Saturday, 29 June 2013

Marvel's Civil War Is More Relevant This Week Than Ever Before

It's been an interesting week in America. And by "interesting", I mean to say heart-wrenching, passionate, inspiring, revolting, devastating, an epic week in politics and humanity. We've seen Wendy Davis stand up, literally, putting an incredible amount of energy into defending the rights of women in her state. I will direct you to this article, because I think it needs to be read more:  We seen gay marriage rights defended. We've seen an incredible amount of rage erupt at the decades-old racist statement of a lady who, frankly, slipped up. And it's been moving. I'm not American; I grew up north of the 49th, and all of this news moves me but is so far removed from where I live geographically that it seems almost fictional. This couldn't really be happening to our world...could it?

But it is, and that makes it all the more fascinating to me. I only know what happened this week because I started using Twitter and made an effort to follow some very interesting people right off the bat. As a result, I had my feed flooded with Wendy Davis-related posts on the 25th of June. The ones that got me thinking were these: user @Anne_Savage tweeted "Texas: Got a gun? That's cool, carry on. Got a vagina? I'm sorry ma'am we're gonna have to regulate that. ", and @blahblahblack said "I'm going to bed. I plan to dream about a world where guns are under more control than a woman's uterus. ". Gun control never stops being a part of the news. Obama and the Senate recently had a bit of a falling out over that issue, and I doubt we'll ever truly see the end of it. But these comments online made me think about a story I've read, a story I really, truly love, about government regulation: The Marvel Civil War.

It actually surprises me how few people have read this particular event. Maybe I'm just talking to the wrong crowd of readers, but it seems that the violent polarization of the Marvel universe should have been a bigger deal than it was. For those unfamiliar with the story, a small team of wannabe heroes in Stamford, CT bites off more than they can chew and attacks a notorious super criminal, triggering a nuclear blast that wipes out the town, killing hundreds. The government response to this situation is to enact the Superhuman Registration Act, requiring all people with superpowers to register their true identity and power with the government. The superpowered population of America divides over this issue, one side rallying around Captain America against the registration, the others siding with Iron Man and the government. It was a massive conflict.

So in America this week, we have the never-ending struggle to regulate civilian weaponry, and we have multiple instances of the government attempting to regulate civilian biology (abortion law) and civil rights (gay marriage). The Superhuman Registration Act attempted to regulated civilian civil rights because their biology was deemed equivalent to weaponry. That sounds awfully similar to me. Now, this is not the time or place for a full academic rundown of these parallels. Frankly, it's too early, and I have a bus to catch. But think about it. Keep it in mind and go find a copy of Civil War and read it. I haven't gone through the whole thing myself in a few years, so I'm a bit rusty, and can't pull details off the top of my head the way I'd like, but I'm going to dig out those books myself and see if I'm on the right track with this thought. Comics were created as a cultural narrative. Let's remember that. Someday someone will be able to read through superhero comics and understand 20th and 21st century North American culture the same way we can use The Illiad to get a handle on the ancient Greeks. Maybe this is part of that.

For those interested in the Civil War event, I recommend reading in this order:

  • Road to Civil War
  • Civil War (main event book, written by Mark Millar, art by Steve McNiven)
  • Civil War: Iron Man
  • Civil War: Captain America
  • Civil War: Frontline 1&2

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