In an article for the New York Review of Books, critic Daniel Mendelsohn writes about watching the first plane hit the World Trace Center on 9/11:
I flipped the phone shut, looked up, and a dark flash of something darted into the building that loomed directly before me, which was the north tower of the World Trade Center. A gigantic ball of bright orange fire ballooned out of the tower, followed by vast plumes of dense, black smoke. Today, when I tell people this story, I say it was like Vesuvius; there was, indeed, something volcanic about the quality of fire and smoke pouring out of the huge black gash in the building’s side, which directly faced those of us who were looking at it from the north. But at the time, the first, irrational thought that came into my staggered mind was that someone was making a blockbuster disaster movie.
Joe Quesada and Tom Brevoort worked for Marvel on 9/11. Marvel was on the forefront of comic-oriented relief efforts with its Heroes posterbook project and Amazing Spider-Man v2 #36, an issue wholly centered on Peter’s reaction to the destruction of the Twin Towers.
There were initial attempts to somehow incorporate the emotions and patriotic agenda of post-9/11 into Marvel comics, primarily through a run of Captain America comics by John Rey Neiber and John Cassaday. But none of the efforts lasted very long. By the end of 2004, Cap was again fighting his World War II nemesis, The Red Skull (albeit with significant twists). And for a long time, 9/11 wasn’t a major theme in Marvel comics.
In Civil War #7, there’s a big fight between the pro-Registration and anti-Registration forces. New York is badly damaged by the fight. But we get a quick, small shot of the damage. The big panels go to the superheroes fighting (and hey, there’s nothing wrong with that- Civil War #7 is supposed to be the climatic fight between the two sides). We only get this:
This is the only panel we see before Captain America, leader of the anti-Registration forces, surrenders. We don’t get to see the scene as Cap, who’s on the ground, sees it. We actually don’t get a view from the ground until this week’s Civil War: Front Line #11.
Before this week’s issue, many on the intarwub had criticized Cap’s decision to surrender. Cap doesn’t surrender! He’s the guy who beat Hitler back! But now, we see the human cost to the civil war, and Cap’s decision makes more sense.
With this storyline, Marvel has tried to reintroduce the sort of fear, paranoia, and right-minded patriotism that swept America in September and October of 2001. It’s a questionable move, especially since America is really in a post-post-9/11 mood, having kicked out the Republicans out of the House and Senate in last year’s mid-term elections. The conclusion of Civil War (the pro-Registration side wins, heroes that don’t register are imprisoned in another dimension, and superheroes become a sort of auxiliary military across the country) depends on the notion that Americans are willing to surrender personal freedoms in times of great crisis. But this isn’t true anymore in today’s America. Librarians have fought the draconian Patriot Act, and the American public are outraged at the mess that is the Iraqi war. Marvel has now aligned its reality to a paradigm that doesn’t exist in America. I’m curious to see how well it will work.
One image in this week’s Front Line sticks out like a sore thumb:
There’s a jet sticking out of that building. How did this get approved? It’s an image that defies physics. We’ve learned the hard way that when a plane hits a building, the plane doesn’t stick out. I’m baffled by this.
I swear, the next book I talk about is going to have NOTHING to do with Civil War…
By the way, I’d like to publicly thank Joe Quesada for the private note he sent me after the column I wrote about his holiday song in January. It came at a low point for me when I was dealing with my leg injury, and his thoughts were greatly appreciated. He deserves all the success he’s earned at Marvel. One of the reasons I love comics is that most of the writers, artists, and editors that make the comics I love are really good people in real life. Joe is one of the good people.
Again, thanks, Joe.