By now, everyone has calmed down from Marvel Studios big presentation from yesterday. Comic book fans are greeting the announcement that we will be seeing a film version of Civil War and Infinity War with either a feeling of great excitement of overwhelming dread. Non-comic book fans might be wondering what all the hype is all about. For those in the latter category, we here at FilmBuffOnline will give you a primer on the comic book events that will inspire the forthcoming movies and some talking points you can use with your comic book loving friends.
Creators: Main series: Mark Millar and Steve McNiven. Auxiliary Series: Various.
Plot: After a series of superhero-related disasters that ended in human fatalities, ranging from 26 dead in a Hulk rampage in Las Vegas to over 600 dead, including a lot of school children, in a battle between the New Warriors and Nitro In Stamford, Connecticut that ended very badly, Tony Stark spearheads an initiative to register superhumans so the government can more closely monitor their activities. This doesn’t sit well with many heroes, especially Captain America, who feel the “Superhuman Registration Act” is a violation of their civil rights. The disagreement rises to a fever pitch and then to violence. Lives are lost, identities are revealed, and friendships are torn asunder.
Why it is important: Well, it is inexplicably popular. Granted, it examined a real world issue in a post-9/11 America–if sacrificing individual liberties for the sake of safety is a good idea–in a major event series by one of the big two comic book publishers, something that should be commended. But it was also a series that sacrificed its characters for the sake of the plot. For instance, it turned the rather scofflaw Iron Man (He once attacked everyone wearing a suit of armor, including U.S. employees, just because his technology was stolen) into a government toadie. Worse than that, a neo-fascist Big Brother type (this is saying something: Millar intended Iron Man to be the hero of the piece, but fans viewed him as as the villain) . It also turned Captain America into a man whose ideals were more important than human life, and a man to whom honor was a foreign concept. This alienated a bunch of comic fans, creating an undercurrent of “haters” for the storyline.
How much of the comic book can we expect in the film?: It’s safe to say that it will still be Iron Man butting heads up against Captain America in this one. and the issue of how they should properly monitor the superhumans in the world will be the crux of the disagreement between the two.
What won’t carry over?: Civil War featured just about everyone in the Marvel comic book universe at the time, and the cast of the main series numbered in the dozens. There are far less characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the film was just a Steve and Tony thing. And the comic book series changed the scope of Marvel Comics for years. I doubt we’ll see anything like Dark Reign or Siege in the films.
If allegiances remain the same in the film as they did in the comic, who will be on whose side?: Okay, I’m sure I’m going to miss someone, but here it goes.On Tony’s side you’ll have Black Widow and War Machine/Iron Patriot. Thor was “dead” during the crossover, but Tony did use a “Thor clone” in the series. For those not introduced yet, Tony also had Carol Danvers, who in the comics at the time was Ms. Marvel but who will be the cinematic Captain Marvel. On Cap’s side, he allied with Falcon, Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and heroes from future films such as Black Panther and Ant-Man. Hulk was out of the picture during the comic book series, being off-planet engaging in the storyline El Mayimbe thought Marvel Studios was going to go all in on, Planet Hulk, so he didn’t have the opportunity to pick a side.
What’s this I hear about Spider-Man? If there was a third “lead” in the comic book series, it would have been Spider-Man. He at first joined Tony’s side, and got a cool suit of armor for his troubles. Only thing he had to do was reveal his identity, which he did. Then, after an attack of conscience, he switched sides and joined the anti-registration side. Unfortunately, this created a situation where his friends and family were vulnerable. His enemy, The Kingpin, ordered a hit on his Aunt May. It was successful, and sent Spidey’s surrogate mother to into a near death coma, compelling Spidey to make a deal with Marvel Comics’ version of the devil, Mephisto to save her life, undoing his marriage to Mary Jane and his identity reveal in the process.
The friendly relations between Marvel Studios and Sony, and the latter’s rumored disappointment at the last Amazing Spider-Man‘s grosses have lead rumor mongers to promote the idea that there might be a partnership between the two for Captain America: Civil War. Of course, logistically, this still remains a nightmare. However, if it this does happen and what appears on screen skews closely enough to the comic, it could generate excitement for Marvel’s slate and give Sony’s Spider-Man franchise the shot in the arm it needs.
