Registration or Revolution?
By Joseph Goodman
As the entire United States, and most of the civilized world, knows by now, a classified super-adventurer conflict in Stamford, Connecticut led to the deaths of a reported 29 civilians last week. In the wake of this tragedy, the US Congress has begun to develop a Superhuman Registration Act (SRA), which would force active superhuman combatants to either reveal their personal information and become employees of the government’s Strategic Hazard Intervention, Espionage, and Logistics Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.), or retire. Unsurprisingly, this is a controversial move amongst the country's adventurer community, which has long emphasized the importance of the freedom to make one’s own decisions and keep one’s own information private.
We are here today to ask for the perspectives of some of the United States’ most prominent heroes, as well as a few knowledgeable civilians and villains, to see what kind of direction this conflict may continue to go in.
Admittedly, a few of the SRA's opponents seem to be speaking out of pure stubbornness, such as the android adventurer Z2P45-P-X-51, more commonly known as Machine Man.
"[laughter] Superhuman Registration Act? What the [expletive] does a Superhuman Registration Act have to do with me," he questioned. "I don't know if you’ve noticed, fleshy one, but I'm about as far removed from human as you can get! If you think that I'm going to let you sacks of meat order me around just because you racist [expletive] can't deal with my natural robot superiority, you've got another thing coming!"
Other adventurers have been reluctant at best to support the SRA, but will likely be incapable of opposing it due to their already public identities. One such group is Knightwing Restorations Ltd., a detective agency that has frequently collaborated with the heroes of New York. We spoke with Mercedes Knight, the more outspoken of the agency's detectives.
"Yeah, I’ve got to say, I'm not too comfortable with this SRA business," Knight admitted. "Gonna cause a lot of problems for our pals, especially Cage. Still, I mean, what are we supposed to do? It's kind of hard to fight the Man when you've got your names slapped on an office right in the middle of Manhattan. Maybe we should have used secret identities [laughter]!"
A similarly noncommittal answer was given by Daniel Rand, the co-owner of Rand-Meachum Inc., as well as the heroic Iron Fist. Or, more accurately, a similarly noncommittal answer was given by Joy Meachum, Rand's co-owner of Rand-Meachum, as Rand himself has been unavailable for comment for several weeks.
"While Daniel's sympathies doubtlessly lie with his costumed compatriots, his political opinions will not affect his actions as co-owner of Rand-Meachum," Meachum explained. "The modern Rand-Meachum is dedicated to complete cooperation with the law, and you will not be seeing Iron Fist resisting the SRA anytime soon."
A much stronger objection was raised by the Prowler, a low profile crimefighter who is fairly obscure to the country at large, but a regular sight in the poorer parts of the Bronx. We managed to question him after he apprehended a mugger.
"Look, you think a guy like me would've gotten his start under the SRA? Heck no," Prowler replied. "I designed all of my equipment and taught myself how to fight. The government wouldn't hire a guy like me; that's why I became a hero in the first place instead of trying to join S.H.I.E.L.D. or something! And without volunteers like me, people like [redacted] here wouldn't be able to head home safe and sound, you dig?"
It is indeed true that the SRA would be giving up the super-adventurers' ability to discover and fight crimes that wouldn't be noticed by more conventional law enforcement. It was a sentiment shared by Cloak and Dagger, a pair of mutant crimefighters known for their unflinching vendetta against drug dealers.
"Over the years, Cloak and I have gained a lot more respect for the law than we had in our early days," explained Dagger, the member of the duo who has always been more open with the press. "But we have still seen far, far too many people-especially children-slip through society's safety net to leave it to the police to protect and serve. We will continue to help those in need, no matter what, and especially when no one else will."
However, the most outspoken believer in the importance of heroes who have more freedom than normal law enforcement officers has ironically been the Falcon, a reserve member of the United States' premier superhero team, the Avengers, and a frequent S.H.I.E.L.D. volunteer.
"When I was 14,” the avian Avenger began, "I saw a community leader, who I was very close to, get gunned down in a gang war. Because no cop in the city was brave enough to stop these wars themselves, a man of peace died instead. Government, by its very nature, is imperfect. Always has been, always will be. This is exactly why we need volunteers, including superheroes, because official law enforcers, as brave and as good as they usually are, will never be enough.”
This skepticism towards the effectiveness of a government controlled hero community was reiterated by Clint Barton, also known as Hawkeye, the longtime Avenger.
