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Remember to Forget – That Time Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man and Yellowjacket Cloned Thor and It Killed Goliath

In this series we spotlight never retconned comic book plot points that I think SHOULD be retconned, or at least completely forgotten.

We continue with the death of Goliath at the hands of a clone of Thor…

At the end of Civil War #3 by Mark Millar, Steve McNiven and Dexter Vines, Thor appeared to return from the dead to join the fight between Captain America’s “Secret Avengers” and Iron Man’s Avengers (Iron Man’s team were in support of a Superhero Registration Act while Captain America’s team were against it)…

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In the next issue, the fight continues with Thor tearing apart Cap’s team. Bill Foster, Goliath, steps in and, well…

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Invisible Woman then splits with Iron Man’s team to allow Cap’s team to escape. This is when we learn that the Thor who just killed Goliath was actually a CLONE of Thor by Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man and Yellowjacket…

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Now here’s the thing. I’m not saying that Reed, Tony and Hank SHOULDN’T have made a clone of Thor. I don’t think it was a great idea, but going with “retcon every idea I disagree with” is not a good approach to things. To wit, I don’t think we need to retcon the time that Thing wore a helmet to cover up his badly scarred face, ya know? So I don’t believe that the clone of Thor is something in and of itself that needs to be retconned. However, the issue is that the clone of Thor killing Golaith happened and the Fantastic Four were not going to break up. So as a result, the whole “Reed cloned Thor and it killed a close, personal friend of the Thing” thing pretty much had to be glossed over, which Dwayne McDuffie did in Fantastic Four #542 (drawn by Mike McKone, Andy Lanning and Cam Smith)…

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That’s the extent of it between the Thing and Reed. They never address it any further (even as the clone of Thor returned to life later on).

Goliath is going to stay dead, so we can’t retcon the WHOLE thing, but I wouldn’t mind some sort of retcon like mind control or something like that to explain how Reed went along with the cloning of Thor. McDuffie essentially retconned pretty much all of Reed’s other actions during Civil War (that’s a subject I’ll address in the future during either an Abandoned Love or an Abandoned an’ Forsaked) but not the cloning of Thor and the death of Bill Foster.

Already it’s pretty much been ignored, and that’s fair enough – but I wouldn’t mind a retcon, as well. They already retconned the Hank Pym who worked on the clone to be a Skrull (although not responsible for the Thor clone going nuts and killing Bill Foster), so why not either:

A. At the very least, that the Skrull was responsible for the Thor clone backfiring, as we already had a reveal courtesy of Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Steve Kurth and Drew Hennessey in Avengers: The Initiative #20 that the Skrull Hank secretly put programming in the clone that allowed it to come back online after being destroyed…

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So why not reveal that the Skrull Hank was the reason why the Thor clone went nuts and killed Bill Foster? It still leaves Reed and Tony responsible for a weird decision like cloning Thor, but not responsible for the actual death of Bill Foster.

or, better yet,

B. That the Skrull used some sort of mind control to compel Tony and Reed into thinking it was a good idea to clone Thor.

Obviously, everyone will just forget that this ever happened, but it just seems a bit odd to me that it is still officially on the books that Reed Richards cloned Thor and it screwed up (which, in and of itself, is a bit weird – Reed tends not to screw up so dramatically when he makes something) and killed one of Ben Grimm’s best friends.

If you have any other suggestions of comic book plots that you think it’d be best to forget, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

87 Comments

Never mind Reed, since when did Tony know crap about cloning? I know that comic-book geniuses tend to be polymaths, but Tony’s always been a machines guy, not life sciences, at least that I recall.
Civil War was great in theory, but the execution was execrable in many ways

Some have already forgotten, some didn’t care to begin with and some have said that Goliath got what was coming to him. For myself the fact that Sue did go back to Reed after cw shows how little respect that the writer have for her character.

I’m not sure it is a good idea to have even more retconning going on when so much already of Civil War turned out not to have the logical consequences that it should have.

And remember kids: Mark Millar has assured us that the pro-reg side were the good guys and in the right!

Everything about Civil War is out-of-character and distasteful. This was one of the many reasons I dropped Marvel – heroes acting like villains, or just arseholes.

I still keep in touch via the library and it doesn’t seem to have gotten any better. The way Reed Richards, Dr Strange, Black Panther, and Tony Stark behave in the New Avengers: Illuminati series is deplorable. And what happened to all the character growth that was given to Namor back in volume one of the Avengers?

They’re well written stories, but I don’t recognise the characters at all. My own fault I suppose for being a bronze-age baby. Both DC and Marvel have become so grim. I’m out of touch.

Thank goodness for reprints.

Actually, this is one of those things I find very difficult to ignore – much more so than you average comic book goof or misguided writer / editorial decision. I’m not a Civil War hater per se – it was an interesting idea, I’d liked it that the sides / arguments weren’t as clear cut as you might think and some of the issues / spin offs / side plots were enjoyable (although some were crap)… but to my mind this was a major plotline, a catalyst for multiple major developments (e.g. from above, Spidey’s doubts about his allegiance to Tony and the pro registration side) that fundamentally altered / destroyed the morale integrity some of my favourite childhood characters – Iron Man and Mister Fantastic (and by association, the FF as a team). That it was more or less glossed over soon after was just as infuriating… and of the three ‘culprits’, they gave the skrull doppelganger ‘out’ to Hank Pym… the character with a history of poor decisions and dubious judgement! They plotted themselves into a corner on this one – accident or no accident, how could Ben be true friends with Reed again after this? The error of judgement in cloning Thor (a dead friend / colleague) to use as a weapon to fight other friends and colleagues and in the process killing one of Ben’s friends on the first ‘field test’ is just too big a thing to ignore and that should have been obvious to writer / editors before the issue was printed – that sort of plot needs to be though through (including implications down the line), at least in sketch form, for years down the line.

