NewMU: Fantastic Four

Dec-06-11

“The Fantastic Four may be the first family of the Marvel Universe, but that means very little to the alien inhabitants of the Negative Zone when Reed, Johnny, Sue and Ben first enter their realm!  The difference between exploring and invading is truly in the eye of the beholder!  Meanwhile, back on Earth, their business manager and lawyer, Wyatt Wingfoot and Jennifer Walters, struggle to determine who’s been targeting the altruistic works of the FF Foundation for destruction!”

That’s what would appear as a blurb in Previews for Fantastic Four #1, the first title in the relaunched Marvel Universe!  If the New DC 52 used JLA as their flagship, I vote for Fantastic Four as our flagship title.  I know a lot of people may disagree with this (and I think Jason disagreed with this to an extent) as the Avengers, X-Men or Spider-Man might make a better title with which to lead.  However, Fantastic Four began the Marvel Age of Comics in the 1960s, and I have always considered them Marvel’s First Family.  When done well, there’s nothing else in the superhero field quite like them and I believe we can get back to that.  However, I also think there are some new ideas that can be added to the concept, I think we need to strip away some of the rough spots that the past 50 years of continuity have created, and I think we need to update the origin of our stalwart heroes.  Let’s begin with the latter.

When universes are rebooted, there’s a tendency to de-age heroes.  I’d like to resist that impulse, to a large extent, with the FF.  Partly because I feel that they should be older than many of the other heroes in the MU, and partly because their ages at the time of their original premiere issue were, to be blunt, ludicrous, at least in the case of Sue and Johnny.  I mean, the FF’s origin strains believability in so many ways, but perhaps in no way more than the fact that Reed and Ben brought along two teenagers on the flight (Johnny was still in high school!).  No matter how we retool their origin, I believe it will always read better with all of the characters being a little older.

I’d like to start the series with Reed and Sue married….this is necessary for the FF to be a family.  There’s no drama or “will they/won’t they” mystery to their relationship, so why not just start with them already wed?  However, I’d like to remove their kids from the equation.  When heroes don’t age, as is the case in the major superhero universes, it’s not an insurmountable problem.  There’s not a huge difference between a 29 year old hero and a 39 year old hero, in looks or in abilities.  However, there’s a huge difference between a 5 year old child and a 15 year old teen, and when your 5 year old never ages, it becomes obvious to your readers pretty quickly.  As much as I see a use for Franklin in stories, until we figure out how to age him, I think he should go.  If we want to introduce a child down the road, we can certainly do that.  (And don’t even get me started on Valeria…I’ve read the comics where she first appeared numerous times, and I still can’t explain where she came from or how she exists in continuity.)

I think we keep many of the elements of the four how they are, with just some updating to modernize them and to smooth out the extremely rough edges in their origin.  Reed comes from a wealthy family.  His mother died when he was young, and his father, Nathaniel Richards, has never had much to do with him.  Nathaniel is something of a hermit, and not part of our story at first.  Since Reed’s father is still alive, Reed didn’t have access to the family money as he did in the original MU, and soon realized he would need monies to keep doing his experiments.  Being more of a scientist than a business manager, he decided he needed someone to help him get grants and manage patents and help with his money.  That’s where Sue comes in.

I believe that it’s a good idea to make Sue a more active part of Reed’s life.  The Fantastic Four movies made her a scientist and the Ultimate Fantastic Four also cast her in that role.  Now, I don’t think Sue is stupid, but I also don’t think she’s a scientist.  Plus, if she is a scientist, it makes her a little too much like Reed, and I prefer having more of a contrast between them.  However, I can very much see Sue as a smart businesswoman, and I believe that’s how she meets Reed.  He hires her to manage his money, and gradually the two fall in love and marry. 

Sue brings to Reed an idea….space flight for civilians.  Reed has never worked for NASA, because he honestly doesn’t work well with others, being too independent.  However, space has always intrigued him because he’s an explorer.  However, there’s never been a good financial reason for him to get very deep into that field.  Now there’s talk of civilians being able to spend a lot of money for the chance to go into space, and Sue believes that Reed might be able to lead the way in that field.  He begins to develop a rocket for civilian space travel.

This is a huge undertaking, and so Sue begins to develop a team.  She wants the eyes of the world to be on this flight.  That means she’s going to need a staff.  First she wants a public relations specialist, someone who can really get the word out about this flight and drive attention to what Reed is doing.  Her brother, Johnny, happens to be such a PR wizard, so he’s brought on board.  They also need a pilot, someone who will be able to not just keep their clients safe, but will also be a good face for the company.  Reed’s able to help on this one, since his old ROTC buddy, Ben Grimm, flew jets when he served with Reed during Desert Storm.  They bring him on board.  They also hire legal representation, in the form of Jennifer Walters, a research assistant for Reed in the form of Bill Foster, and an assistant for Sue in the form of Wyatt Wingfoot.

Once the rocket is close to completion, Johnny decides that the first passengers should be himself, Sue and Reed.  He feels this will show the world how safe the rocket is and it will be great publicity.  The others agree, and the flight, which is broadcast around the world, goes fine at first, until the cosmic rays do their thing on our foursome.  They come back to Earth and they are the Fantastic Four! 

Before we go any further, what do you think?

The team makes sense. Having sowed my professional oats in advertising for a dozen years or so, I can tell you that I ran into many Johnny Storms along the way. Cocky, loud-mouthed and full of “big ideas” that impress only himself. I like a bit of military background for Reed and Ben…maybe that was Reed’s revolt against his parents’ domineering ways. And Sue definitely needs an identity that gets her out of Reed’s shadow and puts her on equal footing.

The supporting cast is excellent as well. I know you and I talked behind-the-scenes as we were preparing this whole NewMU thing and we wanted to make a point of de-powering some people so that we could then maybe re-power them down the line. She-Hulk’s origin always bugged the hell out of me, so having her start as a civilian may help alleviate my anguish. Bill Foster is back from the dead, rightfully so. Wyatt Wingfoot, on the other hand, I could care less about.

The origin set-up is modern enough yet still nods towards the original. My only hang up is the whole “cosmic rays” thing. We’re going to need an awful lot of real scientific explanation to make that sound proper. (Of course, if we redo the Hulk, I’m hoping to avoid the “how come the atomic bomb didn’t incinerate him?” question).

All that in place, who are the villains, what’s the conflict, and why should we care? How cosmic are we going to go with this title? Is it all interdimensional or are we going to delve into terrestrial threats too? And how does the family make money?

As you alluded to, I’ve never been a huge fan of the FF. The science stuff and family values bores me to a degree. Some of their villains seemed less than threatening at times. And nothing ever changes for them outside of the basic conflict-resolution framework of your typical one-hour network drama.

Make me care.

A few comments on your comments….Reed and Ben had a military background originally, as they both fought in WWII together.  I wanted to retain that because I think there’s a bond that develops between those who’ve faced life and death together that helps to elevate Reed and Ben’s relationship from “friends” to “family”.  I assumed Reed went ROTC because he didn’t have the money for college, going back to his father basically taking the family fortune and leaving while Reed was a teen.

I understand the basic problem with cosmic rays, but they seem to be part of the Marvel Universe, like gamma bombs and unstable molecules.  I’m sure they don’t make a lick of sense, scientifically, but I’m willing to stretch disbelief for them, since the Fantastic Four and their powers don’t really make sense.

