Friday, March 31, 2006

Guest Entry - "Civil War" is all Superman's fault.

No, really. Marvel's massive crossover that is going to cost me a ton of money is all the fault of DC's seminal superhero. Kal El's hands are covered with the blood of the New Warriors. And I can prove it.

If you haven't been paying attention, the basic premise of "Civil War" is that the government wants to register and control the Marvel superheroes. This causes a schism between the heroes, and there will be much punching and hitting and zapping and snikting and minor characters dying and thwipping in an event that is an allegory for civil rights and will change the Marvel Universe forever!!! Or at least that's what the marketing copy says.

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The fatal flaw in the story is that unlicensed, unsanctioned vigilantes should have never been legal to begin with. J. Jonah Jameson and Henry Gyrich were right all along. The Fantastic Four should have been arrested day one for stealing a rocket ship. While I'm not a big city lawyer, I have no idea how any prosecutor got charges against a supervillain to stick, when the only real evidence against them was a note from your friendly neighborhood wallcrawler saying they did a bad, bad thing. I can only imagine the charges your average hood could level against Thor for beating them with a giant stone hammer. And that's not even counting the countless FAA violations whenever Iron Man flies. I don't think I've ever seen Tony Stark file a flight plan.

Now, we could just blame Stan Lee for not planning on a bunch of cynical readers who probably should have stopped reading comics when they discovered girls figuring out the flaws in his sandbox some 40 years later. We could, but we'd be wrong. It's all Superman's fault.

When Superman first appeared in 1938, he was something of a super-badass rebel. Whether it was tossing gangsters in front of bullets or beating the snot out of spousal abusers, early Superman was about as far from an establishment tool as you could get. The law didn't apply to him. He was Superman! What were you going to do to stop him? The guy psychologically tortured weapons manufacturers by forcing them into the trenches of WWII and hounding them to the point of near death! And the cops treated him like he was: a vigilante. They even shot at him in the early days.

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Sadly, Superman's edge didn't last. It wasn't too long before he was wrapping up criminals for the police, when he wasn't psychologically and physically torturing Lois, Lana and Jimmy. He became a tool of the establishment, along with becoming a world class sadist. And somehow, the cops stopped caring that he was doing their job for them, and the courts stopped caring that Prankster and Toyman were victims of super-vigilantism.

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And because Superman is Superman, every other hero followed suit. Dark, urban avengers started cooperating with the police and working with kids in short pants. Fish men bent on conquering the surface world stopped flooding Africa to drown flaming androids and started punching out Nazis. All of which leads to "Civil War."

So don't blame Millar, Bendis, or Quesada.

Blame Superman.

Jeremy Goldstone's first real job was as an intern for Malibu Comics. Now, after a career of writing, editing and public relations, he needs a job. Hire him, damn it!!! Please contact him at stonegold@earthlink.net

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11 Comments:

Blogger kelvingreen said...

I don't think I've ever seen Tony Stark file a flight plan.
Really? The Avengers have done it loads of times. And there was that period when they had their licence revoked and they couldn't use Quinjets. I hate myself for knowing this.

3/31/2006 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger Bully said...

There's always been some kind of half-assed nod to "believability" in Marvel Comics, usually in the form of a throwaway line mixed with pseudo-science, e.g. it's cool for Reed Richards to launch a ICBM in the middle of midtown Manhattan because he's developed a high-tech sound and heat baffling launch tube that preserves the local community's safety and well-being, blah blah blah.

A tiny gram of this is fun. heck, even a liberal helping of attempted "real world" explanations of how superheroes might interact with use regular joes in normal society can be a hoot sometimes if it's done tongue-in-cheek. (Exhibit A: Damage Control. Exhibit B: the legal world in She-Hulk).

But when the sociological and cultural concerns of making a flying guy in armor and a Norse god seem "real" in a superhero comic book begin driving the story, I just throw up my hooves and say "Enough. Not what I read comics for."

3/31/2006 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger Steven said...

I have to disagree with the stuffed cow, in a flame war to split the internet in half.

To me, what makes superheroes more interesting than other fantasy genres (space operas and elven forest things) IS their interaction with the real world. Fantastic solutions to mundane problems, mundance solutions to fantastic problems.

I would love to read a story about the sociological and cultural concerns of a Norse god landing in modern New York City. What does that do to religion, global power structures, our understanding of science and the universe.

And the tension between super-cop and monstrous vigilante has been there from the beginning, and I find it fascination whenever it's explored, from Watchmen to She-Hulk to Ex-Machina.

