Civil (Ethics) War: A Marvel Comics Event

PSA: may contain spoilers — a lot of them.

With the events of the Civil War happening soon on screen, there is much to go through. Who is on what team? What does this Civil War even mean? Why does Captain America care so much about this Civil War? So many unanswered questions about why the Avengers are being broken up; but, this may answer some of your questions — or try to. For the most part, you’ll have to understand where this began and where this Civil War started. With that information, there may be spoilers because this is being derived from the comics. If you have not read Civil War yet, I suggest you refrain from reading anymore after this paragraph. But, if you don’t mind, go on ahead and let’s get started.

Civil War

Civil War: A Marvel Comics Event (2006-27)
Civil War: A Marvel Comics Event (2006-27)

Civil War (2006-2007) is the Superhero / Superhuman Registration Act that creates drama in the Avengers. This is an act that forces superheroes to register as “living masses of destruction” and even beings like Iron Man who have the use of exotic technology would have to register as well. It requires mandatory registration, there is no getting around it. The act was developed when it was acknowledged that quite a bit of damage was being ensued from the superhumans and was causing turmoil. Hulk recently had a rampage that killed 26 people and the Secret War that had an attack on Manhattan around this time. There was a recent death in the Marvel Universe that led to this act being passed also. The act forces superheroes to comply with unmasking themselves in front of the governments so that officials would be able to identify the superheroes through facial recognition and costumes. All secrecy is gone at that point.

Iron Man feels that it is a good idea that superheroes should register as superhuman / superheroes, it would allow for better protection of themselves and the people of the city. Captain America thinks the opposite, he thinks that it would cause the secret lives of the superheroes to be released, such as wives and children and then would put them in danger. Considering how many enemies that superheroes have, plus HYDRA, it would not end very well. That is where the two sides come into play. There are superheroes that think Iron Man is right in what he is saying and there are superheroes that think Captain America is right and lives would be in jeopardy. But, would they be in jeopardy either way?

Civil War Legislation
Civil War Legislation

Who is on Team Captain America?

Characters in the film on #TeamCap are Hawkeye, Sharon Carter, Falcon, Bucky Barnes, Ant-Man, and Scarlet Witch.

Other characters not in the film that are on Team Captain America are Daredevil, Cable, Luke Cage and Young Avengers.

#Team Cap / Anti-Registration

Familiar faces such as Captain America, Luke Cage, and Falcon require that superheroes deserve secrecy in order to protect certain aspects of their “normal” and “personal” life that they live when they are not saving the world. They should be able to act in whatever means are needed against threats which the emergency services could not handle.

These two sides have some escalation along the way. The anti-registration side continues to fight supervillains as normally told to do so leaving them restrained to be found by authorities. Things escalated even more so when Captain America led his team the anti-registration forces, also known as the Secret Avengers into an ambush that he pro-registration forces were having.

While Captain America was shaking hands with Iron Man as a form of peaceful protest, he disabled his armor and sucker-punched him in the face. That is when a public brawl started between the two sides. It was a battle, a war.

Civil War: A Marvel Comics Event
Civil War: A Marvel Comics Event

Morality over Safety?

Throughout the comics (and soon to be a motion picture) there is going to be a sense of morals that are tested with Captain America and even Iron Man. In the film, those are being tested, especially in terms of Bucky Barnes. Does the constant parental guidance over Bucky cause a sense of cloudiness over Bucky’s mind and morals? He is essentially re-forming his own morals and the way the world is because he has to start all over as well. Even though Captain America means well his constant parental guidance over Bucky causes him to only see Captain America’s views instead of making his own. Bucky was his own person before he was brainwashed and he has to reestablish that sense of what he once knew and what he once thought.

Civil War (2006-07)
Civil War (2006-07)

With Captain America, he has his own sense of morals and ethics already. He believes in the greater good of others and the ability to have that greater good and also be free. He doesn’t want people to be restrained by the government and have to abide by rules of someone else. ‘Constraint’ is something that Captain America does not find okay.

The question that the Civil War comes down to is this: “Is Captain America for the greater good of the public, or essentially is he for his own self-interest?” Captain America has always been a superhero to be for the greater good of the public. He wants to save everyone and provide everyone with a good public figure. Being a father figure to superheroes and to the public as well. But, when it comes to what side he is on with the Civil War what does that mean exactly for what he is fighting for?

That’s easy, he is fighting for the side that wants freedom and secrecy — but, at what cost? Freedom, like the SRA, says is becoming a problem. An issue. It is becoming to the point where people, actual humans, are dying from these superheroes that are supposed to be creating this greater good. Does Captain America realize that freedom comes with a cost and does he realize that freedom is costing human lives at the same time? Now, Captain America is not killing humans and no one on his team is; but, superheroes so exist that kill people and not purposely such as the Hulk. He does not do it on purpose, but he does do it from time to time. Captain America, in a sense, is willing to dismiss human lives to save the secrecy of superheroes / superhumans. Which is good because secrecy is important. In what way does that equal to a human life though?

Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War

Who is on Team Iron Man?

Characters in the film that are on #TeamIronMan are War Machine, Black Widow, Black Panther, the Vision.

The Vision was on Captain’s side in the comics, but they have changed that in the film. Along with Black Panther, who was not in the spotlight, he was up for wildcard with the directors and writers.

Other characters not in the film that are on Team Iron Man are She-Hulk and Mrs. Marvel.

#Team Iron Man / Pro-Registration

Similar faces we have seen before like Iron Man, Ant-Man, and Mr. Fantastic believe that changing the political aspect and the law would be pointless — essentially, a waste of time. And, on top of that, it’s a good idea for superheroes to have a good oversight and proper training. The pro-registration side attempts to find and arrest any superhero who was not registered. And, this is also when Iron Man convinced Spider-Man to reveal his identity, something he tried so hard to maintain.

During this battle, Iron Man thought it was a good idea to find a way to contain the super-people / superheroes unwilling to register. Iron Man called it the Negative Zone; which, was dubbed as “Project 42.” After learning that people / superheroes / superhumans did not want to register they would be imprisoned indefinitely and following this battle between the two sides Spider-Man quit and went to Captain America’s side. Spider-Man did not know this, but Iron Man was using his suit to analyze his powers and think / develop ways to overcome them.

Civil War: A Marvel Comics Event
Civil War: A Marvel Comics Event

Safety over Morals?

This same theme comes into Team Iron Man as well. Is Tony Stark going his own morals for the greater good? Is he moving past his thinking that saving the world is his personal responsibility by willing to work with other heroes and opening up to the public? These questions are unusual for someone like Tony Stark, they are unusual because he is ultimately always for personal gain no matter what.

Civil War (2006-07)
Civil War (2006-07)

With the SRA is Tony thinking about the greater good of the public? Fewer people would die if superheroes / superhumans have control over what exactly they are and getting proper tools to help them with their superpowers. Things like the Secret War and Hulk killing 26 humans would not have happened… would it? Is this a situation that even if the SRA was abided by or not, there are still going to be superhumans / superheroes that do not give a darn about the Act and will move or become stealth and never be found. Since they haven’t registered, they are not in the system because this would be the first time they would have to register to begin with.

This calls a ton of morals into play, especially for Iron Man and Captain America. Are the morals switched? Does Captain America have the best morals as he’s previously had in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the comics as well? And, is Tony, for once, actually thinking about saving humanity or whatever is left of it? Does Iron Man feel accountable for the lives lost in New York during The Avengers and the PTSD he goes through during Iron Man 3?

Then you also have to think about the SRA Act and how it would affect Tony Stark. It would not. Everyone knows Tony Stark is Iron Man. So unmasking himself in front of the government would not affect him in any way; so, that is something to think upon. Is Iron Man really in it for himself or to see who other superheroes are / or superhumans so he knows who is out there?

The End of a Civil War

Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War

The end of the Civil War is something that changed the Marvel Universe for a while. In the end, Tony Stark won, but did he actually win. Captain America surrendered. In the end, Captain America surrendered because he did not want to risk more damage or even bloodshed. So, that leaves you with the question here. At the end of the Civil War was it really Captain America that won? He surrendered because he did not want to risk bloodshed or more damage to anyone because of this war and Iron Man did. So, in the long run, who really won?

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Jacque Venus Tobias

    This article is visually appealing, I really enjoyed your selection of images!

  2. Emily Deibler

    Great work on this one. It was incredibly informative because I went in with no knowledge of the conflict and came out much more informed. It makes me appreciate the characters’ nuances far more.

  3. Zonekey

    The Civil War series broke my heart, but your articles gave some clarity to such a sad string of events. Well done!

  4. Brilliant! I loved your analysis. It was deep, well thought-out, and above all unbiasedly rooted.

  5. Soul Kin

    With our beloved superheroes, they can be either genuine or manipulated to push an alternative agenda.

  6. jame ian

    Lovely stuff. Although I’m amazed that some people are ALREADY moaning that they’ve made Spider-Man look EXACTLY like Spider-Man. Don’t you just love the internet?

  7. Munjeera

    Great article!

  8. Sprague

    It will be interesting to see how the integrate Spider-Man into this. From memory I am sure that he remained quite neutral in the comic book?

    • scole

      That is what I am most excited for, he was very neutral so they might make him pick a side in the movie

  9. I am looking forwar to the sequel of the sequel:

    Captain America meets Irony Man!

    Where the villain gets the hero finally laughed out of his costume.

  10. Marvel have a few films worth of backstory and conflict to build on for Cap and Iron Man, and they seem to be playing up the fact that this is a clash of ideologies as opposed to just a punch up for the sake of it.

