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Monday, March 26, 2007

My Civil War...

I've never really blogged about Civil War on here. Mostly because I couldn't think of anything to say that hadn't been said already. I thought it was very exciting, had some really interesting moments, and ultimately didn't make a lot of sense.

I mean, there is superhero registration that is but isn't like the mutant registration? Okay. But the difference really never seemed clear to me. I thought the character choices for each side seemed strange and arbitrary, and even in cases like Reed, Tony, Peter and Jen, really really didn't mesh with past history.

Also, the tone was inconsistent. Reed and Tony are portrayed so conscienceless and inhuman for most of the series and then they're the good guys? With the only remotely plausible explanation for their behaviors not even offered in the main series?

Not to mention, while registration could be an interesting debate, I never really understood why the primary groups fighting were, for the most part, groups already connected/affiliated/cooperative with the government. The Avengers, the Four...they are or at least were ALREADY government sanctioned teams. What about the X-Men? Why was a team that's basically a secret, private ARMY only peripherally involved in this debate?

Naturally, as I'm an egotist, this got me thinking about how *I* would write a story like this.

First, I'd define the Superhero Registration Act very differently from the Mutant Registration Act. The forced registration for everyone with powers is well, for one, not terribly viable For another, it's way too obviously skirting really close to a violation of human rights. I can't see any hero embracing something so easily abused like that. Unless they're stupid.

My Superhero Act would be centered specifically around vigilantism and superheroics. If someone wants to be a practicing superhero, they register. If they don't want to, they can't. In practice, it would be something like a grander-scale CPR license.

Basically CPR licenses are necessary because CPR is very easy to screw up. An amateur can cause even worse injury and even kill a person, if they don't know what they're doing. They can, then, be held liable for the consequences.

Considering how much property damage and how much potential for civilian casualties there are when it comes to superhero fights, it seems perfectly reasonable for many people to believe in a similar system.

Of course, there's similar downsides to both ideas. If an untrained person is the only one near a person who needs CPR, well, death is pretty much inevitable if they don't at least try. If an untrained mutant or meta-human is the only one around when someone is attacked by a villain, the same sort of downsides apply.

This allows for a situation in which many young heroes can find themselves in trouble and encourage involvement on the anti-side.

For me, the division between the opposing groups would be much simpler. Most of the Avengers, the Four, and heroes like She-Hulk with ties to the government, the justice system and bureaucracy. They would be pro-registration/licensing.

(Licensing would not just involve information classification, there would be classes, seminars, and tests)

Heroes like Spider-Man and the X-Men would be against. The X-Men have a number of very valid reasons not to trust the government (Sentinels anyone?). Spider-Man is known for his independence.

The majority of heroes will probably initially be in favor of licensing, until the downsides begin to show themselves. It's almost impossible to enforce after all, leading to escalating violence. Some may not like the government having so much influence over meta-humans in general.

Heck, I can't imagine foreign nationals like T'Challa being very happy about the United States exerting so much control/constraints on their heroes. Jurisdiction becomes a problem, space missions get REAL awkward. And the sympathy will start to shift.

A lot of people would find my version more boring, no doubt. It wouldn't escalate to violence so quickly. (The violence in the first few issues would be limited to incidences of licensed and un-licensed heroics). But I think it could be an interesting way to explore more of the way superheroics work in the Marvel Universe..

Oh. And most importantly, Captain America would be largely mixed until near the end of the series. Because, dude, for me at least, when Cap takes a side, it's over. That's the big moment. The climax. Everything after that is denouement and resolution.

The key though is that the audience should never, in my opinion, feel overwhelmingly that one side is "good" and one side is "bad". There isn't supposed to be an ultimately "right" side. That was where Civil War fell flat the most for me. The series seemed written from the beginning like one side was good and the other cartoonishly bad. Then when the bad side is suddenly the right side. Well. It's really bizarre.

Both sides should be sympathetic. We're dealing with HEROES here. Not monsters. Not even random guys. These are people who put their lives on the line every day for ideals and innocent life. Either side should plausibly win. (Though the bad guys can naturally exploit the situation). The ending shouldn't be easy.

I'm excited about Avengers: Initiative and the possibilities that the pro-reg resolution can bring in a storytelling sense. But I still think the whole deal could have been so much better.


  • At March 26, 2007 2:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I would have read yours.

    Most ideas for alternate versions of Civil War seem to roughly follow your ideas . . . especially the ideas about Cap.