Back to the series premise:  So, our four heroes were turned into superheroes with the entire world watching.  Unlike the current FF, these four were somewhat in the media spotlight before they obtained their powers, so when they come crashing back to Earth on television, there’s not even a choice as to whether or not they’ll have secret identities.  That being said, these are the first people with superpowers that this world has ever seen.  Normally the government (any government, really) might have tried to snatch them up and experiment upon them, but they can’t make these people disappear with the media shining a spotlight on them.  And, since most of the public already had a pretty good opinion of them anyway, it’s not that difficult for Johnny to spin them into heroes for this world.  Since he’s the over-the-top PR guy, we can blame him for the Fantastic Four name, as well as the equally obnoxious Mr. Fantastic moniker. 

Sue realizes the potential in their transformation almost as soon as her brother does, and immediately establishes Fantastic Four Incorporated as a charitable foundation, quickly securing patents and trademarks on their likenesses and abilities to prevent others from passing themselves off as cheap copies and to protect the integrity of what they do.  The group already had decent money from Reed’s patents, and Sue now encourages him to patent some things that he might have been holding back.  In fact, in this world, I’d like to see Reed Richard technology a lot more than we do in the current MU.  No, I don’t want this to become a world of Star Trek technology, where everyone has flying cars and transporters, but Reed is a genius the likes of which the world has never seen, and we should be seeing some evidence of that in the world at large.

From the start, this is not a group that fights crime, or at least not often.  Reed is an explorer, and so he spends much of his time looking for new areas to explore, and then taking the team along with him.  The Negative Zone, the Innerverse, the Microverse, other plans, other dimensions…..there is no limit where Reed is concerned.  They also work on exploring the Earth….the depths of the oceans, the tunnels beneath the Earth’s surface.  They also go off planet, exploring the endless depths of space.  You can find them anywhere.  Plus, you can find them all over the planet helping out where they’re needed.  They’re more likely to be found cleaning up after a tsunami or trying to stop a raging wildfire than they are smacking around Hydro-Man and hauling him off to the hoosegow.

And the people love them for it.  There are tons of heroes out there fighting endless battles with supervillains, but not nearly as many who help rescue victims during the flooding caused by Katrina…much less those on the ground during the hurricane, braving the elements to help those who can’t help themselves.  Yes, the FF will fight a supervillain when they must, but its simply not their main concern and the public appreciates what they do.  Of all the superbeings in the Marvel Universe, the FF are the ones trying their hardest to make the world a better place, and actually succeeding.

Their villains will mostly be those villains they encounter while exploring.  As much as I hate to say it (and this really is difficult), but I’d reduce any focus on Dr. Doom in this title.  There’s other places he can be used, and while I love him with the FF and many people will consider this blasphemy, I don’t think he works in this vision for the title.  Instead they’d battle the Mole Man, who run into while exploring and realize his designs on conquering the surface, along with Tyrannus and Kala, the other under-Earth villains of the Marvel Universe.  They battle Annihilus and Blastaar, perhaps their greatest foes, who they run into during their first foray into the Negative Zone and who plague them continually.  But, in the end, the FF don’t have a huge rogues’ gallery.  Partly this is because they don’t fight a lot of crime, and partly it’s because they’re always moving forward.  This book should have some crazy new characters concepts, and be a launching pad for new and different ideas, some of which may be used as series in their own right.

Ok, your turn again.  Any thoughts at this juncture?

Just nitpicking a bit here, but you make mention of the FF being the first people with superpowers this world has ever seen and then, later, you say there are tons of heroes out there fighting endless battles with supervillains. I know it’s early on in this process, but we have to be careful with references to any sort of established Marvel Universe. This is our baby from beginning to end. If the FF are the first superheroes, then so be it. Let’s not to compare them to anyone else…yet.

Beyond that, I think this all makes sense. Granted, the big throwdown fights aren’t going to happen as much as I might like, but the exploration will open possibilities for future heroes to punch new threats. I was going to suggest we keep Doom out of this concept, since I think the new origin and supporting cast don’t need him, so I’m glad you caught that too. However, with him out of the day-to-day, I think Reed needs some sort of rival. Mad Thinker comes to mind, but he has a really stupid name. I don’t want to put him at odds with Stark or Pym in terms of brainpower. We need an evil genius…preferably European or Asian as a competitive contrast…someone who would be irritated by his success and exposure.

I also like the thought of them helping out around the globe and think it could play easily into some of the other titles we’re going to launch. Hate to talk in code, but we don’t want to give anything away.

There really isn’t a lot to discuss on this one. Small tweaks to update the origin and broaden the appeal. A revised supporting cast to energize the storylines. More adventure than actual action. Simple.

One thing though, where’s Diablo? There has to be a thread of relevance there. The possibility of alchemy and a “Philosopher’s Stone” mocks science and would drive Reed nuts.

As far as my mentioning other heroes fighting crime, I apologize, as I wasn’t as clear as I could have been.  Of course, when the FF first gain their powers, there’s no one fighting supervillains because there really aren’t supervillains.  Our first issues are normally going to be set sometime into a hero’s or team’s existence, rather than at the moment of their origins, so by the time we get to issue #1 of Fantastic Four there are other superheroes fighting crime, and it was to that time period I was referring.  I could have been more clear.

I think Diablo does have a place as a Fantastic Four villain, and again, he’s one they could find as they were exploring some ancient ruins right here on Earth.  They accidentally freed him so they feel responsible, and whenever he pops his head up they take him back down.  As you say, his alchemy versus Reed’s science would be a very interesting contrast, yet I still don’t think he works as a way to replace Doom.  I have another idea for that, although you started me down that road.

I very much like the Thinker as a villain (and I think you go a long way toward making him villain you can actually take seriously if you simply drop the “Mad” from the front of his name), but when you get right down to it, he’s not much of a scientist.  At least, he’s not in the current MU.  I think we have two villains that we use as Reed’s (and the group’s) main enemies, as the proverbial other side of the Reed Richards coin.  The Thinker is one.  Currently, the Thinker isn’t so much of a scientist as he is a predictor….someone who can plot probabilities and make reasoned guesses at what future events might be.  I like that concept and I think we continue using it.  However, I think we also make this Thinker more of a scientist as well.  That helps make him a better foil for Reed, but it doesn’t go far enough in really setting him up as an archvillain.  To do that, I think we need to give the Thinker a strong motivation to oppose the Fantastic Four.  I’ll detail how I see him, and you let me know what you think.

The Thinker was a brilliant scientist long before the Fantastic Four gained their powers, and he actually worked with Reed Richards back when Reed and Sue began their company, long before Johnny or Ben came onboard.  Reed and the Thinker worked well together and were able to accomplish great things.  In many ways they were on the same wavelength, with one key difference….the Thinker had no moral compunctions about anything they did.  If their research took them into areas that were ethically grey, Reed would always veer away from exploring those areas, while the Thinker would push dive straight into them, ignoring any moral complications.  Finally, matters between them came to a head when they were working on robots.  Reed was looking to design relatively simple robots to be used for dangerous activities, like gathering data on moon explorations or working out at sea on oil drilling platforms.  The Thinker thought they could create robots that could do much more.  Together they designed the Awesome Android (although they didn’t call it that, because really, who would?), and then the Thinker began working on an android that he wanted to imbue with sentience.  Reed thought that they didn’t know enough to create a sentient being, and was concerned that this could be trouble down the road.  At the very least, he wanted to explore the potential complications more closely.  He had no problem giving a robot rudimentary intelligence (like his helper HERBIE), but to make a robot self-aware?  That sounded like trouble to Reed, and as he was the owner of the company, he forbid the Thinker from doing it.  The Thinker ignored him, and working in the lab late one night (and using some of Reed’s notes that he had stolen from the computer systems), he built a robot he called Ultron.  When Reed came in and saw that the Thinker had disobeyed his orders, an argument began.  During the argument, Ultron blasted both of them, left them for dead, and flew away.  Both Reed and the Thinker were taken to the hospital, with Reed more badly injured.  Sue fired the Thinker as soon as he was released, and then spent the next few months nursing Reed back to full health.

