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Civil War General ? Part 2

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In most wars, it would be impossible to get real insight from the generals controlling the action.  But luckily, the only American Civil War being fought this year is taking place in the Marvel Universe.  And the man presiding over the whole thing, moving pieces around as he sees fit is Tom Brevoort, editor extraordinaire.  Tom was nice enough to sit down with Broken Frontier and talk about the buildup and execution of issue #1 of Marvel’s Civil War.

Part One

BROKEN FRONTIER: Let’s start with the end of Civil War #1 and the state of the Marvel Universe since, specifically in regards to Captain America.  How did things escalate so fast with him?  It would seem that even though the Superhero Registration Act (SHRA) was on its way to being passed—it was not law yet and he was one of the country's only super heroes that was already registered (public identity, employed by S.H.I.E.L.D.), yet in between issues he went from being the beacon of America to its most wanted fugitive...

TOM BREVOORT: Well, yes, that's true. I think things escalated as quickly as they did in that scene because of the pre-existing tension between Cap and Maria Hill that's been building and building throughout the run of NEW AVENGERS. And Cap going underground is a political statement as much as anything else, a reflection of his personal beliefs. Given that, it's not surprising that his decision would be in the public spotlight, and be very much a hot-button issue between those who agree with the Registration Act and those who are made uneasy by it.

BF: Now, very early in Civil War #2 we find out that Captain America has been joined in his "Resistance" by some other heroes.  Let's quickly talk about these heroes and why they would join Cap: we see Luke Cage, Daredevil, Dagger, Cable, and Falcon.  Why these particular heroes? 

Falcon is/has been a S.H.I.E.L.D. employee; Cage is a very public figure; Daredevil... well just discussing him opens about 10 cans of worms; and Cable has been building his own "utopia" away from America and has a persona that opens up almost as many questions as Daredevil.  Can you shed a little light on why these heroes were selected to be on his side?

TB: I can, but this is all really covered much more in depth elsewhere, particularly in NEW AVENGERS #21 and 22. In any case, I would think that the commonality between those heroes is relatively self-evident. What Cap is really building more than anything else is a support group for those characters who want to keep doing the job, but choose not to register.

BF: Any hints as to who that Daredevil actually is? Pretty please?

TB: Sure: read DAREDEVIL by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark.

BF: Marvel has made it very clear that part of the hoped result from Civil War is to bring in new readers.  Now, while most of the heroes in this series have been Marvel mainstays that would be recognizable to the very casual fan, the inclusion of the Young Avengers strays from that as they are a rather new Marvel property.  Was there any worry about including such unknown characters as a pivotal part of this story?  And what about any upcoming repercussions about government officials firing a missile at a group of teenagers?

TB: No, no worries at all. To the man on the street, most of these characters are going to be new. We're going to be playing with the whole of the Marvel Universe in this series before all is said and done, so you can expect to see many more lesser-known characters along the way, as well as the mainstays you'd expect.

As for the SHIELD guys firing a missile, I think you're maybe misreading the sequence. We see the helicopter fire, in the next panel we see the gas canisters fly into the room at Patriot's feet, and after a one-panel reaction shot from Patriot, we see the gas explode outward. It's a passive restraint system, and not excessive in the least, given the circumstances.

BF: The Fantastic Four has gone through many family crises through the years, but this one seems to be causing some serious dissention. Reed's interests in what’s going on seem to stem purely from his intellectual side and all the new inventions he gets to dig up, but Sue's interests are her brother's safety—that panel with Ben and the kids in particular seemed to signify something ominous concerning Johnny. Still, disagreements within the family are nothing new.  What separates this one from the rest?

TB: I'd say that the overall context and backdrop against which it's playing out is what's going to separate this one from any previous disagreements. And these issues will wind up explored in much greater depth in Straczynski's FANTASTIC FOUR tie-in issues, where we'll have more space to devote to them.

BF: In this issue, we do see some heroes joining together to take down a Doombot with people cheering them on.  Iron Man is one of the heroes leading this particular charge and even makes the victory announcement in the end. However, this scene brings up 2 questions:

First, would public opinion really swing back in their favor that fast?

TB: Yes, these are heroes that have come out in favor of registration, but they're the same heroes that in the last few weeks have been attacked (She-Hulk) and spit on (Iron Man as Tony).  The media certainly has a magnificent amount of power over public perception, but this is almost akin to saying that if the real-life media started supporting Barry Bonds as a hero he would no longer get booed in every baseball stadium around the country.

There was a Doombot rampaging through downtown Manhattan, and these heroes showed up and stopped it from killing or injuring everyone who was present. Of course the crowds that are on site are going to cheer them, regardless of where they might stand on the issue of Superhuman Registration. You'd cheer almost anybody in that situation—police, fire fighters, rescue workers, etc.

