Marvel’s Civil War is arguably the company’s most successful comic book crossover in their long and tenured history. From the minds of writer Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven, the eight issue comic book series, on which Captain America: Civil War is based, dove into some very weighty subjects regarding freedom, security, and accountability. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has, mostly, drawn from a long and varied history of Marvel Comics, and considering this book’s popularity, it was a no brainer that Civil War would be the basis for its own film as well. Before you see Captain America: Civil War this weekend, check out our breakdown of some of the major differences between the comic and the movie universes.
A Not So Civil War
In the Marvel comics, the government had enough of heroes and villains fighting at will without ever being held accountable for their actions. Which honestly, is pretty reasonable—many of these battles were nearly world-ending in scope. So the U.S. government began toying with the idea of requiring all heroes be agents of the government. Heroes would report to the government, be trained, regulated, and even receive a paycheck and benefits for their duties. This all came to a head when a group of teenage superheroes known as “The New Warriors” tried to create their own reality show. Of all the superhero teams in the Marvel Comic Universe, the New Warriors were pretty close to the bottom in success and notability. This untrained, unregulated band of teenagers brought a camera crew on their vigilante mission against a group of villains, who happened to be hiding out in a mild mannered suburban residence. This fight resulted in the destruction of a small town, Stamford, Conn., and the government finally put their foot down, instituting the “Superhero Registration Act.”
In the films, this act is called the “Sokovia Accords,” in reference to the destruction brought about by the villainous Ultron, in the Avengers sequel, to the country of Sokovia. Since Ultron was created by Tony Stark, he feels responsible and in turn rallies behind the accord. One other slight difference: rather than the U.S. government alone instituting this new law, like in the comics, the United Nations is the one seeking to keep the Avengers in check.
The Characters of War
While Team Cap and Team Stark have around half a dozen members each in the upcoming film, the comics had scores of heroes, and even villains, on each side. Captain America’s team was populated by the likes of Daredevil, the Greek God Hercules, the X-Man Cable, Luke Cage, and a slew of other mostly street-level heroes who valued their identities and did not want the government to dictate the use of their powers. Iron Man’s team, on the other hand, had the heavy hitters of the Marvel Universe in more ways than one. Spider-Man, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Giant Man, the Wasp, and most of the Fantastic Four were on Tony Stark’s side, fighting for the idea that the U.S. government may know what’s best in regulating their adventures. When the two sides fought one another, the Earth shook at the mere magnitude of how many folks made up each faction.
Their entourages, in the movies, are much smaller in scale and feel more intimate, considering there haven’t been THAT many heroes revealed in the Marvel Cinematic universe yet. Iron Man remains on the side of the government with heroes like Black Widow, the Vision, Black Panther, Spider-Man, and War Machine, while Cap has Falcon, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Winter Soldier, and the Scarlet Witch. The ethical argument remains the same, but the size of the rosters and the variety in the comics and the film are far different from one another.
Not So Friendly Neighborhood
Out of all the anticipation for Civil War, perhaps no single event is more hyped than the arrival of Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the comics during Civil War, we deal with a Spider-Man who is without a doubt an adult—married and in his late twenties. At this point in Spidey’s life, Peter Parker is a full-time Avenger and has taken a position as Tony Stark’s right hand man. To solidify this even further, he moves his wife, Mary Jane, and Aunt May into Avengers Tower to live with the rest of the team. It’s because of this arrangement especially that he finds himself on the side of Tony Stark and the “Pro-Registration” heroes. For his troubles, Peter even gets a brand new suit made by Tony Stark, which is dubbed the “Iron Spider” costume. To sweeten the pot for Stark, Peter even reveals his secret identity to the public to strengthen his belief in Iron Man. Eventually though, Peter has a falling out with Tony over the dubious, and often nefarious, nature of the Registration Act, and joins Captain America’s side during the war.
In the upcoming film, things will be very different for Spider-Man. Peter is still a high schooler, living in Queens with his Aunt May, and is far behind the other Marvel heroes in terms of career length. Obviously, going into the movie, we don’t have a ton of information about Spidey, but we know that he’s inexperienced, young, and doesn’t have the long-running relationship with the heroes that he does in the comics. He’s clearly on Iron Man's side, as we’ve seen him being beckoned by Stark in one film clip and web-swinging into Falcon in another. It should be interesting to see how close to the comics the movie sticks in terms of Spidey’s role in Civil War, though it's doubtful he’ll be doing anything as extreme as revealing his identity to the world with his own solo film, Spider-Man: Homecoming, on the horizon.
In the comics, the Civil War series ended with Captain America’s side losing to Iron Man, ushering in a new age of superheroes registering with the government to be held accountable for their actions. While Captain America’s heroes still operated in secret as outlaws, Iron Man spread the Registration Act across the country, creating a super team for each state in the U.S. Things became darker still when Captain America was assassinated before his trial for his part in Civil War, but Steve was eventually resurrected a few years down the road thanks to some help from Bucky, and would lead the Avengers once again. In the end, the Registration Act that was so battled over eventually fell to the wayside, with heroes once again being the masters of their own destiny.
Obviously we aren’t sure yet how the epic battle between Captain America and Iron Man is going to end movie-wise. We do know what’s in the cards for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe though, and it seems likely that the plot will deviate from the comics' storyline. Spider-Man will be swinging back into theaters following Captain America: Civil War in his own solo film; the world of magic will be revealed for the MCU in Dr. Strange; Black Panther will introduce audiences to the world of Wakanda in his standalone feature; we’ll revisit both the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor in their respective sequels, Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 and Thor: Ragnarok; and finally, everything will come to a head in Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 and 2, the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it.