    Providing all goes to plan, this could very well turn out to be the best MCU movie yet.

  11. Starkey

    This awesome!! I can’t wait to pour over this.

  12. concetta

    I hope they dont make Tony as a villain like in the Comic.

  13. I started civil war when it came out but once I realized how many different comics it was spread over I felt it was exploitative and quit. I mean over a hundred comics is taking the piss. Bring back the double sized single store issue!!

    • Wilhelm

      When I read it I only read the main comic line instead of all tie-ins. Definitely the best route to go if you aren’t interested in a specific characters point of view.

    • scole

      I bought the civil war graphic novel, it’s the main story and probably what you’ll enjoy the most

  14. I read Civil War a few years ago, but hadn’t really thought about its underlying themes since I heard it would be made into movie form.

  15. Good read and explanation.

  16. I liked the trailer, but feel a bit like I’ve probably seen a better version of the whole concept already with Watchmen… It also feels a little bit like a me too project for marvel to release it in the same year as Batman vs Superman… Anyway misgivings aside the Russo’s made a decent popcorn movie previously with The Winter Soldier so this at the least will be entertaining.

  17. I am siding with Cap. Now while the Avengers may have caused destruction, they still saved lives. And I do agree with Cap saying that they have the safest hands. I mean, come on! If Tony gothis way, then an easily corruptible government could cause way more chaos.

  18. I am soooo hyped for this film! Black Panther is going to be a stand out, just watch.

  19. A great read thanks!

  20. Never read the Civil War story. You got me interested.

  21. Cap seems to be making a utilitarian calculation at the end of Civil War…he seems to have realized the actions of his group were lowering utility overall.

    I never saw Cap as a hardcore deontologist, but the ending of Civil War was pretty jarring (mind you, I wasn’t a fan of Millar’s characterization of Cap throughout…he perhaps forgot he was not writing the ultimate version?) in terms of Cap’s moral perspective.

  22. That moment in the trailer where the characters are running at eachother from imposing sides at the airport is one of the naffest things I’ve seen from these Marvel films,and that is saying alot.

  23. Xenia Hackett

    This makes me extremely excited for Captain America: Civil War.

    • scole

      As I was writing it I was getting excited for it, I’m asking for the day it comes out off at work because I HAVE to see this movie!

  24. I think they will do like in the comics, make Cap out to the good guy, Iron Man’s side built Robo-Thor and killed Foster lets not forget. But then at the end have Capt America surrender and Iron Man win for the greater good.

    • scole

      yeah, that is what i’m hoping for. it’s going to be a surprise to everyone and i’m stoked for it!

  25. Civil war is looking to be very, very special.

  26. Great article. Loved this story line. Ive been trying to decide if i wanted to re-read the run. You made my decision for me.

    • scole

      I’ve recently did it and i have never looked back since, makes me even more excited for the movie

  27. Frederick

    Civil war is my favorite comic arc, and I cried like a baby after Cap died. Even though he is back in the comics I still prefer to believe he stayed dead and that Bucky, after picking up the mantel, was much more symbolic of the current state of America.

  28. I hope they do this story justice with the upcoming Avengers Civil War Movies.

  29. I’m only worried that the movie will have a bias towards one side instead of portraying them in an equal light. The negative zone prison makes me believe that the movie itself will argue for the deontological view, therefore having a consequence on how the viewer’s beliefs end up.

  30. Lexzie

    This was really informative. I think I can safely say I have a better understanding of the central issue presented in “Civil War”.

  31. I think it is hard to say who won. This was a Hero v Hero situation and in those situation the lines of who wins is blurred. Cap surrendered to not go against the beliefs to protect the people.
    On the other hand this really comes into play since it will be similar in the new movie, and the new event later this year, Civil War 2. Although the fights are different it feels like there can be no real winner, even if one side gets their way over another in a Hero v Hero situation.

  32. Civil War can kinda sum up the problem that comics have with continuity and the tone of events. The animosity fostered in Civil War never really feels earned or significant because you know that they will have to make up because of a bigger bad. In the case of comics you had Osborne and in the films, thanks to the Marvel market machine we know Thanos is going to require all attention.

  33. Very interesting article. Hope to see more on this topic.

  34. Great work! This was actually a topic I posted and you claimed, and I was eagerly waiting for what you would write. You hit all the points spot on, and you provided such a thorough and unbiased view for both sides.

  35. This was very informative. Your deconstruction of the material was very analytical! Really good!

  36. Jiraiyan

    Very interesting article. I think the Civil War arc and Movie tackle some of the most interesting topics regarding superheroes and their negative effect on the world.

  37. This seems a bit politicizedz

  38. Sunni Rashad

    Civil War was an interesting parallel with the political landscape of the time. Applying real world logic in superhero universes always leads to some curious scenarios. Such as America having a virtual private army of living nukes.

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