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mygif

But don’t all the arguments in favor of Mutant Registration apply just as well, in Marvel 616, to anyone with powers?* The mutant prejudice is still there, in that somehow all of a sudden the general public a) can identify the difference between Spider-Man’s and the Beast’s powers, and b) cares.

* See: Civil War

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Mister Alex said on August 13th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Vis-a-vis mutants as teenagers, you left out, “Aaaargh! My body is doing strange, uncontrollable things that I don’t fully understand!”

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anonymous bosch said on August 13th, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Your final conclusion is right on the money. but this is nothing unique to the X-Men. In point of fact, the Silver Age version’s failure to register to the comics-reading public is most likely due to a not-direct-enough connection to adolescent-empowerment fantasy, which, like it or not, is the gateway to any mainstream superhero concept getting accepted into the pantheon. 60’s X-Men was, to a point, a more normative take on Doom Patrol; simultaneously too strange, perhaps, for mass acceptance and too subtle with the disenfranchisement motif.(five white American teenagers and their aging, bald mentor. don’t exactly scream sexy, do it?)

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mygif

“Days of Future Past” is a literary reference.

So, it’s not Claremont combining opposites. It’s Claremont trying to be cool by quoting Proust (who combined opposites).

Doug M.

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mygif

What about hospitals? There are mutants who don’t look any different from the average patient, but who have some biological quirk or other that would make standard methods of treatment difficult, impossible, or even harmful to themselves, the doctors, and maybe other patients. Do you want to work in an ER knowing that the next person to get brought in from a car accident or with a broken bone or just weird, unknown symptoms might explode when you try to take his temperature? Or die when you put her on oxygen and an IV drip? Or microwave every kidney in the ward just by being there?

Hell, registering at that point is in mutants’ interest, just so in an emergency they’ve got a note in their file that reads: “don’t poke that weird organ next to the spleen. It’s not a tumor, it’s a portal to the darkforce dimension.”

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mygif

Also, about 1/2 of the mutant population is pretty evil. That’s a very high percentage.

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Kid Kyoto said on August 13th, 2010 at 5:22 pm

I think you’ve got it but need to go further. Society’s fear of mutants is akin to our fear of the next generation coming up. They look funny, they act weird, the know all sorts of things their parents don’t and they need to be controlled or they’ll destroy the world with their rocky rolly hippy hoppy music and atari nintendo pods.

The house ads Marvel ran where they showed 4 kids and said ‘it’s 1984 do you know WHAT your children are’ unlined it perfectly.

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BitterCupOJoe said on August 13th, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Thank you! I’ve been saying this for some time now. The X-Men are a terrible stand-in for oppressed minorities, because there’s every reason to be terrified of the guy standing next to you if he can throw a car through a building. That’s one of the things that most irritated me about Civil War: the pro-reg side was almost entirely right from a logical standpoint. It’s insanity to let people go around throwing energy blasts and mentally controlling people; saying, “well it would be a violation of their rights” to make them register or undergo training is just nuts. That’s like saying, “well, it’s wrong to require someone to undergo medical training and get licensed to operate as a doctor” or “look, the people carrying assault rifles in public have mostly been good people in the past, so what’s the worry?”

There’s a lot of good meta-arguments to be made against the SHRA or the MRA, but if you go under the assumption that Marvel earth is basically like real world Earth, and its inhabitants mostly the same as well, the MRA/SHRA are the logical endpoint. You would have to be out of your goddamned mind to not be worried about someone with superpowers snapping and deciding he wants to start crushing buildings with his mind or whatever. Or, you know, just orchestrating an overthrow of the government.

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Rob Bartlett said on August 13th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

While, in a lot of ways, the connections (and resonance) to adolescence are there, a lot of bigotry has arisen from the “threats” posed by certain groups. Stormfront.org banners are filled with people who think Middle Easterners will blow up your planes (even without magnetic powers), homosexuals will devour your sons and African Americans will rape your daughters, and Hispanics will take what’s left of Anglo-culture and displace it.

Now, the slandered are certainly capable of it in technical terms. But it’s bigoted because of the belief anyone of an “other” background WANTS to. And is GOING to, given half the chance. And to be honest, for all the evil mutants, they usually do it in flashy, grandstanding gestures, with the exception of your given telepath.