Civil War is a bit like Identity Crisis for me. When I read it, I was fairly new to Marvel, so it seemed exciting and interesting with fantastic art. But the more I read of these characters – and the more older books I read – the more it seemed incredibly out-of-character and frankly rather distasteful.

Then I read more Mark Millar, and it all made sense ;-)

As others have noted above, many heroes were out of characters / manipulated by the writer’s for plot purposes in civil war but I think one who came out relatively well was Ben Grimm (bar his emotional denial over the Goliath thing) – his decision to be law abiding but then decide to essentially abstain from hunting his friends seemed in character and an interesting side plot – I was also pleased that in the final battle, it spotlighted the fact that he was more concerned about doing what the heroes were meant to be doing in the first place – protecting the innocent civilians from the fallout of the battle.

David Heslop – I like your comment, I imagine the same might be true for a bunch of people.

“Goliath is going to stay dead”

Is that obvious? It takes very little effort to make the Goliath that was killed an experimental prototype LMD that Hydra snuck in around that time. (Replace the above scenario with your favorite method of replacing way of faking a death.)

I mean, I get that nobody actually cares that much about Goliath as to actually bring him back. But there’s no in-story reason it couldn’t happen.

Everyone complains about One more day, but I think it should have erased the whole civil war. The whole Arc was a disaster. One More Day saved the damn thing for Spider-Man.

It’s a shame no-one cares, seeing as Bill Foster out of costume was one of Marvel’s first black Silver Age characters.

Fraser, is that the Thor Clone in the final image above? Looks like a machine to me…

@Fraser:

It’s important to remember that Ragnarok/Clor wasn’t just any old clone . . . he was a cybernetic clone.

One of the supplemental books published by Marvel around the time of Civil War explained that while Tony was the one who kept the Thor DNA, as a physicist/mechanical engineer/electrical engineer, his role in creating the clone was limited primarily to the cybernetic aspects and the hammer weapon.

Wether it was intentional satire of Civil War or not, it seemed like the entire Marvel line had some kind of commentary against that series’ premise. Dan Slott had the reformed-ish Nazi scientist Baron Blitzschall praise Pym/Skrull-Pym for how “his Aryan god took down that black Goliath”, while Warren Ellis showed American Eagle’s friends commenting on how the government literally took down the biggest minority they could find to scare the rest into submission.

I suppose when the new premise of your superhero line involves half of the heroes embracing realpolitik of a post-9/11 flavor, the writers are going to have to revolt against that simply out of the necessity of having a sympathetic lead for their books.

Remember, Bill Foster was replaced about a year later by his nephew who looked exactly like him. So…there’s that.

The racial subtext is super gross too. You’ve got a black man standing up for his civil rights cut down by three white dudes representing the state, using a clone of a Teutonic god whose control code was Richard Wagner, notoriously one of Hitler’s favorite composers. This story would make way more sense if the three dudes in question were Red Skull, Zemo, and Strucker, not three of Marvel’s oldest heroes.

@ Scooby — your comment pretty much exactly sums up my feelings and actions about Civil War, even to checking in by reading from the library. I will say, though, that Marvel has launched some good books that I do follow now, like Daredevil, Hawkeye and She-Hulk. Typically, these are not tied into “events,” which means they’re actually good. Of course, these titles are usually canceled in fairly short order, but they are fun while they last. In many ways their short publishing spans is a plus — they’re gone before they start to suck.

DC, not so much. “Grim” is the order of the day there.

I’ve said it before, but my comic spending on Wednesdays is the lowest it’s been in decades, and the majority of it is other publishers besides DC and Marvel. I started shedding DC books after Identity Crisis and Marvel mid-way through Civil War.

We could ask why Clore hangs out in amniotic fluid while in costume.

Guh. Civil War. What a piss poor execution of some interesting ideas. I’d like to see what the 616 looks like when Cap, Thor and Spider-Man refuse to work with Mr. Fantastic and Iron Man; the Fantastic Four no longer exists, Spider-Man is a public figure and the X-Men are even further marginalized (AvX never happens!). But none of those plot developments and character arcs were ever going to survive past the last issue of the series, so what was the goddamned point?

Goliath may be back sooner than we think if Wood Harris or TI ends up playing him in the movie.

The funny thing is, I liked the post-civil war status quite a bit. The fifty state initiative was an interesting idea, as was training super-heroes in basic combat, first aid, etc. But Civil War was still a mess. Part of the problem is setting up a supposedly “realistic” political dilemma, then having the characters decide the only way to resolve it is with the usual clashes of titans.

I don’t know if i would want this retconed, I think keeping Reed and Tony as fully cognitive in the making of the Thor clone adds to their characters. It represents a character flaw that makes sense, yes they are good men, but even good men make mistakes. The Thor clone represents their arrogance, and what happens when that arrogance goes too far. The line Miller Wrote ” I Still can’t believe we cloned a God” is so great because it highlights how far away from reality these guys let their egos take them. At this moment Reed and Tony are so in love with how smart they are, so exited for this new future they are going to create that they just loose themselves in it and can’t see that they might be loosing their humanity. These two guys are the smartest guys in the world it makes sense that this would give them the kind of hubris that leads i people getting hurt.

