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By Tim Leong
WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
The upcoming blockbuster event comic, Civil War (Marvel Comics), launches this month with as much attention as it does controversy. Written by Scotsman Mark Millar and drawn by Canadian Steve McNiven, Civil War is the tale of the characters of the Marvel Universe taking sides over The Superhero Registration Act, legislation that requires all superheroes to register with the federal government. Civil War has parallels to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, the Patriot Act and prison camps at Guantanamo Bay and has many people watching with fascination to the point that a cultural movement has begun to cherish and remember this mini-series in museums, history books and even reenactments.
One of the books that helped jump start this phenomena is New Avengers: The Illuminati, which features superheroes gathering to discuss the best course of action in responding to the Registration Act. Jeff Pasley, who teaches conspiracy theories and conspiracies in U.S. history and culture at the University of Missouri-Columbia, concurs that Illuminati helped launch Civil War:
CF: Have you heard of any conspiracy groups like the Illuminati being involved in Civil War?
Pasley: Oh, well, if I believe in the Illuminati I guess I’d have to, right? The idea is that they were the people that started the French Revolution and never went away.
Pasley: A more popular one with the Civil War is Jewish bankers. I won’t call it a serious one, but that actually connects to something that was argued in a more serious vein, that the Civil War was a war for Northern capitalism, opposed to slavery.
CF: Winners get to write history. Is there any evidence of writers from Scotland shaping the story of Civil War?
Pasley: (laughs). What is this about?
CF: It’s something we’re tossing around the office.
Pasley: Well, a writer from Scotland, of course, a guy called Robeson, is one of the first guys to write a book that put forward the conspiracy theory of the Illuminati. Kinda put them on the map. He was a University of Edinburgh professor. I don’t know about the Civil War thing, but there’s certainly a connection between the Scots and the conspiracy of the Illuminati.
Another event that helped launch Civil War is a fight with the New Warriors that results in a massive explosion leveling the town of Stamford, Conn. Sources at the Stamford Historical Society don’t deny the town’s involvement in Civil War, but the extent of which is up for debate.
CF: Is this the Historical Society?
Stamford Historical Society: Yes it is.
CF: I was thinking about passing though town in the next couple of weeks and I was curious how Stamford played into Civil War?
SHS: We had 900 men in the Civil War.
SHS: Uh-huh. It was just over 10 percent of the population.
CF: Was the entire town wiped out?
SHS: No, no, no, no, no, no.
CF: I thought the entire town was wiped out.
SHS: Not Stamford.
SHS: Are you sure you mean the Civil War?
CF: Oh yeah.
SHS: The one that really got it was Litchfield. We had a healthy number of men and healthy representation in the regiments. It was a nine-month regiment that got caught in Port Hudson and lost a lot of men and there were lots of others. Lots of others.
CF: So those 900 soldiers from Stamford -
SHS: Well, they weren’t all soldiers. Some were in the Navy as well.
CF: Were they always in the military or were they new recruits?
SHS: No, no, no they were volunteers. Most of the soldiers in the Civil War were volunteers.
CF: So they were new warriors, really, if you will.
CF: If I might be passing through town. Do you know if there’s a place for Speed Ball?
SHS: You had to ask. I don’t know. I’m sorry I don’t know. I can tell you I’ve never heard of it.
CF: You’ve never heard of Speedball?
CF: That’s OK.
The most surprising thing out of Civil War is Marvel’s lack of cross-promotion. A longtime affiliate of Toy Biz, there seems to be a missing element of toy tie-ins to go along with this comic that is widely speculated to be a bestseller. In fact, the cashier at General Sweeney’s Museum Gift Shop in Republic, Mo., confirmed the toy shortage.
Gift Shop: Hello, Wilson’s Creek Battlefield.
CF: Hi, is this the gift shop?
GS: Uh, well, this is the gift shop for General Sweeney’s Museum.
GS: And there’s the main gift shop at the Wilson’s Creek battlefield.
CF: Do you guys sell replicas of action figures and soldiers?
GS: Mostly they’re just small, little plastic soldiers in a bag. That kind of thing.
CF: Do you sell any name soldiers? Who do you sell?
GS: Let me get the bag out here and I’ll take a looksee … authentic Gettysburg, it says, and it shows gray and blue plastic soldiers and horses and artillery pieces.
CF: Are there any captains? Like, Captain America?
GS: Uh, no. Nothing like that.
CF: You said you have metal soldiers too? Are any of them iron men?
GS: No, no, it’s all plastic. They’re just kids toys. Nothing like action figures you’re thinking.
Civil War isn’t just toy sales and political allegory, though. The title itself explains it: War. The entire series is littered with fight scenes between some of the most well known heroes in the Marvel Universe. These fights are already near-legendary and growing in popularity. They’re so popular, in fact, people are forming groups and units so that they can reenact them. An employee at Regimental Quartermaster, a Civil War reenactment supply store in Gettysburg, Pa. explained the phenomenon:
Regimental Quartermaster: Good afternoon, Regimental Quartermaster, how can I help you?
CF: If I’m looking to join a Civil War reenactment, what kind of stuff do I need to get?
RQ: Are you just looking to join a unit or just go one time and see what happens?
CF: Eh, just see what happens.
RQ: If you hook up with some units they’ll have uniforms for you to try out, so you wouldn’t need much. Other times, if you’re going out and just walk around and look the part, you’d need, Confederate uniform being: jacket, trousers, shirt, suspenders to hold your pants up, and maybe some shoes and a hat. And that’ll get you by. Then you can you can get into the leather accessories and stuff like that. Now, if you want to go into the field, you’ll need a gun.
CF: Do you guys sell, like, shields?
RQ: Sell what?
RQ: What do you mean by that?
CF: Like, a circular shield for defense.
RQ: Um, we’re talking about Civil War, right?
RQ: Um, they didn’t have shields.
CF: Oh. Are you sure?
RQ: No, they didn’t have shields.
CF: Can you get like a big hammer, or something like that?
RQ: No, they had guns.
RQ: I think you’re thinking French and Indian war. They were very technologically advanced in the Civil War.
CF: Do you do the reenactments yourself?
CF: What side were you on?
RQ: I just did civilian impressions but a lot of the guys do North/South and some of them galvanize and play both sides.
CF: So they can just pick what side they want to be on?
RQ: Pretty much.
CF: I guess it just depends if they’re really into the act or not.
RQ: Most of them belong to a unit. A lot of them join units that their ancestors might’ve belonged to. If you go to a reenactment you’ll probably want to talk to a couple of units to see which one you feel comfortable with?
CF: How long does Civil War last?
RQ: The events are usually a weekend long?
CF: Oh, well I know in book form it lasts for seven issues.
RQ: No, it’s a weekend. They’re weekend warriors.
Weekend warriors and new warriors, the employee meant, no doubt.