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Law is a Ass by Bob Ingersoll
Join us each Tuesday as Bob Ingersoll analyzes how the law
is portrayed in comics then explains how it would really work.

Current Installment >> Installment Archives | About Bob | General Forum

THE LAW IS A ASS for 03/14/2000
DOCKET ENTRY
"The Law is a Ass" Installment # 35
Originally written as installment # 25 and published in Comics Buyer's Guide issue # 552, June 14, 1984 issue


In retrospect, not one of my better efforts.

Let's start with the whole, I'm going to be in a Marvel Comic bit that leads off the column. Not to get ahead of myself, but as you'll find out in a few weeks, Robert Burns didn't know the half of it, when he waxed eloquent about the planning abilities of rodentia and homo sapiens.

Then there's the fact that this one was kind of a rambler with no real purpose or cohesion. Just lots of little bits too small to make up a column thrown together to make up something that was big enough for a column. I find, when I come back and re-read these ramblers, that I gnash my teeth quite a bit.

They're frequently about as funny as dated, automotive humor.

******

"The Law is a Ass"
Installment # 35
by
Bob Ingersoll

Excuse me, but I have to correct something in my logo up there. From now on I have to go by the name "Bob Ingersoll Marvel Comics Group."

Why?

You saw Marvel Team-Up # 145 with its story, "Home Town Boy," didn't you? Spider-Man and Iron Man fighting Blacklash in Cleveland, and in the end Blacklash, who has been abandoned by his family, his friends, and his former employers in the Maggia, can't afford to hire an attorney to represent himself and gets this blond public defender from Cleveland.

Yup, that was me.

When Tony Isabella, the writer of the issue in question, came up with the idea for the closing scene of that story, he wanted to be sure that the legal part of that final scene with the lawyer was all correct. (Didn't I tell you, I've got them running scared?) So to insure that the story's juris was full of prudence, Tony consulted me about the scene. He even let me suggest legal terms and all sorts of neat stuff.

Then a sudden inspiration hit Tony. This character was supposed to be a public defender in Cleveland and I'm supposed to be a public defender in Cleveland; one who is somewhat known to comic-book fans. So what if, he had the artist draw me into the story and used me as the public defender in Cleveland? I supplied a picture for the artist, Greg LaRocque, he drew me, Tony let me write my own dialog and voila, as the French say in between laughing at Jerry Lewis pratfalls, I appeared in a Marvel Comics story as myself.

What Tony didn't tell me was, now that I've appeared in a Marvel comic, I'm a trademarked property and can be used at will by any Marvel writer in any book at any time. I understand that I'm slated to appear in U.S. 1 soon (and if I'm to make it into that book, it had better be soon). And I'm being considered as the next herald for Galactus. Something about who better to scour the universe looking for innocent victims to be devoured than a lawyer?

And that's not the worst part! How would you like to go around for the rest of your life with " Marvel Comics Group" tattooed on your forehead?

I'll get you for this, Isabella! Everything I told you was wrong! Next week I tear "Home Town Boy" to shreds! And then, wait until you see what I do to your furshlugginer Power Man and Iron Fist story, "O, Deadly Debutante." Steven King was kinder to the good folk of 'Salem's Lot.

******


Hey, I have a right to be upset. Now that I'm a trademarked Marvel Comics character, Cerebus the Aardvark can never do a story with "Ingeroach."

You say you don't understand that last joke? Go back and read the letters page to Cerebus # 61. In it Marvel Comics' lawyers threaten to sue Cerebus creator and writer, David Sim, as well as Aardvark-Vanaheim Press, if the character Wolveroach ever appears again.

Wolveroach is a satirical version of Wolverine, who has appeared in a three issue mini-series within a series in Cerebus. His story lampooned Wolverine, The X-Men, and super-heroes in general. It was genuinely funny stuff. Unfortunately Woveroach's costume was an exact duplicate of Wolverine's and Wolveroach was cover-featured (without Cerebus I might add) for all three issues of the mini-series. Therein lies the rub.