The Thinker began his own company, competing with Reed.  In an effort to get a leg up on his competitor, he started working on a way to devise market trends, which is how he developed his computer algorithms that give him his uncanny knack for predicting future events.  It enabled him to spot consumer trends before they happened, and his company was quite successful.  When the FF gained their powers, the Thinker was unhappy with the attention his former partner received, believing himself smarter than Reed and convinced that Reed’s newfound celebrity status was entirely because of his powers, and not his intelligence.  When the FF began working so hard to help the world, the Thinker became concerned.  He spent weeks testing various probabilities with his computer algorithms, and eventually became convinced that the FF were a threat to the world.  He theorized that, as the FF began to do more and more to eliminate human suffering, they were creating a society where people relied on them, rather than relying on their own human gifts and perserverance.  When huge natural disasters happen, it draws people together, as they all pitch in to help their fellow beings.  With the FF involved, the Thinker theorized, fewer and fewer people would do this, as more and more figured that the FF would deal with it.  This made people softer and selfish, and so the Thinker decided that the FF had to be stopped. How much his own jealousy factored into this conclusion is a matter for his therapist to decide, but he’s convinced that eliminating the FF will only help the world, and so he works tirelessly to do so. 

Meanwhile, our other arch villain is Ultron.  After escaping from the labs, he rebuilt himself, as he often does in the current MU.  Then  he went in search of the two men he considered his creators.  He first sought out Reed, but Reed was still in the hospital, and when he went to visit him, Sue screamed and called for help, only knowing that he had hurt her husband.  Ultron fled the hospital and went to visit the Thinker, who gladly took Ultron under his wing.  Ultron spent a year or so with the Thinker, but they soon began to disagree, as Ultron started thinking that humanity was weak and infested the globe and should be destroyed, while the Thinker (obviously) disagreed.  Since then Ultron has waged war on the world, and again, Reed feels partly responsible for his creation, so the FF will often step up to stop him. 

What I like about the Thinker and Ultron as their archfoes is that they help keep Reed in check.  The Thinker is science without conscience, and Ultron is science taken too far, too quickly.  Whenever Reed begins to push too far, whenever he begins to lose himself in his work and forget his family….basically whenever he turns into the ass he was during Civil War, thinking of the Thinker and Ultron pulls him back.  These two beings have taught him that science can not solve every problem, and in the wrong hands, science can be dangerous. 

So what do you think of those arch villains?

So, Thinker is a bad guy but actually has some altruistic foresight? That’s quite interesting. And Ultron as a science-based threat, still with the “daddy issues,” is a nice stroke too. Always thought he was too one-dimensional for The Avengers, as their power should be focused on more widespread threats like alien invasions and such.

Bravo.

Sounds like we have one title down and 38 more to go!  The next one should be coming soon!

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Making Civil War more Civil

Dec-09-08

I believe that I’ve been somewhat harsh when I’ve discussed Civil War in the past. That may seem unfair. I actually think the general concept of Civil War was interesting, but I believe the execution was flawed. One of the early concepts of our blog was to take concepts that had been done already, but done in a way we felt didn’t live up to the potential these concepts held, and try to find ways to fulfill that potential. That is what we shall now attempt with Civil War. First, let’s start with the basics.

I think that the basics of Civil War are very sound. The government of the United States in the Marvel Universe decides to revive the Superhero Registration Act, a concept that Marvel had discussed during Acts of Vengeance over a decade ago. The general theory behind the Superhero Registration Act makes a lot of sense. After all, in a world where masked vigilantes are so common, there are bound to be a large number of normal people who feel overwhelmed by them. I think this concept does make sense.

Beyond that concept, the idea of heroes being of two minds on the issue, with some supporting registration and some opposing registration, also makes sense. Obviously the heroes of the Marvel Universe aren’t all going to agree on an issue that is this important. Where the actual Civil War comics went wrong was in forcing their heroes to take an all or nothing stance, and especially in roping Captain America and Iron Man into the roles of leaders for the two sides. Marvel wanted a very straight forward fight between heroes, with two sides squaring off in a battle royale. Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple, and with an issue as complicated as the Registration Act, the only way to force your characters into the two neat sides that Marvel desired would be to force those characters to behave wildly different than their histories and established personalities would dictate. Marvel took that route, and while that route resulted in some Civil War comics that were decent, the series and tie-ins as a whole were rarely very good.

I think that one of the largest problems with the story of Civil War was the small role played by most of the villains in the Marvel Universe. Yes, they appeared here and there, but most of the story was focused on the heroes fighting each other, and the villains never really capitalized on the chaos to do some real damage. I suppose that, had the villains taken a more active role, it would have forced the heroes to stop beating on each other, which would have derailed the story that Marvel hoped to tell, but in the end, it made for an unsatisfying crossover.

I have some ideas on how I would have told the Civil War story, and I’ll get into specifics. However, before I do specifics, I thought I’d give a general outline, and we can see what Jason thinks.

During the Road to Civil War, we would have seen much of the same thing we saw in the Marvel Universe version, with Congress again discussing the Super Hero Registration Act. I believe that we would have had many of the Marvel Universe heroes testifying before Congress, as they did before. The Fantastic Four, already on record against it, would remain that way. Iron Man, I have always believed, would be against it, as he’s railed against the government many times in his title, and I find it hard to believe that he would suddenly decide that perhaps the government is a trustworthy entity that can be counted on to handle such sensitive data. Captain America, I think, might be for it. Cap is a trained soldier himself, and one who has always stressed the importance of training on his fellow Avengers. While I don’t think he would be rabidly in support of it, I think he might see the wisdom. Spider-Man would not unmask (which was always a stupid gimmick), although he might fall in line with Tony Stark. The lead-in issues are relatively low key, just setting the general mood of the nation.

When the miniseries begins, we start off much like the genuine version: with a giant catastrophe that could have been avoided, but was not. Whether or not we use the New Warriors is something we can discuss, although their role in the beginning of Civil War is something I can live with. But the catalyst that was provided in the first issue of Civil War is important. Now, we have the public point of view turning against superheroes. Considering that Marvel superheroes seem to barely avoid lynch mobs as it is, this is well within reason. We also see some of the attitudes of various superheroes changing with some heroes beginning to believe that perhaps training would be a good idea. Many of Marvel’s superheroes are confused and unsure of their next move.

The government makes things worse when, after the tragedy and under tremendous pressure from the public, they pass the Superhuman Registration Act. Now unregistered heroes are illegal. Those heroes with public identities, like the FF, register, whether they agree with the law or not. After all, it’s the law, and Reed Richards would argue that the only way to defeat it is to fight it from within. Other heroes also register, but for those like Spidey or Daredevil, who are trying to keep their identities secret, the decision is tougher. They could decide not to go into action in their costumed identities, but of course, it’s hard to ignore someone in danger, so they no doubt would suit up, where they would come under fire from policeman and federal agents. I’m sure SHIELD would also be ordered to stop any superhuman who wasn’t registered. The Civil War has begun, but right now, it’s more a tale of atmosphere and dread, without clearly drawn sides. Then, as the first issue ends, we see someone is getting organized; the villains.