That said, I think Civil War is going to suck. Because it is taking that germ of a good idea and turning it into cross-over event. With an ending. These are not issues that can be resolved over the course of a summer, nor are they resolved through colorful battles. Wanna take a bet that the whole war is being instigated by Loki, thus relieving the heroes of any responsiblity for the deaths that will follow?

3/31/2006 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Foss said...

See, I think there's room enough for both. And by both, I mean "all of it."

I mean, I loves me some Shulkie. Seeing the Marvel Universe's crazy legal issues laid out in such a humorous manner is just plain wonderful.

And I love the wacky craziness of comics like All-Star Superman or Marvel Team-Up, which have no real pretensions to reality. They're just fun to read.

And I even like the hyper-realism of Ex Machina and the morose melodrama of Identity Crisis and the crazy crossovers like Infinite Crisis. I just know I'll be buying Annihilation in trade form.

But I'm not buying Civil War. I like the concept; I think it's neat, even if it comes a little too close on the heels of similar themes from DC. I might pick up a trade or two eventually, but I certainly won't be buying the floppies. For one, I don't trust Bendis and Millar to tell a tight story. There will be whole issues of filler and padding, and I don't particularly care for that in my crossovers (yeah, I know, I know). Second, I really don't like the New Avengers. I haven't read any of it, but it just seems like that New Fantastic Four from the '90s that consisted of Spidey, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and someone else. It was a marketing ploy from start to finish, and that's what NA feels like to me. I've read enough of The Other and subsequent Spidey issues to really doubt JMS's capabilities as a writer anymore, and to really stop caring about Spider-Man in general.

But the big reason why I won't be buying it? How many major crossover-type stories does Marvel have right now? Annihilation, Civil War, Planet Hulk, and we just ended The Other. Before that was House of M and Decimation. Has a month gone by in the last year where one of the big books wasn't tied into a crossover? Something's gotta give. The average fan of the Hulk, the Avengers, and the Silver Surfer isn't going to be able to afford all of these various crossovers. When everything ties into something, people are going to just give up. I simply don't have the money, patience, or desire to drop that much money on yet another crossover story.

3/31/2006 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

I can't say I ever want to see Tony Stark file a flight-plan.

4/01/2006 05:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Hoosier X said...

I liked this until I saw that it was written by Jeremy Goldstone. Then I decided not to like it and take a contrary position because that is what I did when Jeremy and I worked together at the Daily Sundial.

Leave Superman alone, you pretentious, verbose (bleep)! You got your degree and now you think you're Gore Vidal!

4/01/2006 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger Luke said...

One note about Tom Foss' comment:

Planet Hulk isn't a crossover (at least not with the rest of the Marvel U at this point in time), just a single title mega-event. Admittedly it was started by the same group that are the core of the coming Civil War, so maybe it does count...

No clue on what'll happen if/when he comes back though :)

EvilLuke

4/02/2006 01:23:00 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

I would love to read a story about the sociological and cultural concerns of a Norse god landing in modern New York City. What does that do to religion, global power structures, our understanding of science and the universe.
Indeed, but the current trend for "realism" doesn't go in that direction. Instead it's more along the lines of "Norse gods are silly, so let's kill them off", or "the High Evolutionary is silly, so let's make Spider-Woman just a spy instead", or "Doctor Strange talks funny, so let's make him speak like a normal guy".

That's part of what makes Invincible so good; Kirkman makes it realistic by giving the characters relationships and feelings we can relate to, but also retains the inherent silliness of the genre. What Marvel (and to a lesser extent DC) seem to be doing is making superheroes less "silly", without building up anything on the other end.

I haven't read any of it, but it just seems like that New Fantastic Four from the '90s that consisted of Spidey, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and someone else.
Hulk. Specifically, the grey one.

4/02/2006 10:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Diz said...

And that's not even counting the countless FAA violations whenever Iron Man flies.

Unless he's in a Quinjet, he probably is exempt from FAA rulings. The armour is too light and too small to apply.
Waits for the chorus of "Geek, geek"

4/03/2006 07:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unless he's in a Quinjet, he probably is exempt from FAA rulings. The armour is too light and too small to apply.


Iron Man suit would be listed as an expeimental aircraftand need FAA approval after being inspected, etc.

4/03/2006 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

I think he was referring to the FAA exemptions for ultralights, which allow things that can be 'hand-lauched' a waiver from certain requirements.

So, it would apply in cases of Iron Man armor that Tony Stark can move around in with the power down, but not in cases where the suit is too heavy for him to even breathe in if circuits get shorted...

4/04/2006 04:07:00 PM  

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