Better idea: Never mention this nonsense again.

Fred –

It would make sense for someone as smart as Reed Richards to be so arrogant IF the character had not been portrayed as wiser than this for 50 years of stories. Hank Pym and Tony Stark arguably have been portrayed as more flawed from the beginning, but Tony Stark has been more of an individualist at least since the 1970s, so it’s still doubtful that he would toe the government line like this.

And that is the thing about Civil War, like many people noted above. Some interesting ideas, but they conflict terribly with how these characters have been portrayed before.

Mark Millar is at his best when he is working with his own characters or with explicitly alternate (Ultimate) versions of Marvel characters. THEN it isn’t so off-putting when all the characters act like self-involved assholes.

They didn’t “retcon” Hank into being a Skrull. It was well established in-story that Hank was snatched and swapped with the Skrullojacket after Avengers Disassembled when Hank and Jan were trying to reconnect while in Europe. It was always part of the story. A retcon would mean that it was changed after it had been established in order to suit a current need, usually by a different writer.

Tony Stark’s involvement in this has kind of been excused away too when his brain got rebooted in Fraction’s Iron Man run. The personality that got reloaded was pre-Civil War, so basically Tony no longer has any first hand knowledge or connection with any of this.

I’ve never liked that Dagger’s costume is torn on her butt. Not only is she posed to emphasize her butt in her skin tight costume, it has to be torn on her but as well. Of course she’s got other tears on her costume, but there is no reason why McNiven had to pose her like that or put that tear there.

David Spofforth

August 20, 2014 at 8:35 am

And Tony had Extremis at the time, which has since been shown to distort normal thinking patterns.

So that still leaves Reed’s culpability to be dealt with.

Nobody should ever be held responsible for anything ever. Especially those in the entertainment industry because they’re clearly gods compared to us mortals. This way of thinking has worked out so well in past and has never ruined or hurt people deeply in any major way, shape or form.

Oh wait, this kind of thinking is what ruins everything. When the publisher or writer isn’t held accountable they get lazy and arrogant. This is why shit like One More Day and Civil War happened because the developers are allowed to shit out what every they feel like are and all of they’re behavior is excused. Same thing with character X a sacred cow. It only leads to Mary Sues and the character being used as an excuse to hand wave the developers laziness.

Adam -

I still remember the She-Hulk issue that mocked Civil War by depicting one panel that was all about She-Hulk’s butt. The caption read something like “That is She-Hulk’s contribution to the Civil War. What an asset!”

The two good things that (eventually) came out of Civil War was the 50 State Initiative and having Steve Rogers as the head of SHIELD. It seems to me that that was the Marvel Universe had been building towards for a long-time. But the execution of Civil War with the strawman arguments (which is pretty much all Mark Millar can write when he injects his politics into comics) and favorite characters acting in an almost unrecognizable fashion I could have done without.

Is that obvious? It takes very little effort to make the Goliath that was killed an experimental prototype LMD that Hydra snuck in around that time. (Replace the above scenario with your favorite method of replacing way of faking a death.)

I mean, I get that nobody actually cares that much about Goliath as to actually bring him back. But there’s no in-story reason it couldn’t happen.

I actually meant the event itself was going to stay put. I wouldn’t be surprised by ANY character being brought back from the dead. What I meant was that the actual event (Thor clone killing Goliath) wasn’t going to go away, since it was such a big part of Civil War. So we wouldn’t see a retcon like “Oh, that never happened.” And therefore, even if Goliath turned out to be, say, a LMD, it doesn’t change Reed making a Thor clone that killed someone, ya know? That it turned out to be an LMD wouldn’t excuse Reed of culpability. Unless, of course, Reed is retconned to KNOW that Goliath was a LMD. Hmmm…I guess that could work.

I always liked Civil War, it actually made me check out more of the Marvel Universe than Spider-Man & Daredevil and led to me collecting Avengers & a whole lot of other Marvel comics. David Heslop’s comment above more-or-less goes for me as well, I came to dislike a lot of Mark Millar’s writing later and I’d agree he erred on several characterizations in Civil War, although for me overall not as much that I dislike the entire event. I’m still pretty positive about it, and reading it with some of the related issues by other writers, such as the ‘Casualties of War’ and the ‘Confession’ one-shots, to me still makes for an overall pretty strong story.

I never had a lot of trouble with Tony and Reed’s behaviour, though; even with what I read of the characters later I’d say they can both be arrogant jerks, and would be able to rationalise a justification of creating the Thor clone. But I fully agree with Brian’s article: the rationalisation was never seen, a behind-the-scenes look of what exactly those guys were thinking of back then would still be welcome.
I’d imagine both of Brian’s suggestions working out nicely: Skrull Pym subtly guiding Extremis-influenced Tony and conflicted Reed (who had this thing going on in JMS’ issues that he somehow calculated the progress of civilization and saw a need to take action) AND Skrull Pym sabotaging the experiment. I’d still like to see it as well.

Note that Tony was not distanced from his actions by subsequent writers. JMS wrote Iron Man visiting the real Thor upon his return, who wasn’t particularly amused at what he’d heard. And I remember a scene in Fraction’s Iron Man after the Stark Disassembled storyline wherein Thor asks him if he would still see himself doing the same things, to which Tony admits, as his memory-reset aside, he’s still the same guy who must have had his reasons.

