This is the big one. No matter what you may think of the concept. No matter what you might think of the series. This was the first comic book arc to really break the Internet. The Civil War event was the first Marvel event for the Internet age, dealing with issues such the patriot act and personal privacy. These issues were effecting everyone and so Civil War hit the cultural zeitgeist dead on and immediately found its way into the pantheon of comic book greatness. With Captain America: Civil War coming out soon, I’m going to examine why this series is held in such high regard whilst other fans have called it out for being extremely weak, but to do that we need to jump back to the road to civil war.
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Picture the scene, we’re at a Marvel retreat in 2005 with every major writer and artist working for the company at the time. The editors demand a big event, something to really shake up the Marvel Universe, everyone breaks off and starts discussing their ideas. Mark Millar sidles over to Brian Michael Bendis, who is spit-balling with a few other writers about an event he’s calling ‘Avengers vs Shield’. Millar listens for awhile and then suggests that the series could be more fun if there were heroes on both sides of the split. What if some heroes stand with the government while others defy it? What if the leader of the opposition was Captain America, a man who bled red, white and blue while the defender of the government was a maverick such as Tony Stark? With these questions Civil War was born and the entire room of writers and artists sparked into life with every one pitching tie-ins or where they thought their heroes would stand. At that meeting Mark Millar and the editorial team knew they were onto something special.
Picture Source: http://uthmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/marvel-civil-war.jpg [Accessed: 09/03/2016]
Then the build up kicked it. Spider-Man and Tony Stark found themselves in Washington dealing with government unease. Powerful heroes met in secret to resolve the worlds problems, they shoot down Tony’s idea of a registration act but he tells them it’s only a matter of time. Wolverine is seen threatening the president on the news. Hulk levels Las Vegas and is shoot into space for the chaos and damage he has caused. The Marvel Universe turned into a powder keg ready to explode. Marketing started to appear in comic book stores and fans started to guess and second guess what was about to happen. Some fans theorised that Marvel wouldn’t want to have heroes fighting heroes. This was just going to be one of those little fights characters have before they team up, no heroes would really get injured. Other fans wanted to see the Marvel Universe torn in two with repercussions lasting forever. Both groups would be surprised when the summer of 2006 came around.
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The Civil War series sold big. At the time comics were on a come back tour after their decline in the late nineties. Every publishing house was trying to come out with something that would sell and Marvel seemed to have cracked it. The first three issues of the series each sold around 260,000 issues and every issue was top of the sales charts for its month of release. This spike in sales continued across to the tie-in books. This was the series’ greatest success as fans wanted to see the thought process behind each of their favourite heroes decisions. Marvel were riding high and the fans were loving it. This continued until early 2007 when the main arc of the Civil War drew to a close.
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It was here that fans started to complain, the series had seen a back and fourth between two great forces and then Captain America had seemed to suddenly give in. Some claimed the book had taken an easy out and that it had finished all too soon. Others said that Marvel had played it safe, with only a few character deaths and no big losses, Captain America would go on to die soon after the end of the series but not during the event. First the fan community split and then decent started to spring up from critics. There were still many supporters of the series but this was more or less a fifty-fifty split.
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Personally, I believe the problem lay in the sheer size of the series. This was the first event that got the fully attention of the media, general public and Internet. Many commenters and reviewers were tackling comics for the first time and others were trying to placate or vindicate large followings. But the question remains, was Civil War a good story? I believe it was, it was certainly successful and it sparked debate. In the coming years it would be the paragon that other events aimed for, many series wanted to raise similar points and none would go on to do the job as well. But what happens when a hero falls? Next week on Comic History we’ll be looking at Fallen Son: The Death Of Captain America.
…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Friday for a new article from the Covert Coot!!!