By David Reynolds
As I was completing my BA in 2006, Marvel Comics was beginning to publish Mark Millar’s Civil War. It was a huge crossover event with a core miniseries, a secondary series (Civil War: Front Line), and tie-ins involving each of Marvel’s major comics. The whole thing was hyped as a major event, promising plenty of superhero-on-superhero conflict. My interest was thoroughly stoked, and it was the momentum of Marvel Comics’ storylines leading up to Civil War – such as Avengers Disassembled, House of M, and Secret War – that really convinced me that studying superhero narratives would be suitable for my graduate research in the MPhil.
What I loved most about Civil War was that it featured so many challenging questions. Pitting their most popular superheroes against each other provided an opportunity to really question the value of some of the sacred cows of superhero stories. This series forced characters to take sides, as pro- or anti-registration, because the state was recording the identities of everyone with super powers. So, our favourite heroes are forced to reflect on their actions as vigilantes, as they’re faced with this ultimatum of either becoming deputies or outlaws. More generally, the series forces our favourite heroes to reflect upon the nature of privacy versus security. In the midst of post-9/11 politics in culture, Marvel weighs in on these deep topics through this series by forcing readers to reflect on them as well.
Entering grad studies, I had little clue what to expect or which direction I should take. Nevertheless, I was fairly certain that if I focused my studies in philosophy, critical theory, and history around similar questions as posed in Civil War, then my research would at least be personally satisfying if nothing else. In the end, it was an amazing experience. It was invaluable. And, I owe much of it to the coincidence of Civil War being published just as I was about to begin grad school.
David Reynolds studied at Memorial University where he completed his BA in Philosophy and English Language and Literature in 2006 in addition to completing his MPhil in Humanities in 2008. His graduate research focused on the cultural significance of superhero narratives and culminated in his dissertation Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths. Presently, he enjoys teaching English at Memorial University while fumbling about as a publisher with Problematic Press.