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wolfman1987 said on August 13th, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I think the flaw in the comparison between security and the mutant registration act is the removal of choice. You can opt out of dealing with metal detectors by never/rarely using them. While it is certainly difficult to get by without ever flying, it is possible. I haven’t ever been trhough a metal detector in my adult life. Conversely, for the mutant registration act to work, it has to be mandatory for anyone with any powers, even if they never want to go into a high security area.
For that reason, it is a fundamentally greater violation of rights than any of the other metaphors. Removing the option of opting out makes the restriction all the more egregious.

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BitterCupOJoe said on August 13th, 2010 at 6:16 pm

The difference between Middle Easterners or homosexuals or Hispanics being discriminated against is that, well, that’s stupid. There’s nothing inherently dangerous about being one of those groups, or any of the other minority groups that are discriminated against. That’s not the same thing as being able to accidentally cut someone in half with lasers from their eyes if they forget to put on their glasses.

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mygif

The big problem with the mutant registration act and other such things is trying to fit them into the existing narrative. Basically you’ve got two diverging ways of dealing with superhumans, how the real world would react, and how the marvel (or dc) world has reacted for 40 or so years.

A couple of generations of comics fans have grown up with the status quo in comics being frankly not that realistic in regard to how people deal with the fact that there are some humans who can cause WMD levels of damage all by their lonesome. Saying that all of a sudden the populous is going to react with some common sense is somewhat jarring, and may not be what people want from the big two and their characters.

I personally would like to see a setting in which some sort of Department of Metahuman Investigations sends trained agents to solve crimes involving superhumans. (Powers didn’t really do it for me, as it stuck too closely to the cape&cowl tropes) However, I’d rather see that setting be a new creation, not a modification of either of the existing superhero mythos.

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mygif

Here’s my take on it. The Mutant Registration Act is bad not because it’s unreasonable or impractical, but because it’s not enough. What it represents is an effort to make mutants fit into the structure of society as it is. But what’s really called for, what really needs to happen, is for society itself to evolve. I have no idea what shape this evolution should take, or how such a monumental restructuring should proceed, but that’s the direction people should be thinking in. Mutants are a dynamic new factor on the world stage, and everyone needs to use their imagination if they’re going to deal with that. When you get right down to it, mutants aren’t really comparable to races or ethnicities. They’re something new, something that defies traditional categorization. And these problems can’t be dealt with in traditional ways. Well, they can, but it’s not the best solution. The best way to settle this is for an enlightened civilization to come into existence, one where mutants don’t have to be afraid to show their faces. Is this line of thinking fantastical? Of course it is. Realistically, there’s no way humanity as a whole would get off its collective ass and put in the effort to reshape itself to account for the existence of these demi-gods. Thus, comics. Actually, in real life, such a movement would require something radical, like a messiah, a Ghandi, an MLK to inspire sweeping change. And I guess that’s what Xavier and Magneto are competing for.

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mygif

” saying, “well it would be a violation of their rights” to make them register or undergo training is just nuts. That’s like saying, “well, it’s wrong to require someone to undergo medical training and get licensed to operate as a doctor” or “look, the people carrying assault rifles in public have mostly been good people in the past, so what’s the worry?””

That’s only true if people are born surgeons or have medical conditions where assault rifles are wired onto their hands a la VIDEODROME. You can’t discriminate against people based on an accident of birth (at least, you shouldn’t be able to.)

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mygif

Would you also call for black belts to be registered? After all, they could do quite a lot of damage on a plane too.

I can see both sides of the argument, and I think the reason that the anti-mutant registration act is inherently creepier than gun licenses or whatever is that you don’t have a choice about being born a mutant.

What if, instead of making it mandatory to register, they made a list similar to the sex offenders list? You do anything bad (we’re assuming “bad” would be better defined here than it is for the real list I’m basing this on) or perhaps criminally negligant/out of control, you get on the list and are stuck with extra airport security, but until then you get the benefit of doubt.

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BitterCupOJoe said:

“Thank you! I’ve been saying this for some time now. The X-Men are a terrible stand-in for oppressed minorities, because there’s every reason to be terrified of the guy standing next to you if he can throw a car through a building. That’s one of the things that most irritated me about Civil War: the pro-reg side was almost entirely right from a logical standpoint. It’s insanity to let people go around throwing energy blasts and mentally controlling people; saying, “well it would be a violation of their rights” to make them register or undergo training is just nuts. That’s like saying, “well, it’s wrong to require someone to undergo medical training and get licensed to operate as a doctor” or “look, the people carrying assault rifles in public have mostly been good people in the past, so what’s the worry?””

