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Saturday, 28 November 2015

Marvel Civil War: The sides explained

This week the first trailer for Captain America: Civil War was released for the public. Following the events of Avengers 2 the Sokovia Accords issued by the UN are making superheroes and superpowered beings become accountable to a governing body. This causes a divide in the superhero community leading to a civil war. The Civil War story arc (see here: was a major part of the Marvel universe and still remains a major part. This post will deal with what exactly the different sides of the civil war wanted, who supported them and who stayed neutral. Note: this only deals with the comics Civil War and not the upcoming film version.

The pro-registration faction are the superheroes who are willing to register their secret identities with the US government (in the comics only the United States passed the Superhero Registration Act). The general consensus held by these heroes is that by working with the government they can easily save more lives and restore trust between the public and the superhero community. Prior to the passing of the Registration Act a group of young superheroes called the New Warriors tried to fight a powerful group of villains leading to the destruction of Stamford, Connecticut. The Hulk had also caused considerable damage to Las Vegas in his anger and Scarlet Witch had depowered 90% of Earth's mutants. Through all of these reasons several superheroes viewed registration as being the wisest option. Tony Stark aka Iron Man became the de facto leader of the pro-registration forces who would later use his immense fortune and technology to help other pro-registration heroes. The Fantastic Four, Hank Pym, She-Hulk, Ms Marvel, Black Widow and Spider-Man all joined the pro-registration forces. Spider-Man even revealed his secret identity to the public. 

During the course of the Civil War the pro-registration forces had been using the Thunderbolts (a group of former supervillains trying to fight for redemption) to help fight the anti-registration forces. When the government started offering pardons to any villain who joined the Thunderbolts quickly many villains joined looking for a way out of prison rather than redemption. These included Venom, Green Goblin and Lady Deathstrike. After the death of Goliath by the robotic clone of Thor made by the pro-registration side several figures joined them including Cable although other heroes did leave to join the anti-registration forces.

The anti-registration forces are the heroes who refuse to subscribe to the Superhero Registration Act and they quickly rally behind the first person to oppose it, Captain America. Captain America opposed it on the principal that it made superheroes little more than government stooges ordered to fight for what the government thinks is right and not what they think is right. Unlike Iron Man's forces many non-powered heroes, vigilantes and younger heroes join the anti-registration side. These include Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Cloak and Dagger, Falcon, the Young Avengers and Daredevil. However Hercules and Goliath are two of Captain America's main fighters until Goliath's death by the hands of the Thor clone. Unlike the pro-registration forces whose primary aim is to arrest heroes not conforming to the Registration Act the anti-registration forces continue to fight villains despite being outlaws themselves.

Following the course of the Civil War membership fluctuates between heroes. With Goliath's death several heroes such as Cable and Nighthawk left to support the pro-registration forces. However, simultaneously the Human Torch, Invisible Woman and Spider-Man joined Captain America in opposing the act. Briefly even the Punisher joined Captain America with the vigilante seeing the pro-registration forces as betraying the ideals of being heroes by siding with the likes of Venom and the Green Goblin. Quickly he was ousted from membership after he shot two villains seeking redemption and was beaten to a pulp by Captain America. In the final battle several heroes that had remained neutral (discussed shortly) joined Captain America. During the battle Captain America saw the damage that they were doing so surrendered to the authorities. Afterwards Luke Cage became the de facto leader of the anti-registration forces.


 Several figures did manage to remain neutral during the fighting. Dr Strange for example (pictured above) fasted throughout the war to determine whose side to join and inevitably chose to side with neither. The X-Men were publicly neutral due to them already being registered with the government being the last mutants. The reason for this to both highlight the similarities between the Superhero Registration Act and the Mutant Registration Act as well as stop anti-mutant zealots from having an excuse to attack the last mutants. Although individual X-Men did participate in the war. Cable joined the anti-registration and switched sides, Bishop joined the pro-registration and Wolverine initially was neutral but joined the anti-registration forces. Storm as Queen of Wakanda remained neutral alongside T'Challe aka Black Panther as it was an American and not a Wakandan war. However both showed animosity towards the idea of registration and would join the anti-registration forces following the death of Goliath. Namor the Sub-Mariner too was neutral only being concerned in getting revenge for his cousin, Namorita, who was killed by Nitro but in the final battle he joined the anti-registration forces. Although against registration Jessica Jones chose not to fight moving to Canada while the Thing moved to France in anger over the death of Goliath. Both would later return, the Thing in the final battle to help civilians and Jessica as a way to find her husband (Luke Cage) registering her identity simultaneously. 

