BearSleuth Opinion Piece: Why was Marvel’s Civil War so successful?

There is no doubt about it, Marvel’s Civil War was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, event in comic books from the last decade. In fact, it went on to influence the Marvel universe all the way up until Marvel Now and in some ways it’s influences can still be felt. Next year we are getting Captain America: Civil War which, although it’s not going to be very close to the original, will be a real treat for fans of the event. Just next month we are also getting a Secret Wars series entitled Civil War which is already shaping up to be an extremely successful and well written pseudo-continuation of the Civil War storyline. The point is, Civil War was huge, is huge, and will always be bloody huge. But why? What did it do that other books and cross over events didn’t?

Civil_War_Vol_1_2_TextlessPicture Source: [Accessed 13/06/2015]

There is so much material here that it could be formed into an entire book, which might happen one day, but at it’s heart Civil War works, or at least I think it works, because it plays with main themes from three eras of American political upheaval; The American Civil War, McCarthyism and Post-Nine-Eleven fear. By combining aspects from these three historic periods and mixing it with some Marvel Universe landmarks (the revelation of Spiderman as Peter Parker and the Superhuman registration act as a whole) Civil War becomes firmly cemented as drama-filled piece of comic book history right from the get-go. But it doesn’t stop there.

The Debate

In writing Civil War Mark Millar also had a stroke of genius, he created a debate. Super human registration wasn’t a new concept, it had been discussed in both Watchmen and the Incredibles but in both cases we were presented with a bias. In Watchmen we are shown that it was basically a good thing because all superheroes are a little nuts and in the Incredibles we are shown that it maybe wasn’t the best idea as it left the heroes vulnerable, but what is the message in Civil War?

In the main graphic novel there are characters with bias presented, but on both sides, the reader can understand why each side is going down the path it’s going down and each side has a strong case. This has led to more than a few heated debates between me and my friends in the past. There is an argument that the saga leans a little heavy on Captain America’s side but I truly believe that is because the rest of the Marvel universe is leaning so heavily on Tony’s side that the audience need more from Captain America to convince them that his side might be right.


Picture Source: [Accessed 13/06/2015]

Tying it all together

The debate is fantastic because, as any blogger or writer knows, controversy generates sales and more sales mean more people are in on the debate which means even more controversy. This then drove the next part of Marvel’s master plan, the tie-ins. In recent years, it’s become pretty standard fare to have tie-in books to main Marvel and DC events but this wasn’t always the way. To my mind, apart from maybe House of M, Marvel had never had an event which had had a tie-in book from each of their main series before Civil War. I suspect this was because before Civil War there was no guarantee the audience would go in for it, but because Civil War presented a debate this made people want to know more.

Most reasonable people cannot form an opinion on a subject of political interest without knowing all the facts. This made fans and new readers alike want to learn more. Everyone wanted to know what Spiderman thought about it all, they wanted to know whether Tony and Steve where having secret war summits and they wanted to know what was going to happened to Nitro after the events of the first issue. This is why books like Amazing Spiderman Civil War and Front Lines sold almost as much as the main series.

Normally, at the end of my opinion pieces I put a joke or a snarky little comment but to today I want to leave you all with a question, a question that answers the question at the top of this article. Whose side are you on?

One thought on “BearSleuth Opinion Piece: Why was Marvel’s Civil War so successful?

  1. I was always on Cap’s before I even knew what side he was on, because I’ve never been a big fan of Iron Man. However, after reading some of Civil War, I was rooting for Cap.

    can you believe that although I own all of Civil War, I’ve yet to read it? Probably should drag it out of the long boxes…


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