But imagine that the AMA has been found to be run by evil shapeshifters, escaped Nazis were brainwashing the head of the FDA, and three out of every five medical schools turned out to be fronts for criminal death cults run by immortal masterminds, ninja overlords, and international armies dedicated to overthrowing all we hold dear as a civilization? Would you still be saying, “Hey, I think that mutants should be registered by the authorities so that someone responsible is watching over them?”

The problem with trying to apply logic to the Marvel Universe is that it’s something like building a brick wall around the event horizon of a black hole. Once you’ve had the President of the United States commit suicide in the Oval Office because he was the head of the Secret Empire in disguise, claiming that it makes sense for the government to be in charge of super-heroes is meaningless.

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The difference between Middle Easterners or homosexuals or Hispanics being discriminated against is that, well, that’s stupid. There’s nothing inherently dangerous about being one of those groups, or any of the other minority groups that are discriminated against. That’s not the same thing as being able to accidentally cut someone in half with lasers from their eyes if they forget to put on their glasses.

Uh-huh… but what about those mutants whose superpowers are having green hair, knowing where other mutants are, canceling out superpowers, healing real quick, healing other people real quick, learning languages, and being hideously ugly? None of these are exactly “inherently dangerous”, either.

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Claremont definitely ran with it, but I’m think that anti-mutant prejudice was part of Stan Lee’s original X-Men concept.

I definitely remember persons-on-the-street making anti-mutant comments in some of the very early issues and the X-Men grumbling about how “With the bad press the X-Men get he newspapers will probably say that Thor saved this busload of children” or something. Although maybe at the time Stan was spinning it more like how the public was suspicious about Spider-Man.

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What I’m stuck on is how, exactly, is registration going to fix the airport security problem? Mutant powers aren’t something you can confiscate or switch off for the duration of the flight (unless your security includes a mutant-power-cancelling device, in which case you don’t need to know which passengers are mutants). So what’s the solution, are mutants not allowed to fly at all? Would there be special ‘mutant only’ flights? Could passengers pay an extra fee for the guarantee of being put on a mutant-free plane? Knowing who the mutants are is only the beginning of the problem.

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mygif

“Would you also call for black belts to be registered? After all, they could do quite a lot of damage on a plane too.”

Drawing a comparison between forced registration of martial artists with forced registration of mutants (in the X-men sense) is ludicrous.

A physically prime Fedor (or Bruce Lee, or any of the Gracie’s, or Matsuyama, or whomever you think is the most dangerous martial artist, I honestly don’t care) trying to take a plane is a pretty sucky situation. But it is definitely survivable. For many of the people on that plane.

Scott Summers can be eighty years old, narcoleptic, and morbidly obese. All that he has to do in order to kill every single person on the plane is get a little overenthusiastic in adjusting his glasses.

Comparing martial arts to superpowers is absurd. They are nothing alike.

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mygif

Okay, see, these comments show the biggest problem with the “mutants as persecuted minority” thing.

Fathers not wanting their daughters to date mutants, parents asking their kids “Have you tried NOT being a mutant,” etc. works as long as you give it a light touch. Because in these cases you can replace “mutant” with whatever you like and it plays out pretty much the same. It adds a touch of real-life relevance to your escapist fiction!

But when you talk about mutants as a security threat…there’s not a 1:1 comparison with real life, so figuring out how you would handle airport security or whatever isn’t really relevant in any way, and at some point you’re not writing stories anymore, you’re laying down groundrules for roleplaying campaigns.

The more literal “mutants = oppressed minorities” becomes, the more it collapses on its own weight. EARLY Claremont, actually, uses just a dash of it here and there to brand the X-Men as outsiders, and what the early stuff is REALLY about is showing how outsiders can band together, teammates become friends, and friends become family. The Dark Phoenix Saga has NOTHING to do with the supposed primary X-Men themes of intolerance and oppression; it’s a really gripping story about how far you’d go for your friends.

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Candlejack said on August 14th, 2010 at 12:02 am

Of course, the persecuted minory analogy breaks down in another significant way: if even half of all gay people could do something to you–at a whim, with no warning, and with no cost to themselves–that could kill you on the spot, there’d be a lot less open gay-bashing, dontcha think?