I wasn’t a fan of the 50 State Initiative. Granted, I did really like the comic Avengers:The Initiative, but the idea I wasn’t crazy about. I liked it better when being an Avenger was at least somewhat of an elite club, despite having members such as D-Man and Dr Druid be part of that club. Now I think literally every hero, and a lot of the villains, in the Marvel U has been an Avenger. It takes away the specialness of it. That was my problem with the whole Batman Inc. idea, too.

My problem with the Fifty State Initiative was that not every state needs a superhero team, and some would need more than one. California should have a San Francisco based team and an LA based team. Texas should have a Dallas based team and a San Antonio based team. Boston’s team should be able to cover all of New England. Philly’s could cover South Jersey and Delaware and Pittsburgh’s could cover West Virginia. Florida should have a Miami team and a Jacksonville team. And so on.

The “best” part is that no one even mentions that Tony and Reed were responsible for the brutal murder of someone. And Bill Foster didn’t get to come back, unlike all the other heroes who have been killed.

…another example of just what a terrible, terrible story Civil War was. Man. Such total garbage. I don’t think a single character was written in-character in the main book. (while other writers did some impressive hoop-jumping in the tie ins to try and make the whole thing make sense)

the McNiven art was sure pretty though…

Why is it that whenever a superhero fucks up the got to fix is a retcon? Why can’t they just write a story where the hero owns up to the stupid shit they do instead of just going it was a skrull/LMD/clone, just to keep them infallible?

Tupper –

First, because the “fuck up” usually sharply contradicts previous characterization. Second, because the writer responsible failed to weigh the long-term consequences.

For instance, considering previous characterization, Iron Man would work better as a leader for the Anti-Reg side, and even if he was Pro-Reg, he’d never okay throwing dissidents in a Negative Zone prison or using serial killers as law enforcers. Reed would likely sit out the whole thing, while trying to legally work against registration. Hank Pym I can see doing a lot of questionable things, though.

In any case there is a vast difference between “allowing a hero to make mistakes” and “allowing a hero to act like a Nazi leader”. So, bring on the retcon.

Goliath is going to stay dead at leas till some one finaly comes along and resurects him or worse has iron man and reid out of guilt do the cloning thing again finaly. for the one bad thing about civil war it kind of made certain characters come off as the big brains jerks .and arrogant like reid and iron man became cloning thor and having him so nasty he killed one of their own. maybe marvel should have reid and iron man make a deal with mephisto and undo the thor clone and bill fosters death ala one more day

renenarciso-

I see what you are saying but Reed has made mistakes before, maybe it was not as explicitly detailed in the writing as it would be today but I think that is a result of the time the stories are written. I always thought Stan wrote Reed to have this kind of aloofness to him sometimes he is has a bit of Dr. Manhattan in him and its the rest of the Four than keep him “Here” if you will. Reed is the leader of the four and he is great no question but even looking at how he solves some problems he has this single mindedness that i think lends it self to this kind of mistake. I don’t think Civil War made any of these guys into bad guys per say but it highlighted some underlined character flaws maybe. I enjoyed the series even when it seemed a little too cynical, it made sense to me. These guys think they are right they think they are fighting for good and evil is defined by their point of view. That kind of mind set just lends it self to this kind of conflict. This was a political comic in many ways right? how many times have we gotten into arguments with our buddies that we absolutely love, because of some political subject. It can be silly and we may act unlike our selves in a moment like that when passion gets the better of you, you say something you regret. But you are still you and you think the better of it later. I don’t know to me this wasn’t out of character but maybe a bit of a misstep on the part of these heroes, It is what makes the story pop for me i guess.

The funny part about Hank Pym being replaced by a Skrull was that Cap’s side infiltrated the Negative Zone prison by having Hulking impersonate Hank. So a Skrull impersonator was impersonated by a (half) Skrull impersonator! Somewhere, Xzibit weeping silently…

Fred -

I agree with your remarks about Reed being a bit aloof, and he was even depicted as more patronizing than the other members of the FF by Stan Lee.

But those same flaws of being a single-minded problem-solver argue against his depiction in Civil War, you know? Reed was never one to get seriously involved. Particularly with a hot potato political issue. When it comes to dealing with ordinary humanity, Reed is a moderate, perhaps too moderate.

Now, Tony Stark. It’s not just Stark doing awful things that gets to me. I would actually accept Tony Stark acting like a huge jerk, but he was on the wrong side in Civil War, given his past history. He is the one that will fight everyone: friends, the goverment, SHIELD, just to stop his armor from being used by anybody else but him. I think he was used as the Pro-Reg big guy just because he is an industrialist, so he must be pro-Establishment, right? But Stark’s long history in the MU is more like his depiction in the movies. He is a cowboy that will not be told what to do by regulating agencies.

I enjoy political stories. I’ve enjoyed Millar’s The Ultimates. But I think he warped the characters in Civil War into the shape he needed to make the political points. The story may say a lot about post-9/11 politics, gun politics, and a host of issues, but it would have worked better with new superheroes created to represent those positions.

Fred, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. As I wrote in my earlier post, I also don’t think that Reed or Tony were necessarily out of character. Their actions could be explained in a way that would make sense for these guys, I think. Unfortunately, no writer ever really attempted to do so for several key actions, like the Thor cloning, and Civil War does suffer from it.

