With their super powers and skin-tight costumes, superheroes are meant to be a little, well, unbelievable. Now Disney’s Marvel wants to make movie fans accept them as if they had to live with real-world consequences.
By announcing its intention to launch a Hollywood take on “Civil War,” the seven-issue miniseries Marvel’s comics-publishing unit let loose in 2006 and 2007, Disney will have to hope comic-book fans like their out-of-this-world heroics leavened with a little reality. The series asks what might happen if the U.S. government demanded mystery men and women register their identities so they can be tracked and monitored, which results in a schism between some of the best-known characters in the Marvel pantheon: Captain America, Luke Cage and Spider-Man are against the idea, while Iron Man and Mister Fantastic think it’s a notion whose time has come.
Will fans of the blockbuster “Avengers” series of movies bite? Below, a few issues (not the printed kind) to consider:
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*Real life has intruded upon the comics before… Marvel isn’t the first to inject a little reality into the world of costumed adventuring. Rival DC Comics, owned by Time Warner, has used the “what if our heroes had to deal with real life” theme in some of its most memorable works. In the 1970s, writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams crafted a series of comics featuring Green Arrow and Green Lantern taking a trip across America and forced to deal with the problems of poverty, racism and drug abuse (even Green Arrow’s sidekick developed a heroin addiction). In 2004, writer Brad Meltzer and artist Rags Morales unveiled “Identity Crisis,” which forced the Justice League and other heroes to deal with the fact that their loved ones would be natural targets for anyone who wanted to gain revenge on them (the Elongated Man’s wife was among the casualties).
*Captain America faces death…. The Star-Spangled Avenger can face down enemy spies, weapons of mass destruction, even kooky villains like Batroc the Leaper (don’t ask) .But can he escape death ordered by the company that publishes his adventures? As part of the “Civil War” storyline, Captain America is assassinated after he is taken into custody by government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. (don’t worry, kids: he comes back like every other dead superhero). Can Marvel keep one of its more successful movie franchises going if the hero at the center of the thing is dead, lost, or –shudder – replaced by another actor?
*There’s another big superhero battle brewing a few weeks earlier…. Just as “Civil War” will show Captain America taking on Iron Man, DC Comics has plans for something similar. “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is expected to launch in theaters on March 25, 2016, while “Captain America 3,” which will kick off the “Civil War” storyline, is supposed to debut May 6, 2016. Will fans line up for both?
*The pivotal event that kicks off “Civil War” features a bunch of C-listers…. At the heart of the debate in “Civil War” is an ill-fated attempt by a group of lesser-known Marvel heroes known as the New Warriors (Namorita and Speedball are among their ranks) to tackle villain Nitro in Stamford, Conn. As a result of the battle, the northeastern city is decimated and hundreds are killed. Will comics fans spend their social-media time trying to figure out who will be cast as some of these younger unknowns?
*Marvel may have to unveil dozens of new Avengers… Just as Captain America and Iron Man split, so too does Marvel’s best-known super-team, the Avengers. Different teams sprout up around each hero. On Cap’s side: Daredevil, Luke Cage, The Falcon, Black Panther and Hulkling. On Iron Man’s: Ms. Marvel, Ares and Black Widow.