I mean, how dumb are people in the Marvel universe that they insult and physically attack strange mutants?

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mygif

I think the other thing people are overlooking is that it did not used to be considered normal to be afraid of everyone. Fear was not the default position, it was not considered prudent or sensible to assume that any given person was a potential homicidal maniac until proven otherwise.

Our pervasive culture of <a href=http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1997/01/09/DD67001.DTL is a recent artifact of our culture, within the last generation, and it is not actually sensible or prudent or even particularly sane.

We’re talking about characters and concepts created in a different era, so you have to consider them in that light. To us, in this culture in this generation, it seems odd not to adequately answer the question “Why shouldn’t we assume that people will try to kill everyone around them?” To most of the rest of human civilization, it seems odd to even ask such a silly question.

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Agh, HTML fail in my last comment. The missing word, linking to the third Jon Carroll column, should of course be “fear”.

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“Comparing martial arts to superpowers is absurd. They are nothing alike”

Except you’re talking about the Marvel universe where martial arts CAN BE a super-power. I mean Danny Rand once punched out a moving train…

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Peztopiary said on August 14th, 2010 at 1:13 pm

The MRA is a first step in a system that ends in the eradication of mutants. We have real life examples all over the place that it does. Every single time a group is singled out, is excluded from the herd, that group suffers. It completely justifies Magneto. It radicalizes people who would otherwise just live their lives. The MRA is the same logic that says ‘Islam is a cult’ that demands that we first Otherize a group and then that we destroy that group. Our fear is not a reason to give up our rights. The MRA would lead to a horrific expansion of military power (not governmental, you think S.H.I.E.L.D actually answers to anyone, no they protect you for your own good and you better like it.) and a further erosion of civil liberties which in the MU are already pretty damn eroded.

I’m kind of curious if anyone who considers themselves liberal or a progressive actually supports the MRA.

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Andrew R. said on August 14th, 2010 at 1:32 pm

BitterCupOJoe, you’re spot on about why I found Civil War to be so intolerably stupid. “Government monopoly on force? That’s FASCIST!” What was even more ridiculous was that it came out in 2006, where in places like Baghdad, Ramadi, Waziristan, and Somalia you could actually see areas of our own world without a state monopoly on force.

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mygif

“Uh-huh… but what about those mutants whose superpowers are having green hair, knowing where other mutants are, canceling out superpowers, healing real quick, healing other people real quick, learning languages, and being hideously ugly? None of these are exactly “inherently dangerous”, either.”

Exactly. Look at Beast and the Toad in the early issues: Both physically more powerful than an ordinary human, but hardly as dangerous as Magneto or Cyclops (in fact Shang-Chi or Iron Fist would be comparable).
Also, how exactly would this work? Genetic tests for everyone, mandatory? Or just calls to register and do your duty?
But I agree with Petzoplary, the big problem isn’t registration, it’s the feelings behind it. The fear of mutants isn’t just based on their powers, it’s been shown repeatedly that it’s the heritability of the mutant gene creating a “master race.” Silver Age Magneto functioned as a mutant supremacist; Bolivar Trask fanned that fear when he created the Sentinels. It’s why we don’t see anti-metahuman groups the way we do anti-mutant groups.
Registering mutants just won’t end well. And as several commenters have pointed out, there is no reason to single out mutants rather than superhumans in general.
As for mutants as oppressed minorities, my problem, since seeing PBS’ superb documentary Eyes on the Prize, is that the comics never acknowledge nonviolent resistance as an option. Magneto wants to kill everyone who looks at them funny; the X-Men just stand around and wait patiently for humanity to become more tolerant and opine on how taking any action will just inflame human prejudice. Which is close to what people told the civil rights movement; we’re just lucky Professor X wasn’t leading it.

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mygif

Dear MGK,

Please stop reading my thoughts.

I was thinking about this the other day, particularly about the X-Men movies. Up front, Senator Kelly asks the question, “Are mutants dangerous?” and I think the movies answer the question with, “Yes, very, but you can trust the good looking mutants.”

