It's more than a blog; it's my blog.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Technically Difficult

"Judge Dredd Week" will have to be post-poned for now, kiddies - Uncle Computo caught himself a mean case of the "I-don't-want-to-work-I-just-want-to-screw-with-Michael-all-days,"and has been knoecked out of commission for now. I don't know when I'll be back up and running, but I thought it'd be a courtesy to let everyone know what's going on. Or what's not going on, which is my PC.



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Monday, January 28, 2008

I am the Law

Way back when I was in the third grade, the city of Toronto and its outlying bureaus had come together to form a more easily manipulated, controlling, unaccountable, sprawling monolith that would be known as Toronto, Canada's only city with a lop-sided flag. More accurately, actually, the referendum to "amalgamate" the cities was held when I was in the third grade, and, of course, I had no idea what this had actually meant. I saw posters that opposed the move and beseeched you, the voter, to do the same, and the general rhetoric was that this was an undesirable thing. And undesirable things, as you well know, get burdened with undesirable nicknames - emotional nicknames that hinge on the public's perception that "big things" are automatically "bad things." Nicknames like "Megacity."

Oh boy.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy, did that make my little third-grader mind race. After all, the only other place I had encountered the term "Megacity" was the movie that had captured my heart the previous summer: Judge Dredd.

Now, a lot of people hate this movie, because it's not really Judge Dredd, is it? No, it's just another big budget, dumb, Hollywood action movie. But I loved it. Of course, I also ended up loving The Rock and Con-Air, so you probably shouldn't be e-mailing me for Oscar recommendations. But, gimme a break, will ya? I was, what, 7 years old? It was enough for a movie to have a barrage of bullets and a really scary villain to put my butt in front of the TV.

Naturally, when a fellow student, probably just as ignorant as I, asked me what I thought about the "Megacity" plan, I gave him my opinion of Judge Dredd. Of course I was against the Megacity. I mean, "street judges" blowing up someone's car for illegal parking? The absence of fair trials? Sylvester Stallone as an authority figure? No thank you, sir.

Despite the almost universal revulsion it engenders with critics and fans of the Judge, a bit of movie-specific parlance had seeped into the vernacular. And it was Orwellian, too - the term was meant to evoke images of Judge Dredd's Megacities, huge metropolises of bureaucratic corruption and lawlessness; it was meant to convince people to vote on an important issue not by using their brains, but by using their feelings. Double-plus good, yum yum.

By sheer luck, the phrase had become ironic - by using the appeal to emotion to guide policy, a word associated with a dystopia used the methods of a dystopia to try to keep the status quo. the plan failed, though, and today, I live in the glorious city of Toronto, and I live to serve.

Following an article in the Sunday Herald, in which Judge Dredd writer Alan Grant discussed the growing similarities between Judge Dredd's world and our's, I began to wonder - in what other ways did "Judge Dredd" inspire aspiring non-thinkers? How many concepts from this famous British comic book series, not the movie, had been seamlessly integrated into our societies, without us even recognizing that it had happened?

I'll be looking through some Judge Dredd comics this week and making comparisons, hoping that it isn't all bad. But if it wasn't, then I wouldn't have any blog-fodder, now would I?

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Speedball vs. A God Among Men

No, not Bahlactus, but the man whose very tears bring hope to the enfeebled: the one, the only, Chick Harris - in All-Out Hoo-Hah Action!

Hey, Chick Harris!

What time is it?

Wait. Two seconds 'til what?

(Chick Harris can outlast the expiry date of every meme on the internet, as proven in Speedball: The Masked Marvel #3)

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Speedball vs. The Comics Code

Please don't finish that sentence.

The alliterative and - erm, other - talents of Leaper Logan are to be found in Speedball: The Masked Marvel #3, pencils and plot by Steve Ditko, script by Roger Stern, Leaper Logan's outfit by Mel Brooks, apparently.

EDIT: was kind enough to alert people to my earlier post, sending a ton of readers my way. Why don't you return the favor?

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Speedball vs. The War on Crime, Part 2

In my last post, I looked at the disproportionate number of villains that Speedball had allowed to succumb to their ultimate fate. Well, one reader might get the feeling that the editors at Marvel way back in 1989 noticed this, too, because it wouldn't be until Speedball: The Masked Marvel #10 that Robbie Baldwin would kill again.

Perhaps sensing that the death of the Speedball solo series was near, Steve Ditko let it all hang out with Robbie's Baldwin's murder spree in the final issue of Speedball's solo series.

