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The Superhuman Registration Act, Nerdsplained

Captain America: Civil War drops in little over a week and it is the single most anticipated movie amongst us writers since Nerds on Earth launched in 2014 – and that is saying something given the stellar lineup we’ve seen hit the silver screen over those two years!

In the time between now and the movie’s release, you can treat yourself to some superhero v superhero action by digesting the Civil War arc in the comics.  The teams will be pretty familiar (Team Cap versus Team Tony), but most of the rest of it will likely differ in regards to the movie.

Here is a very brief primer on how the Superhuman Registration Act came about, what it meant, how opposing sides developed, and which comics the arc is contained within.

Marvel Civil War: The Inciting IncidentRobert_Hunter_(Earth-616)_Civil_War_Vol_1_1

A team of young superheroes, The New Warriors, has their escapades filmed for a reality TV show.  They track a group of baddies to the little town of Stamford, Connecticut, and engage in a fight that is wholly out of their league.  At its climax, the villain Nitro blows his top – literally – and levels the town, killing 612 civilians.  (Incidentally, this event also birthed one of my favorite character arcs of all time with a character named Penance.)

Stark and the Illuminati had already predicted that such an incident would occur and were actively trying to draft and implement the Superhuman Registration Act before the events at Stamford, but it definitely proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The Superhuman Registration Act

The Act itself required all superhumans – be they gods, natural superhumans, or those augmented by science, technology, or magic – to register with SHIELD as “living weapons of mass destruction.”  Registration meant oversight and official training with the idea of assigning registered superheroes to a state as members of an Avengers team (this was called The Fifty State Initiative.)

“Whose Side Are You On?”

Tony Stark championed the Act and was joined by the likes of Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, Reed Richards, and Hank Pym.  On the other side of the aisle stood Captain America, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Winter Soldier, and Doctor Strange.

The Anti-Registration group opposed the law arguing that heroes needed their secrecy to protect their families and to respond swiftly against threats to preserve life.  By refusing to register, heroes became outlaws and were actively located and arrested by those heroes (and villains) who had.  Of course, that didn’t stop Cap and his teammates from fighting the good fight underground as Secret Avengers.

Where You Can Read the Arc

This was a massive event and spanned dozens of comics.  The easiest way to find them all is to open up the Marvel Unlimited App, tap on BROWSE at the bottom, hit COMIC EVENTS at the top of the resulting screen, and scroll down to the letter C.  All 103 relevant issues are neatly housed right there!

Barring that, Marvel has a great paperback that collects the core series, or an unreal 11-volume boxed set that collects EVERYTHING!  Below is a screen cap of the wikipedia page for the event listing all the issues by title and number.

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 11.06.01 AM


I am in the minority when it comes to the other Nerds on Earth, but I am Pro-Registration. I agree with the need for oversight, see a tremendous amount of value in providing training for those with powers (something Xavier saw the need for over four decades ago and nobody faulted him), and I think the Fifty State Initiative is a really, really good idea.

However, while I agree with the Superhuman Registration Act in theory I do think its execution left much to be desired. Turning well-meaning heroes who contributed to the safety and peace of the world into criminals basically overnight is a bit much, and coming to aggravated blows over it is even more.  I’m not smart enough to devise a better solution, but I’m confident there is one.

So where do you stand?  Are you #TeamCap or #TeamTony and why?  Let us know in the comments!

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