Saturday, August 12, 2006

Whose Side Are You On?

Posted by codemorse

From the Navy Times:

During World War II, the U.S. unleashed more than just its military against the Axis powers. In the pages of comic books, a new and timely generation of superheroes — Captain America, the Submariner and the Human Torch — took on the enemy as well.

Every GI who thumbed through the dog-eared pages of a comic knew exactly where the superheroes stood. With him.

But in “Civil War,” a seven-part comic book series that pits Captain America, Iron Man and other heroes against one another over issues grown out of today’s war on terrorism, Marvel Comics is throwing out a challenge not only to its pantheon of superheroes, but also to its readers: “Whose side are you on?”

The question is not about the hot war in Iraq but the battle being waged at home over warrantless wiretaps, watch lists, data mining and loss of privacy.

In a nutshell, popular and government fear of superheroes comes to a head in “Civil War” after a group of second-rate heroes who star in a reality-TV show bungles the takedown of some supervillains in Connecticut. The battle triggers an explosion that kills as many as 900 people, many children among them.

Faster than you can say “campaign donation,” the superhero registration act is hammered out in Congress and Marvel’s great heroes and antiheroes break into two camps.

Iron Man, aka Tony Stark, billionaire industrialist and arms manufacturer, takes the government side.

“Becoming public employees makes perfect sense if it helps people sleep a little easier,” Iron Man tells a roof full of superheroes gathered at Fantastic Four headquarters to discuss the pending legislation.

Captain America, who has been wearing the Stars and Stripes as a uniform and fighting America’s enemies for more than 60 years, comes down on the other side.

“Superheroes need to stay above [politics] or Washington starts telling us who the supervillains are,” he tells the government’s heavily armed “superhuman response unit” sent to sign him up or take him down.

....the plot — which already is developing beyond the core seven-book series into existing Marvel comics and new spinoff comics — has generated buzz among comic book enthusiasts, including many in uniform.

In Fayetteville, N.C., home to the Army’s Fort Bragg and also to Dragon’s Lair, a 25-year-old comic book shop, owner Bernie Mangiboyat said he quickly sold his 200 copies of the first issue, and people are still asking for it.

He said about 75 percent to 80 percent of his customers are service members, and so far, most are lining up with Captain America.

“The big thing is Captain America,” he said. “He stands up for the ones who don’t want to give up their names [to the government]. ... Ninety percent of the customers coming in say they look at it in the Captain America way.

I remember sitting with a group of Navy guys at a bar during Fleet Week in New York a few years ago. Jabs and I bought them a round of drinks, and a few of the guys and I started talking comics.

Man, I thought I was a geek.

Those guys loved their super heroes, and I had a blast talking to them for a bit before we moved on for the night.

I love that this article was published on the Navy's site. The article clearly mentions that most of the servicemen who have bought the book are, thus far, siding ideologically with Captain America (who is currently defying the government). It goes to show that (treatment of homosexuals excluded) the military and it's people are perfectly intellectually-capable of real maturity and thoughtfulness, despiite the caricatures painted by anti-war extremists.

Even if that "maturity" comes out in something as "immature" as a debate in a comic book, its still a telling example of how we all share the same doubts, insecurities and questions about our democracy. Just because you choose to serve your country doesn't mean you have to agree with it, and it makes the sacrifice our men and women make for us even more powerful for that fact.

This article's worth a read because Civil War is actually a comic I'd recommend to someone who doesn't read comics. It's well-written, beautifully-drawn, and deals with very relevant stuff, while still giving us what we crave - grown men and women in tights beating the four-color snot outta each other.

The writer of the book puts genuine effort into painting both sides of the debate fairly. There are good reasons for being a supporter of registration. There are good reasons for protesting it. There is no "right" side, and it's that element that makes Civil War seem so refreshingly mature and engrossing.

Knowing the way comic books work, there will probably end up being some secret supervillian plot behind the event (see the article's mention of Skrulls for one possible culprit), and that would be a shame. The debate on social issues like security vs. liberty is a fascinating one, and having our country's heroes reflect that debate without easy resolution is a powerful way of examining the debate in a fun, lighter way.

Do yourself a favor and pick up the Civil War books. If you've enjoyed the X Men films, you're almost guaranteed to enjoy these.

Oh, and as for me?


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