Non-ASOIAF Content: People’s History of the Marvel Universe, Week 20: The (Mutant) Registration Act(s)

In his sixteen-year tenure of the X-line, Chris Claremont put his own spin on the mutant metaphor any number of ways, but one of the longest-lasting and most influential has been the idea of a Mutant Registration Act. In the original Days of Future Past storyline, Claremont first mentions the Mutant Control Act passed by a “rabid anti-mutant candidate…elected president,” as a reaction to the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly.

4 thoughts on “Non-ASOIAF Content: People’s History of the Marvel Universe, Week 20: The (Mutant) Registration Act(s)

  1. Jim B says:

    Love this series. My prime X-Men reading years were in that issue 170-230 range, though of course I picked up plenty of back issues including the Days of Future Past.

    The role of governments in superhero universes is tricky. It strikes me as dubious that private superheroes (and villains) would be so dominant — you would expect that a lot more superpowered people would be employed by the military, police, and large corporations than is usually shown in DC and Marvel. But of course it’s more fun to read the stories of independent heroes, so I get why they do it that way.

    As you point out, the “do you know what your children are” is a cute play on an existing slogan. But it strikes me as unrealistic — if you were running a pro-registration PR campaign, you wouldn’t try to turn parents against their own children, you’d try to scare them about the danger TO their own children. But of course “it’s 1987. Do you know what your children’s classmates/friends are?” doesn’t have the same ring.

    • Grant says:

      It’s the big tension between having a fantastic (as in with fantastic elements, not as in great) story and being close to real life (plus the problem of telling this story in a comic book). Politics and society in any fantastic story with super-powered persons should be, in some ways at least, radically different because that’s so different than the world we exist in. Human politics has pretty much always had to contend with the fact that humans are physically and mentally more or less equal, even if they’re in a society where some claim the opposite and that one group of humans is inferior to another.

      Humans in Marvel? They don’t have anything like that. As is pointed out in the cited comic strips, there are at least six that Kelly knows of who can “ravage the world” (and considering the presence of people like Magneto this can’t be safely dismissed as just McCarthyesque claims). Even setting those aside there are a number of people with psychic powers or teleportation powers, to say nothing of all those with magic or some other kind of powers (even though only mutants ever seem to get mentioned). Realistically that should be leading to some big changes, not just the MRA meant to keep mutants under non-mutant control but lots of social experiments across the world to organize a group.

      But that would require a work that can really sift through all this, so a medium that relies so heavily on art would have a real hard time doing more than what we see here, and it would mean we wouldn’t have stories set in “basically your world, but with the fantastic” and might have a harder time getting readers.

      • Jim B says:

        Yes, I’m reminded of how Marvel launched the “New Universe” in the 80s and billed at as the “world outside your window,” meaning that unlike the regular Marvel Universe, superpowers were unknown until the “White Event”

        But of course it didn’t take long before the New Universe looked pretty different from ours, among other things by having an entire American city destroyed (sorry, Pittsburgh!)

  2. Jack Elving says:

    Historically Marvel internally is more centrist and center-left rather than center-left and left. Stan Lee was no kind of leftist. Course given how superhero comics were in the 1960s, being centrist was a step up.

    With Millar, I think it’s because he’s from the UK and has an imperfect understanding of American politics (which you also see with Garth Ennis, and to some extent with Alan Moore). So I think that’s why being left from a UK perspective doesn’t give him much help in doing Civil War and reg well. My favorite is JMS’ run in ASM in that time which is Pro-Cap and also really scathing to the Pro-Reg side, with Reed Richards justifying his support for IM out of a memory of a family member who was persecuted by HUAC but coming to the conclusion that the persecution and vilification wasn’t worth it and his ancestor should have “named names” and been done with it. This is ASM#531-538 “The War at Home”…one of the last stories before OMD…good times.

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