"See, I've been in the hero game for years, more than long enough to have worked with S.H.I.E.L.D. a couple of times," Barton explained. "And I’ve got to say? Not too impressed. Yeah, they've got a couple of good eggs, but overall I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them. And neither should you! Cripes, it’s the 21st Century, and they're still mostly remembered for getting infiltrated by the Saturday morning version of the [expletive] Nazis! You think I’m going to let a group like that tell me how to live my life? [expletive] no!”
This raises a rather significant point of contention against the Act. In recent years, trust in the Federal government have reached record lows, with forces like Hydra, the Secret Empire, and Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) undertaking large initiatives with subverted government assets, not to mention the appearance of legitimate but massively controversial initiatives like the Mutant Control Act or the Hulkbusters Unit. The subsequent lack of faith in governing bodies was emphasized by the previously mentioned private investigator and Avenger Luke Cage.
"When you've seen the worst the law has to offer, like I have,” the ex-convict related, "you start to see why we might need do-gooders who don't wear a badge. I like to know that there are people who can help us without having to protect a crooked coworker or keep their own salary. Heck, if someone like me decided to become a crook, the feds already know where to find just about any of us! Sweet Sister, you all can find me in the Yellow Pages! The fact that they're trying to tie us up in even more red tape makes me mighty suspicious. I’ve worked [expletive] hard to keep New York safe, and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s got another thing coming if they think I’m stopping anytime soon!"
Cage’s recent partner in heroism, business, marriage, and parenthood, Jessica Jones, was unavailable for comment, having moved to Canada with the couple’s young baby, Danielle.
Even more suspicious than Cage was the Vision, an android member of the Avengers.
"As I am sure you are aware,” the Vision explained, "I was created by Ultron, a robot that was corrupted and went rogue... To put it lightly. And I myself have had my physical form usurped by foreign systems on no less than three occasions. Furthermore, these incidents have all occurred despite my one-of-a-kind hardware being routinely housed in Avengers Mansion, a location that is secured by heavy armaments. Subsequently, to have my friends' greatest secrets housed in the systems of a large organization that has proved to have far more permeable systems than my own seems imprudent."
Another criticism towards a government controlled super-adventurer community has been that the government simply isn't able to respond to the full array of unusual threats in today's world. This criticism has largely come from heroes with purportedly mystical powers, chief among them Dr. Stephen Strange, a self described sorcerer from Greenwich Village.
"The supernatural community is vast, complex, and very, very, very delicate," Strange clarified. "Trying to consolidate it all under one governing board, on its own, would be extremely controversial. To put it under the control of people who don't even remotely understand it, and may not even believe in it, is absolute madness. If someone like Maria Hill tried to stop sorcerers from making snap decisions because they have to do paperwork first, or tried to force us to follow her orders in the interest of 'national security' or some such, the potential consequences would be literally unfathomable."
This point was repeated, albeit less tactfully, by the mysterious, Southwestern phenomenon called the Ghost Rider.
"[laughter] Indeed, I had heard that the mortals were planning to exert authority over those of us who are beyond their ken," he rasped. "But Tony Stark is a fool, indeed, if he believes he can command, or detain, the boundless power of the Ghost Rider [laughter]!"
On the other hand, some adventurers have more personal objections to the SRA, especially because of the Act’s insistence of revealing one’s personal information to the government. One adventurer with a particular reason to be concerned with this practice is the first Spider-Woman, a recent inductee into the Avengers with a history of employment with S.H.I.E.LD. and other espionage agencies.
“When you work in espionage, your life depends on your secrets remaining on an absolute need-to-know basis. And, to be honest, being a superhero isn’t much different,” Spider-Woman explained. “I’m not opposed to registration in practice. Heck, a lot of superheroes already have agreed to give their personal information to the government. But what the SRA is suggesting is a large, easily discovered and infiltrated database that will surely lead to leaked information very soon after the database is created. It’s a foolish initiative, and wouldn’t have even been suggested by anyone actually interested or experienced in keeping secrets.”
A similar point was made by Daredevil, the longtime vigilante defender of Hell's Kitchen in New York City, especially in light of his own recent troubles with both the law and the press (See The Devil In Cell Block D on Page 25).
"I could write an entire book about how the law, which I steadfastly believe in, isn't always the same as justice. That’s why I became Daredevil in the first place," the scarlet swashbuckler started. "And then I could write a second book about how the SRA is bucking decades of American legal tradition. But I believe that the most important problem with the Act is its attempt to revoke our anonymity. I know policemen, soldiers, and firefighters don’t hide behind masks, but they’re not as high-profile as us, nor do they make as big of targets. And I don't mean to make this all about me, I promise, but there are few heroes who can tell you just how easy it is for a secret identity to be leaked once you let anyone in on your secrets, let alone an entire organization. And I know just as well how devastatingly dangerous that knowledge is once it's in the hands of the underworld."
