February 12, 2010

"Iron Man was right"

Via Soccer Dad comes word of a couple of liberals who think that ... Iron Man was right during Marvel Comics' "Civil War" story -- a thinly veiled look at George W. Bush's "War on Terror." In it, Iron Man (Tony Stark) was pitted against Captain America (Steve Rogers) -- the former favoring government registration of superheroes, and the latter against. Personally, I was already getting turned off to Marvel at that time, but still followed much of "CW." And, frankly, it turned my stomach what Marvel did to Stark -- not only because he had been my favorite character since I was a boy, but because so much of it was completely out of character for him (the agreement of these two liberals notwithstanding).

First up is Ezra Klein:

I agree with Spencer [Ackerman] entirely: Iron Man was unequivocally right in the argument over superhero registration. I'm not even sure what the case for the other side is, and the libertarians I've asked haven't been able to come up with one. If the state has any legitimate function at all, it's to train and regulate people who could accidentally kill everyone in a hundred-mile radius.

Which makes perfect sense, even for liberals after all. Aren't libs the staunchest proponents of gun registration -- even restrictions and outright bans on them? Of course. Why, all of a sudden, in the name of "civil liberties," these folks would want to "protect" people (as Klein notes) who can "kill everyone in a hundred-mile radius" boggles the mind.

The aforementioned Spencer Ackerman adds to the scenario:

In the ‘Civil War’ storyline, Iron Man responded to a superhero-wrought tragedy by coming out for a Superhuman Registration Act, which would allow the government to register and regulate heroes and give them training. Cap and a band of likeminded heroes fought this — literally — and Cap died. But what Iron Man was really saying was no different than the uncontroversial principle that the state needs a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. When Cap launched his “the government will pick the supervillains” monologue, I was surprised that someone — like She-Hulk, who’s a lawyer — didn’t reply, “Wait, no. We have laws criminalizing certain behavior. We’ll have to follow those laws. That’s why the cops and the firefighters and the military and the intelligence communities don’t just go around legally killing members of the out-of-power party. Why would we be any different?”

Which just adds to what Klein stated above. But Ackerman's best point follows, and ties in to the current Captain America controversy regarding the Tea Partiers:

And the problem was that the guy making this dubious case wasn’t Yellowjacket or Goliath (RIP) or Daredevil (a really bad lawyer, evidently). It was Captain F***ing America. A walking American flag and war hero who still manages to find Nazis to beat up. If that’s not an editorial thumb on the scale, I don’t know what is. Cap’s right because he’s Cap. It’s downright un-American when you think about it, but there it is.

So I get you here, teabaggers. It’s dirty argumentative pool to throw Captain America at you. If Marvel’s really going to go after you, it should come out explicitly on-panel and make the case that the teabaggers are acting against the best interests of the country.

Indeed! That line -- "Cap’s right because he’s Cap" -- should be reserved for only the most concrete examples of moral clarity, and nothing more, if you insist on utilizing the character for [more overt] political purposes/messages. Remember, Cap once turned down the chance to become president ... because he could not become associated with any message other than "the dream" that is America.

In the past when the government has acted against what Cap has thought wrong, he merely gave up the role of Captain America and acted solo (as the Nomad and later as the Captain). He even went to jail. When Iron Man went after government installations and personnel during the classic "Armor Wars" storyline, Cap felt it his duty to stop him -- even though he was then operating as the Captain, not Captain America! Iron Man felt it his duty to stop his technology from falling into the wrong hands; Cap felt that no one was above the law. "Civil War" changed all that, eh?

Years ago when Marvel and DC had their marquee heroes square off against one another, Cap was matched up against Batman. (They also met again later in the Avengers/Justice League four issue miniseries earlier this decade.) In various forums across the 'net, I lost track of how many folks said Cap would win the fight -- simply because he always finds a way. That's all. And I agreed. Cap, in a way, is the ultimate hero ... because he embodies the ultimate vision for civilization. The results of that vision haven't always been right or just, but as Cap said when he considered the presidency, "But it is the Dream ... the Hope ... that makes the reality worth living." Cap isn't perfect, sure, because he's human. But he should be above the "dirty argumentative pool" that Ackerman notes above that some of the modern crop of writers utilize (like Ed Brubaker, currently).

By the way, Marvel toyed with something similar to the "Superhero Registration Act" back in the late 70s when comics man-extraordinaire Jim Shooter introduced Henry Peter Gyrich in The Avengers. In the classic Avengers #181 (cover above left) Gyrich dictates who the team members will be, and if the group doesn't cooperate, they'll be essentially powerless (pardon the pun) as no government agency will cooperate with them in their missions against bad guys! Ironically, it was Cap who took the government's side (albeit grudgingly) while Iron Man was much more vociferous against the government intrusion! (Look at the cover -- Iron Man has his fist raised in anger at Gyrich, while Cap is restraining him.) And in an interesting twist, we see a debate about racial preferences as Cap's partner the Falcon is made a team member (even though he'd never been an Avenger before) -- just because he's black. (My fave comics author Kurt Busiek neatly revisited this issue in early volume 3 Avengers issues with the character Triathlon.)

(In another neat aside, Avengers #181 was written by long-time Delaware resident David Michelinie, best known for his stints on writing Iron Man in the late 70s and again in the late 80s.)

Posted by Hube at February 12, 2010 10:02 PM | TrackBack

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