    I really like the idea of the initiative though. And as time goes on, I like the idea more and more. At least partly because it gets some of the attention away from New York, so hopefully we will get to see new types of people and new settings. Also, if the initiative becomes the new status quo, I will be really impressed with the level of world-changing Marvel has done.


  • At March 26, 2007 6:31 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    The only change I'd make to your version is to have the FF come down on the anti-registration side. I'd love to have Reed pointing out that they were acting from their beginning without government sanction and that most of their problems have come when the government tried to step into things it didn't understand.

  • At March 26, 2007 9:34 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Well, your version actually makes sense, which is more than can be said about the entire Civil War fiasco. The main thrust however, is that BOTH sides should be sympathetic. And however much Mark Millar beat us with it as a premise, the Pro-Registration side was NOT in the least bit sympathetic.

    Fascist yes. Sympathetic no.

    And now, they are taking the whole thing to a worse level, in my opinion. Originally, the act was for people with super-powers to register. Now, they are being actively hunted down, MADE to register, and have to serve at the pleasure of the government, which is essentially a draft.

    You can fly, but don't want to be a super hero? Too bad, you're being sent to guard Montana from terrorists. Went ahead and registered, despite some She-Hulk? Too bad, now you're working for SHIELD.

    And Tony Stark is ruling the entire country, basically. Probably has his own throne and wine-filled chalice by now.

  • At March 26, 2007 10:53 AM, Blogger Will Staples said…

    Civil War: I'm with Kalinara.

    I agree 100%. When I look back on Civil War, I'm left thinking, "O, what could have been!" Millar spent so much time and effort making the pro-Reg side look evil and fascist, with their secret prisons and super-villain death squads and forced drafts into a super-army, and all of a sudden we're supposed to believe they were the good guys from the get-go? WTF?!

  • At March 26, 2007 12:01 PM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    To paraphrase a friend of mine: you can do nuanced socio-political debate & commentary; or you can do a lot of face-punching; but rarely can you combine the two well. [Rare exception: Rock-em Sock-em Congress.] Either write an excuse to have super-powered people whale on each other; or try to tackle a thorny topic seriously. Don't try to do both simultaneously.

    Frankly, as crossover "event" comics go, I found the ol' Secret Wars less insulting to my intelligence than CW. At least SW knew what it was about.

  • At March 27, 2007 1:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Both sides should be sympathetic. We're dealing with HEROES here. Not monsters.

    I haven't read that much of Millar's work but for what I've seen he likes to write his heroes as monters.
    Now, I don't buy the whole "Mark Millar hates superheroes" stuff but I'm pretty sure he likes the his protagonists to be psychotic asses who are nevertheless right

    But like I said, I haven't read that much of the guy work

  • At March 27, 2007 5:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You raise some very good points there. Though they tried to explain it away by saying that Iron man was trying to avert a much more severe goverment initiative (Project Wideawake and all that), it seems to me that this isn't much more than a shambling attempt at relevancy to American current events--the SHRA is the Patriot Act, Thor is American tyranny, #7 was September 11th, Capunisher is the jingoistic atmosphere that permeated the country following 9/11, repeat ad nauseam.
    Just watch: soon, citizens will begin to resent the Initiative, and the government will repeat that the public must "support the superheroes".

    "Now, I don't buy the whole "Mark Millar hates superheroes" stuff but I'm pretty sure he likes his protagonists to be psychotic asses who are nevertheless right"

    So you're saying he's basically a pale imitation of late-80's Alan Moore?

  • At March 29, 2007 4:01 PM, Blogger Willow said…

    I like your version. I still like Tom Foss' version a lot. But what he would explore in his version is the consequences of living in a society with superheroes (and possibly the unfairness of treating them differently from mutants). A kind of 'Marvels' but Kurt Busiek sequel.

    But your version sounds just as interesting as a way to explore an attempt to control superheroes in the first place.

    I'd love to see the public reacting the the registration act in yours because there would obviously be groups of people saved by an unregistered hero who would have died if that person hadn't acted. And there'd be groups of people who think they were wronged by someone jumping in who wasn't trained; a group adamant that their situation could have afforded to wait five minutes and get 'real licensed heroes'.

    And then the 'Civil War' moniker would make more sense if it wasn't just superheroes against superheroes on a philosophical basis but citizens against citizens; something that polarized the entire country.

    People debating on what it means to be a hero; is it someone who acts in the moment or someone who's made it a job and did the pro-reregistrationers want to squash the human impulse to act bigger than themselves for the greater good, etc..

    I kind of want to put the two of you together like peanut butter and jelly and see what the Karolina/Tom Foss Civil War would be like.


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