Daredevil paused before muttering, "Actually, maybe I should write those books. It'd be an interesting project."
But the most urgent voice in favor of the privacy of superheroes has been the second Ant-Man, a reserve Avenger and freelance security consultant.
"Well, when you're one of the, like, five people on the planet who know how to talk to ants or whatever," Ant-Man began, "it becomes really easy for the latest thug to tell if he's been arrested by you before or not. And when these thugs run around in spandex and skull masks, calling themselves nutty things like Taskmaster or Crossfire, and waving around assault rifles like it's no big deal, you just know they're crazy and powerful enough to come up to your front door and try and kill you! And, I don't know if most people know this, but some of us have families or even kids to take care of. So, yeah, you'll forgive me if I'm just a little bit paranoid about just who knows who I am under this dinky helmet."
There have also been a few opinions raised in criticism of the SRA that come from other countries. One such voice has come from King Namor I, ruler of Atlantis and a longtime adventurer in his own right.
"We have procured several allies in the United States over the years, and We are saddened to see how this Act will hamper them,” Namor stated, “And We will confess that our royal nature does not appreciate being told where We can or cannot go. Still, We believe that it is our duty as the Emperor of the Deep to respect the edicts of other nations. And thus, as long as it does not prevent us from safeguarding sovereign Atlantis, We will respect the United States' newest mandate. And should they choose to abuse this trust, they will live to regret it! Imperius Pax!"
Another, even more outspoken voice of criticism has come from the new President of Rumekistan, Cable, a mysterious mutant who claims to have come from the future (See The Domino Principle on Page 40).
“I’ve visited so many of humanity’s futures, so many of the destinations that our actions could take us,” Cable insisted. “The US Government may not be admitting it yet, but they plan to do much worse to these heroes than merely register them. And every time humanity starts brushing aside human rights, in the name of protecting those rights, it always ends with the sort of horrible, horrible conflicts that create scores of men like me. Men who are scarred in both body and mind. No matter how reasonable America’s concerns may be, they cannot allow themselves to go down their current path, for all of our sakes!”
The largest source of dissent has actually probably come from Cable's mutant brethren in America, who have traditionally resisted attempts at similar legislation in the past. Prof. Charles Xavier, headmaster of the infamous Xavier School For Gifted Youngsters and one of the mutant community's longest standing leaders, spoke with us on the subject.
“Obviously, we at the Xavier School are all extremely disappointed that the United States has opted to walk the path of fear again, especially after all that we and our community have sacrificed for a future of equality and freedom,” Xavier confessed. “However, I have always believed that the mission of my school and my X-Men was a peaceful and global one. In light of that, we are already preparing to pull up stakes and move to a new location, in the event of this Act being passed. We will not let any of our personal feelings on current events impede our duty to protect the peoples of the world.”
Xavier declined to confirm where he and his supporters planned to move, instead saying, “We are debating a number of possible new campuses in a number of different countries. Still [laughter], Wolverine has been telling us for years that we ought to move to Canada.”
Wolverine, of course, is one of the more noted members of the X-Men, Xavier’s privately owned security force, which is dedicated to fostering peace between conventional humanity and mutants. Wolverine, who has of late done double duty as both an X-Man and an Avenger, had his own take on the situation.
“Yeah, I mean, overall I’ve got to agree with Chuck,” Wolverine said between gulps of beer. “There are way too many innocent mutants in the crossfire for the X-Men to try any sort of large scale retaliation against this [expletive]. But that don't mean every one of us individual mutants are just gonna sit back and let this happen, you hear?”
Despite Xavier’s words of peace, many mutants have echoed Wolverine’s sentiments of resistance. These have included Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, better known as the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the first mutants to join the Avengers quite a few years back.
“We are appalled, appalled I say, that the United States has again decided to target those who don't fit their definition of normal,” Quicksilver exclaimed. “It is exactly this kind of insecure aggression that allows Magneto and his ilk to manipulate young, naive superhumans onto the path of misguided terrorism! Mark my words, if this Act is allowed to pass, you will all see an unprecedented surge in destruction and... Wait, sister, I was not finished!”
Quicksilver was interrupted by the Scarlet Witch, who ended the interview by saying, “I think my brother has made our opinion quite clear. I would prefer to leave it at that, before Pietro starts ranting at superspeed again.”
Finally, several of the super-adventurer community’s most prominent members have been speaking against the SRA. Benjamin Grimm, the Thing, is one of the charter members of Fantastic Four, Inc., an elite scientific research and development company and adventuring team. In the advent of the SRA, he has taken a leave of absence from the FF.
