I was reading Marvel’s Civil War line of comics, which was originally run back in the year 2007. The story of this particular line of comics is that the United States government has decided to institute a new policy regarding superheroes. The policy requires all persons with superpowers to register their powers and their real identities with the government in order to legally operate as vigilantes. Those who choose keep their identities a secret, as many of them have all along, will be considered dangerous criminals. Those who choose to cling to freedom will be hunted down and either killed or imprisoned in the “Negative Zone”.
The main supporters of the Superhero Registration act are Tony Stark (Iron Man), Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic), and Peter Parker (Spider-Man). They are forced to do battle with Captain America, who, though his identity has always been public, resents the idea that vigilantes fighting for good should be required to endanger themselves through exposure. Essentially, the entire cast of Marvel superpowers has been divided in two, even seeing villains fighting alongside their former nemeses to support the cause of their choice.
Peter Parker at first works under Iron Man, who (as the technocrat of the business empire Stark Enterprises) has been working with the President to build facilities to contain prisoners with superpowers. Iron Man informs Peter that he must follow the rules of the Registration Act in order to show his support. The next day, Spidey calls a press conference during which he unmasks himself in front of the world. In the beginning, he finds it liberating to no longer have to keep his identity a secret. More importantly, though, he finds fulfillment in the fact that, after years and years of being under constant fire from the media and government for being an “illegal vigilante”, he is finally on the “right side” of the law.
Before long, however, Peter finds himself doubting whether this war is doing any good. He takes a trip to Stark’s detainment facility in the Negative Zone, and is informed by Iron Man that “Until they agree to register, they will rot in there for the rest of their natural lives!” Being on the right side of the law suddenly doesn’t seem so just, and after much consideration, Spidey and Iron Man come to blows. Spider-Man proceeds to retreat and find Captain America, who is preparing for the perhaps final battle against the pro-registration forces. He asks Captain America, the symbol of the entire country, what it feels like to fight against the nation with which he was once synonymous in more than name.
Cap responds with a very inspiring quote, which I have taken the liberty of transcribing into plain text:
Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole WORLD tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world– “No, YOU move…”
I found this quote to be jaw-droppingly badass, and very relevant to our world’s current state. It’s always important to remember that, no matter what the law says or what other people try to tell you, there are times when you just have to disregard it all for what you know in your heart to be true. Our founding fathers broke multitudes of laws when they fought to bring the American dream to fruition.
The most compelling part of this entire tale is what how many chords of truth it hits upon. It is the tale of a nation so corrupted that even the living symbol of freedom is forced to fight against it. Cap reminds us of a truth we so often forget: It is the government which exists to protect and serve the people, not the other way around.
Funny how the funnies have more brutal truth in them nowadays than most major news outlets. Funny in a very sad way…
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Original art for the Nerd Corner used with permission by overdrivezero on DeviantArt!