Well, I was going to write my review of Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele here — that’s right, you heard me! — but I got off-track through reading a bit of John Seavey’s excellent blog, specifically this.
What got me going was a discussion in the comments about whether or not the SHRA is a “realistic” development in the Marvel Universe.
My response, too long to post there:
“It probably bears mentioning that in the early days of the Marvel Universe, many of the most high-profile heroes swiftly developed official government contacts and sanctions. The FF were public figures with known identities anyway, not to mention government ties…the Avengers ended up with their official clearances in a tearing hurry, on Nick Fury’s speed-dial just a little while later…even Professor X had a friend at the FBI. So my position is that we would not have the SHRA in the “real” world if said real world’s superheroes looked anything at all like the ones in Marvel comics…what we’d have instead would be a decent double-handful of duly authorized (if technically autonomous) superfolks who do very little else but encounter “unregistered” super-powered people and where possible befriend, neutralize, recruit, train, and socialize them…having some notable success even with ex-supervillains. And the few superfolks who don’t enjoy these close ties/rehabilitative duties, like Spider-Man and Daredevil, are basically never even seen except when they’re saving somebody’s life…the Daily Bugle’s headlines notwithstanding…except of course that the Avengers and the FF eventually end up knowing them well enough to vouch for them anyway, because that’s their job. Then you’ve got the Hulk, who’s a sick, sick man, who in fact both superheroes and military task forces have gone after repeatedly so I don’t see how anyone’s screwing up too badly on that front. Then you’ve got the supervillains, who you shouldn’t be worried about registering so much as you should be worried about putting in jail. But you kind of need the Avengers, FF, or X-Men to do that for you…gee, good thing you’ve got such a solid relationship with them…because they’re kind of your front line…
Basically, I’m saying this all worked pretty well already, and was as realistic as anything else. In a similar fashion, the Illuminati also tries to make a big deal out of something that already worked just fine: because the FF were already the Illuminati. Close ties and friendships with the Avengers, Inhumans, X-Men, and the demi-monde represented by any number of folks like Dr. Strange, as well as intimate connections in the scientific community, the military, the police…people in other dimensions…Galactus…I mean come on, who’s left? Just Namor? Magneto? Who? The only major superhero who ever acted relatively free of oversight was Iron Man anyway, and this was probably because Tony Stark could be thought of as his oversight, so you can see how the powers-that-be might have let that one slide. In fact I believe you could argue that Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and Professor X already had been doing a whole lot to preserve the heroes’ nominal autonomy (thereby making the government happy as well), practically since they first showed up. Basically running “shops” on the government’s behalf — the Avengers shop, the FF shop, the X-Men shop.
So SHRA = unnecessary. Hell, even the system of oversight portrayed in Invincible isn’t necessary, in this set-up. In fact in order to get the SHRA you had to have several characters written as they’d never been written before, you had to have the New Warriors vain enough to be on a reality TV show, you had to have heroes that previously saved the day on a regular basis fail spectacularly at it in a wholly novel way not part of the regular superhero storytelling toolkit at all…in other words the whole thing was jimmied-up like crazy from the very outset, and it’s still jimmied-up. Not realistic, just a standard-issue “crowd turns against them” story that was rigged by Marvel editorial so that unlike the dozens of stories just like it in the past, this one blows up real good instead of resolving satisfactorily.
Whoof! Thanks for letting me get that off my chest, John!”
You see my point, I trust. It’s all been thought of before, and more carefully — it’s all been done before, and without extradimensional gulags, an adolescent’s understanding of politics and the law BLOWN UP HUGE, or gimmicking things so that your superheroes must fail. Not to mention that bit about the Hulk killing puppies (look it up!) and the main characters all being written as they have never, ever been written before. The structure of the MU’s society that was laid down back in the Sixties actually seems a pretty durn healthy one, actually, for all that it lacks black-ops superfolk who “stay frosty” and commit badassery, just before turning on their handlers when their partners get killed or WHATEVER. Although you’d never know it from reading the Q continuum’s constant avowals that if they were in the crowd outside the Baxter Building they would be the ones who wanted to lynch them! Me, I’d be going: “right on, it’s the Human Torch, he’s my fave!” Which means I would be the one having the Invisible Girl bandage my forehead later, so nyah nyah. But my point is, from reading these explanations of how it would all work in the “real” world, you would think Stan and Jack and Steve never even thought to make any Atom-Age connections with their monstrous romantic superfreaks at all, wouldn’t you? Nope, no subtext there…subtext? Don’t know what you’re gibbering about, my friend, say what’s this Cuban Missile Crisis thing you keep referencing, anyway? I mean it’s absurd. Red paranoia, howzat again? Sorry, didn’t hear you.
Kee-rist. What chowderheads.
It’s kind of interesting to view the superpeople and their teams through this lens, I think. What were the Defenders, but a secret team of scary esoteric non-persons that the government had no clue were even out there? Only the Avengers and the FF knew, and one presumes they kept that secret to themselves. What were the Champions but a team some official probably looked at tapes of and said “ohhh crap, I really do not want to try and deal with Hercules again, did I ever tell you about that thing with the train…?”
Then his buddy says:
“Hercules is an Avenger.”
“Hercules is an Avenger.”
“So…doesn’t he have some kind of super-priority card or something? Doesn’t that take him right out of our jurisdiction? In fact are we even supposed to be seeing this tape? Couldn’t it be, like, Top Secret or something?”
“…You’re a genius.”
“I know. Now c’mon, let’s go to lunch.”
I can see it happening that way. Anyway I know Professor X was very distressed when his contact at the FBI retired (or whatever it was)…maybe the guy shredded the X-files (forgive me) just before he cleaned out his desk? I don’t think anybody ever did anything with that. Hmm…it’s bugging me, I can’t seem to remember that guy’s name…
Also I do believe there is just nowhere near enough attention paid in the modern Marvel U. to the fact that some people are not American nationals. This is really going to screw with Doctor Doom’s diplomatic immunity, I think — “oops, I just remembered I have no problem with arresting somebody for the crime of trying to take over the world, and I don’t care about whether he’s the monarch of a foreign country or not!” Boy, Reed really has gotten absent-minded, hasn’t he? Quick, somebody register the Silver Surfer, Clea, the Black Panther, the Titanium Man, the Super-Skrull! And stick ’em in the…
Wait, in the Negative Zone?
Uh…guys…the Negative Zone is kind of, how does one put this, not safe to be walking around in. No, really: look, you can check these Marvel comics about it…
Here’s what I think (stealing liberally from another comment I made on John’s site): the desire to put gaudily-coloured superfolk into these particular type of “realistic” situations over and over is basically a kink, at this point. I mean yeah, okay, it starts with you making a bit of harmless fun. “Pervert suits”, aren’t they silly…but then after a while it starts to look a bit like you’re not really here for the hunting, you know? And how long ago was Miracleman #15, anyway? You know what I’m saying? These ideas are not exactly what you’d call original. I mean, Mark Millar is doing a bunch of PR about this new series he’s got coming up that’s set in a dystopian future where the villains have killed all the heroes, and then there’s all these, like, supervillain gangsters running the…
Oops, sorry. Guess I nodded off there for a minute. Now, what was I saying?
Oh yes. Mark Millar’s writing this edgy sort of dystopian fu
zzz…snort…wha? Wha’ happen? Oh my God, that shit is like Nyquil, isn’t it? Although I suppose there must be somebody who finds it, uh…what’s the word…you know, for when something wakes you up…