I hope that has made understanding the comic version of the Civil War somewhat easier. I hope to see you next time.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The World of The Man in the High Castle

On Amazon Prime the adaptation of Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle has been released. For those who may not know Philip K. Dick is one of the best, if not the best, science-fiction authors of at least the 20th century. His novel The Man in the High Castle is one of my personal favorites of his and focuses on a dark alternate reality following an Axis victory in World War Two. Due to the series being released and this blog focusing heavily on alternate history I thought it would be appropriate to look at the dystopian world that Philip K. Dick has created. 

How the Axis win
The point of divergence occurs on February 15, 1933. In our world an assassination attempt on the soon to be president Franklin Roosevelt by Guiseppe Zangara failed but in Dick's novel the assassination attempt succeeds. John Nance Garner, who in our timeline was Roosevelt's vice-president, becomes president but the USA does not manage to recover its economy through a Roosevelt style New Deal. The Great Depression is not resolved and in 1941 the Democrats lose to Republican John W. Bricker who also fails to resolve the economic crisis while simultaneously keeping the USA out of international affairs. When war breaks out in Europe without financial and arms assistance from the USA Britain and, later the USSR, falls to the Axis. Through excerpts from the novel the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill became desperate in the last few months of the war with him ordering elite troops to garrote German and Italian troops in North Africa and it is implied that the Nazis completely destroyed London due to Churchill's will to resist. It was reported that the Thames 'was on fire'. As the USSR starts to fall Japan bombs Pearl Harbor however in this timeline the majority of the US navy is in the harbor at the time. As a result virtually the entirety of the US navy is destroyed in one day. The Japanese Empire steamrolls southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Australasia and Hawaii and invades the west coast while the Germans invade the east coast. Due to Canada being an independent nation free from Axis control it is assumed that they must have made peace with the Axis before this occurred. Following this the United States put up a fight against the Axis powers, one character mentions how they even almost won the war, but by 1947 the United States surrenders.

The Axis world
Following the war almost all of the world is divided among the Axis powers. Japan holds a sizable empire on mainland China while Germany conquers or puppets most of Europe. Italy meanwhile holds an empire along the Mediterranean but many Italians feel that they are subordinated by the Nazis. The United States is split into three: the Pacific States of America (PSA), a Japanese puppet consisting of the west coast, the United States, a Nazi puppet state consisting of all of the USA east of the Mississippi, and the Rocky mountain States which acts as a buffer state between the two. In the PSA Japanese rule is decentralized with it being ran through the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Although still an empire Japan has started to liberalize as a new generation replaces the pre-war generation although there is still some indifference to the indentured Chinese population. After the war there was considerable Japanese migration to the PSA changing the demographic and in the scenario the country has a culture that is a mix of Japanese, Chinese and American culture. Multiple characters regularly refer to the I Ching to guide their lives and the new generation of Japanese people living in the PSA have a fascination of pre-war American artifacts in the same way how Americans had a fascination with Native American artifacts. At one part in the novel an antiques dealer sells a Micky Mouse watch to a young couple for this reason. Americans in the PSA are however glad that they lost the war seeing the Japanese being benevolent rulers and that an Allied victory would mean a communist victory although this was largely down to propaganda. One character alive before the war mentions how initially he wanted to revolt against Japanese rule but soon came around.