By #10, the "Alex Bow murder" arc was tied up with the arrest of Dorian and his boss, Nathan Boder, but there was still the earlier problem of Robbie Baldwin's effort to catch Niels, the bouncing cat who could hold the key to ridding himself of the Speedball powers. Although that problem occupies a good portion of #10, the animal theme is exploited more prominently in the "A-plot" story of Clyde and the giant pig.

Clyde has helped to create a formula that will increase an animal's size to epic proportions, although we're given the impression that it was actually his partner, Dr. Rarque, who had done most of the work. Clyde is a man who only cares about becoming famous for the discovery, while Rarque is more concerned with the momentousness of his achievement, even musing that it may be the key to ending world hunger!

When the funding for the project is pulled after the pig is barbecued while trashing the lab, Clyde decides to take over for the mentally reduced Dr. Rarque and strike out on his own - illegally and in secret. He works out of an old barn, and dumps his failures in a swamp on the property. he runs into trouble when the local media begins sniffing around when his dumping spawns a giant chicken, leading to a typically-Ditko portrayal of the news media:

But you didn't come here to read my essays on Ditko-tropes, now did you? No, you came here to see hardcore violence against all of mother Earth's creatures, and Speedball likes to oblige.

The experiments lead Robbie to fear that the increased scrutiny of scientists that has resulted from the Franken-chicken incident will lead to the discovery of Niels, and more importantly, of his own abilities. He decides to get to the bottom of things so that the media will have a specific target, rather than blaming all scientists of misconduct.

His first victims are the giant ants that appear on Clyde's "farm."

I'm really surprised there aren't more of them. I mean, ants usually live in greater numbers than a couple, right? Anyway, Robbie Baldwin uses one ant to beat the other to death, and then moves on up the food chain:

To tell you the truth, I don't really care that Robbie's out there killing giant animals. They did, after all, try to kill him first. I just thought that it was a little inappropriate for the writer - in this case it was probably more Jo Duffy's fault, who 's credited with the "script" - to portray Speedball as thinking "I hope he dies!" I mean, they are more subtle ways to get that across, Jo.

Although, I can't really blame him, either. It is a giant, motherfuckin' snake.

When Robbie finally confronts Clyde, the two are interrupted by...


Let's have a big round of applause for the immortal dialog of Jo Duffy, folks. She's earned it.

As I've drawn attention to previously, Speedball does not like rats. Hates them, in fact. Hates them enough to spew faux-tough-guy dialog like "Eat hot lead, rat!"

With two exclamation marks, no less. Yes, Speedball, the Masked Marvel, superhero, goes Punisher all over that rat's ass by shooting it in the mouth. No clever escape? No use of Robbie's kinetic powers to beat him to death with himself? A gun is your answer? Anyone can use a gun, Steve! Guns aren't exciting - unless they're, I don't know, rail guns or mini-guns or something.

And, look:
Clyde's dead, too. Of course, he was actually killed by his own abomination, so I guess we shouldn't feel too sorry for him. But, man - how many people do you have to see die before your reaction is "Gosh, that guy is dead?" He's not even shaken up over it. He doesn't even rationalize it with, "Well, that's what you get for being irresponsible." It's just, "Meh. Death. B.F.D."

Like I said, I don't have a problem with Robbie Baldwin fighting, or even killing, animals - I just think it could be a little less explicit. Maybe the ants lie there motionless, Robbie gives off a few good "wa-hoos," and we're lead to believe they're dead without anyone having to actually say it. I'm just a bit squeamish about my superheroes intentionally killing something, you know? Their first duty should be to justice - they don't have to save them, I just don't see the value in killing them.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Speedball vs. The War on Crime

Speedball didn't exactly have the most impressive Rogues' Gallery. He fought a man in a rat mask who was trying to shoot cats, once. His main antagonist was actually Niels, a cat who was caught in the same "experiment gone awry" that turned Robbie Baldwin into Speedball. Speedball hoped to catch Niels and then - I don't know, use his mastery of science to figure out how to get rid of his kinetic powers.

None of his enemies really posed a believable threat to Robbie Baldwin, but for a kid who's only ability is bouncing off the walls whenever somebody hits him real hard, he racked up quite the impressive kill-count. Only Golden Age Batman could match the rate at which Robbie Baldwin was knockin' off scum-bags.

