At SXSW Marvel announced a new original video documentary series, with the first episode focusing on Civil War!
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Marvel Comics’ took their popular Civil War event story and adapted it into a prose novel. Now, that prose novel is being adapted again into an audiobook. The Cutting Corporation and Marvel Entertainment have entered into a licensing agreement where four of Marvel’s prose novels will be released in the GraphicAudio®…A Movie in Your Mind® unique audiobook format. GraphicAudio® audio productions are six hours on average of action packed audio entertainment with sound effects, cinematic music, narration and a full cast. Civil War was adapted by Stuart Moore and shook up the Marvel Universe.
In the wake of a tragedy, Capitol Hill proposes the Superhuman Registration Act, requiring all costumed heroes to unmask themselves before the government. Divided, the nation’s greatest champions must each decide how to react — but will you side with Iron Man or Captain America? And just which heroes will pay the ultimate price?”
Civil War, the Prose Novel was released in June 2012 and Civil War in GraphicAudio® will be released in March of 2013 and initially available at www.graphicaudio.net and www.graphicaudiointernational.net. Two titles featuring The Ultimates and one title featuring a Spider-Man prose novel in GraphicAudio® will follow.
Official Press Release
CIVIL WAR Launches Marvel’s New Line Of Prose Novels
New York, NY—December 20th, 2011—The world’s most popular super heroes can be found in the pages of Marvel Comics every week, but now their greatest stories are set to conquer the world of prose fiction! Launching in June 2012 with the adaptation of CIVIL WAR, Marvel will release its most popular stories of all time as prose novels.
It all begins in CIVIL WAR, adapted by author Stuart Moore (Wolverine), with the story that irrevocably altered the Marvel Universe and redefined comic books for an entire generation. In the wake of a tragedy, Capitol Hill proposes the Superhuman Registration Act, requiring all costumed heroes to unmask themselves before the government. Divided, the nation’s greatest champions must each decide how to react — but will you side with Iron Man or Captain America? And just which heroes will pay the ultimate price?
“Releasing our most acclaimed graphic novels as prose fiction not only allows us to reach a different audience with these stories, but also gives us a chance to bring those readers back to the comics that started it all,” said David Gabriel, Senior Vice President of Sales, Marvel Entertainment. “CIVIL WAR is easily our best-selling graphic novel of the past decade and certainly one of the most influential in recent memory, so it was the perfect launch title for this new line. Not only will you get all the action that Mark Millar and Steve McNiven delivered in comic form but no fan will want to miss the new wrinkles we’ve added in this novel. ”
Stay tuned to www.marvel.com for news on CIVIL WAR and the rest of Marvel’s upcoming prose novels.
So every Friday, I want to do a Top 5 list with some kind of connection. These are my opinions based solely on the comics I’ve actually read. I obviously can’t rank those works I haven’t read, but if there’s something that should be on my list that isn’t, let me know and I’ll check it out and will add it if I think it should be on the list. The idea isn’t just to give my opinion, but to open up discussion, so if you agree or disagree, let me know in comments…
This time around, I’m going to do my Top 5 Major Marvel Events…
Honorable mention, Realm of Kings-The Thanos Imperative: This series isn’t over yet, but it has already become one of my favorites, as I described it elsewhere today: A recent battle between the Inhuman Blackbolt and the mad human mutant leader of the alien Shi’ar empire (and Cyclops’s brother) ripped a hole in the universe while killing both. That hole, called the Fault, opened a doorway to the Cancerverse, a universe ruled by the Lovecraftian “many-angled ones” where “life won out” and nothing dies (but is still quite undead-esque) and the inhabitants of that universe (including the Avengers-dopplegangers “The Revengers”) want to come to the Marvel universe to take power. The only thing that can stop them is Thanos, this universe’s avatar of death and pretty much most evil being, so the entire army of the Marvel cosmic heroes teams up with Thanos to save the day. All that with snappy dialog and funny characters, including a talking Russian telepathic dog and Rocket Raccoon, who is just what his name implies. Yeah, that’s awesome. If it ends well, it might move up the list.
5. Secret Invasion: I know some people don’t like this one as well and I think the ending is a bit anticlimactic, but the sense of paranoia and fear of conspiracy that permeated this series to me was so well done that I’d have to rate it this high. The Skrulls coming in on top of the string of events (Civil War, World War Hulk, Decimation, House of M, Avengers Disassembled, Secret War) that the Marvel Universe had just gone through, to me, was a perfect choice and it was very well-written.
4. Days of Future Past: This story was one of the key tales in terms of launching the Marvel multiverse and it set in motion a string of events and characters that would impact Marvel comics for years to come. I’m a sucker for dystopian post-apocalyptic stories and the X-Men, so a story that combines the two is just great. It would be higher on the list if it weren’t just two issues long.
