Comics Features Film

Heroes Debate: The Superhuman Registration Act


Marvel’s Civil War storyline is undoubtedly one of the biggest events to hit the comic-verse in decades. In this brief but epic saga, Marvel’s biggest heroes clashed over their opinions regarding the Superhuman Registration Act. On one side, Tony Stark supported the government registration of superheroes and vigilantes, while on the other end, Captain America championed the anti-registrationers. With this comic coming to the big screen in Captain America: Civil War next year, the understanding of this storyline is as important as ever.

We here at Ap2HYC decided to host our own debate regarding whether we supported or opposed the Superhuman Registration Act. Editor-in-Cape David Molofsky led the pro-registration argument a la Tony Stark, while I, Junior Sidekick Alex Reale, commanded the anti-registration agenda in line with Captain America’s beliefs. With support from fellow Cape writers and contributors, we spent two hours debating on whether the Act is an overall good idea that could restore balance to the Marvel-verse, or a bad one that is more trouble than it’s worth.

The first point brought up was the entire purpose of the Act. In my eyes, I see no reason for superheroes to become glorified police officers in order to carry out justice. That is the purpose of every superhero: to exact justice when the police fail to do so. However, David countered that superheroes should be allowed to legally arrest and detain prisoners the same way citizens and police officers do. They should not be above the law and be exempt from regular implications.

While the heroes wouldn’t necessarily become police officers, the Act would force them to register with S.H.I.E.L.D. and become certified agents. My issue with this is that S.H.I.E.L.D. has seen multiple issues regarding corruption (just like the standard police force). For anyone watching the news in America, corruption in the police force has created a strong anti-government stance. More citizens distrust police officers than those who do trust them. If a superhero were to go rogue and begin lashing out at innocent civilians, there would be an even stronger anti-government sentiment.

Superheroes aren’t always right; without a registration act in place, at least the government and S.H.I.E.L.D. can keep their hands clean if a certain vigilante (*cough* the Punisher *cough*) were to begin slaughtering their targets. On the flip side, this is essentially the government and S.H.I.E.L.D. simply turning their backs on the danger and plugging their fingers in their ears. It’s a difficult situation, and it makes you wonder which side is better: should S.H.I.E.L.D. take the chance and register heroes, and when a hero makes a huge mistake, simply take responsibility; or should S.H.I.E.L.D. just let heroes do their own thing, and if the heroes cause an accident, then the citizens can’t blame the government?

When criminals get off due to technicalities and loopholes, you know there is a severely flawed legal system. As List Hero Scott Meridew pointed out, Dr. Doom is just one of the many people in the Marvel universe who has constantly escaped justice because of his diplomatic immunity. Writer Jason Wittmer stated that the main advantage that superheroes have is that they can work outside the legal system. They can bring people to justice without having to worry about being caught up in legal mumbo-jumbo like warrants and whatnot. A police officer has to walk on egg-shells when dealing with someone like Dr. Doom. The Fantastic Four can do what they want (granted, as long as it aligns with their personal moral codes).

Taking a step back, we analyzed the major events that led to the Superhuman Registration Act. David lists the formation of the Illuminati and the Hulk’s rampage as the initial incidents ramping up to the events of Civil War. It wasn’t until the events of Stamford, Connecticut, that things heated up and the Superhuman Registration Act was pushed into effect. I personally don’t believe that the Act would’ve changed the outcome of Stamford. This incident was caused by a group of reality show superheroes who assaulted a gang of villains and essentially triggered one of them, Nitro, to cause an explosion. We discover in a separate comic that Nitro’s powers were enhanced by a drug created by Damage Control, and that the explosion was going to happen either way. In the end, it was corruption that ultimately caused the Stamford explosion. Damage Control wanted to make money, so they lured Nitro into blowing up the area. Corruption is what causes problems, with or without a registration act.

Another point brought up in the debate revolves around secret identities. The Act states that heroes are only revealing their identities to S.H.I.E.L.D., and that their families are protected by agents around the clock to ensure their safety. My problem with this is that there are too many expert hackers out there who can easily break into the system. I don’t think any computer system is 100% safe, especially in the world of Marvel. We have tech geniuses like Tony Stark, Microchip, Doctor Doom, Doc Ock, Norman Osborn, and so many more. What’s to stop them from infiltrating the database? Reed Richards may be one of the most brilliant minds in Marvel, but he’s not perfect, and I don’t think we can totally rely on him to keep the identities safe. All it takes is just one small wormhole to open up a breach, and I’m sure certain people could get into the database if they really wanted. Also, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents protecting your family? Is that supposed to make people safe? I doubt a handful of S.H.I.E.L.D. goofs can stop Doc Ock. The only way to truly protect a family is to assign a strong superhero to guard them, but then that’s one less hero taking care of crime in the city. It’s an incredibly slippery slope.

The big turning point of the debate was when the magic word made its way into our discussion: compromise. In the comics, Captain eventually secedes from the argument and gives up because he doesn’t want to see any more of his friends hurt or killed. He’s tired of the fighting. He’s willing to compromise, even if it means that he’s going to jail. I compared it to an argument with a friend. I’ve gotten into heated discussions with people, only to back down because I didn’t want to harm our friendship. I was willing to compromise. That’s possibly the best solution to this scenario.

The final idea we had was essentially “More carrot, less stick”. We believed that a “soft open” would be the best idea for the registration. It wouldn’t be mandatory (at least, not in the beginning). Heroes could voluntarily sign up and register with S.H.I.E.L.D. In return, they could have access to benefits and pay. After a year or so, other heroes can reflect on this Act and see if it’s a good idea or not. If the Act leads to less crime and more safety, it could restore peace in the Marvel-verse. If not, then the supporters of the Act could re-evaluate the program and decide from there whether they should abolish the Act or find a way to change it to operate more efficiently.

In the end, everyone agreed that the legal system is flawed. While ultimately we wanted to be kept safe, it’s not impossible to fully regulate superheroes. Pro-registrationers agreed that the Act had weak points, and anti-registrationers saw that the program had strong points. The best decision was to go with a compromise and allow heroes to sign up for the Act on a volunteer basis.

Which side do you choose? Are you pro-registration, anti-registration, or swinging between both sides? Tell us what you think in the comments or on Twitter!

About the author

Alex Reale

From a young age, Alex knew he was destined to be a writer. He also harbored a deep infatuation with superheroes and comics. Luckily, he was able to combine these two passions through his role with A Place to Hang Your Cape, where he works as Junior Sidekick and Social Media Hero.

When he’s not writing for AP2HYC or working full-time as a content manager for a small business website, Alex is diligently at work on other creative projects including a fantasy novel collection and an independent comic series.

You can find Alex's first book, Dodger's Doorway, on Amazon!