Limited use of a character for satrical purposes is permissible. Extended use borders on copyright infringement. Sim's use was not really limited. As I said, Wolveroach appeared in three consecutive issues all of which featured him not only prominently but alone on the cover. While Sim had no intention of aping Micky Mouse and the Air Pirates' attempt to force a major comic-book character into the public domain, his extended use of Wolveroach did threaten Marvel's copyright and trademark on Wolverine. Marvel did act correctly to protect a valuable property, a fact Sim should appreciate, as he, himself, has been complaining of bootleg Cerebus items. Certainly Marvel's position is more defensible than Archie Comics' threatened suit over the proposed reprinting of the Goodman Beaver "Archie" satire in Kitchen Sink's Goodman Beaver reprint book. That use of an Archie-like character wouldn't infringe trademark or copyright because it would fall squarely into the fair use and parody exceptions of the intellectual property laws.

My only wonder is why didn't Marvel complain about Captain Cootie or Moon Roach, who appeared earlier, were similar in design to the Marvel characters they satirized, and were cover- featured and appeared more times than Wolveroach did. Could it be that as Moon Knight and Captian America aren't as popular, Marvel didn't care?

You say you still don't understand? You say you don't read Cerebus the Aardvark. Well, for crying out loud stop what you're doing and start reading the book. It's still funny stuff, and I can't recommend it highly enough! (On second thought, first finish my column and the Buyer's Guide, then go read Cerebus. I don't make any money off of Cerebus.)

******

Re: Fantastic Four # 269 page 15, panel 1. I want to thank Reed Richards and John Byrne for their support of the legal profession and its practioners. I'm glad someone finally realizes that mastering the "intricacies of the law" is as important and as worthwhile as being a world saving scientific genius. Maybe now people will stop thinking of us as technicality-hunting doom-and-gloom seekers. (Oh yes, I had heard about the new drink, The Lawyerbeer with an ambulance chaser.)

******

Remind me never to buy any municipal bonds from Gotham City. That place is going to go bankrupt any day now. I mean, sooner or later someone is going to sue it for more money than the post-Reagan national debt. Not only is the Gotham prison equipped with revolving doors on its cell, thereby creating an escape rate in the transfinite numbers range, but Gotham also hires parole officials who are incapable of reading. I am referring specifically to the comment in Batman # 374 page, panel 2 that the Penguin was released from prison.

Let's think about this for a second. Penguin could have been released for one of two reasons: either he served his entire sentence or he was paroled. Could Pengy have served his entire sentence? I rate that to be about as possible as my landing the Fred Astaire role in a remake of Top Hat. In other words, slim and none; because slim is what I ain't and none is how much dancing skill I have.

Why couldn't Penguin have served his entire sentence? It has to do with the way judges sentence repeat offenders. If you commit a crime, you get a sentence. If you're paroled on that crime and commit another crime, you both get a new sentence for the new crime and are declared a parole violator and have to finish serving that original sentence. Do that enough times and you're what we call a career criminal, or what we in the Public Defender Office like to refer to as job security.

But, do it enough times and you're also recognized as a recidivist, a repeat offender who isn't being rehabilitated by prison. Here's what generally happens to such people: when they commit new crimes, they tend to get the maximum sentence. Moreover, when they pick up new crimes while they still have time left over on old sentences for old crimes and parole violations, the new sentences are ordered to be served consecutively to the old sentences. That means first the old sentence is served in its entirety and then, when the old sentence is finished, the prisoner starts serving the new sentence. Each sentence is served separately instead of together and their total times are added together.

So, let's look at Penguin's history. First, he must still be serving time on several old sentences of, say, ten to twenty-five years for several old armed robberies, attempted murders, and what have you. Given Penguin's recidivism rate, I'd find it hard to believe that he got anything less than the maximum penalty for each crime. The judges wouldn't just throw the book at him, they'd throw the entire Encyclopedia Britannicavolume by volumeat him. So, what Penguin would have is multiple maximum sentences for multiple crimes being served consecutively to other maximum sentences. Lots of ten to twenty-fives added to lots of other ten to twenty-fives. That's more than Penguin could serve in a lifetimeeven a lifetime calculated in "comic-book" time.

Next, there's that little matter of escape. See, each time Penguin broke out of prison, he committed yet another crime: escape. Yes, escaping from prison is a crime, they've got to do something to discourage road gangs from just hitting the road on a sabbatical, after all. And that's lots of escape charges being added to his total. must also be serving time on several escape prosecutions. Moreover, the usual practice is for sentences for escape to be imposed consecutively to what ever sentence one was originally serving. Indeed, many states, such as Ohio, have statutes requiring that escape sentences must be served consecutively.

