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THE LAW IS A ASS for 11/30/1999
"The Law is a Ass" Installment # 20
Originally published in Comics Buyer's Guide issue # 1330
May 14, 1999
I just got back from Mid-Ohio-Con and boy are my arms tired. Not to mention the rest of me. Don't misunderstand me, it was a great show and a good time was had by all. A little too good, on my part, anyway. Stayed up too late. Got up too early. Slept too ... Wait, what's sleep?
Anyway, I'm taking the easy way out. I'm reprinting a column I wrote for Comics Buyer's Guide earlier this year, because I won't have to edit it as to bring it "up to date." Hopefully, things haven't changed so much since May that this column is already passe.
"The Law is a Ass"
Installment # 20
"Tell me about the rabbits, George."
"Now tell me how those classic Spider-Man stories that Stan and Steve did really needed to be reconstituted and "tweaked" for today's audience."
On second thought stick with the rabbits, it's less insulting to my intelligence.
Spider-Man: Chapter One--yes, I talked about it last time out, I'm still talking about it--where John Byrne's retelling what he's arbitrarily decided are the stories from Spider-Man's first year of existence and, to use Byrne's term, "tweaking" the stories to fix those things that were wrong with the original. Things like how, according to the "tweak," it was too coincidental that the burglar Spider-Man allowed to escape turned out to be the same man who later killed Uncle Ben and prompted Spider-Man to learn "with great powers comes great responsibility." Who cares that the power of the original was the randomness and chance in Uncle Ben's death; the realization that senseless violence can strike anyone, if we shirk our responsibilities, because all it takes is for one good man to do nothing? That's not good enough for today's audiences, so was "tweaked" to make the burglar come to Uncle Ben's house by contrivance, resulting from Uncle Ben buying a computer in the store where the burglar worked. Not really less of a coincidence than what happened in the original, just a different coincidence, but still not as much of a coincidence as how, the "tweak" gave Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus their powers in the same nuclear accident. Or how, in the "tweak," The Chameleon happened to be in the bank when Spider-Man opened up an account, so he could steal Spider-Man's money. Yes, this is an improvement, three coincidences where there had been only one. And to think that GE used to claim progress was its most important product.) Then the "tweak" had the burglar decide Ben Parker must be rich, because he bought a computer so followed Ben home and cased the Parker house, where he happened to see Spider-Man coming out a window and decided Spidey was a cat burglar who lives there, followed Spidey around and, ultimately, rushed back to the Parker house when he got in trouble, to get Spidey's help; and that's why the burglar killed Uncle Ben. Not only did this heap yet another coincidence on us--not to mention robbing the original of its power by teaching us we can shirk our responsibilities and get away with it, if we'd just be a little more careful--it was a moronic action premised on a wholly lamebrained conclusion.
According to Byrne, Fantastic Four # 1 happened only seven years ago, so this computer incident happened no later than 1991 and more likely 1992 or 3. By the early 90's, PCs were common place and found in both middle-class homes and even lower-class homes. For someone in 1992 to assume that buying a computer meant riches was too unrealistic. To follow that person home to an obviously poor neighborhood, and continue to believe in the riches so as to case the obviously lower-class house is moronic. Oh well, no one ever said burglars were smart.
I don't know what to make about the "tweak's" skipping over Amazing Spider-Man issues 7 and 8; I guess Spidey never fought the Vulture a second time or the Living Brain. But why should we let the fact that those were good stories stand in the way of progress? (And don't even get me started on Electro's costume.) I do know what to make about the "tweak's" considerably upping the ante of what Spider-Man earned as a performer. That's where the law stuff comes back into play.
In the original story, Spider-Man probably earned only a few hundred dollars from his few gigs, before his promoter stopped promoting him because the Daily Bugle branded Spidey as a menace. In the original, when Spider-Man asked to be paid his few hundred dollars, he wanted a check made out only to "Spider-Man," because he didn't want to reveal his true identity and the promoter agreed.
In the "tweak" Spider-Man earned more than one hundred thousand dollars in only a few weeks worth of appearances, an earning capability that makes the rest of what happened in both the original and the "tweak" both unlikely and illegal.
The "tweak" requires us to believe a promoter would drop a client who had earned over one hundred thousand dollars in a few weeks, because of a few newspaper editorials. When Spidey was only bringing in the occasional C-note, I can see the promoter figuring he wasn't worth the effort. When you're talking about a million dollars a year, no promoter is going to drop a client, because one newspaper has branded him a menace; not even if he were found with the Lindbergh baby and Alger Hiss' pumpkin seeds. A promoter would keep such a client and milk the Bugle editorials for all the publicity he could. Menace, indeed! Look, did Don King dump Mike Tyson?
That's the unlikely part of the "tweak," here's the illegal part. In the "tweak," Spider-Man still asks for his check to be made out to "Spider-Man," so he can remain anonymous and the promoter still agrees. The problem is, with Spidey earning over one hundred G's, the promoter couldn't have done it. Federal tax laws require employers to file 1099 forms for anyone they've employed who earned more than one thousand dollars in a year. This includes both staff and people employed as independent contractors. (I got such 1099s from the publisher of Captain America: Liberty's Torch, even though I was an independent contractor and not an employee of the publisher.) These 1099 forms have to include certain identifying information such as the employee's social security number or tax identification number.
In other words, with Spidey earning one thousand dollars, the promoter could not have allowed him to remain anonymous. He had to get Spidey's real name and social security number, so that he could supply the information to the government on a Form 1099.
In the "tweak" the money is all wrong. So, for my money, I'll read the original stories, thank you, not this reconstituted pap with its various "tweaknesses."
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