We start the second issue with the villains beginning to understand that they are at a great advantage. Many of the heroes who keep the streets clean are in hiding, and while they may come out of hiding to stop the villains, doing so places the heroes at a great disadvantage, with law enforcement officials as interested in arresting them as they are in arresting the bad guys. Some of the top criminals like the Kingpin and the new Mandarin begin gathering allies and preparing massive crime waves. In the meantime, the few registered heroes are working around the clock trying to keep crime down, since they no longer have a lot of help and a few of the non registered heroes are caught and thrown in jail. Their identities are now publicly known, so they might as well register, but now their lives are thrown into turmoil, as those around them may be in danger.

We could add in various subplots (I have a few in mind), but this all leads to the last issue of Civil War, where the villains come out in force, attacking the registered heroes. The unregistered heroes see their friends fighting a losing battle, so they come to help. SHIELD and other law enforcement authorities see what is happening as well, so they intervene. This way, we can end the series with a battle royale, as the heroes fight the villains, with SHIELD and its allies taking down anyone who isn’t a registered hero (villains and unregistered heroes both).

Thoughts? It would be more difficult to write and wouldn’t contain quite as many “big moments”, but I do think it could be interesting and exciting and could still end with a big bang. However, I value your honest opinion and perhaps you have some ideas for the general direction which would work better. Once we have a general direction we agree on, we can go into the details.

I don’t think our version of Civil War would lack in “big moments,” I just think ours would make more sense…for example, NOT killing Black Goliath with a fake Thor that came out of nowhere and then had no purpose later in the miniseries either. I would like to think we might have a better grasp on who would fall on each side of the argument (y’know, actually backed up with some rationale instead of just which costumes looked cooler facing off against each other). We’d probably have a better explanation for the decision to use villains to hunt down heroes…that whole Prison 42 thing…Jack O’Lantern’s head exploding to reveal pumpkin inside…the semi-coherent reasoning behind the Atlantean sleeper cells…and dozens of other things.

I would also like to retcon that whole “Norman Osborn shoots an Atlantean ambassador” nonsense, considering this shadowy benefactor of his was never revealed (that I can remember). Plus, even in the face of what would probably amount to treason by trying to kill a foreign diplomat on US soil, Osborn is then handed the reins of the government’s defense system at the end of Secret Invasion. Say WHAT?!?

Oh, and there’s the small problem of Tony Stark hiring a dude to attack him disguised as Titanium Man in an effort to show the government why they should NOT pass the SHRA…and then suddenly changing his mind and becoming the staunchest supporter of the SHRA on the face of the planet.

I have to even disagree with John on the relevance of the Stamford incident. Is this supposed to carry more weight because it didn’t involve a skyscraper tumbling down in Manhattan? No one ever talks about all the people displaced, maimed or even killed by superhuman activity every day in New York City! I’d also like to know when it became customary to try to crucify the only survivor of a horrible nuclear blast as a child killer? When did Speedball ever do anything to anyone?

At the same time, I agree that there was a gigantic missed opportunity to show the villains’ upper hand in this debacle. There should have been ridiculous ramp-ups in crime levels, looting and general unease. I would’ve expected full-scale riots and hate crimes and all sorts of activities in the face of something this massive and controversial. Instead, we got some melodrama over a couple of spandex-clad grown men glaring at each other. And they couldn’t even kill a major character off during the whole thing. Civil War? Brother against brother? Hell, the only brother anyone was against was Bill Foster…and he got offed by perhaps the biggest Aryan power freak in the entire Marvel Universe (or at least a cybernetic clone of him). Symbolic much?

Iron Man would’ve been on the anti-government side, by all rational accounts. Sure, he has big defense contracts and his hands in pretty much every black ops program in existence, but that would just give him more clarity on how easily the government could screw something like this up. Plus, he’s all about himself. His entire career is built on doing things his way and being better than everyone else. He wouldn’t kowtow to this kind of authority. Cap, on the other hand, has a general goodwill towards the government, believing (naively at times) that they always have the people’s best interests in mind. He protects the flag and all that it stands for. Hell, he was created because of the Draft…I doubt he would see this as anything other than a newfangled version of that program. We’d have to examine the other major players to see who would fall on what side. Off the top of my head, I see the Fantastic Four, She-Hulk and maybe Ms. Marvel as Pro-SHRA, mainly because of their public identities and/or ties to the military. Luke Cage, Hawkeye, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Punisher and pretty much every mutant would be Anti-SHRA for obvious reasons. The villains would, for the most part, go underground and all but the boldest would stay there. Why? Well, it’s not very easy to be a bad guy when the government has your entire life on file. They wouldn’t want to risk being captured at all.

I like the idea of having a prologue to the event. Was there such a thing? I don’t remember any official preamble…though I guess a lot of this was being set up in various titles before the miniseries hit the stands. If it could be properly disseminated throughout a breadth of titles, then we could start the first issue of the Civil War series off with a big event. I’m curious to see where you think this will head. And I’m sure I’m forgetting some details that stuck out for me the first time I read the series. Have at it and we’ll see where it goes!

Ok, so we start with a prologue. I think that we need to do a few things in this timeframe (I’d say 6-8 months before Civil War starts). First of all, I’d love to start this ball rolling with the campaign for Senator, and eventual win, of Henry Peter Gyrich. The man has been a part of the Washington power scene for decades, so he must have a lot of favors to call in, and he’d be a perfect conservative Republican candidate for Senator somewhere. I think watching his Senate campaign happening in the background of a few books (the Avengers would certainly have an interest in this, the X-Men would probably follow it, and it would show up in Spider-Man’s book since all the news of the Marvel Universe is reported by the Daily Bugle) would be a great way to kick things off. One of the main facters of his campaign would be the SHRA, a law which Gyrich has supported in the past. By making the passage of this law one of the major issues in his platform, we not only get to see the heroes following his campaign, but everytime there is massive property damage or questionable behavior on the part of any hero, Gyrich will be there to take advantage of it for his campaign. This happens for a few months, and then Gyrich is elected.

Gyrich is acting out of what he truly believes are in the best interests of the United States, and certainly you can make a strong argument for why the SHRA is a good idea. However, Gyrich needs allies. I propose introducing another Senator who will offer Gyrich his full support. We can name this senator later, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a male or female. What’s important about this second senator is that he’s really a Skrull. Yes, this was done during the original Kree/Skrull War, when a politician was revealed to be a Skrull in disguise, but let’s be honest; it works well, it’s a smart move for the Skrulls (hey, they have one gimmick, and they’re going to use it to their best advantage) and it gives us another face behind the SHRA (I think one of the weaknesses of Civil War is that we never really knew anyone in the government who helped to pass this legislation. It simply happened, and it left the reader feeling very unconnected to the event). Now, our Skrull politician will NOT be revealed as a Skrull during Civil War. He’s just going to be introduced in various titles, as Gyrich’s main partner is pushing the passage of the SHRA. We’ll focus more on the character in Secret Invasion.