“Yeah, look, not going to lie, I think this whole SRA thing is pretty crummy,” Grimm confessed. “Taking all the people who've spent the last several years fighting to protect the whole blamed world, and then locking them up just because they don't want to listen to a bunch of stuffed shirts? The same stuffed shirts that never seem to notice any of these superpowered jerks until we've already solved the problem for them? I don't know, that just don't seem right. And the ever-loving, blue-eyed Thing might be a patriot, but that don’t mean I’ll support a law I don’t believe in!”
Grimm then took an uncharacteristic pause before continuing, “But the people I feel sorriest for are going to be the little people who get caught in the crossfire. I don’t see this shebang ending without somebody getting hurt. And I really, absolutely hate knowing something bad’s about to happen and not knowing how to stop it, you know?”
One of the questions asked by many commentators has been where Thor, purported mythological God of Thunder and one of the founding Avengers, would have stood in regards to the SRA. However, as he has been declared missing in action following one of his regular interdimensional trips, we may very well never get to ask him. However, Thor’s closest human ally, Dr. Jane Foster, has been very outspoken on the subject.
“To be honest, I don’t think any of us could predict Thor’s opinions perfectly. I know his mind was often very foreign to me,” Foster confided. “But I came to understand him about as well as I think anyone could, and I know he cared deeply about his brothers-in-arms and the Avengers’ mission to protect the innocent. So I’m convinced that seeing his brothers ignore their responsibilities, in order to fight each other over political differences, would absolutely break his heart. I don’t know what the answer to this problem is, but Thor would agree that the SRA isn’t it.”
And finally, of course, the leader of the Anti-SRA movement has been Captain America, one of the super-adventurer community’s oldest and most respected members, field leader of the Avengers, and frequent operative of S.H.I.E.L.D. He agreed to summarize his argument for the sake of this article.
“I’ve always believed that the real authority of America never came from the government, but instead from the people,” the Captain began. “The government is merely a servant, it can’t determine what is right and what is wrong. Its function is to obey orders, not to originate them. Instead, each of us must, for ourselves alone, decide what is right and what is wrong. Not because we will always be right, but because we can't allow ourselves to outsource our own sense of right and wrong to other men! We've overturned too many tyrants, both foreign and domestic, to do otherwise! And I will fight for our right and our responsibility to stand up for what we believe in, even if it costs me my life!”
He stopped, catching his breath before sheepishly saying, “Sorry, I get a little carried away sometimes. But my point stands. Politics are fickle, and the government has tried to hamper me from doing my job in the past. I didn’t bow to it then, and I won’t bow to it now.”
(For more information on Captain America’s past confrontations with the government, see The Long Road Back in NOW #88)
However, as earnest as the Captain’s words are, there are still just as many people who oppose him and his supporters. Some of these opponents have included a fair number of supercriminals, such as MacDonald Gargan, also known as the Scorpion. Gargan is a superhuman mercenary with a longtime vendetta against the crimefighter Spider-Man, but he sees an unlikely opportunity in the SRA for former supercriminals.
“Look, I’m betting no one really cares what a costumed clown like me has to say,” Gargan admitted. “But yeah, I think the SRA could be pretty cool. I mean, how much damage do you think could’ve been avoided if Spidey and the rest followed the rules instead of just swinging in to clock me or my buddies in the face? Not to mention, I hear they’re going to let criminals sign up, too. That sort of quick legitimacy might be just the ticket to convincing guys like me that they can make a living without knocking over banks.”
This has been brought up by a few people. A national superhuman registry certainly could make it easier for former, or potential, supercriminals to find legitimate ways to make their way in the world. This was an idea suggested by Georges “The Leaper” Batroc, a French mercenary who has had frequent clashes with American crimefighters.
“Oui, monsieur, Batroc the Leaper may be an infamous outlaw, but he finds himself surprisingly unconcerned with your country's, how do you say, Registration Act,” Batroc confessed. “I have worked for almost everyone in the world who could payer la facture, or pay the bill, regardless of whether they wore a black hat or a white one. Especially if they could make a good game of the job! [laughter] Par exemple, working for your American government, alongside some of my greatest rivals? Now that sounds like it could be a great challenge, non?”
The most vocal criminal in defense of the SRA, though, has been the mercenary Deadpool, who has a history of stopping crime almost as much as he commits it.
“It ain't about who you are, it's about what you do. No reason Joe and Josephine Public shouldn't feel safer by knowing just who is hiding behind those really dangerous pairs of spandex, like Squirrel Girl or Thor,” Deadpool proclaimed, before muttering, “Wait, isn’t Thor dead? Eh, it’ll never last.”