3. Civil War: Certainly the best examination of politics that the Marvel universe has ever done, this one was a direct commentary on the issues raised by the war on terror and the actions of the George W. Bush administration. Some people complained that they didn’t like the way some characters reacted to the situation and thought it was inconsistent with the characters’ past behavior, but I disagree, I think the characters were all quite well-written in the scenario. It would be higher on the list but, like most other recent Marvel cross-overs, it’s too big and involves way too many mini-series and one-shots.
2. Secret Wars: It wasn’t the first of the company-wide crossovers, Contest of Champions beat it to the punch, but Secret Wars really set the tone for how crossovers would work in comics. It is to comic crossovers what movies like Jaws and Star Wars are to blockbuster movies. It had a great storyline that was well-plotted and it had no shortage of shocking moments and real changes to characters that re-wrote the Marvel universe at the time. It had some weaknesses, as the writers didn’t quite figure out how to fully develop so many characters and a number of the characterizations were false (such as the Wasp and the X-Men), but overall, it is still the gold standard for Marvel (although DC would almost immediately eclipse it with Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was bigger and better).
1. The Dark Phoenix Saga: This is the story that made me a comic book devotee for life. It was played out over time and developed slowly, but surely, and the whole story was developed more like a novel than your run-of-the-mill comic book plot. The greatest group of characters in comics at the time (and the most diverse) was put through the most difficult and gut-wrenching story that centered around the very nature of power itself, betrayal, love, sacrifice, and cosmos-spanning action. All of the elements you would like of a great comic story are here — great plot, great characters, great dialog, great art and a story that stays with you long after you are done reading it. And it stands up well, it has just as much impact now as it did in the 1970s-80s. This is what made the X-Men a phenomenon and was part of one of the greatest comic book runs ever, the run on the Uncanny X-Men written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Dave Cockrum and John Byrne.
Captain America: Reborn #1
Vision – But that is how Captain America died… and America lost it’s symbol of hope…
Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia
It’s appropriate this comic was released around the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The X-Men have always been an allegory of race relations and now tells the oppression of those with “different” sexual orientations.
Simon Trask – And all we need to do to make sure it never happens again is to gently and humanely legislate when and how mutants are allowed to breed.
Franklin Richards – Why do people hate mutants mom? Does that mean they hate me?
Newsreporter – They’re not out as super heroes or super villains or super-anything. They’re out in the streets tonight because a million people showed up in their hometown demanding laws be passed that forbids them to have babies.
Secret Six #11
Mr. Smyth – What do all the Great Wonders of the ancient world have in common? The Pyramids, the Great Wall… the Godly architecture that still makes the human heart sing even after untold centuries!
Savage – They were all built by slaves, Mr. Smyth. That is the curse they all share.
Mr. Smyth – Yes. The mind knows that. But the heart… the heart knows better. Tourists flock to see these grand gestures every day, people in faroff lands hear them call. And the cost is what, the lives and toil of a few scattered souls? For works that last an eternity and inspire awe and greatness in all who see them? Most of the world lives and dies for nothing and no one. Those “slaves,” they died for all.
Lord Balder – I have never understood how war can be civil. If Asgardians turned brother against brother, the results would be most uncivil… and would destroy the legacy that is my obligation to protect.
Unknown Soldier #9
Cell leader – But you fight children… people call me a bad man and even I do not kill children. You must reimagine how you will fight your war, our war. Will you continue to kill countless children? Or take out a single celebrity? One bullet can move a moutain. It is only a question of where that bullet is aimed.
This blog is dedicated to the political relevancy of comic books. From their humble beginnings comic books had a tinge of political allegory reflecting on social class and acting as a refuge for writers that couldn’t find work due to their ethnicity. The political relevancy continued with Senate hearings in the 1950’s discussed here, and eventually entered the modern age of issue advocacy focusing on such issues as civil rights, AIDs, civil liberties, and the War on Terror.
Marvel comic’s Captain America is an icon of the discussion of politics in the comic book medium. Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Captain America debuted in December 1940, a year before Pearl Harbor advocating the United States’ entry into World War II. The first issue (image above) depicts the hero punching out Hitler in a clear signal of it’s creators encouragement and hope for the United States to enter the war raging on European shores. Joe Simon even said,
The opponents to the war were all quite well organized. We wanted to have our say too.
Throughout the years though this character was a man out his time with his main opponents consisting of remnants of the Nazi’s of World War II. Flash forward through the years and Marvel’s numerous failures to modernize the character. A man out of time, representing the American ideals couldn’t fit in such a gray modern world, or could he?
