*Be it known that this post by no means represents the opinion of all employees of Von’s Comics.*
Let’s put aside the fact that Iron Man has been a favorite character of mine since I was a kid because he has cool armor and I loved playing him in the arcade machine. Also put aside the fact that Iron Man has been written as a baby-eating madman in the Civil War series despite claims that both he and Cap would be represented fairly. I agree with Iron Man in theory, if not in practice.
One of the core themes running through Civil War is how the time for masked vigilantism is over. This is neither a new nor radical concept for comics. In Alan Moore’s Watchmen, the issue is explored throughout the decades and characters are forced to choose sides. In Marvel’s Ultimate universe all superhumans are expected to join the government when they reach the age of 18 as seen in Ultimate Spider-Man. Even DC decided “Wow, that’s a good idea” and incorporated it as a theme in their Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters and Battle for Bludhaven comics. (Hey, I like DC, but consider the timing on this one.)
The problem is the law does not allow for vigilante justice. We are not allowed to walk around getting revenge for crimes because of the slippery slope it represents. And in the Marvel universe, this is the same. Police officers are duly appointed public servants who are responsible for carrying out justice.
Of course, the Marvel universe is different, and that’s not just because it’s a comic. In the Marvel universe, you’ve got people who can run through walls, bend steel girders with their minds, and run around in purple shorts smashing things to bits. Naturally, the police can’t stop them. So the super hero is a countermeasure to the super villain. To stop Abomination or Apocalypse, you need Captain America or Wolverine. These heroes have proven themselves repeatedly and above all, gained the public trust.
But what about heroes like Foolkiller or Cardiac? These super powered heroes kill villains. (The Punisher also kills bad guys, but he has no powers other than the power of bullet-fu.) Other heroes also go too far, like Deadpool using guns on his opponent or the Hulk’s tendency to destroy buildings around him.
There is also a more practical purpose to registering superhumans: Keeping track of people with dangerous abilities in the United States. In the US, we register firearms, nuclear materials, hazardous chemicals, and extremely sophisticated technology. This is so the government can keep track of where it is and who is using it. Most superhumans have abilities similar to what I just listed, such as the ability to fire energy blasts (Cyclops), create radiation (Radioactive Man), secrete acid or mind altering pheromones (Chemistro and the Purple Man), or have telepathy. (Professor Xavier.) To keep the public safe, it’s important to know where these people are. While there are good guys out there like Professor Xavier who respects other people and refrains from using his powers on them, there are bad guys like Mentallo who are just as willing to steal secrets from others.
The Superhuman Registration Act also helps the government coordinate superhuman responses better. If Galactus suddenly appeared in the sky, the government could round up heroes to fight him if they knew where to contact them. If there is also a radioactive waste spill in Brooklyn, the government could coordinate heroes who are better equipped to deal with the situation. It could also help hold those who commit crimes accountable.
Does this sound terrible or fascist? Do the supporters of this act want to see superhumans enslaved and give the government complete and total power? Quite simply: no.
For starters, fascism isn’t even the word you’d use. It’d be totalitarian. Second, it’s practical. Government agencies in the Marvel universe like S.H.I.E.L.D. pretty much know what most superheroes’ identities are, or possess the resources to discover them quickly. Other groups have already gathered together this information such as the fabled Identity Disc. It’s not difficult in the modern age to find someone’s secret identity if you have the resources at hand. Most writers don’t use this bit of information because it would spoil the plot at hand if every super villain was finding out a superhero’s secret identity every issue.
So I agree that there should be a Superhuman Registration Act…in theory. In theory it’s a nice way to keep track of all who have superpowers. But in practice it’s flawed. For starters, the act takes away power from many and puts it solely in the hands of a few. All of the heroes who signed the act have seen themselves drafted to fight the rebel superheroes, and being at the government’s beck and call means they can be sent against their will into situations that they are opposed to.
There is also an irony in that most of the heroes who joined Iron Man already have public identities. She-Hulk, Tigra, Reed Richards and Hank Pym have all had public identities for years. They are used to living in the open so they would naturally encourage others to live as they do. The supervillains who joined the registration act also have public identities due to being in the legal system, so they are a little biased.
Speaking of the villains, almost every villain who joins gets pardoned for their crimes. This has put very questionable people on Iron Man’s side. While these villains are powerful allies, can Iron Man be truly on the right side if he lets sociopaths like Green Goblin and Bullseye on his team? We shall see.
So, while Iron Man has a good idea, he’s not implementing it very well. He’s alienated a large portion of the hero community and his extreme measures (such as summoning cloned Thor, or ‘Clor’ as he’s jokingly called) make him out to be a villain. So maybe at another time, their registration act might work. But for now, in this form, it’s most likely not going to.