In Europe, Nazi dominated America and Africa however the story is much different. Hitler's plan for lebensraum has succeeded with the Nazis draining the Mediterranean converting it into acres of farmland as well as violently murdering the ethnic Slavs in Russia, Poland and eastern Europe. This alternate history saw a mega-Holocaust in Europe and Nazi occupied America with there being a mass genocide against Jews, Slavs and anyone who Hitler disliked. Russian and Slavic culture has been completely destroyed by 1962 with the Eastern Orthodox church being completely eradicated. Millions of people were murdered by the Nazis with virtually all European Jews being murdered and the few Slavic people who remain being forced into a nomadic lifestyle in Siberian reservations. In America any remaining Jews try to seek refuge in either Japanese occupied America or the neutral buffer zone. The Nazis extermination policy is also widely known by 1962 with people openly acknowledging how the Nazis were rounding up Jews, left-wingers, clerics and eastern Europeans to be deported to death camps. Leading Nazi Arthur Seyss-Inquart in this scenario is leading the Nazi colonization of Africa as well as the extension of the Holocaust to Africa. It is implied that slavery has been reintroduced in Europe and America thanks to this. 

Thanks to German science the alternate 1962 is far more technologically advanced. Rockets have replaced regular planes for international travel and the Nazis have already colonized the moon. The novel also states that the Nazis have also started to colonize Mars. Canada is implied as being a hotbed for dissidence with Bob Hope making jokes that Goring plans to start a Holocaust against Martians from the safety of Canada. Some time in the fifties Hitler is hospitalized due to his syphilis and Martin Bormann replaces him as Fuhrer. By the time of the novel Bormann is close to death and there is a power struggle between Reinhard Heydrich, Hermann Goring and Joseph Goebbels to replace him. Tensions between Japan and Germany also arise during this time and a Cold War has set in.

The Grasshopper lies Heavy
Throughout the novel characters read an alternate history novel by Hawthorne Abendsen called The Grasshopper lies Heavy. It is a novel where the Allies won World War Two so the Nazis have banned it but it is popularly read in the neutral countries and the Japan/the PCA. The book's scenario has Roosevelt surviving his assassination attempt and recovering the USA's economy. In 1940 he steps down from the Presidency and is Rexford Tugwell becomes president. He gives aid to the Allies and keeps the navy out of Pearl Harbor so when the Japanese attack most of the navy is spared. Britain quickly becomes strong again, defeats Rommel in North Africa and enters the Caucasus aiding the Soviet Union in winning the Battle of Stalingrad. Italy switches side and attacks Germany while the British and Red Armies invade Berlin. The Nazi elite are captured and tried for war crimes with Hitler giving a speech in his own defense. His last words were a copy of Martin Luther's 'Deutsche, heir steh'ich' (Germans, here I stand). Churchill remains Prime Minister which becomes a position for life and Britain starts exercising considerable control over the world. The US establishes trade with Chiang Kai-shek's China after defeating the communists as Britain starts becoming both expansionist and racist. America bans the Jim Crow laws leading into direct conflict with a racist Britain and a Cold War escalates into a war for global hegemony.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Comics Explained: Jessica Jones

On the 20th November Marvel's Jessica Jones will be getting her own series on Netflix. Jessica Jones since her debut in Alias #1 in 2001 has quickly become a major player in the Marvel Universe. From Marvel's darker MAX imprint to starring in the mainstream New Avengers publication Jessica Jones is now a key character who deserves a greater spotlight.

Jessica's backstory was explained over the course of the Alias series and the later The Pulse series. As a teenager returning home from a trip to Disney World with her family their car was hit by a truck containing radioactive chemicals. Her family was killed and she went into a coma only to reawaken when the Fantastic Four fought Galactus. She was adopted by the Jones family and went to the same school as Peter Parker a.k.a Spider-Man. Quickly she found out that the chemicals had given her superpowers and after seeing Spider-Man battle the Sand Man she decided to become a superhero. 
Under the pseudonym Jewel she started a career as a superhero.

Early career
Her initial career did not start off well with her being mentally controlled by Zebediah Killgrave a.k.a The Purple Man. For eight months she was mentally controlled by Killgrave to use as a weapon when the time was right. When a newspaper report angered him he sent her to kill Daredevil and anyone who tried to stop her. However, after so long being influenced by his mental powers her mind started to become disoriented when she left him. When arriving at the Avenger's Mansion instead of attacking Daredevil she attacked Scarlet Witch which snapped her out of Killgrave's control. After being attacked by the Vision and Iron Man she was sent into rehabilitation where Jean Grey of the X-Men who would help her resist future mental attacks. In the final issue of The Pulse it was revealed that she gave up her Jewel identity and became a darker superhero called Knightress. After defeating a meeting organised by supervillain the Owl she gave up being a superhero and formed a relationship with Avengers member Luke Cage.