Enter writer Ed Brubaker, who’s run on the series is clearly not just one of the best for the character but can be heralded as one of the best runs of all time. Brubaker’s ability has been to write a character in a post 9/11 world, where terrorism exists and intrigue is everywhere, all on top of a backdrop of politics and social commentary. His vision, in it’s 38th issue this month, weaves a modern day fable reflecting on Al Qaeda’s looming threat, the housing crisis, corporate intrigue, a Presidential election, and the death of an icon. In the interview “The Man Who Killed Captain America” found in Marvel’s Captain America Omnibus, Ed Brubaker is quoted as saying,
I really wanted to ground the book in the real world. Of course, it’s not gonna be Al Qaeda, it’s gonna be Hydra of AIM…”
But, the best way to show the brilliant tale Brubaker has weaved is to lay out the complicated plot of his in process epic. SPOILERS AHEAD
The Red Skull is in control of an object called the Cosmic Cube which can grant it’s owner the power to do anything. Aleksander Lukin, a Russian hardliner wants the Cube to expand his corporation Kronos and make a play for the United States. Lukin gives the order to assassinate the Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube falls into his hands. Now, a deranged person could just wish the world to be what they want but the cube is weak and it’s abilities limited. Lukin instead lures some of the top corporate executives to the Kronos’ headquarters and using the Cube’s power forces them to sign over their companies and become subsidiaries of Kronos (issue #12).
Marvel’s Civil War occurs forcing super heroes to register with the government and leading them to split into two camps on either side of the issue eventually leading to the tragic assassination of Captain America (issue #25). In the comic Captain America defends his position and his leading the resistance to government registration,
Sharon Carter: …And the rule of law is what this country is founded on.
Captain America: No…it was founded on breaking the law. Because the law was wrong.
SC: That’s semantics Steve, you know what I mean…
CA: It’s not semantics, Sharon. It’s the heart of the issue. The Registration Act is another step toward Government control. And, while I love my country, I don’t trust many politicians. Not when they’re having their strings pulled by corporate donors. And not when they’re willing to trade freedom for security.
SC: Now you’re going to quote Ben Franklin at me? Give me a break.
CP: How about Thomas Paine? “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
Captain America surrenders when he notices the destruction of this battle between heroes and on his way to trial is assassinated on the footsteps of the courthouse. This act was a moment that gained national attention, such as this article from CNN.
Ed Brubaker on the moment,
(I) instinctively thought Captain America is such an icon and the way American icons are killed is that they get assassinated. They don’t die the way they’re supposed to die; they die tragically. That was what I was going for – making sure it played like an American tragedy.
As reported by the Associated Press, one of Captain America’s creators Joe Simon had this to say,
It’s a hell of a time for him to go. We really need him now.
In the modern age of comics no event has directly reflected the state of the world as Brubaker’s iconic political statement of the death of liberty on the steps of that courthouse. But, his brilliant writing proved a comic book series could continue, even without it’s main character.
Lukin’s plan was continuing. His move was to control the United States by destabilizing it and entering the Presidential election with his own backed candidate. Kronos Corporation did it’s part by driving the people to the streets. In issue #34, which came out in January of 2008, a mortgage crisis rocked the Marvel world as much as it has our own real one. In a part of the story playing right out of the headlines of MSNBC, Kronos Corporation foreclosed some homes due in part of a sub-prime lending scandal putting the economy in crisis (ed – who says comics are just for kids?). People took to the streets to protest where a security force owned by Kronos (aka Blackwater) was hired by the Government to keep the peace. We also learn that Lukin has at least one politician in his pocket, Senator Gordon Wright.
The third act of Brubaker’s epic is in it’s infant stages as all of this instability has led to Senator Wright forming the Third Wing party and running for President of the United States.
As you can see by the summary, comics have come a long way over the years. They sport a reality too close to home mixed in with the traditional escapism and fantasy. They reflect our current events, and pose philosophical questions and problems for ourselves to answer. In Brubaker’s epic a new man bears the uniform, shield and name of Captain America, in the comics, and the real world there has never been a greater time when we’ve needed him than now.
Last week Marvel comics launch it’s 8 month epic series Secret Invasion. The political subtext leading up to this 3 years in the making event goes further than the “Colbert 08″ t-shirt snuck into one of the panels in issue number 1.
Secret Invasion is the continuation of a story started 3 years ago involving the invasion of Earth and replacement of some of Marvel’s most powerful heroes by alien shape shifters call Skrulls. This feeling of sleeper cells amongst us was no accident. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the series writer Brian Michael Bendis said:
The Skrulls were invented back in the day when Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the Cold War were a big part of the [Marvel] universe. And we’re kind of back in that: The subtext of this story is not knowing if you can trust your friends or family. Years after 9/11, we go on a plane and start scanning the crowd…we can’t help it.