The one bit of characterization in CW that I always had major issue with was one small bit of dialogue for Peter Parker. There’s this scene where Punisher briefly joins the anti-reg rebels, subsequently shoots some villains, and immediately gets his ass kicked by Captain America. Mark Millar felt the need to add one of his typical questioning comments meant to, I guess, add some ‘oomph’ to that scene: he got Peter Parker wondering about Cap kicking the Punisher out of the team as he thought they’re ‘basically the same guy’.
Peter Parker would quite possibly be the last person in the Marvel universe to say that.
It’s just one speech balloon but I really don’t think there’s any speech balloon I dislike more…

The best thing is to just ignore Civil War in its entirety.

Explicitly retconning Goliath’s death is just creating a reminder that Civil War, in all its awful stupidity and awful writing, happened. If you want the character back, just have him show up without explanation and have no one in the books offer an explanation. Don’t do anything to draw attention to Civil War’s existence.

That’s how I deal with Civil War. It’s a blotted out black shadow in history that you just don’t think about, draw attention to, or attempt to look at too closely. (I take a similar approach to everything Bendis writes for Marvel. It is a lot simpler if you just treat everything he writes as an alternate reality that Marvel unfortunately has been printing for years. don’t draw attention to it, don’t think about it, and for heavens sake don’t look at it too closely.)

renenarciso – I found Tony’s actions making a lot more sense with JMS’ preceding Amazing Spider-Man issues and some other titles (I believe Iron Man’s own series, definitely those one-shots I mentioned earlier) taken into account. He starts out as anti-reg, arguing against the law in court, but sees that there is no way to stop it, so he does all he can to take control of it into his own hands.
Granted, I’ve never been an Iron Man fan so I don’t know if it still goes against the way he’d always been written in his own title, but I read a lot of Avengers and I still don’t have a lot of issues with his role in Civil War (besides the fact that especially the main series failed to properly explain the more extreme actions).

Marvel didn’t even be bothered to keep their continuity straight DURING the Civil War. Of course there isn’t going to be an effort to adhere to it afterwards.

Sins Past would be perfect for this column

The better explanation for Tony’s behavior, even more so than the Author Saving Throw; Tony never believed in registration for a second. He only acted like he did so that he could keep the Director of SHIELD job out of the hands of someone truly malicious, while secretly undermining all the actions required of his position. He knew he’d be hated for it and lose all of his friends in the superhero community, but that was the sacrifice he was willing to make. In this light, Tony actually seems far more heroic, because the sacrifice of one’s reputation is even greater than the sacrifice of one’s life. Nobody will ever fully trust Tony again, and the identity as military-industrial profiteer that he worked so hard to dismantle is permanently etched into place. But thanks to him, the superhero community was galvanized against registration enough to be prepared for when a truly malicious person actually stole the job, and ultimately throw out the SHRA for good.

Loraxx J Zynishter

August 20, 2014 at 3:10 pm

I stopped buying Marvel comics because these three clowns were never really taken to task for this one event… This issue pushed all the same buttons that the Michael Brown incident is pushing for me now in real life, but because this is a fictional, super-hero universe, I have an even higher expectation that real justice will be done…which it hasn’t… there hasn’t even really been that much in the way of consequences for Reed, Tony, and Hank within the superhero community… And I know bad things have happened to them, but for me, it’s still not good enough… because, even outside the context of the story, this is always going to read, to me, that the rich, powerful, popular guys can get away with anything, because they’re rich, powerful, and popular…

[T]the sacrifice of one’s reputation is even greater than the sacrifice of one’s life.

I’m not sure I can agree with that part of the argument.

Yeah that part i had issues with . And i strongly disagree with claiming Reed can do no wrong and was brainwashed . There have been enough stories to display he can be a bit of an heartless jerk , when closing himself from his humanity and family . Hell just look at his involvement currently in New Avengers and he illuminati group .

Let’s not also forget that he designed the negative zone prison , a pretty lousy idea and baffling when it comes to human rights , even if things had gone smoothly

I look forward to your column in a few years about how Original Sin was a bad idea – especially the horrible reveal in today’s Sins issue. Just terrible.

I don’t know why Marvel didn’t (doesn’t) say it was Skrull-copies of Richards and Stark and Pym that made the Thor-clone. That way, the Thor-clone is a pure Skrull plot. Skrull-Richards, and others, were kept hidden since the Skrulls hadn’t captured the real ones.

I am just looking at Foster playing poker at Goliath size and wondering if he had control over his powers at the time. I mean, it’s kind of impractical – handling the cards, taking up all this room & table space. How is he even sitting? He’d have to be lying on his stomach in an airplane hangar.

Pretty recently, Agent of Asgard mentioned CloneThor in the first issue, (Loki blamed Iron Man for it, but it was mostly a distraction). And CloneThor’s victim wasn’t mentioned at all.

The Ant Man and Wasp mini-series from 2 or 3 years ago revealed that Goliath’s consciousness was saved and uploaded to a virtual reality program. So, I see no reason why he cannot come back.

Slightly OT, but I’ve noticed TPBs tied to big events like Civil War do not age well. I read a lot of them at my library and if they’re a couple of years old and the event is wrapped up—and it’s obvious it hasn’t changed the MU or DCU forever—they have a kind of pointlessness to them regular TPBs don’t. Possibly everything is So Big and Important and yet it’s obvious in hindsight it wasn’t.

I find it funny that it seems like the same folks that want their comics ‘deep’ and ‘grown up’ ( something I like myself, sometimes) would have their heroes either flawless or their decisions erased, which seems flat to me.