Speedball: The Masked Marvel only ran for 10 issues, but that was enough for Baldwin, a man who would soon lose his shit over indirectly causing the death of 600 civilians when a bad-guy went nuclear, to put a disproportionate number of evil men in their graves.

Speedball doesn't wait, either: he gets started right off the bat, in Speedball: The Masked Marvel #1. In Speedball's origin story, a group of masked crooks set out to rob the Hammond Research Lab of Springdale, Connecticut, where young Robbie Baldwin has been employed as the weekend (and, evidently, night) office bitch. After the accident that turns him into Speedball, Baldwin heads to the roof of the lab to hide his condition, and encounters the thieves trying to enter from the top. After a short fight which serves as a showcase for Baldwin's new-found kinetic powers, the thieves are pursued in their getaway van by the police, who waste no time in delivering justice:

Springdale justice.

Sure, that one was the fault of the police more than it was Speedball's, but if Speedball hadn't been there, they probably would have gotten away scot-free - and alive. Now, don't get me wrong - I hardly sympathize with the crooks, here. I'm just saying that there's very little difference between criminals crashing their van in an effort to get away, and Nitro blowing up a couple city blocks in an effort to kill the New Warriors during Civil War. The criminals are responsible for the deaths, Robbie, not Speedball. They became guilty when they chose a life of crime.

But let's move on, shall we?

Remorseless Kill Number 2:

In Speedball: The Masked Marvel #2, a man called Foxworth has stolen the "magnetic glue" formula from Dr. Sol Haven (which just screams "Steve Ditko named me"), and murdered him in an attempt to steal the files necessary to gain legal ownership of the discovery. If you've read Ditko's "Question" stories for Charlton, or his independent "Static" series, then this villain will sound familiar to you - he's the parasite who couldn't come up with an idea on his own, so he steals one to acquire fame and fortune. Too bad these types of villains are typically nothing without their stolen technology.

Dr. Benson, Robbie's boss at the Hammond Lab, just happens to be sending the very files that Foxworth is looking for back to Haven, so he sends Robbie to deliver them. When Foxworth has his lackey take the files and push Baldwin down the stairs in an attempt to kill him, his kinetic powers kick in and he sets out to kick Foxworth's mooching ass. Tracking him to an old button factory (Springdale used to be the button-making capital of the world until China liberalized it's economy - true fact), Foxworth gets the upper-hand by using his goo-suit to stick to anything Robbie throws at him - including Robbie himself!

Alas, Robbie is smarter than he looks - and realizes that without the suit, Foxworth is nothing. So he takes his helmet off.

And with that, Robbie Baldwin has now achieved the prerequisite number of kills to become a double-o agent.

As an aside, I want to mention that this would have been a great recurring villain for Robbie - Speedball is essentially rubber, and Foxworth has a suit that's essentially glue. The concept is little too limited to provide for any real variety in their encounters, but Foxworth is the only villain in the short-lived series to ever really give Robbie any trouble at all.

To recap: we've now seen two issues of Speedball, and it's 2 for 2 when it comes to featuring stories where the criminals pay the ultimate price. How many more filthy criminals will bite the dust in the next 8 issues of Speedball: The Masked Marvel? Tune in tomorrow for Part 2!

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Speedball vs. Committment

You know what? Let's make next week Speedball week. I've been sitting on these issues of Speedball: The Masked Marvel, and the plan was to take all of my Friday Night Fights entries from the scant material available in the 10 issues of that series. But I think Robbie Baldwin deserves a look back at what he was before hurricane Quesada swept through and turned him into this:

But you shouldn't worry about Penance sticking around for too much longer, Speedball fans. After all, Robbie Baldwin had already tried something similar to this way back in Speedball: The Masked Marvel #9, and it was met with - well, limited success:

"...and maybe I'll get some piercings! Yeah! And a tattoo! That'll show 'em! Oh man, they are gonna totally wish they never blamed me for Stamford!"

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Friday Night Fights: Speedball vs. Dorian

Friday Night Fights - Knockout!!! forges on despite my absence from last week's bout, and Blackmarket Pies continues the effort to rename it Friday Night Fights - All Speedball Rumble by bringing you the type of kinetic smack down that only Robbie Baldwin and Steve Ditko can provide. From Speedball: The Masked Marvel #9, Speedball tussles with Dorian, seen here taking out his anger on the funny pages:

My momma always told me to stay away from boys like that. With their big guns and fast cars, you're only going to get hurt.