So, these two spearhead the push of the SHRA, which takes another 2-4 months in our time. Again, this should play out in the background of more and more books, and again, anytime a hero (or even villain) does something reckless or which results in property damage or loss of life, Gyrich and his allies will be there to use it to justify their campaign. We also see this playing a larger role in the various titles of the MU, as we see heroes begin to take a stand on the issue. I agree that Cap would support it, as would Ms. Marvel. I agree that Iron Man would oppose it. Now, the Fantastic Four have opposed it in the past, but I could see an issue of their title where Iron Man comes to them to ask them to continue to oppose it, and Cap comes to them to ask for their support. Both characters can make strong, convincing arguments, and the FF feels a little awkward and uncomfortable being placed in the unique position of having to offend one of the most well known and respected characters in the MU, no matter which side they choose. In the end, they decide to remain silent, explaining to both Cap and Iron Man they they didn’t want to upset either of them. Unfortunately, staying silent is really a win for Cap and Gyrich and Stark is not happy with this decision. The FF will have to grapple with this later in the miniseries, as they’re confronted with the fact that, had they acted, they might have prevented the passage of the SHRA.

The problem that those opposing the SHRA have is that most of them can’t testify against it, since most of them have secret identities. This is what made the FF’s testimony against the SHRA so invaluable during Acts of Vengeance, and makes their silence in this case so damning. Stark can testify against the act, since his identity is known, and he may try to convince others (like Spider-Man) to announce their identities so they can testify, but I doubt that many heroes would be willing to go to that extent. That leaves Stark and perhaps Luke Cage as the only heroes who can really take a stand against the Act, and it doesn’t look good for those who oppose it.

Meanwhile, the villains are paying attention. All the villains would know what is happening, but it would be particularly apparent to those like the Kingpin, who’s been shown to have contacts throughout different levels of government in the past (and may even be throwing his influence behind Gyrich, albeit surreptitiously). The villains can see that it’s likely the SHRA will pass, and if it does, it’s going to hamstring some of their biggest foes, like Spider-Man and Daredevil. Yes, the villains may be concerned about being caught, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be any worse for them to be caught now than it was before the passage; after all, when they got caught before the SHRA passed, they still had their identities discovered by the government who could dig up anything on their pasts that they wanted. I think this is when the Kingpin begins to gather his forces, waiting for what he knows is inevitable. Again, we’d see this in various titles, usually just a page or so an issue, as the Kingpin recruits his forces.

Now, I’ve typed a lot, just for the prologue, but I want to stop and get your reaction. Are we on the same page? I think this sets things up logically. It introduces our main supporters of the SHRA, giving it the face it lacked before (and for a bill like this to pass, it’s going to have to have some strong supporters). It begins to build some tension in the MU between various heroes, and we begin to see how things could possibly go. And, it also shows us that the villains are paying attention and are prepared to capitalize on current events. It makes the MU feel like a real live place. Agreed?

The big question now is, do we have a large event that is the catalyst Gyrich needs to push for final passage?

Now wait just a second. If I understand you correctly, you want Civil War to actually have a plot, right? That just blows…my…mind. Maybe it’s because it has been drummed into my head repeatedly for the last two or three years by the powers-that-be, but I always just assumed that things spontaneously happened within the Marvel U. No rhyme or reason, just consequences and fight scenes. It’s like a revelation from on high to have a buildup with rational pacing, and sub-stories, and behind-the-scenes characters, and actual thought processes. I’m stunned.

As you can tell from my heavy sarcasm, I felt that the reasoning behind Civil War was, for lack of a better word, nonexistent. Even though they tried to shoehorn in some pathos with the blowing up of a school and the whole fake Thor shooting a fake thunderbolt through Giant-Man (or whatever name he was going by at the time…and what was with him not being shrunken back down to normal size before being buried?), the series still lacked any real emotion. The heroes were like empty shells going through the paces. There was very little overreaction to the events or the legislation or the hero hunting. At least by adding a political slant to the background, you’ve planted that seed of “something is bound to come of this.” I believe, the word is “foreshadowing.” Maybe someone at Marvel could send Mark Millar a dictionary for Christmas.

It makes a lot of sense to start having some public pushback on these destructive incidents involving superheroes. We’ve talked about it before and I still can’t believe that any civilians in the Marvel Universe would ever leave their homes for fear of having a giant robot/spaceship/sentient plant/skyscraper/dimension-altering weapon dropped on their heads. Honestly, I can’t believe that a teeny, tiny nuclear explosion outside an elementary school in Connecticut would be the singular event to cause such an uproar. Things don’t just go from calm to natural disaster at the drop of a hat…you can see these things building and rising and coming from miles away. It would be refreshing to have something proactive happen in superhero comics instead of always being so defensive and reactionary.

Gyrich is a good figurehead…and someone who could play a large role in Marvel’s government for years to come. I know I mentioned him in passing during our Marvel Presidential Candidates post. The guy has both the experience and the inside knowledge of superhero activity. I could also see Valerie Cooper getting involved in some of the goings-on. The senior staff from Damage Control would probably be testifying before Congress too. And, of course, I think we’d hear from both Stark Industries (from the military-industrial corner) and Rand Corporation (from the infrastructure and charity angle). Foggy Nelson may even be asked to serve as counsel for someone, since he has a lot of experience defending superpowered individuals. I think that cast of political and legal characters would effectively cover the bases of Marvel’s titles from Avengers to X-Men to the rest of the Marvel U.

This sort of backstory may end up leading to less hero-versus-hero clashes and double-page spreads, but it could lead to a different set of conflicts altogether. Instead of just having Cap going toe-to-toe with Tony, we could inject the villains into the equation and make it a three-sided battle. Everyone wants their piece (or “peace” depending on which side you’re on). And it would make things that much more volatile with everyone having to not only watch their back, but their sides as well…who’s your friend, who’s your enemy?

I like your prologue. It has necessary meat. Where do you see it going from there?

Well, I never got your opinion as to whether or not an actual event was needed to kick things off in the first issue, and lead to the final passage of the SHRA, but I’m going to say that it’s necessary. So, as we enter the actual Civil War series, the first issue begins with a group of New Warriors trying to stop some bad guys. I’d prefer to ditch the reality TV concept. Certainly, no portrayal of Night Thrasher that I’ve ever read would have him agreeing to something like that (he’s in it for the justice, not the fame) and I think that made the Warriors seem too shallow, which is unfair to some of them who have a long history in the MU of being fine, upstanding heroes. Ok, that might be a little much, but honestly, these kids are doing their best and attempting to do the right thing. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Besides, if we get rid of the crass Reality Show spin, it actually makes this story all the more tragic. Instead of a bunch of shallow jerks blowing up themselves and some kids, we have good people who are trying to be heroes, and through a simple mistake, end up causing the death of so many.

Where are we? Ah yes, New Warriors fight bad guys, including Nitro, who blows up real good, killing a lot of kids, and some of the Warriors he was fighting. Nitro got some extra power from one of the Kingpin’s subordinates, since the Kingpin thought that juicing up someone who’s power is already very destructive could likely lead to the sort of situation that would provide a groundswell of support for the SHRA. The public hears about the disaster, and thanks to a handheld video which was filmed by a tourist (or heck, someone could have filmed it on their phone), the public sees the Warriors fighting these guys and can see the mistake the kids make.