Alias and The Pulse
During the Alias publication she opened a private eye service specifically targeting clients with superpowers. This series was part of Marvel's MAX imprint which dealt with much more serious subjects and during her time as a private investigator Jessica Jones had to deal with many dark topics including domestic abuse and saving a young mutant girl from a town built on prejudice. During this time she also inadvertently video taped the identity of Captain America and became involved in the solving of a murder of one of her clients. During the Alias publication her relationship grew with Luke Cage and it became romantic. Her and Luke even became Matt Murdock's bodyguards when it was outed that he was Daredevil; they even fought Typhoid Mary together to protect him. Eventually she came across Killgrave again where he tried to use his mental powers to get her to kill one of her friends (all of whom happened to be Avengers members). This backfired and she savagely beat him thus closing a chapter on her life. In the final issue it is revealed that she is three months pregnant with Luke Cage's baby and their relationship became more committed as a result.
Starting with The Pulse #1 Jessica moved in with Luke Cage and became a vigilante analyst for The Daily Bugle. Working with Daily Bugle journalist Ben Urich each week they release the article The Pulse dealing with costumed heroes and vigilantes. After publishing an article critical of Norman Osborn (the identity of the Green Goblin) the Green Goblin attacks her resulting in a mid-air battle between the two. Luke visits Jessica in the hospital after the battle relieved that the baby is okay. On their way back to their apartment after visiting the hospital a mysterious woman blows up their apartment sending Luke into a coma. What follows is the outing that Nick Fury had convinced Luke Cage to help him overthrow the government of Latveria (a fictional country where Dr Doom once came from) who had been selling high-tech gadgets to supervillains and the blast was a means of retaliation. Luckily Luke Cage made a full recovery and would join the New Avengers. In The Pulse #13 Jessica gives birth to  daughter, Danielle Cage, and leaves The Daily Bugle after J. Jonah Jameson starts a smear campaign against the New Avengers. In the New Avengers Annual #1 Luke and Jessica would get married with Jessica keeping her family name. 

Civil War and After
During the events of the Civil War story arc, where superheroes fought one another when forced to reveal their secret identities to the government, like Luke she opposed registration and went to Canada to avoid it. Following the Skrull Invasion she went into hiding in the USA alongside Luke and various other superheroes as Norman Osborn became the head of SHIELD, now called HAMMER. During the Dark Reign story arc when Osborn's 'Dark Avengers' invaded Asgard she became Jewel once more and fought against Osborn. Since she has remained a major character in the Marvel Universe being one of the mediators between the X-Men and the Avengers during the X-Men versus the Avengers story arc and has been a member of the Mighty Avengers.

Jessica Jones is one of Marvel's most interesting characters and her addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Netflix series highlights how she has become one of Marvel's most noteworthy characters alongside Dr Strange, Black Panther and Luke Cage.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

What If: The October Revolution had not happened?

The October Revolution broke out on November 7 1917, Russia was still using the Julian calendar so the date there was 25 October 1917. The communist Bolshevik party overthrew the government of Alexander Kerensky and installed a regime that would change world history. History would be drastically changed if the Bolsheviks never gained power so what would this alternate world be like? This is one possibly scenario but before we look at what if the revolution had failed we have to look at why it happened.