And doesn’t Captain America die? Will they do this in the film? Sort of. In the comics, Cap loses, surrenders and is arrested. While in custody, he is shot by both Crossbones and a brainwashed Sharon Carter. But he is hit by magic bullets, bullets that send his consciousness backwards in time. He fights his way back to the present and returns to life.
While Crossbones and Sharon Carter have been introduced into the MCU, I don’t know if filmgoers would buy that explanation for his “death” and return.
Is this the best storyline for Marvel to do right now? Personally, I don’t think so. I was hoping the third Cap film would explore the relationship between him and Winter Soldier. You know, like they teased at the end of Cap 2? Now, either that storyline will be put on the back burner or will be shoehorned into the Civil War narrative. Also, there are too few superpowered beings, especially ones that could do the type of damage seen in the comics, for this to be an issue. It makes the argument more one-sided and, therefore, less interesting.
Creators: Jim Starlin, George Perez, & Ron Lim.
Plot: While there was an Infinity War series, as seen above, I believe that the films will focus most on the Infinity Gauntlet series, so that’s the plot I am going to give you.
Thanos loves death. Not people dying, but the living embodiment of death which appears to most people as a skeleton wearing a shroud but to him as a prettier Angelina Jolie wearing a shroud. In a effort to impress her, he gets his hands on the Infinity Gems, powerful jewels which individually give their wearers domain over time, space and reality, amongst others, but when joined would make their owner a god. Thanos affixes the gems onto his gauntlet and uses them to kill half the living organisms in the universe with a snap of his fingers. When the surviving heroes attack, he kills them too, then becomes so powerful that he becomes one with the universe. Only a last minute betrayal from his daughter, Nebula, keeps him from ultimate victory and the heroes from being dead forever.
The gauntlet went into the possession of Adam Warlock, who removed his good and bad sides so he would not be tempted to use the gauntlet for personal gain. This was bad, because his bad side, personified in the body of Magus, stole the gems in order to take over the world, creating evil duplicates of the world’s heroes as his personal army (Infinity War), then stolen by his good side, the Goddess, who used them to enslave certain heroes to act as her personal guard while she would go about killing everyone in the universe to same them from themseleves (Infinity Crusade).
Why it is important: I don’t know if it is the most definitive, or the best, Thanos story ever (my pick would be his appearances from the 1970s, which are unable to be done by Marvel Studios because Spider-Man and Thing play a big role in them). But this series does seem to sum up the Mad Titan and what he stands for fairly well.
How much of the comic book can we expect in the film? What won’t carry over?: Well, a lot of the main players have already been introduced. Silver Surfer was a part of the story, but could be written out. However, I doubt that it will be a pure adaptation of the comic. In the comic book, Thanos was a known quantity to the heroes. In the films, not so much. So the film version of the Avengers are not aware of how big of a threat he is from the get go. If I had to bet, I’d say Thanos’ motive would be revenge rather than genocide for this film.
One thing I do hope that is carried over is the confrontation between Cap and Thanos teased above. It was a great character moment for Cap, as he is the last surviving member of the Avengers, completely outmatched and outgunned, yet still won’t back down. It was a great scene.
Who is this Adam Warlock you mentioned?: Adam Warlock was a hero created in the 1960s who was part Christ-metaphor, part Buck Rogers by way of Stranger in a Strange Land. If Thanos is Lex Luthor, Warlock is his Superman. The two are so linked that it is weird that Adam Warlock has not been introduced yet.
Part of the reason was thought to be a rights issue. As I explained back in 2012, that the character first appeared in Fantastic Four #66, created by some rogue scientists to be the perfect, if artificial, human who rebelled against his masters. One assumed that the character’s rights belonged to Fox, who held the rights to the Fantastic Four and most of their offshoots. However, there is a cocoon in Guardians of the Galaxy that is supposed to be Warlock (he was gestated inside a cocoon like that one).
Is this the best storyline Marvel can do?: I think the question should be what took them so long. It will be six years after Thanos was first teased that he finally gets to fight the Avengers.
What if I want to read it?: Thankfully, due to Thanos’ appearance in The Avengers, a lot of his back catalog is available at Amazon, including the Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War, and Infinity Crusade Parts One and Two. And if you want to read Thanos’ 1970s appearances, they are collected in a volume titled Avengers vs. Thanos.