The mercenary spoke up before continuing, “Anyway, like I was saying, I think it’ll be awesome to have a program that gives morally-challenged-and-impaired individuals an equal opportunity to prosper in the long underwear business... Not that I would fit into that minority, obviously. And even if I didn’t believe in what the white boys in the white house are doing, at the end of the day, when Uncle Sam says sign here, I sign. Just like any other red-blooded, good old-fashioned, commie-smashing American!”
When it was pointed out that he is well known to be a Canadian citizen, Deadpool ran in the opposite direction without another word.
But not every criminal speaking up in support of the SRA has been so well-meaning. Pro-Registration sentiments were also expressed by the Russian mercenary and terrorist named Boris Bullski, when he recently used his Titanium Man battlesuit to fight Spider-Man in Washington D.C.
“As a Russian national with a history of opposing this country’s government, I find it rather, how do you say, ironic that the elected leaders of the United States are creating a social climate so similar to the ones you have long railed against,” Bullski ranted while fighting the wallcrawling hero. “It is right that you should die now, for you are soon to be an extinct breed, leaving your country defenseless! Your own government will hunt you down and eradicate you, as is only fitting!”
And it isn't just criminals who have adopted aggressively anti-hero sentiments in the wake of the Stamford incident. Tarantula, a mysterious new hero taking the alias of a deceased mercenary, has been particularly scathing in her Pro-SRA statements.
“This culture of masked thugs running around and getting into fights is exactly what led to all the [expletive] innocent people who suffered in Stamford,” Tarantula lamented. “Doesn't matter whether they call themselves heroes or villains, these fake names and disguises are just a way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions! Well, no more. For the sake of those we lost, we can't let what happened in Stamford ever happen again! The SRA must pass!”
Moving on to more mainstream Pro-Registration proponents, there have been several non-adventurers operating on the sidelines of the superhuman community speaking out in support of the SRA. One of these has been Walter Declun, CEO of Damage Control Inc., a construction company specializing in repairing property damage caused by superhuman conflicts.
“We at Damage Control are, of course, shocked by the recent events in Stamford, and are already working to help repair the city and erect a memorial to those we lost in this tragic incident,” Declun explained. “Following that, we are prepared to help the US government with its upcoming initiative in anyway we can. Registration, evaluation, training... You name it, Damage Control can provide it!”
Damage Control will likely gain a lot of new business thanks to the SRA, but they won’t be the biggest organization supporting the Act. That honor would go to S.H.I.E.L.D., which will coordinate the new initiative. In light of that fact, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s new Director, Maria Hill, has been extremely vocal in her support of the Act.
“America’s penchant for cowboy behavior was what led to most of our problems under my predecessor’s watch,” Hill barked, referring to former Director Nicholas Fury, who recently left S.H.I.E.L.D. under mysterious circumstances. “Well, I plan to change that! It’s about time we as a country started being accountable for our actions and doing things by the book. And the cape-and-mask set are the ones who need to change the most. Running around the world, picking fights and ignoring the rules... We’re lucky that they haven’t caused even more problems than they already have! Honestly, the only thing I’m going to regret about the SRA is the fact that we didn’t think of it sooner.”
But it hasn’t just been American authorities who have spoken out in support of the SRA. Emperor Victor Von Doom, ruler of the Eastern European country of Latveria, also believes that the Act has been a long time coming.
“As Doom is sure you are aware, the sovereign nation of Latveria has frequently been vexed by illegal assaults from your American costumed thugs,” Doom rasped. “While Doom has never revealed the nature of these incidents in order to protect the secrets of Latverian security, this does not make these assaults any less insulting or disgraceful. With the United States finally putting the leash on their inhuman warhounds, perhaps the rest of the world will finally be capable of trusting your country again.”
Not all foreign support has come from such a hostile perspective, however. King T’Challa, Chieftain of the African nation of Wakanda, has long adventured internationally under the mantle of his country’s traditional protector, the Black Panther. His reserve membership with the Avengers has made him especially relevant to this discussion.
“I have long enjoyed the camaraderie of the United States’ superheroes, but I always believed such causal operations were a temporary situation,” T’Challa confessed. “I will, of course, be following America’s wishes in this matter and avoiding future unapproved incursions into their territory. I certainly know that I would not appreciate unregistered combatants running around my country without permission [laughter]!”
International heroes in general seem to be more sympathetic to the SRA. This isn’t a huge surprise, as most foreign nations have historically held more control over their superhumans than the United States has over theirs. Case in point, the Russian agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Avengers reservist known only as the Black Widow has made an exception to her usual abstinence from interviews to offer her support to the SRA.