The above picture is of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia who ruled the Russian Empire from 1894 to 1917. His reign was characterized by political repression, such as the Bloody Sunday (1905), Jewish pogroms, a costly war against Japan which he lost and a fractious relationship with the Duma, a Parliament formed in the wake of the 1905 Revolution. His alliance with Serbia made matters worse in 1914 when it drove Russia into war with Austria and Germany. Russia was grossly unprepared for the First World War and thanks to military failure, widespread famine and political discontent the Russian people got mad. In March 1917 (February in the Julian calendar) in Petrograd protests turned to riots and the troops sent to quell the riots mutinied. Losing control the Tsar abdicated his throne in favor of his brother who refused the throne as well. A Provisional Government was set up with socialist Alexander Kerensky soon becoming a dominant figure. However, Kerensky's insistence on continuing the war effort greatly upset many people who were driven into the arms of more radical politicians. The Germans wishing to destabilize Russia sent an exiled revolutionary back to Russia by train. He was Vladimir Lenin. After an initial failure to seize power he used his party, the Bolsheviks, to support worker riots in July. Eventually the Bolsheviks managed to strengthen their power by stopping a coup, supporting worker protests and using propaganda revolving around the failing war effort which enabled them to lead a successful revolution. Lenin seized power and the Russian Civil War broke out when 'White Russians' attacked the Bolsheviks to restore the monarchy. After several years of fighting with atrocities committed by both sides, including the execution of the royal family in 1918, the Bolsheviks kept hold of their power. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was declared and world history changed.

Divergence from real events
The government of Kerensky was weak facing many issues. However, many of the reasons why it was weak and why people were dissatisfied with it was thanks to the war effort. Military failures allowed already strong political parties to undermine his rule, food shortages were made worse by shipping supplies to the front, people wanted out of the war and soldiers were defecting en masse. All members of the Provisional Government were against ending the war effort until Germany was defeated. In this timeline however the Provisional Government calls for a cease fire with Germany until a peace treaty is made. The Germans fighting a war on two fronts accept. Russian Foreign Minister Pavel Milyulkov is told to stall at negotiations thus allowing no official peace to be signed. With the war de facto ended Kerensky could move soldiers away from the front with Germany. Thanks to the war apparently being over public support for the government increases and thanks to the reduction in fighting food can be better distributed. Due to the war coming to a close Germany does not send Vladimir Lenin to destabilize Russia which allows the Provisional Government increasing control over the Soviets. After US entry into the war the government may even get food supplies, monetary funding and armaments to bolster the Russians who would still be stalling in negotiations. By the end of 1917 the German government capitulates as war starts to reignite with Russia over who gets to rule Poland. Unable to face France, Britain, the Commonwealth, the US and Russia Germany surrenders.

The 1920s
Due to the alliance with the victorious Allies Russia would be able to attend the Treaty of Versailles. At Versailles Russia, alongside France, would be one of the main representatives wanting to keep Germany down for good. Likely reparations would be paid to Russia, around 3 billion rubles, who would also annex German lands in Poland. A post-war Russia would be the antithesis the our post-war Russia. For one without a Civil War the economy would be much better. In our timeline in 1921 pig-iron production was at a fifth of its 1913 level, coal 3%, livestock a quarter, cereal deliveries less than two fifths and railways had half of the locomotives that they once had. With this, and the increased trading with Russia no longer being an international pariah, the economy would rise and the 1921 famines would not kill the 2 million people that it once did. Slowly the government would increase the shift from agriculture to industry which had started under the Tsar but would greatly improve thanks to foreign investment. British, French and American companies would greedily purchase the great resources in Russia such as the oil in Siberia and coal in the Urals and Poland. Politically Russia would be very different. The Provisional Government upon its founding issued a decree of freedom of speech, abolition of national class distinctions, universal suffrage, the abolition of the death penalty, elections and less persecution of homosexuality. Although women and homosexuals would all be heavily repressed in Russia. To a 21st Century observer this may seem to be an almost perfect political system. However, like Weimar Germany the Provisional Government would be fractious politically. The initial governments were a coalition of strong left-wing parties including the socialist Mensheviks and the Socialists Revolutionary Party. These parties would still dominate Russian politics and create indecisive governments. Likewise a recalcitrant aristocracy would resist government attempts to distribute their land and remove their old powers, even forming their own parties. Unlike Weimar, Russia would be stronger. By 1917 the aristocracy had become vilified by the public unlike in Germany where they were well supported after the war and the government was made largely of large left wing parties. Coalitions in Germany became ineffective as they were made of multiple small left and right wing parties, Hence Russia would be politically stronger.