The other issue I considered is that for all his talk about teaching mutants to use their powers so they can live with the rest of humankind, Professor X is pretty happy running a mutant paramilitary group that he keeps away from normal humans. After all, part of the process of learning to deal with your powers would have to be around interacting with the non-powered, but it is often overlooked (I’m sure there are exceptions, but Magneto vs. the X-Men probably sells more copies than “Storm takes Kitty Pryde to buy ice-cream from a human”).

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@Brad Hanon: I don’t think you can point to this generation as being the first culture of fear; there’s a reason the term “McCarthyism” is still a meaningful term. You might argue that the “culture of fear” originated in the 20th century, though I’d attribute such a shift to the mass production of broadcast communication rather than people becoming more fearful.

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Sofa King said on August 14th, 2010 at 3:32 pm

@ Brad Hanon: I might be misreading you, but I don’t think intolerance is a fresh concept that the US birthed into being. Hating other people, and Man’s inherent ability to hate and fear the unknown have been with us since the beginning. These are not new concepts. “Why shouldn’t we assume that people will try to kill everyone around them?” Because we are violent animals under certain circumstances, and those circumstances can come up very, very easily. Add mutant powers and it would be worse. And I’m curious what other civilization you’re referring to?

I’m a liberal, and I support the MRA, because I don’t trust people in general. Are you just going to hope that the mutant who lives next door and who can make things burst into flame by willing it is never going to lose his temper? Passive civil rights won’t work the same way it did for African-Americans and others, because mutants have a much greater ability to lash out at their oppressors, and trying to convince a guy with heat vision not to defend himself with it would be hard.

@UnSub: I’ve wondered that too. And what are you teaching your students if one of them is a escapee from a military project with a mega-count bodycount in his past? “Humans will trust us, except if they want to turn you into a weapon. And peace will work, but if not we have Wolverine.”

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I’ve sometimes wondered if there shouldn’t be someone whose dream is spreading the X-gene around instead of fighting it, proposing a eugenics program so everyone (or the well-connected) can have the powers (“Wouldn’t your kid go further in school with telepathy or super-strength?”). Of course in practice mutant kids don’t inherit the exact powers of their parents, but how many people know that?

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mygif

“I’m kind of curious if anyone who considers themselves liberal or a progressive actually supports the MRA.”

I consider myself liberal, and frankly I can’t consider the MRA as it existed in the marvel universe as anything other then a stupid, ham-handed narrative device. A law that singles out one type of superhuman for registration while ignoring the other 6 million ways you can get powers in the marvel universe? No way I can take that even the remotest bit serious, so I don’t.

As I commented earlier, the marvel universe and realism are not a good fit. the setting has far too much historical baggage, all of it written in for narrative convenience.

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mygif

IMO, something like the MRA falls over and dies when it comes to implementation.

Let’s start from the basic first principle and go up and down the ladder. ‘If you can turn an entire neighborhood into a crater, or violate peoples minds to make them your slaves and then leave them brain-dead vegetables when you’re done, the state has a legitimate interest in knowing who you are and what you can do.’

That seems reasonable. I mean, we make people get permits and register GUNS, and even an illegally modified assault rifle is a lot less dangerous than a middle-of-the-road mutant like, for example, Iceman.

But how do you find out the names and powersets of all mutants? Well, absent an obvious exterior mutation, that only shows up in a genetic scan. Are those going to be mandatory for everyone born in the U.S now? Oh, no, wait… powers can manifest later even in people who CEREBRO scanned as clean. So maybe every ten years? Fifteen years?

What do you do with people who are ID’d as mutants but refuse to use their powers? YOU don’t know what that guy can do. Neither does he. Maybe he can turn sugar pink. Or maybe he can crack the planet in two. Will government training be MANDATORY for all mutants? What do you do with mutants who know full well what they can do but can ‘pass’ and refuse to register, and who get found out? Is it a civil penalty? A criminal one?

And even assuming you get the majority of the mutant populace into your MRA… what then? Do you watch ALL of them ALL the time? Is being a mutant enough to meet the ‘probably cause’ standard?

And if you’re not watching them, what’s the point? Magneto is an international terrorist, as are his buddies. They aren’t going to leave you their forwarding address. Bob Firestarter who can generate napalm by thinking real hard about it? Well, if he runs with Magneto, having registered himself will make zero difference.

If he lives down the block from you going to work every day and lighting barbecues as an amusing trick, why do you need to register him again? The only potential upside is if the cops are ever called to his residence, they know that the guy inside can cook them all alive instantly. That’s theoretically good knowledge for them to have, because it means they can respond with appropriate In practice, it seems like it’ll result in SHIELD being called in every time there’s a fire anywhere in a ten block radius.

