Comic Book Mondays: Civil War

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I’m a Captain America fangirl. This is a known fact about me. So knowing that, you can imagine how difficult it was for me to jump into Civil War – an event I had very high hopes for, given that it forms the premise of the next Captain America movie – and find that I actively, vigorously disagreed with the stance that Captain America took.

Civil War centres around the political debate regarding whether or not superheroes and mutants – superhumans, let’s call them – should be registered and given mandatory government training in order to be allowed to mingle with the regular-human public in their day-to-day lives. You get the impression that this debate has raged in the Marvel background for a long time before the tragedy that levels a primary school and kicks off Civil War takes place. But here it is – a group of low-level mutants are filming a reality TV show. They enrage some villains, and the fallout levels a primary school and kills dozens. The public, understandably, is furious, and the superhuman registration debate explodes.

In the midst of this, we have the superhumans we know and love. On the one hand, Iron Man, who wrestles with his own responsibility for public safety as a superhero and as an ex-weapons developer. On the other, Captain America, who for all he was developed as a weapon, has an impressive moral compass and respect for civilian life. Tony Stark believes that the safety of the many is more important than the comfort of the few, and is all for registration. Steve Rogers believes that the privacy of superhumans must be respected, and rejects registration out of hand.

Civil War puts the reader in the uncomfortable position of having their favourite duo – Cap and Shellhead – at odds for almost the whole event. Cap fights, and hides underground, gathering a collective of superhumans – both heroes and villains – who also disagree with registration. It’s a weird and uncomfortable feeling, having Cap in the role of Bad Guy, seeing what the science cohort does without Cap standing there saying, “Really, Tony? You think that’s a good idea?”

I read Civil War in about two days, I think. Two big chunks. The art was beautiful, the storyline gave me all the information without slowing down, I got to meet heaps of cool characters (like the Punisher; let me just say OMG); but best of all, I think, was that Civil War gave me an opportunity to really reflect on why Captain America – Steve Rogers, really – is one of my faves, and to understand that just because he is my fave doesn’t mean he’s perfect or that all of his ideas are good.

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Comic Book Mondays: Cap, Thor, and representation

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I’m really excited about the new Thor, and about seeing Sam Wilson as Cap – these changes are actually serving as encouragement for me to pick up two titles I had no idea where to start with. But sometimes I think we have a tendency to pat ourselves on the back for things that either should be no-brainers, or for changes which seem to be more important than they are. Below are a few of my thoughts on the matter, much less organised than I would usually have them. This is one of those situations where I think I know what I’m talking about, but I’m not really convinced, you know?

Thor and Cap are high profile characters, so it’s amazing that Marvel are getting their diversity on with those two. Interest in them is BIG, what with the success of the movies and, one would presume, follow-on of fans from movie to comics. The distinction about Thor, particularly, was really cool – Thor the title, not Thor the name. But aside from the obvious logistical questions (what name will Thor go by if the new Goddess of Thunder is using his?), I’ve hardly seen anything addressing the elephant in the room – what happens when Steve Rogers and the Prince of Asgard want to reclaim their previous mantles?

Captain America is a mantle that has been held by many people. Steve Rogers, obviously, but also Bucky Barnes, Clint Barton (briefly), and now Sam Wilson*. But what happens when Steve gets back from doing whatever he’s doing – questioning his faith in America, being dead, retiring, whatever – and wants to take up the mantle again?

That’s right – Captain America goes back to being a white American male, and Sam Wilson goes back to being the sidekick. Tough gig.
Same goes with Thor. Many people have been deemed worthy of wielding Mjolnir in its (her?) long and storied comic book history. So what’d the difference between wielding the power of Thor, and getting to bear his name?

Here’s the thing: I’m all for diversity in comics. People need to be represented – who knows what the world would look like if a young Oprah Winfrey hadn’t seen Nichelle Nicholls play Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on Star Trek and figured that if Nicholls could do that, she could do anything?

But I’m not sure that rewriting popular characters to incorporate diversity is the way to go. These characters are riding on the popularity of decades of being white males, and to me it smacks a bit of laziness. It’s the same with the movies. DC has released it’s six-year plan, and it looks a lot more diverse than Marvel’s. DC’s plan through to 2020 includes Cyborg, Aquaman (played by Jason Momoa), Wonder Woman, and the Suicide Squad, the current iteration of which is far more diverse than any Avengers lineup I’ve come into contact with. I don’t know, maybe DC has been waiting for Marvel to make comic book movies popular, but with Marvel planning Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and a whole bunch of sequels, it’s easy to get a bit less excited than I once was.

Marvel has a bunch of fantastic characters who aren’t white American males. Characters like Miss Marvel, Falcon, Black Panther, the Wasp, Mockingbird – I’m new to comics and I can name these six off the top of my head! – are experiencing a resurgence and even being exposed to popular media readers simply through being speculated about. Why couldn’t you push those comics, those characters, in order to promote the diversity you supposedly want/think you need/think will probably deliver on the bottom line, now that comics are cool. Why would you make Sam Wilson Cap when he’s just been in a hugely successful film as his original character? One would think that you would launch a brand-new Falcon title to coincide with renewed interest from the film, rather than recreating him as Cap. Or does he get to do both for the time being?