When Marvel Comics launched its original Civil War crossover event in 2006, it asked fans on internet forums to declare their allegiance to their preferred superheroes through the now-famous "Who's Side Are You On?" campaign using signature banners declaring either "I'm with Captain America" or "I'm with Iron Man." The banners were seen all over the internet and became an early example of the now-ubiquitous "image meme" phenomenon, with savvy users designing alternate versions, parodies and an expanding roster of character-specific variations; many of which continue to pop up online today, a decade after the series' conclusion - including new versions utilizing characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.
With a version of that same story set to be told in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, many fans had been expecting a 21st century social media version of that same marketing strategy - and now it's become a reality. Marvel has officially debuted two new hashtags, a slew of character emojis, and a big sweepstakes contest to boot.
Want to win a walk‐on role in Avengers: Infinity War? (1/3) pic.twitter.com/PxQWfGZQ1r
— Captain America (@CaptainAmerica) February 7, 2016
By using the Twitter hashtags #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan, fans are invited to let the world know which side they support in the upcoming superhero civil war, which (as in the comics) is being fought over a proposed Military/Government initiative to regulate the activities of super-powered individuals after a battle involving members of The Avengers leads to a disaster that outrages the public. While Iron Man sides with the government alongside Vision, Black Widow, War Machine and newcomer Black Panther, Captain America takes up arms on the side of rebels including Ant-Man, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and The Winter Soldier.
Along with the hashtags, Marvel also revealed a set of all-new emojis representing each individual hero. In addition to cheering on their favorite team of heroes on social media, fans can also utilize the individual emojis to enter a new Civil War-themed sweepstakes to win a non-speaking walk-one role in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War films. In order to enter, fans are asked to assemble their own team of emojis and use the hashtags #TeamCapSweepstakes or #TeamIronManSweepstakes. Full rules for the contest, which will run until February 14, 2016, are available on Marvel's official site.
— Captain America (@CaptainAmerica) February 8, 2016
While the emoji roster represents all of the heroes who've currently been revealed in trailers for the film, one famous face remains absent: Spider-Man. While the new Cinematic Universe-official Peter Parker has been confirmed to make his debut in Civil War before spinning off into his own solo franchise, fans have yet to get even a glimpse at what actor Tom Holland (already seen in his civilian gear) looks like in his spider-suit. While there's plenty of time yet for Marvel to reveal the new costume, it makes sense not to debut it as part of this particular promotion since it could potentially spoil which team Spidey aligns himself with. In the original Civil War comic storyline, Peter pledged himself to Iron Man's "pro-registration" team (earning the powerful "Iron Spider" armor for his loyalty) but ultimately renounced his allegiance - as the pro-registration forces began to take more and more morally-questionable steps to achieve their aims.
The "Who's Side Are You On?" campaign was a major success for Marvel and often credited with playing a key role in making Civil War (whatever you thought of the actual story) one of the biggest-selling "event" series in recent comics history. It remains to be seen whether this similar approach will catch on in the same way, but for Twitter is already awash in users worldwide pledging their allegiance to either team. One potential roadblock could well be that Civil War isn't the only hero-vs-hero game in town, with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice also set to feature ideologically-opposed ostensible good guys at war and promoting itself with similar side-choosing marketing angles. Will audiences still be hungry for superhero infighting after seeing the Man of Steel and Caped Crusader wail on eachother? We won't have to wait much longer to find out.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.