As Bendis describes above the original story of the Skrulls focused on Cold War hysteria, this new story updates it for the post 9/11 era, just replace Skrull for Al-Qaeda and you see where I’m going with this. Following the events of Marvel’s previous event Civil War, covered here, as well as the limited series Secret War, dealing with super power terrorism, Secret Invasion leaves the Earth’s protectors wondering who they can trust. Much like Civil War’s dealing with restrictions on liberty and freedom, Secret Invasion focuses on the paranoia of the unknown. Not knowing if you’re neighbor or friend is really a terrorist preparing to strike. The first issue saw numerous sleeper agents activated resulting in a global orchestrated terrorist strike, and calling into question various actions by some major characters over the past 3 years (ugh, I’m going to have to go back, re-read, and dissect).
The series takes on extra meaning with the recent news of convictions of a Chinese sleeper agent who had been the United States for two decades. An interesting time frame since (spoiler) the final panel of issue 1 reveals many of Marvel’s super heroes returning in their late 70’s/early 80’s uniforms. Weird coincidence, of course they could just be Skrulls as well.
Now this is just the first issue and judging by it, there’ll be tons to dissect over the next 8 months (at least). Bendis will make sure of that.
“Sparked by the deaths of hundreds of innocents at the hands of the New Warriors, the Super Human Registration Act changed the makeup of America’s super human community.
Torn between perceived freedom and believed safety, the heroes split and Civil War erupted. The ensuing conflict and tenuous resolution still reverberates throughout Marvel’s heroes.”
SPOILERS: The basic story goes while filming their television show the super hero group the New Warriors over estimate their ability to take on a group of villains. In an act of desperation the villain Nitro sets off an explosion devastating to town of Stamford, Connecticut, killing hundreds. A call to end this recklessness is sent out and the “Super Human Registration Act” is quickly rushed through Congress forcing all people with extra ordinary abilities (even if they’re born with them) to register with the federal government, reveal their secret identities, become trained, and in the end a Government sanctioned super human army.
Iron Man took the lead on the side of the Government looking to the Act as a way to prevent another accident like Stamford. Even extending amnesty to murderous villains if they’d join the pro-registration side. Captain America (the embodiment of American ideals) looked at the act as a crushing blow to civil liberties and lead the side of underground resistance. In a great juxtaposition of Iron Man’s “ends justify the means” embracing of murdering villains when the Punisher kills two villains on the anti-registration side, Captain America pummels him, expelling him from the group. A battle between heroes leading to twists, betrayals, and deaths, began over the very definition of freedom.
In the end during a climactic battle between the two sides destroying the town surrounding them, Captain America realizes their battle is leading to another Stamford and orders the anti-registration side to stand down gives up his mantle as Captain America, and in doing so turns himself over to Iron Man and the authorities.
In the final twist Marvel signals the end of liberty as we know it when they have Captain America, brought to trial as his identity of Steve Rogers, gunned down on the steps of the courthouse as he is escorted in cuffs to trial. Writer Mark Millar described Civil War as:
“…a story where a guy wrapped in the American flag is in chains as the people swap freedom for security…”
The Political Undertone: The easiest direct parallel to real life events is the Stamford incident and it’s post reaction directly reflecting 9/11 (which did occur in the Marvel universe) and the legislation rushed through soon after. The “Super Human Registration Act” has it’s real world sister’s in “The Patriot Act” and “Real ID“. Both pieces of legislation were rushed through in a post tragedy hysteria with little regard to their long term abuses and curbing of civil liberties.
When asked about these political similarities, Millar responded:
“The political allegory is only for those that are politically aware. Kids are going to read it and just see a big superhero fight.”
A comic book version of Guantanamo and embedded reporters were even explored. To hold the superheroes (and villains) that the pro-registration forces capture a special prison is built called “42”. Much like Guantanamo it’s goal is to break down and isolate the prisoners. In the offshoot “Civil War: Frontlines” the war is shown from the perspective of reporters covering the events around them. The series’ writer Paul Jenkins told the New York Times:
“Civil War: Front Line” will explore the ramifications of the events in the main series and more. “I have absolute carte blanche to take on the political landscape as it exists in America and all around the world.”
With liberty dead (literally) the 50 State Initiative was put in place to create sanctioned superhero teams in every single U.S. state. And that brings us to this summer’s event and it’s own political spin. Secret Invasion tells the tale of sleeper cells of aliens who have infiltrated the world and plan to attack when activated. This week sees the release of the first issue and in future posts I’ll be talking about the eerie similarity between these alien sleeper cells and the fear of the unknown cells that lay in wait to attack here in the U.S.
Join us this weekend for the first installment….