Unless, of course, you hurt them first.

Why don't you go out with a nice boy, like Bahlactus? Now there's a gentleman you can take home to momma.

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Identity Crisis

Hey, you guys, look! Squirrel Girl gets a new costume in Wolverine: Origins #21, apparently:

At least, I'm sure that's Squirrel Girl. I mean, it can't actually be Wolverine or anything because that would be some terrible, terrible art right there if that were the case. She looks a little like Ayn Rand, actually.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Buzz Buzz

Let's play a round of "Drop the Context," courtesy of Action Comics #265:

No! That means that little yellow box is full of deadly, Africanized bees! Stop, drop, and roll, Lois!

The box does "buzz" without a need for batteries, though, and Lois knows a good deal when she sees one:
Because sometimes Superman isn't readily available.

Man, I love the Silver Age.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Geoff Johns Writes Comics Just For Me


That is a page from Booster Gold #6 that features the Dan Garret Blue Beetle; the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle; a Blue Beetle from the future; Booster Gold; Batman; Sherlock Holmes; the Elongated Man; Jack MOTHERFUCKING Knight; and just to put the exclamation point on it, the Steve Ditko version of Shade, the Changing Man.

EDIT, January 14: Oh yeah, and did I mention that they're all going to go bring Ted Kord back to life?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the greatest man alive:

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Headlines that Piss Me Off

Bam! Ziff! Ka-Powie! I'm sure I don't need to point out what's completely unpalatable about this unfortunate article:

Can we let that show rest, guys? Can we just bury Adam West, already?

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Too Easy

You'll be much happier when you realize that your whole life has been nothing but an illusion, really.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Speedball vs. Rat

When you have a big pest problem...

you need a big...

wait, what? A gun? You don't seriously mean...

Well, that's not very sporting. I know one man who would never stoop to using a gun - Bahlactus. True fact, brother.

(from Speedball #10, plotted and drawn by Steve "armed and dangerous" Ditko )
(I have yet, by the way, to see an Essential Speedball book, Marvel. You might want to get started on that.)

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Comics That Have Pissed Me Off, Issue 2: The Conclusion to Spider-man's "One More Day" Series

Ahh, The Amazing Spider-man #545 - how many angry blog entries have you inspired so far? How many fatwas have been called on the head of Joe Quesada in response to your birth? How does the comics blogsophere hate thee? Let me count the ways...

Perhaps because the Marvel universe attempts to shoe-horn Superheroes into "real life," their comics seem to have the biggest and most annoying logical flaws for me. The last "comic that pissed me off" was Fantastic Four #244, and, oddly enough, was written by fan-favorite writer John Byrne. I say "oddly," because the next comic that pissed me off enough to write about was The Amazing Spider-man #545, which was also written by a fan-favorite - in this case, J. Michael Straczynski.

Just for full disclosure, I'm going to tell you that I'm not a big fan of JMS. His apparent "star power," though, did not have any effect on my opinion of the comic, so it's really a moot point. Really.

Oh, yeah - and I'm not going to dwell on continuity issues. I couldn't care less about them, really. I'm going to be focusing on the spirit of this comic, the black hole where Spider-man's soul used to reside. So grab your own copy of The Amazing Spider-man #545 and follow along!

I'm sure you guys all know the score by now: the latest story arc for Spider-man, "One More Day" has Peter Parker and a now pregnant Mary Jane Parker making a literal deal with the devil so that Peter can bring his dead aunt, that stalwart Aunt May, back to the realm of the living.

Well, that just pissed me off right there. Spider-man's greatest contribution to the world has always been the line "With great power, comes great responsibility." Now, whether it was Steve Ditko who coined the phrase, or the ever incorrigible Stan Lee, it doesn't matter for the moment (but it will, oh yes it will, matter in the future). What matters is that this maxim has always guided Peter Parker, you friendly neighbourhood Spider-man, through all of his adventures. It drove him to become Spider-man, to use his powers to ensure that criminals did not get away without justice being served, and it was probably the impetus for his unmasking during Civil War, as well. For Peter Parker to suddenly believe that he doesn't have to live with the consequences of his unmasking - that is, to be responsible for his actions - is completely out of character, in as far as I understand our arachnid-inspired hero.

But, I'll give Marvel the benefit of the doubt on this one - Peter's been through a lot of shit recently. He might not be thinking straight due to all the stress put on him in the last two years of weird spider-cocoons, bone-spikes, organic webshooters, and a gaudy-as-all-hell costume designed for him by the architect of the most mis-guided act of congress the world has ever seen.

