10 Of The Most Political Marvel Comics

Marvel has long been known for taking aspects of the real world and bringing them into the comics. Whether it’s giving the heroes relatable problems or having everything be more science based, Marvel sets itself apart from its distinguished competition with its more realistic plotlines. A big part of this was adding political plots to their books.

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While not every book dealt with political issues, Marvel was on the forefront of doing so even back in the ’60s. In the years since, some of Marvel’s most well known comics have used politics as a plot, to varying degrees of success.

10 Silver Age Marvel Was All About The Cold War

Starting in the 1960s, Marvel threw its hat into Cold War discourse. Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, and more all used Russians as villains or had the heroes in some ways refer to Soviet Russia’s Cold War advances as something to overcome. The Cold War had hit its hottest point during the ’60s, and Marvel took advantage of that.

Some comics used this theme more than others, and comics like X-Men went an entirely different direction with their political commentary. While the publisher has moved away from these events with its sliding timescale, Marvel would not be what it is today without the Cold War commentary.

9 Secret Empire Was A Reaction To Government Corruption And Abuse Of Power

Secret Empire, by writer Nick Spencer and artists Steve McNiven, Leinil Yu, Rod Reis, and Andrea Sorrentino, built out of Spencer’s Captain America books. The Hydra Cap revelation was controversial, but it was also an allegory for hidden corruption in government and the rise of fascism.

Secret Empire was the pay-off to the preceding plotlines, and depicted the rise of a charismatic and beloved leader who used his influence for personal agendas at the expense of the nation. While its reception was mixed, its meaning was clear: beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

8 Lee And Kirby’s X-Men Was A Civil Rights Allegory

While most of the rest of Silver Age Marvel was concerned with the Cold War, or – in the case of some Captain America stories or Nick Fury And His Howling Commandos – with World War II, X-Men took a page from the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. The mutant allegory was a way to highlight the struggle for equality using superheroes.

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While one can argue it was not exactly a one to one comparison, the fact all the characters were very white did not help matters very much. Regardless, X-Men under Lee and Kirby highlighted the racial turmoil of the era.

7 X-Factor In The ’90s Made The Team Into A Government Agency

X Factor started its life as a vehicle for the original five X-Men in the late ’80s but by the 1991, that group was a part of the X-Men again. The entire X-Men line was undergoing a change at that time, with writer Peter David and artist Larry Stroman relauching X Factor with a new roster and status quo. The team became a part of the US government, a mutant strikeforce under the auspices of Valerie Cooper.

A lot of pop culture of the ’90s leaned into government agencies and the conspiracies involved with them. X Factor in the ’90s embraced this, even after David left the book. It’s a fondly remembered era of the book full of great stories and characters.

6 Iron Man’s Comics Have Always Had Some Political Elements To Them

Iron Man has always been one of Marvel’s more political characters, although it’s often been to the character’s detriment. Silver Age Iron Man was the ultimate Cold War capitalist, a weapons manufacturer who fought against the Red menace at every turn. Nearly all of his early villains, from the Crimson Dynamo to the Mandarin, were in some way related to a communist country.

In the ’80s, the “Armor Wars” stories were all about Iron Man’s libertarian struggle to have complete ownership of his tech, even battling friends who had similar items based on his designs. The ’00s would see Iron Man become Secretary of Defense and eventually Director of SHIELD Unfortunately, Iron Man’s flirting with politics have always brought out the worst aspects of the character.

5 Captain America Comics Have Been Political Since The Beginning

Many comic characters represent freedom, but few do it as well as Captain America. Captain America’s comics put the lie to everyone who says comics were not always political. Cap’s first appearance showed him punching Hitler in the face when many Americans did not want a war with the Nazis. Like other Marvel characters, Steve Rogers was a Silver Age Cold Warrior upon his return to comics.

In the ’70s, the first “Secret Empire,” by writers Steve Englehart and Roy Thomas and artist Sal Buscema, pit Captain America against a secret society infiltrating the US government – a group hinted to be led by the 616’s Richard Nixon. The ’80s and’ 80s would see Cap tackling issues of the day, and the early 2000s had 9/11 inspired stories. The 2010s had both Sam Wilson becoming Captain America while dealing with racism in America and the Hydra Cap story – an allegory for the spread of fascism in America.

4 House Of X Deals With Mutants Building A Nation On The Back Of A Pharmaceutical Empire

Marvel has never shied from social commentary and yet another example of that was House Of X, by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Pepe Larraz. The X-Men had always been one of Marvel’s premiere social commentary books, but the 21st century saw that theme go to the wayside. House Of X brought the political leanings of the X-Men books back.

Much of House Of X was involved with nation building, negotiating with world powers, and setting up a government. It also used a sly little aside about the power of pharmaceutical companies as a way to make it all possible.

3 Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men Was Extremely Political

Chris Claremont spent more time writing a Marvel comic than anyone else. His seventeen-year tenure on Uncanny X-Men saw him bringing the X-Men back to their political roots, although he was more explicit about it than Lee and others had been. From the Mutant Registration Act to the Hellfire Club and their political machinations to Genosha as an allegory segregation, Claremont’s Uncanny embraced the political side of the X-Men.

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Chris Claremont used the X-Men as a soapbox for his own beliefs and even injected a fair amount of queercoding into the books at a time when such things were not allowed. Claremont made the X-Men political again to great success.

2 Civil War Painted Parallels To 9/11 And Events That Followed

Civil War is Marvel’s most important story of the 21st century. Written by Mark Millar with art by Steve McNiven, it changed the face of the Marvel Universe for years in the mid-’00s. Many fans debate its quality or whether the characterization was correct, but some miss its political allegory.

Civil War was a reaction to 9/11 and its aftermath. Echoing certain details, such as an attack on America’s soil, Civil War depicted a nation in shock and their efforts to preemptively avoid a similar attack. However, rather than the Patriot Act, 616’s American government responded with the Superhero Registration Act.

1 Squadron Supreme Used Superheroes To Talk About The 1980s

Comics with complex narratives became all the rage in the ’80s and beyond. One of the most unsung early adapters of this is Squadron Supreme, by writer Mark Gruenwald and artists John Buscema, Paul Ryan, and Bob Hall. It used superheroes in new ways, asking tough questions about their role in society.

Using superheroes, Squadron Supreme touched on the 2nd Amendment and pondered whether totalitarianism could ever be benevolent. Like those who came before, Gruenwald and company were not afraid to take a page from Silver Age Marvel and use characters to talk about their present.

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