“I’ll make this quick,” Black Widow confided. “I’ve had a long history in this game, and I know when a good period has passed. I also know when my handlers are preparing to toss their operatives into the cold. I’ve enjoyed my little vacation from red tape as an Avenger, but this isn’t the time to punch our way out of a problem. It’s time to let things go where they will, and do what we have to to stay in the game. No further comment.“
Widow isn’t the only hero who seems to be supporting the SRA out of a sense of self-preservation. For example, Lucas Bishop, like President Cable, is a mutant who claims to be from the future. Unlike Cable, however, Bishop has been one of the few mutants to support passing the SRA.
“I haven’t worked with Cable a lot, but we’ve led pretty similar lives. Still, I couldn’t agree with him less right now,” Bishop admitted. “I may have visited a lot of dark futures, but there was one thing most of them had in common. The problems between normal humans and superhumans always came to a point when us mutants crossed the line. If we’re going to avoid all the possible horrors of the future, we need to submit to reasonable rules and police our own community. If we resist any middle ground and let things descend into chaos, that’s exactly when the Sentinels start rounding us up into concentration camps. And you can quote me on that!”
Bishop isn’t the only Pro-Registration hero to come from a somewhat controversial position. Case in point, Jennifer Walters, who is not only a respected attorney, but also the reserve Avenger named She-Hulk. Some observers have been confused by Walters’ recent actions, because at the same time that she has publicly supported the SRA, she has also been spearheading a lawsuit against civilian attempts to leak super-adventurers’ legal identities to the public (See The Scales Of Justice on Page 55). We asked her to clarify this seemingly contradictory behavior.
“I’ve said that I’ll support the SRA, and I meant that,” Walters confirmed. “But that’s just a part of my broader dedication to supporting the law. And that means standing up to anyone who violates it, even a second-rate internet jockey who’s violating my friends’ right to privacy.”
The jade giantess sighed before continuing, “Look, I agree that super-adventurers need to start being held more accountable for our actions. We absolutely do! But that means accountable to the government, not to the public! I know this is a controversial statement, but the people do not need to know who we are under our masks. They don’t. What is your average Joe going to do to keep super-people in-check that the government can’t? And on top of that, it’s just not realistic for many heroes, given the sort of enemies they accumulate, to release personal information to the public. The fact that the government will be keeping superhuman information in a private database is the exact reason I’m supporting the SRA. If they were releasing that information to the community, we’d be having a very different legal conversation right now.”
Other adventurers seem to have joined up with the SRA more unreservedly. For example, the scientific superstar Dr. Reed Richards, also known as Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, has been one of the SRA’s most vocal supporters.
“The Fantastic Four have a long history of supporting the American government, and we don't plan on changing that anytime soon,“ Richards assured us. ”As always, S.H.I.E.L.D. can expect our full cooperation in upholding the SRA, which I truly believe will make our little community even more effective at protecting our country in the future. I really can't wait to see what we will accomplish with the SRA's policy of increased cooperation. Besides, I've kept my family in the public eye for so long that registering is as much a formality as anything else [laughter]!”
The remaining two members of the Fantastic Four, Susan Richards and Jonathan Storm, otherwise known as the Invisible Woman and the Human Torch, have declined to comment on anything related to the SRA.
A few other teams have been pretty willing to cooperate with the SRA, including the Thunderbolts, a team of former supercriminals turned crimefighters. The team leader, Melissa Gold, was formerly known as Screaming Mimi, but currently goes by Songbird.
“I’m sure it’d surprise no one to find out that none of us Thunderbolts thought our careers as heroes would find us becoming feds,” Gold joked. “Still, I don’t think you’ll find any of us complaining, given how important it to us to act as fully legitimate heroes. We’re more than happy to lend a hand to the United States government, in our continuing efforts to make up for our past missteps. I don’t think any of us will mind receiving health insurance and federal paychecks, either [laughter].”
There have been a few other heroes with similarly straightforward perspectives on the SRA. An example would be Patricia Walker, who as Hellcat is a private investigator and reserve Avenger.
”Yeah, maybe I'm a little old fashioned, but I don’t really see what the big deal is. I mean, we’re superheroes, right,” Walker asked. ”We're all about doing the right thing, and that means being honest, taking responsibility for our actions, and being loyal to our country. All pretty standard stuff, really, but it’s also really important to me. No matter what I might have to sacrifice in order to keep working as a hero, it’ll all be worth it. You can bet I'll be first in line for the SRA as soon as it's passed!”
Many heroes, though, have more specific reasons to support the SRA. These include Janet Van Dyne, who is not only a wealthy fashion designer responsible for many of the superheroic community’s costumes, but also the founding Avenger known as the Wasp.
