Civil War? So what is an “event” anyway?

This week we’re getting started with Marvel’s Civil War event. You’ll notice that some of the comics on the schedule have “Civil War” in the title, and others don’t, but beginning with The Amazing Spider-Man #531, all of the comics we’ll read are part of the same story arc. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the kind of weird world of comic book publishing, I’m going to clue you in on some of language used to describe comics series and stories.

Series: I talked about series some in the previous post, so I won’t dwell on it here. A series is like a magazine–it’s published once a month for a period of time. Usually, series focus on one character (like Captain America), a couple of characters (like Deadpool and Cable), or a group of characters (like The Avengers). Some series last for decades (broken up into different time periods on the digital pages). Others only last for a short time and are known as . . .

Limited Series: Limited series that are intentionally only produced for a short period of time. Sometimes limited series are used for a short-term team-up between two characters (Iron Man and Thor, for example) or two different series (like X-Men and The Fantastic Four). Other times limited series feature the core story of a much larger story arc. The Civil War and Civil War: Frontline comics we’ll be reading are both limited series created to support the larger event.

Event: This is the term used to refer to major crossover events that include most of the major regular series in the Marvel universe. In events, there is a core story told through a limited series, but the story arc is much larger and is developed through individual issues in regular series. Events are a standard feature of the Modern Age of comics. (What’s the Modern Age, you ask? Check out this site with information about the eras of mainstream comics.)

If you’re new to comics, this glossary of comic book terms might come in handy for more terms.

About Civil War. I picked this event for us to read for a couple of reasons. First, I like it. That’s a pretty good reason to choose something.

But it’s not just that I like it. It’s widely recognized as one of the most interesting story arcs in the Modern Age. It doesn’t really get any of the graphic novel love that The Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen get (those are practically legitimate these days and are regularly taught in college classes). But I think that’s mostly because the event is so big that it can’t easily be collected into a print book likeĀ The Dark Knight Returns was.

You can get the limited run Civil War series as a graphic novel, but those seven issues tell such a small part of the story, and a lot of the really interesting stuff happens in other series. That’s why we’re reading comics digitally instead of graphic novels. Also, reading the event allows us to see a wide variety of artistic and writing styles, as each series has different writers and illustrators. A graphic novel with a single writer/artist only gives us one style to look at.

All of that aside, the main reason I chose this event is because as this storyline progresses, argument is as important to the story as action, maybe even more important. Since this class is, in part, about rhetoric and persuasion, this is ideal for us. In fact, your second major composition will be analyzing the arguments of this event (you can check out the assignment page here), so keep track of interesting arguments.

Since this event is so huge, we won’t be reading all of the issues associated with it. You can thank me for that later, or you can read all of the issues on your own–whichever suits your preference. I recommend reading them all if you like reading comics. These are some pretty good ones. I’ll be sending you pdf files of pages from some of the issues we don’t read so you’ll get most of the arguments. But if you want to get a sense of the story arc, I’m developing an issue guide, which you can find here.

Finding a needle in the vast haystack of Marvel Unlimited

411px-MarvelLogo.svgIn a previous post, I extolled some of the virtues of Marvel’s subscription-based digital archive, Marvel Unlimited. It’s a glorious collection of most of the comics Marvel has published in their 75+ year history–all available to comics readers at a pretty low price. It’s ideal for people who want to read a lot of comics (that’s me) without spending a lot of money (me again). And that also makes it ideal for our class. But I’ve already written about that.

The great thing about Marvel Unlimited is that there are so many comics available. But unfortunately that means that it can get tricky trying to find specific issues. Also, it’s not the easiest website to navigate. So I’m going to offer some advice about how to navigate the website. If you’re planning to use the [free] iPad or Android app, you can skip down to the bottom. I’ve got a section just for you.

Website Basics

  1. Go to and sign in.
  2. Click on Comics in the top menu bar.
  3. A secondary menu bar will appear. Here, hover over Browse and make a selection from the drop down menu. For now, you should probably select Series.
  4. Once the page loads, don’t be fooled into clicking on featured series (unless you are planning on reading some of those on your own). Scroll down to the Series Index and select the series from there. (See the section below on the wily nature of comics series.)
  5. On the page for the series you’ve selected, scroll down a very little bit until you see the options Sort & Filter. Next to that is a box beside Marvel Unlimited. Check that box so that you will only see the options available to you.
  6. Look for the issue you want. They may not be in order, and you may need to click Show More at the bottom to see more issues.
  7. Select your issue, and on the next page, click Read Now under the image of the issue.
  8. On the bottom right corner of the reader page, you have to option to make it full screen, and if you click on the icon that looks vaguely like a book, you can choose to view the issue one page at a time or two. Beyond that, the navigation should be fairly easy.

***You can also choose to add issues to your library to make it easier to get back to them, and I would recommend this since you will need to revisit some of the comics for assignments.

Here’s how: when you’re back at Step 7 above, look lower on the page to where it says Digital Issue. Under Marvel Unlimited, you have an option to Add to Library. Click on this, and the issue will be bookmarked for you. You can find My Library under the little person icon at the far right of the top menu bar. This is the same place where you log in. It will take you to a page with all of your saved titles.


Some things about comics series

If you are true-blue comics reader, this information may not be useful to you. If you’re new to reading comics, it might be really helpful.

Here’s the thing about comics series. There’s a lot of them. The big characters especially have a lot of series. Marvel tends to break it’s series up in time periods, so for Captain America, for example, there are seven different series titled Captain America, and more that are limited runs and team ups with titles like Captain America and the Falcon, or Captain America: Man out of Time.

So when you’re looking for a specific issue, it helps to know the series title and the year so that you can browse the correct series. I’ve given you that information in the syllabus.

For our readings for Tuesday, you’ll look for the first issue in the series Captain America Comics, published in 1941. The good news is that it’s the only series titled Captain America Comics. The bad news is that you’re going to have to scroll through a lot of other Captain America titles before you get it. It might help to keep an eye out for the publications dates. Remember, you’re looking for 1941. The next several issues are in different series, so look for them in the same way.

For App Users

Disclaimer: I’m working from the iPad app, so if you’re using the Android app, it could be slightly different.

  1. Login to the app.
  2. Locate the menu bar at the bottom and select Browse.
  3. Select browse by Series (for now. You’ll browse by Comic Events when we get to Civil War).
  4. Look for the series you want (see the above section on the wily nature of comics series), and select it.
  5. Select the issue you want to read (they may not be in order).
  6. Choose Read Now to read the comic. You should be able to work it out from here.

***Just like the website, you can select to Add to Library from the same dialogue box where you select to Read Now. This will save the issue into your library (accessible in the bottom menu bar), making it easy to find again to later. I recommend doing this, as you will need to return to some of the comics for assignments.