Okay, so the whole regretful Spider-man story can be attributed to the need for character conflict. Granted, it's a conflict that Spider-man should be able to resolve fairly quickly if he's consistent in any way with his principles, but it might have made for an interesting story.

It's just too bad that it didn't.

Peter doesn't win this conflict: he loses to his new-found ability to completely ignore reality. Rather than deal with the consequences of his decision, he chooses to erase it from history. What the fuck kind of character is this? s this a guy we can look up to at all, anymore? Whine whine whine, actions actually have consequences, but I don't want to deal with them right now, I want to live in a fantasy world where my 250-year-old Aunt never ever dies.

It could have been very interesting to see how Peter dealt with the death (the real, absolutely final death) of Aunt May. You could have explored the character even further than he has been, and you didn't need to give him any "human/spider totem" connections to do it. And if your goal was really to dissolve the marriage between Mary Jane and Peter, for whatever whimsical reason that you profess to have about people not relating to a married superhero despite the fact that the majority of your readers are between the ages of 20 and 30, then you could have continued from there: have Peter dwell on whether or not he really was responsible for May's death. Have him realize, eventually, that he can't control every psychotic sniper in existence. But between those two events, have his brooding take it's toll on MJ - maybe Peter becomes over-protective, which would definitely chafe against her. Then you can have MJ leave and never come back. Or you could stop pussy-footing around and kill MJ, and accept the fact that people are going to be sending you email filled copiously with the phrase "women in refrigerators." Even FUCKING MIND-CONTROL OR A CLONE would have made for a better story than this bullshit.

Real people either get over their problems or dwell on them, they do not have them magically dissolved. For Marvel Comics to even pretend that their heroes are different from other companies because they're more "real" is a vile fraud.

JMS is as guilty as Quesada on this one, I'm afraid. In a post over at Newsarama, he states quite plainly that he wanted to undo continuity all the way back to 1971 - which is essentially what was done anyway. He has absolutely no concern for the fact that this would be Peter Parker completely avoiding dealing with the consequences for his actions. What the hell, Joe? I saw a couple episodes of Babylon 5, I know you're big on things "mattering" in the universe, that actions have consequences that resonate years down the road and aren't simply forgotten, like on Star Trek TNG. Heck, that fifth season episode of The Real Ghostbusters that you wrote even dealt with repairing continuity issues! Why would you wuss out now?

And the most hilarious part of all of this is that it's being done with motherfucking Spider-man, a creation of the legendarily uncompromising Steve Ditko! Steve never would have agreed to this bullshit. If Aunt May gets shot and dies because Spider-man unmasks, you know what Steve says? Good, it'll teach him something.

First of all, it's not Spider-man's fault that some retard with a sniper rifle wanted to take him out and someone else got in the way. Aunt May was killed because someone didn't like that Spider-man was a hero, that he wouldn't let those who want to ignore reality and take it easy in life get ahead by parasitically sucking off of the lives of the honourable. He knew it was a possibility that someone might strike back against his family (that's why he wore the mask, after all), he weighed the options, and he knew that Spider-man giving up and conceding that the super-villains of the Marvel Universe could have run of the place was a much worse outcome. If Spider-man stopped being Spider-man just to keep his family safe, even then they wouldn't have been - how many crazies run around New York on any given day in the Marvel Universe? What are the odds that Aunt May was going to be taken out by one of them just by whim? You can't ignore evil; when it is finished with its current victim, it's coming after someone else.

Speaking of crazies killing Spider-man's family members: what about Gwen Stacy? Killed directly because of the actions of Spider-man by the Green Goblin, Spider-man did not give up the pursuit of justice as a result. Spider-man did not wallow in his pain and attempt to undo the past. Yes, he mourned. But it only strengthened his resolve. Spider-man didn't kill Gwen Stacy by being good - Green Goblin killed Gwen Stacy, and no one forced him to become evil. No matter what anyone tells you, good can exist without evil, and vice versa. Each can exist in a vacuum, and no one's actions necessitates a response from another - it is all a choice. Spider-man made his. The Green Goblin made his. And Joeseph Michael Straczynski made his.

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The Sound of His Voice

Avery Brooks is the kind of man you'd totally expect to run into on the street, just ranting about flying cars. "I made it real! It's real! You hear me? It is real!"