”I don’t really talk about it a lot, but my first few months in costume weren't as smooth as you might expect from a hero of my caliber,” Van Dyne chuckled. ”I’m joking, of course. But it’s true that I was shot in the lung a few months in. That almost ended my career, not to mention my life. What I'm getting at is that becoming a hero on a whim, like I did, is incredibly dangerous for everyone involved. I don't think we live in a world where you can be a hero as a hobby anymore, if we ever did. A required training course is definitely overdue.”
As one of might have guessed based off of Van Dyne’s comments, some members of the super-adventurer community had already been considering greater regulation before the Stamford incident. One such adventurer has been Greer Nelson, a fashion model as well as the Avengers reservist Tigra.
”Well, to tell the truth, it wasn’t an easy decision to come to. I can kind of sympathize with the Anti-Regs. Trust me, I know what it’s like to be a loner, an outcast. I know what it means to to fight an established order and battle for the things you believe,” Nelson began. “But at the end of the day, I’m an old leftie. The government’s gotta do for the people what they can’t do on their own. And the people sure as [expletive] can’t defend themselves against any of us! I’d honestly been looking for something like the SRA to reel us in for awhile. I’m not just registering now because of Stamford, I’m doing it because it was right all along.”
Tigra’s concerns about the potential threat of super-adventurers have been reflected by some of her peers, albeit for more specific reasons. Take, for instance, Simon Williams, former entrepreneur and current movie actor, as well as the reserve Avenger named Wonder Man. But it is no secret that Williams began his Avengers career as a mole for a supercriminal gang.
“Yeah, anyone who’s glanced at my Wikipedia entry can tell you I got my wonderful powers as a part of the not-so-wonderful Masters Of Evil,” Williams admitted. “That’s the sort of ridiculous mistake that must sound pretty bonkers to most people, but is pretty surprisingly easy to just fall into. So I'm definitely not in much of a situation to say that the feds don't need to be keeping their eyes on us super-types. And I care way too much about the Avengers to let them become part of ‘The Problem’, TM. [laughter] We’ll always do what we must to keep you safe, and that’s a promise.”
Another hero who knows from experience that super-adventurers need to be held accountable is Dr. Henry Pym, a world renowned, multidisciplinary scientist and founding Avenger. Despite his many accomplishments, Pym is known as a controversial and uncertain figure, a fact reflected by his multiple costumed identities (See The Court-Martial of Hank Pym in NOW #83). He is currently operating under his fourth alias as Yellowjacket.
“I imagine that anyone who follows my career is probably sick of hearing me talk about my failures. I certainly know Janet is!,” Pym laughed. “But it really is hard to overstate how much I’ve learned from my mistakes, and thus how much they’ve affected my decisions since.”
At this point, the aforementioned Janet Van Dyne, who was with us in the same room, interjected, “You remember, Hank, darling, that your therapist wants you to move past that, right?”
“Well, yes, I know Sampson said that, dear, but this is important,” Pym promised. “Anyway, what was I saying? Ah, yes. My manic episodes, Egghead’s attempts to manipulate me, and, of course, the creation of Ultron, have all taught me that unsupervised, for want of a better term, super-activities can have disastrous consequences. We need oversight. I really do think that, given my own experiences, that I’d have to completely lack both self-awareness and conscience in order to not support the SRA.”
While we, along with many of Yellowjacket’s fans, might argue that he is perhaps being too hard on himself, his point largely stands. Still, several Pro-SRA heroes have had more positive reasons to support the Act. For instance, Colonel Carol Danvers, who is both an experienced operative in the military, intelligence, and aerospace communities, and also the Avengers reservist Ms. Marvel.
“I really cannot overstate how relieved I am that America finally is creating a Superhuman Registry,” Danvers said. “Obviously, I’m happy that we have more oversight in the field. I won't go into detail, but anyone who remembers my brief expulsion from the Avengers a few years back know why I would support this new level of oversight. But I'm even more enthusiastic about how the SRA will allow us to finally make sure every superhero is properly trained and positioned where they do the most good for our country. It really excites me to think about how many more people we’ll be able to help now!”
Danvers calmed down before continuing, “Despite all that, I can still understand the frustration of the Anti-Registration heroes. I do. And I don't have anything against civil disobedience. But any of these adventurers who try to keep acting illegally will almost certainly be forced to attack innocent officers and agents of the law to do so. And they will have disgraced the name of ’hero’ in the process. So even if I wasn’t Pro-Registration, I’d still never tolerate illegal adventurers.”