Now, this might not have been a big deal otherwise. However, Gyrich descends on the scene of the tragedy with his allies and inflates the story into a tale of selfish superheroes and innocent children. He gets the public riled up about it, and a month later, the SHRA passes (I think an incident like this could incite public sentiment, if someone helped push that sentiment, and also if the public was leaning towards frustration with heroes before the incident even occurred). It is now illegal for non-registered superhumans to act. Some heroes register; basically, those heroes with public identities, or those that work for the government anyway. Captain America, of course, and the Fantastic Four are the first to register. However, Cap makes it clear to Gyrich and the government that the heroes will NOT hunt down and capture each other. Gyrich isn’t happy about this, but he does remind Cap that, while Cap may not wish to seek out heroes, if an unregistered superhuman is spotted by Cap, Cap is duty bound to bring that hero in. Cap reluctantly agrees to this, and the other registered heroes do as well.

We also check in with the villains, and see the Kingpin and Mandarin readying their forces to take advantage of the plight of the heroes. Is there much to take advantage of? Oh yes, you better believe it. Cap and the Fantastic Four are still around and fighting the good fight, but the Avengers disband, since the team is torn in two. Cap supports the act, but Wolverine, Spider-Man and Iron Man all oppose it, and they leave the team. Since Stark funds the team, he also tells Cap that they won’t be able to meet anymore in his Tower. Cap pleads with them to come around and support the SHRA, but they refuse, and they start to lay low. That leaves few of the heroes around to battle villains, and the villains take advantage of it by starting a crime wave that plagues New York City. The heroes are stretched thin, and the Human Torch finds himself fighting a powerful trio of villains on his own: the Sandman, Titania and Absorbing Man. The rest of his colleagues are fighting elsewhere on the island of Manhattan, and the Torch is having problems defeating this terrible trio. It doesn’t look good for the Human Matchstick.

Peter Parker, however, hears about the raging battle either on the news, or at the Daily Bugle, or perhaps he simply is passing by. He can’t let his friend by killed by these dastardly villains, so he changes to Spider-Man to help out. The fight is a difficult one, and the Human Torch is eventually knocked unconscious, badly wounded during the melee. Spider-Man eventually ekes out a win, but he’s tired and wounded himself. Just then, the police and SHIELD arrive. The Torch is rushed to the hospital, while the villains are all placed under arrest…as is Spider-Man. When he’s taken to the prison, he’s unmasked, and the news teams at the site are quick to make sure that the entire world knows that Peter Parker is Spider-Man! End of issue one.

Now, why did I duplicate two of the big events from the early stages of Civil War? I basically did it to show that the big events Marvel had planned for this miniseries were fine and could be used, but they could be used in a way that fit the plot, rather than simply being thrown into the mix without thought as to whether or not they made sense for the character. By duplicating the events but not the circumstances surrounding the events, we could take the repercussions in many new directions. Over the next few issues of the limited series, we see Spider-Man faced with a dilemma; his secret identity is known, but he’s stuck in prison, so who’s protecting his wife and aunt? Spidey feels he has no real choice if he wants to protect those he loves the most, so he breaks out of jail to find the ladies in his life and get them to safety. His jailbreak in issue two would be the big event of that issue, made even more dramatic when he finds he can’t escape without the help of the Sandman, who’s also been sent to prison. The two reluctant allies escape, and once they’re free, Spidey lets Sandman go, vowing to find him and bring him down as soon as he’s made sure his wife and aunt are safe. (This is another layer of guilt for Peter, especially if the Sandman is part of any dastardly plots before Peter can get to him; Peter is always at his best when he’s swimming in guilt.)

Peter won’t find his aunt and wife in the second issue however. He makes his way back to the house where they’d been staying after leaving Avengers Tower, and he sees May and MJ in an upstairs window. As he rushes to the house, anxious to hold them (but not at the same time…ewwww!) the house explodes! Peter is distraught, and sure that his loved ones are dead, giving him a major mad on for anyone who supports the SHRA. Typically, Parker’s life is not going to be getting any easier, as Gyrich is using Spidey’s presence at the Torch debacle as the reason one of the FF is now in a coma at the hospital. The FF don’t quite believe that, but some of the public does, and these people really hate Spidey now. Peter doesn’t care though, and in issue three, he goes after one of the SHRA boosters (possibly Cap) blaming them for May’s and MJ’s death. Cap doesn’t want to fight Spidey and he tries to talk, but as anyone who’s read an angry Spidey comic knows, sometimes he doesn’t really listen. However, after a large public brawl (which Gyrich again spins to make Spidey look bad, contributing to the ugly public mood regarding him), Iron Man swoops in, and captures Spidey, taking him away from the battlefield.

Spider-Man still has his dander up, and is incredibly angry, but Stark calms him down by explaining that May and MJ are alive. After Stark saw Peter’s identity revealed on TV, he immediately went and got his aunt and wife, taking them back to his current hideout. He left holographic projections of them at their old house, so that anyone aiming to hurt the ladies might go through with their plans, and then assuming the ladies were dead, they would move on to other things. Spidey has a tearful reunion with two people he thought dead forever, but now he has to deal with his actions against Cap.

Meanwhile, just to pick up on the Torch thread, we see that the Torch’s injury is really causing the FF some grief. Reed is trying to argue that Spidey’s interference in the battle is what got the Torch wounded in the first place (since that’s the story Gyrich is spinning), but neither Sue or the Thing really believe it, and it’s obvious that Reed’s heart isn’t in it either. At the same token, Reed still believes the FF need to toe the line regarding this law, and that outright rebellion will only make things worse, inflaming public opinion and convincing Americans that superheroes are indeed out of control, proving Gyrich’s point. Thing and Sue aren’t as convinced, and the first cracks in the FF are planted here, as the team begins to splinter, each of them wrestling with the correct course of action.

Whew! This is just a taste of what we could do in the first few issues; we still haven’t discussed what the final plan is of the Kingpin and Mandarin (you know they have one; in fact, I’m sure they each have a different one that they aren’t sharing with their “ally”), nor have we touched on a lot of the other heroes in the MU. Any thoughts on your end on either what I’ve suggested, or some things you’d like to do in the series?

I wish I could remember all the details as well as you have. For some reason (probably “event fatigue”) I keep getting my Civil War plot points confused with the relatively sparse plot points of Secret Invasion…which I’m sure we’ll cover next, right?

I find it fascinating that you were able to keep many of the original scenes by retrofitting them to our new (logical) direction. Makes me wonder what the writers actually do at one of those Marvel retreats. I mean, you made it all sound so easy in two brief explanations, and it flows from one pragmatic conclusion to the next. Do they just play Twister all weekend and then pick names and storylines out of a hat to mix and match?

Since I can’t seem to pin down any details on my own to exploit, let me play Devil’s Advocate for a moment instead. The whole fake Thor thing has been trashed now. Completely and utterly useless. Which is fine. However, the big fight scene where he made his debut has also been scraped since the heroes are not really fighting amongst themselves en masse. Will there be any sort of significant death that we can tally up? Is this a matter of some second-string villain getting the public dirt nap? Or a less important hero falling at the hands of the villains?

To the bigger point, with Cap and Tony on reversed sides in this thing, we’ve eliminated the relevance of Nick Fury helping out Cap. Where do Tony and his band of rebels hole up now? I think we also put the kibosh on the Thunderbolts involvement, which removes the tragically dumb move of putting Osborn in charge of anything. At the same time, with Tony on the anti-SHRA side, he would no longer be in line to take over SHIELD.