Those questions aren’t rhetorical, by the way. I’m genuinely interested in how you implement the MHA, barring any constitutional amendments, without grotesquely violating civil rights or wasting a ton of resources to no good cause. And that comes from someone who thinks the SHA was a GREAT idea.

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Candlejack said on August 15th, 2010 at 1:57 am

In addition to Seavey’s point about how you literally can’t trust the people in power most of the time in comic book universes, there’s a problem with how these acts are done.

Mutant registration is ridiculous because it only includes mutants–a dude who has a mysterious alien artifact capable of destroying a city is not worth watching because…er…he’s not a mutant and therefore trustworthy. Because bigotry, that’s why.

SHRA is ridiculous because it basically enslaves all Americans with superpowers to the US govt. That’s a big step beyond just keeping an eye on potentially dangerous individuals. It’s like inheriting a rifle from your father, being told you should register it–and finding out in the fine print that registering means you join the army, forever. And if you don’t want to register, or refuse to serve the govt at the govt’s whim after you’ve registered, the penalty is immediate maximum-security imprisonment without trial.

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But by the metric imposed in this article, mutants-as-teenagers doesn’t work either. Unless you’re suggesting that TEENAGERS are actually a legitimate threat that people should be afraid of, which is stupid, so even if you were you’d just be wrong and it still doesn’t work.

This doesn’t mean that mutants-as-teenagers is wrong, it just means that the “well, are they actually a threat?” metric is wrong. It returns bad results consistently. Mutants are EVERY minority that’s ever been oppressed. That includes teenagers.

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@Candlejack

Er… is that how it worked with regard to the SHRA?

IIRC, it was actually ‘if you want to fly around using your superpowers and/or badass martial arts abilities to dispense rough justice, you will no longer do this vigilante-style with no sanction or oversight; you will join SHIELD and be registered and monitored, just like Cap and Black Widow are.’

And that if, say, Spider-Mans response to that had been ‘okay, well, I’m hanging up the tights rather than register’ that would have been perfectly legal and well within his rights. It was only be choosing to continue being lawless vigilantes (or in Caps case, becoming one) that made them subject to sanction.

Now, in actual PRACTICE, it turns out nobody decided to actually retire, and Tony Stark was only somewhat less evil than Norman Osborne. But those are ancillary issues to the SHRA itself. I think. I may be wrong as to exactly what the thing required.

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“Er… is that how it worked with regard to the SHRA?”

Your guess is as good as mine is as good as anyones, because they never wrote the act down or defined it in any way. Seriously, it was an actual decision on the part of the company because they wanted to allow the god knows how many writers working on civil war the freedom to come up with their own ideas. Which is kind of like saying “Hey everybody, we’re going to write a shared world novel, but we’re not going to set any parameters at all, and none of you will be communicating with each other! Will it be a fantasy setting? Modern day murder mystery? Pirates vs ninjas? Space opera? Nobody knows! Have fun and remember, try to keep it cohesive!”

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Black Mage said on August 15th, 2010 at 7:14 am

@fsherman:

I’ve always wondered what happens why no mutants took the ‘mutants as marginalised minority’ further and actually started to use the law for their advantage. The Civil Rights Act, the 14th Amendment…surely there must be one mutant who, faced with sucky powers, goes ‘huh, I suppose I’m never going to be Nat Turner, but I might as well try being Thurgood Marshall instead?’

Also, electoral politics; the X-Men, in 50 years of biff bang crash, seem to accomplished a lot less for mutant civil rights than Harvey Milk did for gay rights in a fraction of the time. Yes, I realise all the problems with that analogy: it’s a comic book, it’s a sliding timescale, Harvey Milk’s impact was significantly symbolic, and all the rest — but surely someone could have considered TRYING?

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Peztopiary said on August 15th, 2010 at 9:57 am

Sentinels crushed him while he was walking his dog and all the people around him cheered. Seriously.

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@Black Mage: the reason why mutant rights is always given such short shift in X-Men (and related) comics is that writers need it to hang story off. Grant Morrison tried to some extent to make those kind of changes – mutants are out-breeding humanity, so in the near future critical mass is going to force mutant equality – but that was written out of existence as soon as possible.