(For more information on Danvers’ expulsion from the Avengers, see The Court-Martial Of Carol Danvers in NOW #98)
Another military perspective on the SRA has come from Commander James Rhodes, who as the armored adventurer War Machine has been allied with the Avengers, S.H.I.E.LD., and Stark International, the world-class advanced technologies company.
“I get why registration acts make those of us in the super-people community a little jumpy,” Rhodes admitted. “There have been some very ugly attempts in the past to register people because they just happened to be born with superpowers. But here’s the thing. The beauty of the SRA is that, despite the name, it isn’t really targeting superhumans. The Act doesn’t care about what you can do. It just cares about what you decide to do. America doesn’t have a problem with superhumans anymore, it has a problem with people who want to use their powers in public and get in big, dangerous fights without government approval. And, really, that’s only reasonable, right? It’s time to let law and order take back control in America.”
And lastly, much like the Anti-Registration side, the Pro-Registration side has several of the country’s most prominent super-adventurers on its side. An example of this would be the Sentry, a powerful hero who first appeared years ago, back when most super-adventurers were still beginning their careers, before disappearing soon after. However, he has returned to the public eye in recent months, joined the Avengers, and quickly developed a large following due to his rapid success at, and dedication to, saving the innocent.
“What a lot of people don’t realize about me is that my powers, which at first appear to be physical in nature, are actually extensions of psionic abilities. And I didn't know that myself for quite a few years, either,” the Sentry explained. “Because when you get superpowers, your instinct isn't to learn about how your powers work or train to use them. No, your first instinct is to jump into a onesie and start punching bad guys! And that's backfired on me in some pretty near-disastrous ways. So what I'm trying to say, in an incredibly round-about kind of way [laughter], is that I'm on board with whatever's going to teach all the new kids how to use their powers right. ”
However, there is one caveat on the Sentry’s commitment. When asked about the rumors of a major government initiative to apprehend adventurers who refuse to register, the golden guardian hesitated before replying, “Well, no one is saying that the debate over the SRA will turn into a serious conflict. No one official, certainly. But if any unregistered adventurers do require capture, I’ll only help from the sidelines. This conflict is too domestic for someone with my powers to take the lead. I can only imagine the possible destruction that would cause. My only role in any upcoming conflict would simply be to save the heroes of our world from hurting each other any more than they have to.”
Probably the most unexpected proponent of Registration, and one of the most vocal, has been Spider-Man. The infamous New York crimefighter has long had a contentious relationship with both official law enforcement and the media, but his recent acceptance into the Avengers seems to have been accompanied by an increased legitimacy for the webslinger.
“Yeah, I know people have been pretty confused about my say in all this. Lord knows I haven’t exactly been cooperative with the government in the past,” the wallcrawler agreed. “But I have always lived my life by a single principle, that with great power, there must also always come great responsibility. That’s never changed, and it never will. It just took me this long to realize that maybe responsibility includes answering for your decisions instead of hiding behind a mask. Or that maybe if guys like me were properly trained, maybe less innocent people would have died because we couldn’t save them.”
When asked about his uncharacteristically morose demeanor, Spider-Man chuckled and replied, “Well, it’s been a long week.”
However, by far the most important proponent of the SRA has been Dr. Anthony Stark, CEO of the aforementioned Stark International and former Secretary of Defense. More important to current events, however, is Stark’s role as the primary financier of the Avengers, as well as one of their founding members under the armored guise of Iron Man.
“For a number of years now, I’ve tried my hardest to take responsibility for what I do and what I make. Even if, admittedly, I haven’t always done a great job of that,” Stark confessed. “As a scientist, that means always seeing ahead and constructing the best solutions I possibly can. And the best solution for the problems facing us as a country is the Superhuman Registration Act. Period. Beyond that, as a hero, I, no, we have the responsibility to do what is right and save lives, even if it requires sacrifices on our own part. I became Iron Man because I was no longer satisfied with just making money, but that doesn’t mean Iron Man was my end goal in life. I believe in continuing to change for the betterment of all of us, even if that means doing things we never saw ourselves doing.”
The Iron Avenger paused before continuing, “Besides, can you imagine how ugly it’d get if the government had to force us to register? Better to keep us heroes together then let us be divided. Agreeing to the SRA may not be pretty for everyone, but it’s definitely necessary. It’s the only way we’ll hold on to our community.“
One can only hope that Stark’s hope of keeping the super-adventurer community intact is a possibility. However, this reporter fears that the community will shatter under the strain of so many conflicting opinions. And maybe the best thing we can hope for is that the rest of the country will still stand after the dust settles.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the original author and other contributors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NOW Magazine or any employee thereof.