With the release this week of Marvel comic’s Secret Invasion it’s appropriate to look at last year’s overtly political crossover event Civil War. As described on Marvel’s own website.
“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….