@Fraser: Thanks for that analysis. These “big” event trades have always bothered me, but I never put my finger on why, but you just did. They don’t “mean” anything. Someone further up the thread talked about basically reading them as alternate-universe tales, about characters that are sort-of, kind-of like the ones I know. I find myself doing that a lot, and the fact that these events have no real long-term impact really buttresses that feeling that they’re “imaginary” tales.

Also, I find those trades offered frequently at very deep discounts, while other, more “timeless” runs, never go on sale. My LCS owner says Marvel, in particular, dumps a LOT of these trades for almost nothing. He frequently sells tables full of them at comic shows for $10 (he puts them in the shop from time to time, too, but mostly he uses them to generate traffic at shows).

For instance, considering previous characterization, Iron Man would work better as a leader for the Anti-Reg side, and even if he was Pro-Reg, he’d never okay throwing dissidents in a Negative Zone prison or using serial killers as law enforcers. Reed would likely sit out the whole thing, while trying to legally work against registration. Hank Pym I can see doing a lot of questionable things, though.

Exactly. Iron Man has constantly bucked authority. I can recall many stories when people still thought Iron Man was Stark’s bodyguard, and he would refuse government demands to reveal his identity or submit to arrest regularly. And eventually he had two Armor Wars where he went rogue.

Meanwhile, Captain America has often toed the line and followed orders, even if they were morally ambiguous demands. He’s done lots of work with Shield, has resigned his job as Captain America at government requests, took a job as a policeman because authority figures told him to…

But because the Civil War writers wanted to give the anti-registration side the moral upper ground in the debate, they put Captain America on their side because it would be a stronger “endorsement” than Iron Man. And like you said, it fits neither of their characterization.

Even if they took the time to give a throwaway rationalization like Iron Man saying “I’ve bucked authority and I realize now it was selfish and arrogant and I want to try a different approach now” or had Steve saying “I’ve compromised the integrity of my individual ideals in favor of the larger principles of community and government, but it’s always turned out wrong and this time is just too far.” Even that would have been SOMETHING.

Brian and Fraser –

I couldn’t agree more.

I tried to like Civil War when it was published. But Marvel kept publishing annual “earth-shattering” events that always changed the status quo and completely deleted and replaced the previous event. You know the drill, fool me once…

I no longer see the Marvel and DC Universes as grand unified narratives. I just read some stuff I like and ignore the rest. I treat every run I read as some “alternate universe” telling, particularly stuff that came out after 2004.

@Zarathos

The biggest problem with Reed’s actions is in the mathematics he used.

Reed’s justifications were psychohistory as defined by Isaac Asimov. However Asimov went on to show how psychohistory fails. It can’t handle completely unexpected improbable events. With the Foundation novels, that took the form of the Mule, a mutant who could alter people’s emotions. In the Marvel universe, that is everyday life. Alien invasions, entirely new beings popping out of nowhere, time traveler manipulations, mutants with abilities ranging from coloring their skin to rewriting reality on a global scale…

When dealing with a place like New York, Asimov’s psychohistory on anything beyond the most general level would break on a monthly or even weekly basis. Even the general level would likely break within a year. If you want to allow that Reed somehow manages to predict the unpredictable, then you’d still end up with a host of possible futures. If you want to argue that the Marvel universe is different, because it has repeatedly show itself to have a host of unavoidable futures, it has a host of contradictory unavoidable futures. Reed, of all people, should realize why psychohistory wasn’t going to be reliable.

Civil War is the main reason I’m down to 1 Marvel book a month. It takes the usual “you’ll all forget this in 5 years” attitude, i.e. contempt, and brings it to another level, taking characters that have been portrayed as friends and fellow warriors for decades, and turning them into mortal enemies. To me, Peter Parker outing himself as Spider-Man was the apex of this contempt (making me wonder if Mark Millar had ever read a Spider-Man comic), but Tony and Reed creating Cyber-Thor was a very close second.

This event and others like it show how writers (or their bosses) would much rather break the toys than write good stories.

I would even argue that the Thor clone was one of the greatest victims of Civil War. To be brought to life and just used as a living weapon, a mind-controlled cyborg slave, not as a person, was so sickeningly evil that I could not really see any of the heroes doing something like that. Reed’s tried to help Deathlok in the past, for heaven’s sake, so it’s not like he’s unaware of how horrible that is.

I am happy to brush it under the rug and never think about it again, myself. :)

T. –

Yep. Since the early 1970s, Iron Man has been more the libertarian type – distrustful of government authority, doing his own thing, occasionally even breaking the law to do what he thinks is right – while Captain America is more the liberal one – more willing to cooperate with the government, the highest “rebellion” he can tolerate is simply to walk away.

Someone unaware of the history of the characters would jump to the opposite conclusions, though. “Captain America, liberty and freedom guy, he gotta choose freedom over security! Iron Man, industrialist billionnaire, must be an establishment guy!” So, it may be laziness and ignorance instead of trying to get the more morally upright leader for Anti-Reg, I don’t know.

@T- Steve could go either- for every story where he supports government authority, there’s another where he opposes a government decision or agent that he considers questionable. Tony, OTOH, should definitely be anti-reg.

Michael –

Cap has gone the outlaw route a few times that I remember (Secret Empire, Waid’s run), but he is always uncomfortable doing it, most times he is just trying to fight villains bent on ruining his reputation or fighting rogue elements inside the government. I don’t quite see him claiming the leadership of a rebellion against the USA with the gusto and unwillingness to compromise that he is showing in Civil War.