The X-Men need the persecution or else they are just yet another superhero team with an overly convoluted backstory.

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Another reason why mutants don’t seek political & legal avenues to stop the persecution is that those story lines would involve far fewer scenes of female characters punching people in the head while twisting their spines to show the reader their tits and ass at the same time.

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Candlejack said on August 15th, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Maybe it depends which Civil War book you were reading, Murc, like Josh R said. In the stuff I read, hanging up your tights was a decision a few people made so that the govt couldn’t find them; it was in no way an official option.

But for the sake of arguement, say only people who wanted to use their powers have to register (which would be odd, because isn’t part of the argument in favor of registration that people with powers need to learn how to control their powers?). So, okay, a guy wants to fight crime in his home town. Thus, he registers. And the govt decides he’d be more useful toppling dictatorships overseas. In your reading of Civil War, does he have the option of saying no? Can he, at that point, say “Forget it, unregister me,” without consequences? Because if not, it’s still lifelong servitude to the govt for anybody who may, once, have wanted to use their powers. And while that’s not quite as bad as my reading of it…it still sucks dead goats.

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@Murc: There was a lot that was never specified in regards to the SHRA, but it’s notable that one of the prisoners in the Negative Zone was Coldblood, a character who was US military, died in a training accident, and was revived as a cyborg against his express wishes for medical treatment. Subsequently, he received an honorable discharge, and expressed the desire to find someplace quiet and live as best he could given his disfiguring and painful cybernetic alterations.

That pretty soundly implies that the people enforcing the act defined “using your powers” in the loosest way possible, ie, that if your ‘unique abilities’ kept you alive, then living was a violation of the SHRA unless you enlisted. And since it was explicitly stated that a) these people were imprisoned without trial, and b) the Supreme Court had no interest in investigating their legal standing because they’d been privately warned that the prisoners in the Negative Zone were too dangerous to merit Constitutional protection (as explained by Tony Stark in Amazing Spider-Man) I think you’d have a hard time claiming that the government wasn’t just utterly fucking people over, using the act as an excuse.

And that doesn’t even get into the fact that Tony Stark apparently used the neural control devices on the Thunderbolts to make Norman Osborn attack an Atlantean diplomat and start a war between the US and Atlantis, an act of actual treason against the United States.

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@John and Candlejack;

Candlejack, my IMPRESSION was that signing up for the Initiative was sort of like enlisting in the army, or at the very least a national security service; you go where you’re sent and follow orders, and if you don’t like it, you can MAYBE leave, but it means giving up the costume and the resources and never using your eye-beams to kill people anymore.

John’s recollections (and I bow to his superior knowledge on this, I read a LOT of Civil War but not ALL of it) would seem to blow that right out of the water and make the SHRA basically a writ of slavery, drafting people for life into America’s new superhuman army. Which is really stupid given that Civil War was supposed to feature two nominally possibly right sides. Wow, you’ve made the story even more badly constructed in retrospect even four years later. I salute you, sir!

I will also say that I’d never argue that the government and Tony during Civil War WEREN’T just using the act as an excuse to utterly fuck people over. That would have been true if the Act had been a sensible, reasoned piece of legislation.

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Willie Everstop said on August 15th, 2010 at 9:01 pm

I think in the Marvel Universe it would be considered racist to say “mutants can kill your kids with their eyes” during every discussion of mutant rights. How many mutants out of millions can kill you with their eyes? This doesn’t include psychics because SHIELD already tracks them with an ESPer unit after they hit puberty. Only a few hundred mutants could even be considered more dangerous than a human with a baseball bat.

The Mutant Registration Act is a scam. Every politician who supports it is secretly giving defense contract to his buddies for Sentinel construction. They drum up fear of mutants for votes and tax dollars. In the end the Sentinels trade our liberty for security and we all wear green speed suits.

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Mark Temporis said on August 16th, 2010 at 1:35 am

The implementation of Mutant Reg was always totally screwed; I can’t imagine that anyone but the most idiotic bigots would think that friggin’ SENTINELS were an acceptable response to even the highest powered mutants.

Really, they’re ineffective against any mutants worth going after and cause roughly 100x the property damage anyone short of Cyclops or Magneto is capable of.

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And this was the reason Mark Millar gave for Registration while promoting Civil War. If you knew there were people out there with superpowers, you’d want them identified and if possible, monitored.