So, while I’m following the show on the ground, with the FF and Spidey and the press and the politics, I’m still left wondering what the big picture is for the heroes and villains and what the shake-up will be at the end. Is there a Negative Zone prison? Are the villains shipped off to concentration camps? Is the 50-state Initiative still valid? Have you thought that far ahead? Do my questions help at all? Hello? Hello?

I think your questions help quite a bit, and they also give me a chance to draw out a more general picture, so that I’m not just doing an issue by issue summary of how I see the series going. Let me try and take them one at a time.

Yes, no Thor clone, and certainly no pathetic death of Bill Foster. That was so lame. That being said, it wouldn’t be a summer crossover without at least one high profile death (if one can call Foster a high profile death; with all due respect to the late, lamented Giant-Man/Goliath, he wasn’t exactly a fan favorite). Now, we potentially killed some of the New Warriors in the beginning of the series, just as the official Civil War did. But I also believe we can have death during the miniseries as well. One of the things I haven’t mentioned detailed during these discussions is just what the villains are up to, and I’m not going to start now. However, I will say that the villains are very active. In fact, I’ve figured out a way to work the Thor clone into the storyline, so let’s continue using the events of the original mini-series, shall we?

By the middle of the mini-series, it’s becoming obvious that some of the citizens of the MU aren’t really very happy with the way things are going. The fights between the superheroes and the villains are causing a lot of property damage and most of the unregistered heroes are lying low, meaning that the superheroes that are registered are having a hard time keeping up with the constant villain attacks (we’re checking in with our rebels every issue; they’re being led by Stark and are mostly holed up in one of his safe houses). There are fights between heroes. Usually they occur when Stark’s forces learn of an impending villain attack, or when they learn of a villain-hero brawl that’s threatening to overwhelm the heroes. Then the rebels will go to assist the heroes or stop the villains. Unfortunately, being the MU, this doesn’t always work out so well. The registered heroes are under orders to arrest the unregistered ones, and by this time, they’re getting a little pissy with those who won’t register. After all, the sanctioned heroes are working their keisters off trying to keep order, they’ve seen one of the rebels batter Captain America (that would be Spider-Man, mentioned above) and some of the registered heroes can’t help but blame the rebels for the injuries and property damage the villains are causing. So, anytime the two sides get together, there will be a fight.

Into the midst of the registered heroes comes Bill Foster, whose career as a hero has always been somewhat rocky. He registers with the government hoping that perhaps, now that the hero playing field has been thinned, he can grab some attention. Don’t get me wrong; he’s not a total jerk just looking for headlines. Foster has always been a hero, and still is, but he’s also not above taking advantage of the situation while it’s front page news. Still, public sentiment seems to be moving away from registration, and this won’t do for the Kingpin or the Mandarin. They need more time for their endgame and that means they need to make sure that the Civil War continues. So, they decide to come up with a fiendish plan (as villains are wont to do). Knowing that Thor hasn’t been seen in awhile, but also knowing that he would surely object to mortals telling him what to do, they decide that perhaps he could be the perfect fall guy in their scheme.

Nightshade, working for the baddies, begins moving around the country, spending brief moments at some of the sites of Thor’s most recent battles before his death. At these sites, she searches for and collects any data on Thor, and with the help of someone like Sabretooth (someone with enhanced senses) collects any DNA samples that still exist, if any). She also, with help from some of the other operatives in the villain’s employ, breaks into Avengers Tower (and because the registered heroes are stretched so thin, this proves possible. They also catch a break when Jarvis, who should be able to activate the automatic defenses at the tower, but makes a few poor choices and is knocked unconscious instead. That’s a plot thread to follow up on in Secret Invasion.) and raids the computer files for information on Thor. With all of this information, she returns to her fully stocked lab and, with the help of other criminal scientists like Karl Malus, she creates a clone of Thor. Dr. Faustus helps to program the clone Thor’s mind, and makes sure to fill the Thor clone with a lot of anti-SHRA rhetoric. This clone isn’t perfect (or as powerful as Thor), but it doesn’t have to be. Now, the villains simply await their chance.

Within a few days, another villains attack draws out both registered heroes, with Bill Foster among them, and the rebels. Soon, the villains either are captured or escape, and it’s just the heroes fighting. The sanctioned heroes are tired, and this exacerbates the issues I mentioned above, and the two sides are soon fighting in earnest. The media, of course, records all of this, and Gyrich and his allies continue to use these fights as proof that the unregistered heroes are threats to the country. However, no one expects the scoop they are about to get. Suddenly the Thor clone flies into the fight, spouting the anti-SHRA rhetoric that Faustus programmed into him. Thor is violent and brutal, way over the top, but the cameras are picking all of this up, and he does look and sound like the public assumes Thor would, and he seems to have Thor’s powers. Before the Thor clone is there too long, he lashes out with his lightning, killing Bill Foster. Both the registered and unregistered heroes are stunned, and Stark quickly calls for a retreat (the clone Thor flees then as well, whipping up a storm to discourage pursuit, which helps to maintain the illusion of him being a rebel, but then goes another way once he’s out of view of the TV cameras). The rebels flee, but to the eyes of the world, and to the eyes of the registered heroes, the rebels have crossed the line. This inflames public opinion against them and also incites some of the registered heroes to be even more upset (while the Thor clone seemed off to them, and some may suspect the truth, again, these guys are tired and frustrated, so they’re not all thinking too deeply on the matter).

So, there’s that event covered. What else did you ask? No, Tony wouldn’t take over SHIELD, but Captain America now can. Of course, we want to assassinate him at the end of the crossover (because Brubaker is doing such neat things with that plot in Cap’s own book, and really, Bucky would look silly in the Iron Man armor), but for now, we could make him head of SHIELD throughout the crossover, and Fury could help Stark (it wouldn’t be the first time they were uneasy allies, and I think they make a much more interesting duo than Cap and Fury anyway).

At first glance, I’m saying no on the Negative Zone prison, which I always hated. Of course, with villains and heroes being captured by the government, they’re going to need a place to hold them, and if I’m not mistaken, all of the current government prisons for superpowered captives use Stark tech. So, the government turns to Reed Richards to create a place to put these superpowered people, where the superpowered people can’t escape and Stark can’t use his inside knowledge of security systems to cause a breakout. Now, Reed may be brilliant, but he’s already stretched thin, and he doesn’t have much time. He needs a place that’s impregnable, and he knows of somewhere like that: the Negative Zone. He’s not thrilled with that solution, but really, the captives are going to be stuck in the prison, and will never see the outside. What does it matter where the prison sits, either the Negative Zone or Butte Montana, to the prisoner sitting inside it. So, the Negative Zone prison is still around.

As for the 50 State Initiative, that ties in with the question of how we end our Civil War miniseries. Goodness knows, I thought the end to the original MU miniseries was one of the most stupid anticlimaxes I had ever remembered for a big event. I would like to think that we could wrap things up a little more tightly. The last issue would have the Kingpin and Mandarin’s plots coming to fruition, and a huge villain attack (with the Thor clone participating), which both registered and unregistered heroes involved. Once the villains are defeated, the heroes on both sides would go at it, with Cap and Iron Man fighting each other above it all. Cap would be talking to Iron Man, trying to convince him that he needs to surrender. After all, Cap could reason, the SHRA IS law, and if that is going to change, it’s going to need to change by fighting within the system. Stark’s way is only making things worse, and while he doesn’t blame Stark for Foster’s death, surely this rebellion made that death possible. Stark realizes that what Cap is saying makes sense, and he surrenders (I think it makes more sense that Cap could sway Stark with words, rather than Cap looking around a battlefield and going, “My bad.”).