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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Greatest Super-hero Story Ever Written, Part 2

In my last post, I showed you the glorious tale of What If Iron Man Lost the Civil War?, which ended in such a way that betrayed its original premise: iron Man did not so much lose the Civil War as he and Captain America, instead, formed what was essentially a voluntary superhero service, much like the police, but fueled by bizarre forms of radiation and technology rather than donuts. (I kid, of course - being a police officer, especially an honourable one, is tough work.)

So, why is this the best super-hero story ever written?

It's because the writer, Christos Gage, has helped provide a solution to a philosophical conundrum that was puzzling me for quite some time: how do you justify the existence of superheroes in a society that stands for individual rights and objective law?

I use the phrase "objective law" to refer to a system of law in which justice is afforded evenly and equally amongst all citizens. This means that a person's rights are protected by default: he doesn't have to find a willing security provider to protect his rights.

The best way to provide this level of protection is to grant the government a monopoly on the initiation of force. This means that while you can defend your life and your property in the immediate moment that it is threatened ("self defense"), retaliation, that is, the pursuit of justice and compensation, will be the exclusive domain of the government. If this were not the case, each person would have to find a way to achieve justice for himself - like a superhero - and their would be no objective standard with which to judge it.

David Odden, over at the Objectivism Online forum, sums up the issue rather handedly when he answers a user who was arguing for an anarchic system of law, based upon private "Security" companies - superheroes, if you will.

The following passage is unedited from the original source, (here:, with the exception of omissions for expediency (that is to say, I left the spelling, grammar, and whatnot intact, but several parts unrelated to my point have been excised).

...what is the law? (I'm hoping for something more informative that a Fuller-morphed-into-Hart sound bite). This question includes: what are the injunctions -- the things you may not legally do to another person of his property -- and please focus on non-obvious issues, not just "don't kill, don't steal". ... . I've pointed to copyright and patent law as one area to consider; defamation is another; law pertaining to abandoned property is a third. To be included in this is discussion of remedies -- supposing a person is guilty of theft, what exactly is the remedy. And finally, you need to discuss procedural law. For example, in finding guilt or innocence, is the burden on the accused to prove innocence or is it on the accuser to prove guilt (remember that it currently actually goes both ways, depending on jurisdiction); are their any standards for defining "legally obtained evidence" or is any evidence whatsoever, gottem by whatever mean "just fine"; and is there a standard for treating illegal evidence? Can the accused be forced to testify against himself; is there any penalty for perjury? Does the accused have the right to bring an attorney or other representation?

The point is that properly constructed government (monopoly government) has to answer these questions, and has answered these questions, but once answered, you can predict the relationship between law and your actions (that is, either you have or you have not broken the law). This result is because there is a single law, which can be known by all. That guarantee does not exist under anarchy, and instead you have the possibility of each individual defining his own law which he can declare "protects his rights", and forcibly defending his supposed rights directly or through an agent. Thus I could decide that you have no right to an attorney, my mere allegation of your wrong-doing is sufficient to force you to appear before my court, and if you don't have the economic wherewithall to mount a forcible defense of what you perceive to be your rights (to only be taken for just cause, to have an attorney to defend you, and the right to presumption of innocence), you will be rather SOAL. If you think that that is an acceptable outcome, they you could just say that and we can be done with it; if, on the other hand you think that is an utterly appaling outcome, I want to see how you intend to make law uniform.

Costumed vigilantes frequently take the law into their own hands. Batman steals evidence, violates property rights, assaults potential witnesses (see here for details)... and we tend to applaud him for it. Superheroes are vigilantes, using their own standards of evidence and punishment to deal with evil-doers. Ever wonder why the Joker never stays locked up for long? I'm guessing it's because Batman isn't exactly forthcoming when it comes to how he goes about his investigations, or, like shown previously, adhering to the letter of the law.

A very good example of the problem with superheroes is presented in the recent Identity Crisis event by DC Comics. The heroes, Green Arrow, the Elongated Man, and others, all got together to avenge the death of Sue Dibny- to bring the murderer to justice. Of course, they all thought it was the villain, Doctor Light, based on information that they and they alone had. If it had indeed turned out to be this character, given the circumstances of the investigation, how would they prove it? Hell, better yet, let's look at why they thought the perpetrator was indeed the good doctor.