All told, Penguin probably has dozens of different cases with dozens of different sentences all running consecutively to each other. I would venture to guess that Penguin's combined terms are such that, he won't finish serving all of them, until the inexorable march of time forces whatever Twentieth Century Fox starts calling itself next year when the new century really startsto update its name again.

So if Penguin wasn't released, because he served his entire sentence, he must have been paroled. But if Penguin was paroled, it can only be, because the parole board is incapable of reading his record. After all, "as long as your arm" doesn't even begin to cover the subject adequately, when Penguin's rap sheet is discussed. Not even if you're the Elongated Man and you arm's at full extension. I find it impossible to believe that a conscientious parole officer who read Penguin's history of repeat, repeat offending would consider parole for him any time before the Legion of Super-Heroes could read his criminal history as history.

The only conclusion left is that Gotham parole officers can't read, so weren't aware of Penguin's past and that's why they thought he was a good candidate for parole. So, if Gotham City has prisons which can't hold prisoners, parole officers who can't parole properly, and directors of asylums for the criminally insane who don't know what to do with rehabilitated patientsin other words, if Gotham City keeps releasing all of its deranged and dangerous super-villains back onto an unsuspecting publicit's only a matter of time before some Gothamite starts suspecting something and sues Gotham for negligence. (Probably he'll be robbed by Penguin, Signalman, Crazy Quilt, and Kiternan in succession, and then be shot by Killer Moth. And that's just before lunch, don't even ask him how his afternoon went.) I mean it, Gotham City, either you shape up your penal system, or the inevitable lawsuit against you will force Standard & Poors to give your bonds a rating lower than the new Hulk's IQ.

******

Candygram for Mr. Flash. Candygram for Mr. Flash. (Oh, excuse me. That should be Flashgram for Mr. Flash.) Barry, old boy, when you're standing trial for murder, it really doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense to have a lawyer who hates your guts. Aren't you even a little afraid that Cecile Horton's hatred will affect her performance adversely? Aren't you concerned that she might, even subconsciously, throw your case, because she hates you and would rather you were found guilty? Aren't you aware: that even Brother Power, the Geek would probably make a better lawyer for you at this point?

******

I've been a good boy, really I have. I haven't written about a Vigilante comic in months. I don't care if you don't believe it, it' s true! I didn't even mind Vigilante # 9. But there is this one little thing...

On page 6, Adrian Chase and Judge Alan Wellswho is certainly the leading candidate to be the Electrocutioner, yet another costumed vigilante who has become fed up and is killing criminals without a trialtalk about the merits of a judicial candidate who is a former member of the American Civil Liberties Union. Needless to say, the aforementioned civil libertarian is not well regarded. Nor are his viewpoints well represented in the philosophical discussion.

Is there any chance we could get one articulate liberal to debate with Adrian Chase just once? Someone who could intelligently put forth the other side of the question in a head to head debate? There is a liberal viewpoint to the philosophical question which underlies Vigilante, not that you'd know it by reading the book, as that viewpoint is never given equal time. I, for one, would like to see the other side set out just once. It isn't without validity.

******

THERE OUTTA BE A LAW DEPARTMENT

There outta be a law against villains as dumb as The Answer in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #s 92 & 93 & probably (unfortunately) 94. He has undefined powers, a clunky, cumbersome, ugly costume and a stupid premise: he's a costumed information gatherer. And those are his good points.

There outta be a law against stories as stupid as the current "War of the Worlds" between Mars and Earth in Justice League of America. Not only does the story unnecessarily step on the toes of some up coming mini-series (remember J'emm, Son of Saturn, nee J'emm, Son of Mars?); not only does it do something as dramatic as destroying the JLA satellite in as undramatic a manner possible (it didn't even rate a full page, guys?); but its basic premise also requires us to believe that two-thirds of DC's heroes would ignore the fact that Earth is being invaded by Martians. Where is Superman? Where is Wonder Woman? Where is Green Lantern? Where is Flash? Why are they being withheld, except for a writer's whim to justify an unjustifiable change in the JLA's lineup? (For that fact, where are Supergirl, the Teen Titans, Batman and the Outsiders, and even B'wana Beast? Does Gerry Conway really expect me to believe that none of these heroes would respond to the emergency? Or by some incredible cosmic coincidence are they all off world? Not that I'd believe that any more than I can believe that they wouldn't answer the bell.

Oh well, maybe I can consign it to Earth-B.

BOB INGERSOLL
<< 03/07/2000 | 03/14/2000 | 03/21/2000 >>

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