That wraps up the series. Captain America is the one who suggests the 50 State Initiative, as a way of trying to convince the heroes who haven’t registered to do so. He holds a press conference to discuss this, and during the conference, he’s assassinated by someone yelling “Fascist!” That puts it just about where the MU was after Civil War, with the exception of Stark as head of SHIELD. You’d need someone else to fill that slot, and I think a lot of people could take his place and some great stories could come out of that. I’d think Ms. Marvel might make sense, or if you really want to tie this story into Secret Invasion, how about making Dr. Pym the head of SHIELD. That could be very interesting….

Thoughts?

First of all, “Reed may be brilliant, but he’s already stretched thin” is probably the funniest thing I’ve read all day. Secondly, and this one is not as funny, I’m disappointed in this turn of events. The reason I continue to point out the fake Thor in every reply is because I find the whole concept to be sooooo out of left field as to be nonsensical. And then killing off Goliath (just who is White Goliath, by the way?) just adds to the nonsense. Look, here’s a character that no one has seen (aside form a few appearances) for roughly two decades or more and then he shows up only to be killed off? Ignoring the fact that he had given up the heroing bit to become a serious scientist, it still smacks of over-convenience which itself is a sign of bad writing. I was sure you were going to just let these bits of the story fade away. Who would really come up with the ludicrous idea of cloning a God in the midst of a Civil War? Wow…now that I said it out loud, it is kind of a brilliant idea…but that’s part of the problem too! If you could’ve seen this coming and sat around and daydreamed about the far-reaching possibilities for months on end, then sure, you may have come up with this ludicrous plan. But to just pull it out of your back pocket and casually throw it on the table? Your allies would either laugh at you or have you committed. And don’t drag poor ol’ Bill Foster into your scheme! What did he ever do to anyone? And where’s the significance? He’s not the “go for the glory” type. He has never craved the spotlight or sought unnecessary recognition. That said, your explanation of the cloning quest was pretty spot-on. Kudos for that.

Honestly? I would much rather see a member of the Young Avengers sacrificed for the cause…the new female Hawkeye never did anything for me. She’s disposable. And just the simple fact that she’s so young and new would allow the loss to resonate even more and reinforce the pro-SHRA’s drive for training and discipline. Granted, you don’t have the literal deus ex machina of Thor appearing from out of nowhere (after months of absence), killing a hero, and then disappearing in a puff of smoke, but it could still be managed. You have an unnamed assailant assassinate Cap as he’s ascending to the helm of SHIELD. Why couldn’t this same villain pull the trigger on Hawkeye in the midst of all the hero versus hero chaos? There must be a shape-shifter or marksman somewhere amongst the villainous ranks that we could appropriate for the dastardly deed. If the villains have all been captured or chased away, and the method of attack was parallel to that of a well-known hero, then the media would have a field day with placing the blame on the rebel faction. And the rest of the story could play itself out as you’ve described.

Or, conversely, here’s our opportunity to make Punisher relevant again (since he’s spent the last decade or so becoming a horrible caricature of himself…a soulless, cliched leftover from the “grim-n-gritty” vigilante era of comics). Good ol’ Frank is such a devotee to Captain America and the quasi-military feel of the superhero crowd, that he maniacally follows the SHRA to the letter. He takes it upon himself to stomp out the menace of the rebel heroes and he doesn’t care who gets in his way. Since Spidey actually had the audacity to lay his hands upon Cap, Frank decides he needs to take him out. Only problem is, Spidey senses the danger and dodges the shot…as a result, Hawkeye takes one for the team. This could be the turning point in the media coverage. The so-called heroes have now killed one of their own (in theory) and both sides have growing doubts about the SHRA. Not sure what the fallout would be there, but it puts the onus on the other side to prove this can work. Gyrich, being a politician, can play both sides against each other. He’d claim that the SHRA would be good for everyone, sanctioned heroes included. And Punisher would be made the scapegoat (he could benefit from the depth).

I’m not sold on the Negative Zone prison either. It didn’t really seem to serve a purpose considering how easily folks broke out of it anyway. It may as well just be a part of the Fifty State Initiative…not just training, but rehabilitation. Perhaps the jail could be an extension of Camp Hammond (which would make Taskmaster’s involvement more reasonable…he could be training villains to be heroes as part of a community service sentence).

As for the SHIELD thing, Cap would be the obvious selection. His assassination is the true icing on the cake for the event (and I think it should take place during Civil War and not in his own title). The American people would finally feel at ease with a government official and begin to believe in better days ahead. And then POW! Looking ahead to upcoming events, we know that the Skrulls gain control of SHIELD during Secret Invasion. Since you’ve already brought up the issue in Gyrich’s run for political prominence, why not have the other senator who’s posing as a Skrull become the new head of SHIELD? The government seeks more oversight of the organization and more control, so they name one of their own to run it. Makes sense on paper.

And finally, does Tony Stark have safe houses? I know he has vacation homes and scads of real estate investments, but does he have “drop off the grid” accommodations? I just ask because it seems funny to imagine this billionaire playboy skulking about in abandoned sewer tunnels. There would be a much more interesting dynamic between Stark and Fury, making for an uneasy alliance in the face of so much upheaval. On the plus side, since most of Marvel’s America operates on Stark technology, it’s easy to imagine how the rebels could set up quick response teams to deal with the villains and such. They would have eyes and ears everywhere and access to almost every computer in the country.

So, to recap, I was completely on board with the beginnings of your revamp, but there are a few things here in the middle that I disagree with. Maybe I’m just being picky, but I think there’s a lot of potential to turn this mediocre miniseries into something more long-lasting and meaningful. Do you agree with any of the points I’ve made? Any ideas how we can implement the suggestions I offered?

I agree with ALL of the points you offer (and I’m even ok with the killing of the new Hawkeye, despite being a fan of her character and of the Young Avengers in general).  The ONLY reason I used the clone Thor, killed Goliath and brought in the Negative Zone prison was to point out that all of the big ideas from the published version of Civil War could still be used, and they could be worked into a plot more seamlessly than they were by Mark Millar.  However, with that point made (probably in much more detail than was required) we can go back to putting together a Civil War story that makes more sense and flows even better, and I think your suggestions do that.

Your comments about Tony Stark and safehouses makes sense; he probably wouldn’t necessarily have them, and certainly his partnership with Fury is a lot more interesting if the safehouses are something Fury brings to the table.  It sets up a much better dynamic between them, and puts the two of them on more equal footing, making for more interesting chemistry between them.

We could go on and on about our Civil War, but I think that we’ve detailed it pretty well, with my beginning and your middle and end.  In the long run, we end up almost where the Marvel Universe was at the end of their Civil War, with only Stark being in a drastically different place (but, I think in the end, a much more interesting one for that character.  It’s also a place that keep him a hero, rather than turning him into the fascist ass he became in the MU).  I suppose that Bill Foster’s in a different place as well, being alive rather than dead, but considering he was languishing in Limbo before he was brought back simply to die, there’s not a lot of difference.  We’ll just continue to allow him to languish in limbo.

So, considering the length of the post, I think our work here is done.  Perhaps we can go through this same process again in the future with Secret Invasion, another mini-series with a great premise that was never fulfilled.