Captain America: Civil War is coming out soon. I’m excited to see it. I’ve heard it’s awesome. But I have a problem with the whole concept. You see, the basic premise (as I understand it) is that the government believes we need some checks and balances on Super Heroes. That in the unique case of people with great power, they need to be regulated. Like Nuclear Weapons. Some Super Heroes agree, and some don’t. Things get heated, they come to blows. Or something like that. I disagree. Not only would they not come to blows. There would never be two sides. There would be no civil war. Or rather, all the Super Heroes would be on the same side, the government would be on the other side.
Disclaimer: I stopped actively reading comic books long before the Civil War story line in the Marvel Comics was published. I only have a passing knowledge of it. I know Captain America got shot and Spider-Man switched sides from Iron Man to Captain America. That’s about it.
Second Disclaimer: I have not seen Captain America: Civil War yet. So everything here is written from the perspective of seeing the trailers and some reading about the movie online.
So here’s where I get all moral and philosophical.
People with Super Powers are Super Heroes because they are people of conscience (like Captain America and Iron Man); otherwise they would be Super Villains (like Loki or the Red Skull or Ultron). A common theme that runs through Marvel Comics (and the movies) is that with great power comes great responsibility. Maybe Spider-Man is the only one to have ever explicitly stated it, but it’s there as an undercurrent throughout Marvel. The problem comes when institutions try to co-op them. Substitute “regulate” or “register” (look up the Mutant Registration Act) as you see fit. When a large institution, like the US government or say the Harbinger Foundation (not Marvel, but along the same lines) gets control of people with great power, those people become tools. The institution gets the great power without the great responsibility. They get the ability to order Iron Man to go lay waste to a village at X,Y coordinate at no cost to themselves. Hopefully he doesn’t accidentally hit any children. If he does it’s on his conscience, not theirs.
Captain America learned this. His power was given to him by a man of conscience (Abraham Erskine) because he recognized that same quality within Steve Rogers. When a man without conscience took that power he became the Red Skull. General Ross tried this with Bruce Banner. If the power hadn’t been granted to a conflicted scientist with a conscience, Ross would have received the tool he wanted, in the Abomination. Tony Stark learned this lesson when he chose to become Iron Man. He made a conscious decision to give up arms manufacturing because his conscience told him it was wrong. He chose to dedicate himself to the greater good by becoming Iron Man. The Black Widow was a tool of an organization. Technically, you could say she was a villain. When she grew a conscience, she became a super hero. Thor was a spoiled brat who got stripped of his powers. Spider-Man was in it for the money. The list goes on and on. Conscience was what made these people with super powers into super heroes.
None of these people would willingly give up that responsibility, that they have earned with their blood and their grief, to become mere tools of an organization. And that’s why in the Marvel Universe, there would never be a civil war. They would all be on Captain America’s side. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they would all line up to do the government’s bidding. To become mere pawns in the war on terror or whatever the “threat of the week” was.
Maybe they would put aside their conscience.
Now excuse me while I go stand in line for Captain America: Civil War.