But yeah, I can sooner see him as Anti-Reg than I can see Iron Man as Pro-Reg.

I dont agree that Reed would do this BUT he did mutate his closest friends and family because he made a mistake. Big intellect, ego and abilities=mistakes

I couldn’t see why Cap would need to register at all. They established during Gruenwald run that “Captain America” is an official position answering to the U.S. government so he’s already as good as registered.
Also the fact that it didn’t occur to him until the end of the event that “Hmm, maybe if I spoke up and fought this in court using my moral authority as Captain America, that would count for something.”

The problem with Civil War boils right down to the fact the Mark Miller either doesn’t have an inkling of how the law works, or just does not care. To wit, paraphrasing a scene from the very first issue of that miniseries…

S.H.I.E.L.D.: Captain America, we want to know if you will help us to enforce the Superhuman Registration Act which, we hasten to add, is not yet the law, but it is very likely that it will be passed by Congress and signed by the President very soon now.

Captain America: No, I will not help you.

S.H.I.E.L.D.: You’re under arrest! Shoot him!

Miller, not to mention his editors, seem to have forgotten that you can not arrest someone for breaking a law that has not even gone into effect yet just because you assume at some point in the near future that it will be. If Miller is going to get something that incredibly simple and basic so horribly wrong, well then it is absolutely no surprise that he got everything else regarding the American legal system so completely incorrect.

Ben –

Millar wanted conflict at all costs. If he had to disregard the American legal system, basic logic, or decades-old characterization, so be it.

Seth -

Reed Richards in the first FF story, that is. He’s been depicted as wiser than this in all the rest of the Stan and Jack’s run. After that, Reed as the screw-up only made one appearance with Gerry Conway.

And that is a problem I have with Millar, Bendis and a few other writers. It seems like they’ve read only the first few issues with a character (hubristic Reed from FF#1, military-industrial Stark from Tales of Suspense, air-headed Wasp from early Avengers), and disregard decades of characterization that have matured those characters.

It just goes to show in the column on X-Men and Avengers, the discussion we had where FF vs. X-Men actually had Reed right in character. Dude isn’t that far off from Doom. (And David, I think you’re right…creating a clone just to be a gun is pretty evil…especially in a world with so many clones with lives of their own).

But really, renenarciso and T stole all my thunder….the character assassination of this story is done in by the very first divide where they completely flipped flopped the sides Stark and Rogers should take, which is particularly galling since they kept insisting both sides had a point, but had to stack the deck on which side was “right.” But then it’s been a LONG time since anyone has shown they can write Iron Man, a corporate industrialist who’s smart, handsome, and rich, as anything but a bad guy. (Even if you think that all business is evil, would that be the unique hook for the character, that he’s the hero??) Can’t wait for Superior Iron Man. Because NOW he’s going to be a REAL asshole. Unlike…what, exactly?

@Adam-

Remember, Bill Foster was replaced about a year later by his nephew who looked exactly like him. So…there’s that.

So you’re saying they all look alike? ;-)

@Adam Farrar- I immediately noticed looking over these pages the tortured angle Niven used to show off Dagger’s butt (I mean, that outfit, it’s a nice butt, but yeesh), and how it had to have a tear right on it. Look at Cap getting carried around….uniform a shambles, but no tears anywhere embarrassing.

And I wish Neil Kapit had written Civil War.

The other interesting side of this is that when Thor came back and found out about this – he was FURIOUS…. at Tony. Reed and Hank both got passes apparently?

Y’know, a lot of you are putting the onus on Millar, and while it’s probably deserved, there are these people at comic book companies called “editors” who are, in theory, supposed to watch over the comics that are put out and all. So it’s not like Millar was able to just say “hahaha! now my grand plans for the Marvel U are able to be put into action! Screw the past characterizations!” The editors let him go that route.

True, Travis. All too true. Actually, I don’t think the editors let him, I think the editors asked him to. Controversy and nerd rage make the stories talked about and that sells books as much or more than quality… :(

Bill Foster does not have a civil right to use his giantness to punch people.

Although I am curious about the illegal empowerment to create Killer God Cyborgs that murder Giant Black People.

Steve Englehart did such a great job bringing back Foster in WCA Annual #3, with increased brain power…but we never got to witness any of that progression.

Travis, I think that at the massive company-wide event-level, editors just coordinate things. Superstar writers and artists thrash the stories out with the publisher, and that’s it. Getting media coverage and big sales trumps telling a coherent story every time.

Travis, I think that at the massive company-wide event-level, editors just coordinate things. Superstar writers and artists thrash the stories out with the publisher, and that’s it. Getting media coverage and big sales trumps telling a coherent story every time.

The plotting of these major events always include editors heavily. That’s not to say that the ideas aren’t generally derived from the writers, of course, but outside of perhaps Grant Morrison on Final Crisis and some other early ones (like Jim Shooter on Secret Wars II – being in charge has its privileges), these things are very much group-plotted.

Why is it that whenever a superhero fucks up the got to fix is a retcon? Why can’t they just write a story where the hero owns up to the stupid shit they do instead of just going it was a skrull/LMD/clone, just to keep them infallible?

While what you describe seems to be the rule, there are a couple of notable exceptions:

1) Peter Parker – no one has brought back Uncle Ben from the dead and we’ve seen how the guilt of and the lesson learned (“with great power comes great responsibility”) from his uncle’s death has been a driving force for Spider-Man.