There would be instability in four main areas: Finland, the Baltics, Ukraine and Poland. Finland had been given semi-independence under Tsarist Russia and had even held elections to decide its government. Likewise in this scenario Finland would still have its autonomy but would want full independence. This would divide the government with a more liberal half allowing for Finnish independence while a more conservative half would want Finland to remain a semi-autonomous state. Eventually in 1923 Russia would grant Finland its independence seeing no point in creating another issue for the divided country and today they would have very positive relations. The large Cossack and Ukrainian population in Ukraine and the Polish, Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians would serve problems for the government. All had declared their independence in 1918, (the Bolsheviks managed to re-annex Ukraine), and were ethnically and linguistically distinct from Russians. The problem of Poland, the Baltics and Ukraine would be an even more divisive issue for the government, especially as, unlike Finland, they lacked some form of sovereignty. Likely by the mid-1920s they would be given a form of Home Rule like what Ireland had until its independence in 1922.

The international repercussions for no October Revolution would be difficult to estimate. The idea of a class struggle had intensified after the revolution with there being fears of a communist uprising aided and abetted by the Bolsheviks, such as the Red Scare in the USA and the British government's almost complete destruction of unions following the 1926 General Strike. In Germany there would be a fear of this due to an attempted communist takeover in 1918 with the Spartacists (pictured above). Overall more social welfare programs would be put in place around the world and trade union membership would rise. This would be because of there being no fear of workers emulating the Bolsheviks. Mongolia would remain part of China as it was the Soviet Union who invaded and created a puppet regime there. Whether the Communist Party of China could survive repression from the Chinese government it is hard to grasp as they would not have the safety of the Soviet Union to rely on. However the decentralized nature of China would allow many party members and revolutionaries to escape persecution. In Germany Hitler would still come to power. Although much of Hitler's rhetoric was targeted at the fear of the Soviet Union he would still get to power. The Great Depression would still happen, he would still be anti-Semitic, he would still be anti-communist (although relying solely on home grown communism instead of international) and he could vent anger at Russia who annexed Germany's land in Poland. 

1930s onward
As stated in the preceding paragraph the Great Depression would come regardless if there was a Soviet Union or not. Without the isolationist actions of Stalin Russia would be badly affected by the Depression. Reliant on foreign loans and trade the economy would slump and the Socialist Revolutionary Party would lose the election. As most of the parties making up the coalition were socialist or center-left they would become discredited and right wing parties would become more popular. The only popular ones would be conservative parties due to the Russian people associating fascism with the authoritarianism of the aristocracy. A few parties may call for the restoration of the monarchy but they would be fringe groups. A less socialistic party would likely come to power to put in place more capitalistic measures by utilizing the latent Russian industrial resources and increasing the shift away from agriculture. Unlike under Stalin this shift would not be forced and we would not see the devastating starvation, killings and pollution associated with the multiple Five Year Plans. Likewise Stalin's 'Russiafication' program would not be implemented and today there would be a greater population of ethnic minorities in the west such as Crimean Tatars who were ruthlessly purged under Stalin.

It would be difficult to tell if there would be a Second World War as the events of the war were put into place by Hitler and Stalin's desire to tear apart an independent Poland. No Stalin and no Poland means that World War Two could have had a drastically different course if it even would happen at all. On thing for certain is that there would be no Cold War. No USSR equals no Cold War. As a result in countries which opposed the USSR like the USA, UK, France and Japan there would be more 'socialist' programs as the stigma of soviet sympathies would not be there. The USA for example might even have a nationalized health care system. Today's Russia would be greatly different. Russia is still handling the shift to democracy so with a full democracy being created in 1917 we would see a more democratic Russia. Whether states such as Ukraine, Poland and Estonia would exist by 2015 would be a mystery thanks to the increasing uncertainty created by the lack of a USSR. 

Thanks for reading. Did you agree with this scenario? What other alternate history scenarios would you like to be seen done? 

If you would like to see where I got my information from I would strongly advise reading: Cold War by Jeremy Isaacs and Taylor Downing, The Age of Extremes: 1914-1991 by Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire: 1871-1914 by Eric Hobsbawm. The Penguin History of the World by J.M. Roberts, Post War by Tony Judt and the documentary The Russian Revolution in Colour.