It's finally here, my long-promised book on Marvel Comics' Civil War storyline and my initial foray into self-publishing with Amazon's Kindle Direct, publishing on February 3 and available now for pre-order:
From the promotional copy that someone other than me definitely wrote:
Comic book readers and moviegoers love to see superheroes fight, whether to protect innocent people from supervillains or to save the world from invaders from outer space. But superheroes also fight each other, and if we can look past the energy blasts and earth-shattering punches, we can find serious disagreements over principles and ethics. This was certainly the case when Captain America and Iron Man went head-to-head over liberty and security in Marvel Comics’ epic Civil War storyline, a fictional allegory to post-9/11 America (as well as the basis for the third Captain America film).
In his latest book, Mark D. White, author of The Virtues of Captain America and editor of Iron Man and Philosophy, carefully leads you through the ethical thinking of the three characters on the front lines of the Civil War:
Iron Man, who has taken charge of the US government’s efforts to register and train superheroes to enhance safety and security
Captain America, who leads the resistance against registration in the name of individual liberty and privacy
Spider-Man, who is torn between his two mentors and has a uniquely personal stake in the battle
In his characteristically light and humorous tone, White lays out the basic ethical foundations of each hero’s thinking and highlights the moral judgment each must use to put his ethics into action. He also explains how the Civil War affected the three heroes after the battle ended and how the experience continued to test them in very different ways as events in the Marvel Universe continued to unfold. Finally, he uses examples from Civil War to show how conflicting principles such as liberty and security must be balanced in the real world, lest both be lost.
Written in a style that will be easily accessible to those new to philosophy or superhero comics, A Philosopher Reads Marvel Comics’ Civil War will be a fascinating read for diehard comics fans and philosophy buffs as well.
Although I've wanted to write about Civil War for a long time, and touched on it in The Virtues of Captain America as well as essays for Iron Man and Philosophy and Spider-Man and Philosophy, the late October 2014 announcement of Captain America: Civil War kicked plans for a full-length treatment into gear.
I originally planned to focus on the larger political issues in the book, but then decided to change the focus to what I really enjoy writing about: the characters themselves. This allowed me to explore the three heroes' different ethical frameworks, the way each used his judgment to put their ethics into action, and how their choices affected them during the Civil War as well as afterwards. Iron Man had the longest arc, which carried him through World War Hulk, the Secret Invasion, Norman Osborn's "Dark Reign," and the Siege of Asgard. Cap's and Spidey's arcs following the Civil War were shorter, for different reasons, but are just as fascinating, with Cap's nicely dovetailing with Iron Man's during the Siege.
As you might guess from the title—and especially from the banner atop the marvelous cover designed by the incomparable S.L. Johnson, a wonderful collaborator and adviser on this project whose work you can see here—I have a mind to publish more A Philosopher Reads... ebooks on various superhero characters and storylines in the future. (The title was inspired by books like this and is meant to suggest that this is only one philosopher's reading of Civil War, and is in no way definitive, much less comprehensive.) I will continue to publish superhero-related books with traditional publishers when our interests coincide; I'm working on one at the moment and in discussions to do another. But the self-published ebook format allows me the freedom to write on whatever I want, regardless of the availability of "promotional moments" like films or TV series, and at whatever length I choose; A Philosopher Reads Marvel Comics' Civil War is the same length as The Virtues of Captain America, but future ones may be shorter if appropriate. (But my epic treatment of Green Arrow's classic Van Dyke will naturally be a three-volume set.)
The other person without whom I could never have done this is my intrepid copyeditor Louise Spencely, who also worked on The Virtues of Captain America and Superman and Philosophy. Not only does she find all of my embarrassing typos and unforgivable offenses to grammar, logic, and common sense, she also "gets" my style and voice and helps it come out more clearly. On the top of all this, she was invaluable to helping me format the manuscript for Kindle, not only on technical matters but also finding the most attractive font and layout. (You can learn more about her here.)
If you liked The Virtues of Captain America or my essays in various books in the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series, or if you love Civil War and these characters as much as I do, or even if you just like a little philosophy with your superheroes (or vice versa), please check out A Philosopher Reads Marvel Comics' Civil War: Exploring the Moral Judgment of Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man and let me know what you think!