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Friday, October 22, 2021

Superhero Now: Superhero Feuds, Part II

PAT LOIKA (IRON MAN) [CC BY 2.0] / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
PAT LOIKA (IRON MAN) [CC BY 2.0] / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
In my column yesterday, I noted the sudden interest in traditionally good superheroes going toe to toe against each other to provide a thrilling, hyped-up battle, only to disappoint audiences everywhere. And I pretty much called out the superhero industry for forcing us to pick a side between our beloved protagonists. Or at least that’s the general idea with all of these superhero flicks featuring our favorite costumed fictional characters bashing each other’s’ heads into the ground.

But now, I thought that I would explore this idea more in this article specifically involving Captain America: Civil War, released earlier this month, along with the implications I saw both in the film and a general trend among superheroes today with special attention to superhero feuds. Captain America, after forcing the audience to choose a side for most of the movie, ends relatively unresolved.

So. The marketing for this film basically invited the audience and the consumer to pick a side. Just look at the poster. There they are: two of the biggest Marvel characters facing each other, glaring endlessly into each other’s eyes. Each hero had their motives. Team Iron Man wanted to allow government regulation of superhero powers, and Team Captain America wanted the opposite. After watching the movie, and even during it too, I had to wonder: how persuasive were their arguments for each side? I knew I had a favorite (I’m team Captain America all the way), but even I couldn’t explain why I chose that side beyond my complete adoration of everything Captain America related. I even tried siding with Iron Man’s perspective and came to the  same conclusion: that I had no reasonable defense for either side.

I know that both characters are stubborn and that they constantly believe that they are in the right and have the best intentions. There’s nothing surprising about that. Those are some of the aspects I even love about their characters. But their mere stubbornness, which seems to be a prevalent theme in all superhero feuds, gets pretty boring and repetitive after a while. And it gets annoying when that’s all I see. The lack of creativity on the part of superhero writers, in regards to their inability to come up with a compelling argument for either side, stems from the fact that these feuds are marketable and typically commercially successful.

I guess it would make sense that the superhero industry would want us to pick a side based on our own preferences. We do all the work for them that way, getting into more arguments with our friends and fellow fans than the superheroes actually do in the movies and the comic books.

Similarly, this seems to be the case in Captain America: Civil War — the characters pick sides based on their own personal friendships and ties rather than whether they really support the government’s regulation over their powers or not.

The characters’ biases are the heaviest and most important factors in their decision, it seems. This interjection of our personal feelings over a professional and important decision sounds familiar. It sounds a lot like our American political system, doesn’t it? It makes sense that today’s media accurately reflects our current situation, even if that situation isn’t great. While politics isn’t our main focus, it is important to note its relation to comics because they are intrinsically tied to history and politics.

These topics seem to be just a handful of the various problems that the superhero industry faces by choosing to tackle the issue of feuds. But as an audience member, I’m personally insulted when the writers are unable to come up with a plot driven by more than a character’s stubbornness. Without three-dimensional characters, superhero feuds lack the emotional kick that I crave from movies.

You can reach MICHAEL CLOGSTON at mlclogston@ucdavis.edu.

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