2) Robbie Baldwin (formerly Speedball now Penance) – his entire story arc during and post-Civil War was about trying to live with the guilt of the town that was destroyed because his team screwed up.

Those are the only two I can think of off the top of my head but there may be others.

Millar wanted conflict at all costs. If he had to disregard the American legal system, basic logic, or decades-old characterization, so be it.

It never made sense to me that whichever hero who was in charge of enforcing compliance with the registration act would immediately target the people he worked alongside for years instead of saying “okay since we only have so many resources at our disposal, instead of going after people who are busy saving lives and saving the world, we’re going to go after villains first and when they’re all locked away in the Negative Zone, then we’ll visit the issue of the people who other than being unregistered aren’t otherwise breaking the law.” That’s pretty much Prosecutorial Discretion 101 and by the time you get around to the incarcerating the last of the villains (if ever) the political landscape is likely changed enough that the law could be modified or repealed.

Also I’d think that such a law would have some sort of “grandfather clause” (e.g. if you’ve been publicly operating for ten years or more, you’re exempt from registration) since one of the primary purposes seemed to be the provide training for inexperienced heroes with dangerous powers to prevent another Stamford disaster.

Or offer some sort of indemnification provision as an incentive (like in “The Incredibles”) where if you agree to registration, training and follow certain rules, you’ll be protected from liability or have some sort of qualified immunity but anyone who doesn’t register is on their own without any sort of legal protection.

See, I’ve just put more thought into creating and implementing a more workable law in five minutes then people who have been talking about Mutant Registration Acts and Super Power Registration Acts have done for three decades.

Civil War was rather odd int hat the individual tie-in authors seemed to have a lot of leeway in interpreting the main story, which meant that the registration law and even the 42 prison were handled very differently across titles. Sometimes it was presented as a sort of draft, and other times as a “register and train or stop using your powers/gimmicks/costumed persona” kind of system.

Based on the main series, Millar intended the “register or quit” interpretation, though he still made the actions of the Pro-Reg side absurdly over-the-top and ignored some of the more questionable ramifications of the registration act. (When it came time to tarnish the anti-Reg side, he had them do bizarre things like create cover identities that they immediately lost and recruit the Punisher — who by most definitions wouldn’t have a dog in the fight and, in any case, quickly gunned down some minor-league villains to everyone’s inexplicable shock and surprise.) Additionally, the main series rather unconvincingly handwaves the “villains” side of the question. It’s said at one point that Iron Man and the unregistered heroes are unusually active, making things *tougher* on the baddies somehow. (It also manages to completely forget about Nitro, the guy who actually blew up the school.) As with a lot of Millar’s later work, the series seems to be so focused on its set pieces and big moments that the rest of the plot is a kind of throwaway. And the “big moments” often have rathe run comfortable subtext, which comes across as either carelessness or, less charitably, deliberate but juvenile shock tactics.

Perhaps because the main event was rather incoherent, the tie-ins, including the companion miniseries Front Line, had a tough time making anything consistent out of it, and tended to make the pro-Reg characters look bad. J. Michael Straczynski, for one, played up Tony Stark’s manipulations and wrote a rather appalling motivation for Reed Richards, who actually defends the blacklists and HUAC hearings of the 1950s by way of *supporting* Tony’s vision.

And the various follow-up series didn’t help much either. The Initiative went with the “draft” interpretation and gave us idealistic kids being ground up and spat out by anti-superhero bigot Henry Gyrich and his literal Nazi subordinate. Thunderbolts presented a propaganda machine so effective that the public were willing to see Norman Osborn as a hero and cheer for commercials in which Captain America is labeled a terrorist while the likes of Venom and a newly-unreformed Moonstone are played as America’s greatest heroes. Even Bendis’s Mighty Avengers tended to have Iron Man’s new official team make the sorts of mistakes the Registration Act was supposed to address, before pivoting into Secret Invasion (the fall of Tony Stark) and then transforming into Dark Avengers (the SHRA puts the Green Goblin in charge.

It’s really weird, a crossover whose main writer seemed intent on producing his favored status quo only for nearly every other writer in the company to undermine that central idea entirely. For his part, Millar seemed to ignore both the post-CW status quo and Dark Reign during his next work set in Marvel’s continuity, a truncated run on Fantastic Four with Bryan Hitch. In the end, Marvel devoted an entire event to undoing pretty much everything from Civil War…two, if you count the reversion in Spider-Man’s situation.

Omar -

In short, CIVIL WAR was a big mess. :)

I’d say the same of SECRET INVASION, after which I just completely gave up on big events.

:Those are the only two I can think of off the top of my head but there may be others.”
You forgot about Hank hitting Jan? You’re the only fan in the world to do so.

It didn’t help that the law apparently defined “super hero” as “whatever we say it is.” So we have Howard the Duck, who has no super-powers, dealing with registration, and Shang-Chi, who’s nothing but a good martial artist (without even Iron Fist’s mystical abilities) has to register too (or so one Heroes for Hire asserted). Not that this is unique to CW, Legends had the same problem a couple of decades earlier.
TW yes, that sounds a lot better than the CW we got.

My view of Civil War is that the popularity of the writer (and the prospect of sales) trumped the integrity of the characters for Marvel.

DC had done it a few years earlier with Identity Crisis with the same formula: Big Name Writer Tells HIS Story Using THEIR Characters.

Big sales happen but some characters wind up tainted by the story. O

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