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Peztopiary said on August 16th, 2010 at 12:45 pm

The best part of Civil War was that people weren’t supposed to come out of it thinking Tony Stark was the hugest of assholes. No really, the SHRA has depth and nuance and and…alright fine, we erased his memory and now he isn’t the Tony Stark who was totally about blowing up a dude with three lungs who wasn’t in the government’s database.

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@Peztopiary

You know, I honestly liked liked what they did with Tony post-Civil War. I really did.

Tony became a supervillain, committed a ton of war crimes, got a bunch of his current and former friends fucked up, got his company destroyed, and the precedents that he (and before him, Nick Fury) set with regard to what SHIELD could get away with were directly responsible for someone EVEN WORSE getting their hands on it. How do you come back from that?

You don’t.

You DIE.

Which is what happened. Invincible Iron Man’s “World’s Most Wanted” arc is about Tony atoning for his past sins by fixing what he can, then killing himself (in a pretty awesome fight with Norman, by the way) and arranging to have himself replaced by a former version who presumably won’t be evil.

I thought it was really good.

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@Murc that is a good assesment of Fraction’s corrective to the ‘OMG Fascist Tony’ sprung on us during the Civil War tie-ins.

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Willie Everstop said on August 16th, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I thought it was funny that after the Avenger’s very first meeting Tony Stark supposedly went digging through the couch cushions for Thor hair.

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DistantFred said on August 16th, 2010 at 10:46 pm

@Murc: Hey, remember the last time they did that with Iron Man, and Tony Stark ended up a teenager?

Who’d’ve ever thought they’d revisit THAT particular character note again? I mean, the Crossing was universally reviled and almost immediately forgotten, and so was Teen Tony after Onslaught. You’d have thought that the fans would never have wanted to see him betray everyone and then kill himself heroically to make up for it again.

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@DistantFred

Actually, I don’t remember that. I didn’t start reading the Marvel Universe until ’99, and not in a SERIOUS way until 2004 or so, at which point all of that was history. I know OF it, of course, but I have no real personal memories of the story itself and have not been real inclined to go track down the issues in general, even in torrent form.

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Matthew Johnson:

So basically, you’re saying a fascist police state might be the only solution to the problem of superpowers?

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“This doesn’t mean that mutants-as-teenagers is wrong, it just means that the “well, are they actually a threat?” metric is wrong. It returns bad results consistently. Mutants are EVERY minority that’s ever been oppressed. That includes teenagers.”

Ah but teenagers ARE a threat to the exisiting society, they have new ideas, they change standards and norms and they will inevitably win.

Sure the kid down the street with his tatoos and his peircings and his weird politics is not on the same level as a kid with killer eye beams but that’s the whole point of comics, to take a subtle issue and blow it up into colorful folks punching one another.

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Did you ever read “God Loves, Man Kills”? it took that idea of Minority and persecution to the extreme, and was pretty damn enjoyable.

I agree with you, that the metaphor doesn’t work; I’m a Latino, and unfortunately, other than being Brown, I can’t shoot eye beams or fly (we should work on that)
But what I always thought they could go for, was the idea of one’s own potential, that out of the fear of Society, we were not allowed to be our full result.
I tried to do this with my comic VIGIL http://www.graphicsmash.com/comics/vigil.php which ended up being a failure and I’m rebooting to a degree, about potentials. I think Vonnegut had a short story that was being adapted into a movie that said the same, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vi6TTNKdgSk
I think that angle would matter more to me.

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Probably the oppressed minority who would actually be the best parallel to Marvel’s mutants would be people with psychiatric conditions (and I say this as someone with several psych conditions, btw). Some psychiatric conditions do make a person more likely to be dangerous (eg pedophilia, psychopathy, or the various conditions that make it hard to control your temper), and others do not (eg anxiety, depression, schizophrenia) but get lumped into the same general category of prejudice.

Plus, the relative risk varies between conditions and between individuals (eg one person with borderline personality might just have a tendency to scream and cry a lot, while another might start grabbing whatever weapons are handy to hurt whoever upset them). There are also people with psych conditions who don’t care if they hurt others, and people who care but might not be able to help it.

Sure, even the most dangerous psych conditions fall well short of the danger that some mutants pose, but it’s a lot better analogy than any other oppressed minority I can think of.

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