a better way to get into space than what the official U.S. space program was producing. So, he brings along his best friend, his fiancee and her teenage brother to launch an illegal space flight. A nice dose of cosmic rays later and the rest is history. The point is -- this is hardly a "Let's wait for the government to do what's right kind of guy." On the other hand, given that Captain America was the prototype "super-soldier," it makes far more sense that he would go along with the idea of a super-hero "registration" (though admittedly, the episode with the Secret Empire a few years back might have soured him on what powers the government should have). The point is that Cap is the real wild card here. Millar -- probably at Marvel's blessing or insistence -- has givent the anti-registration side a walking, talking flag to push their point. There is no hero as emblematic of what is "American" on the the pro-registration side -- a scientist? an alcoholic corporatist? I don't think so.

DC did something similar with Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns in the '80s. But there, a returned Batman was the rebel and Superman -- who still believed in "Truth, Justice and the American Way" had become a clear, government operative, working at the beck and call of the White House. Obviously, given the set-up of that book, Batman had to be the true "good guy" and Superman had to be seen as the misguided Super Boy Scout. Even so, Miller stacked the deck a whole lot less than Millar and company seem to be doing in Civil War.

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