Doctor Light once broke into the Justice League's secret satellite and attempted to rape the Elongated Man's wife, Sue. To prevent him from exposing their secret identities, the heroes elected their own form of justice: they would erase his memory. In the process, Doctor Light was lobotomized and became less than half of his former self: he became an idiot. The Justice League then wiped the mind of Batman to prevent him from telling anyone of their actions. As a result, Batman began his own program of justice: a satellite that would spy on all of the superheroes, and hold the keys to their defeat. Once again, this private justice resulted in the horrible event known as "The OMAC Project," where people were transformed into mindless killing machines, and worst yet, Maxwell Lord murdered Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle.

These might be isolated incidents, you say - exceptions that do not prove the rule. But how many times has Batman illegally tapped a phone? How many times have the X-Men chased after a new threat, setting out to defeat it without proof of guilt?

Superheroes frequently violate the principle that there should be a monopoly on law the ensures the rights of a country's citizens evenly and equally. They decide what evidence is satisfactory to them, they decide how much force is necessary to apprehend the villain, and they often even decide the punishment that the villain will receive - the classic "Phantom Zone" comes to mind.

Then there's the problem of property damage - when superheroes fight super-villains, buildings come down, cars are used as clubs, and private property is simply decimated. Who's to be held responsible for the destruction? Who's to pay restitution? One could argue that many villains are simply interested in stealing money, and that the shit only hits the fan once the hero shows up. Hell, on the cartoon series Justice League Unlimited, Superman usually looks for any excuse he can to pick up a stranger's car and smash it against the bad guy.

But superheroes are admirable characters - they do protect the little guy, and they tend to be on the side of justice, even if they often flout objective law. If it were otherwise, we probably wouldn't cheer them on as much as we do. It would be unthinkable to simply stop writing about these vigilante heroes, and we can't write about them all being locked or put in jail. We must also consider the problem of the super-villain, a class of beings, unique to the superhero genre, that can only be opposed by other powerful beings - i.e., superheroes. I think the police would have some trouble trying to apprehend Venom.

So we reach an impasse: we must apply the idea of objective, fair law to the superhero genre, but we must take into account the particulars of that genre, as well. We could force the superheroes to join the police or the military, but they would have to expose their secret identities in order to do that, which brings the problematic super-villains back into the discussion. These beings can warp space and time and shoot energy beams from their hands - it would probably be best if they didn't know who your loved ones were.

Plus, superheroes do tend to work better alone when they are doing what Batman does - investigating crimes perpetrated by characters that the police simply do not have the power to handle. So what do we do?

Enter Tony Stark: he thinks that superheroes should be subject to objective law, but that they should have their identities exposed, and be in eternal service to the government simply by virtue of having powers. Not a good idea, I think you've realized. Captain America believes that powered individuals should be able to choose whether they're going to be forever indebted to the government - but his solution, that is, no solution, would also leave the possibility for anyone who can manipulate the weather at will to punish criminals as they see fit, without any responsibility for their actions. Niether side can be right, obviously - superhumans need to respect the process of law, but then again, so does the government!

The answer was provided by Mr. Christos Gage: The Avengers would become an independent certification board, much like the ESRB. If you wanted to be a superhero, you wouldn't need to get Avengers certification, but you'd run the risk of being arrested for any of the myriad charges that victim could claim against you. For example, The Riddler could charge Batman with breaking and entering, or the citizens of Metropolis could sue Superman over the value of that car he's smashing up on the cover of Action Comics #1. By taking part in the Avengers training program, a superhero wouldn't need to reveal his identity, or be subject to the whims of the government (as, for example, in the fifty-state initiative, which might relocate some of those million-or-so New York superheroes to Utah). In addition, that hero would have the resources of the Avengers behind him if he ever messed up and destroyed a car or two. The Avengers, in turn, would work with the government to make sure that it's members were accountable for their actions, much like private security contractors that work for the military. It's the best of both worlds: the government still holds the monopoly on retaliation and justice, and superheroes can continue to do what they do without worrying about whether they have the authority to, say, use their super-hearing to listen in on Tobias Whale's private conversations.

And Captain America doesn't need to go crazy in his quest to kill the white whaleIron Man. And Iron Man doesn't need to turn into a despotic cradle robber, taking mutant babies from their parents so that he can train them to be government slaves. And Spider-man wouldn't have needed to unmask, which wouldn't have then resulted in him refusing to face the consequences of his decision and erasing his marriage to Mary Jane from reality. And I wouldn't need to write about this, or Spider-man #545, either. We'd all end up winners under this plan.

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