BF: Second, Iron Man's immediate reaction to their success is to reference the crowd's positive reaction to them.  Is Tony Stark, the supposed futurist, really that shallow that his definition of a hero includes "having a positive Q rating?"

TB: No, but Tony the futurist realizes that, in order to operate effectively in the world of the 21st century, super heroes need the trust of the public. It's all part of his larger design for restructuring how the superhuman community operates—but this timetable wouldn't have been necessary in the first place had the Stamford incident not happened.

While testifying before Congress, Tony almost got the Registration Act back-burnered and off the table. It was public opinion that turned that situation around, and it's public faith that needs to be won back.

BF: Alright, so there's a 600lb gorilla sitting in the room and I think it's time to discuss him:  the reaction to Peter Parker unmasking himself. How hard of a decision was this?  Joe Quesada has been very adamant recently about wanting to bring Peter back to his roots, i.e. eliminating the marriage and having his secret identity get in the way of his actual life.  He has explicitly stated that there are more stories to be told with Peter in that state than there are with him married. Yet, this seems to be moving in the opposite direction as you may be hard pressed to come up with more story ideas involving an unmasked Spider-Man than you can with a masked Peter Parker. 

Now, we have been teased in all the preview artwork that shows him—literally—squarely in the middle of this Civil War.  Any hints on what the plans for Spider-Man are?  And can you promise that in one year we won't be getting one of those issues where Peter shows up for something with Spider-Man next to him saying "It was just a ruse all along."?

TB: I can tell you that this was an almost inevitable outgrowth of where Spidey wound up in CIVIL WAR, and that readers will see the obvious ramifications of this decision playing out in all three Spidey books throughout the rest of the year, at least—not only in JMS's AMAZING, but also in Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's SENSATIONAL and Peter David's FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD. Beyond that, there's not too much I can say, other than AMAZING #533 picks up at the precise moment CIVIL WAR #2 leaves off, and it should give everybody a pretty good idea of where the cards are going to fall for the immediate future.

And of course there's no way I can assure you that there's never going to be a take-back on this—if nothing else, there's no guarantee that any of the people who are at Marvel now are still going to be at Marvel in a year, a month, a week. What I can say, though, is that the aftershocks of this decision are going to be playing out for Spidey throughout the rest of this year and well into 2007. That’s the best I can give you, I'm afraid.

BF: How does this affect his relationship with all his current supporting characters?  MJ and Aunt May supported his decision, with May even telling him outright she wanted him to unmask, but those two have seemingly followed him into his new life as an Avenger. What happens now with his interaction with Jonah and the rest of the Daily Bugle staff?  Does he even have the ability to remain a school teacher?

TB: Again, I have to refer you to AMAZING #533, and then SENSATIONAL #28-31 and FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD #11-13. It's all going to be pretty interesting, to say the least.

BF: This brings up my final question: can we get some more detail about the SHRA?  Now, I don't want ultra specifics, but up until now all we know is that it requires Superhumans to register with S.H.I.E.L.D. and receive a paycheck for their undertakings.  How big is that paycheck?  Is it enough for these heroes to give up their day jobs and go hero-ing full time?  Does it put them on call to the government?  Do they now have to work in regimented shifts and specific areas of the country?  And how long do the heroes have to register?  They obviously could not be arrested for not registering before the Act became a law, so how much of a grace period are they given to come in and register?  And what about the training they are supposed to be given?  The SHRA just became a law in the Marvel Universe, affecting every hero, and readers barely know more than just the very simple basics…

TB: You'll get more specifics as more CIVIL WAR tie-in books become available—the law only passed 12 pages into CIVIL WAR #2, which just went on sale, so I don't think it's entirely reasonable that readers should immediately know every provision the Act contains. It's a story, give it room to be told.

The Registration Act requires anyone possessing superhuman abilities to register themselves with the authorities. If a given individual wants to pursue a career as an active superhero, they would need to pass a battery of tests displaying proficiency in the use of their abilities and be certified as a licensed super hero. Appropriate training would be provided for those superhumans who wish to enter the program, but who do not display the necessary skills to become licensed superheroes.

Registration is an open port of call—so long as you're not apprehended in the commission of a criminal act, you could conceivably register a month from now, same as if you'd just been bitten by a radioactive spider. Unregistered heroes caught operating, however, are viewed as "unregistered combatants", and treated no differently than any other criminal—as though they were using a gun in the commission of a crime.

Federalized super heroes would receive a government paycheck similar in amount to the pay scale of a police officer or federal agent, with appropriate levels of pay advancement within the "ranks." Yes, there might be specific areas a given hero would be expected to operate in, similar to a police officer having jurisdiction within a given precinct.

This wraps up our discussion of Civil War #2. Next month: round three, with more shocking revelations to dig into, we’re sure…

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