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THE LAW IS A ASS for 03/27/2001
"The Law is a Ass" Installment # 88
Originally written as installment # 77 and published in Comics Buyer's Guide issue # 657, June 20, 1986 issue
Amicus curiae, "Friend of the court," in case you thought those of us in it didn't have any. Here are two.
First there's Mark Evanier, a good and successful comic book writer and a good and successful TV writer. I mention this, because people seem to read the credits of a TV show about as frequently as they read their own death notices. Therefore, most people probably don't know just how good--or even who--Mr. Evanier is and won't understand my reference to him in the first paragraph of the installment which follows. Next time you watch the box, look and learn.
The second is Harlan Ellison, no slouch in the writing department either--as his multiple Nebula, Hugo, Edgar Allen Poe, and Writer's Guild Outstanding Teleplay awards will attest. I make no secret of my admiration for Harlan, his writing, and his accomplishments--and I wish, just once, one of my final drafts would be as good as any of his first drafts.
Shortly after the installment which follows was published, Harlan called me and asked for permission to read it on his radio show, Mike Hodel's Hour 25. After I decided that, yeah, I wouldn't mind the fame and fortune, I said yes, and Harlan did read it.
I knew that many people who read CBG liked my column, but until that moment I didn't realize that Harlan--who is, let's face it, one of my personal heroes--was among that group. It was kind of like finding out that Nolan Ryan thinks you have a pretty good fastball.
Believe me, that information has gone a long way toward sustaining me, while I've been waiting for that fame and fortune to come.
"The Law is a Ass"
Installment # 88
As Mark Evanier can tell you, the current passion in Hollywood is concept. Don't worry if your movie has no plot. Don't fret if your story hasn't a single character worth the effort to forget. If it's high concept, it will sell.
The concept of concept is spreading to other artistic media, as well. So, while Marvel Comics isn't exactly Hollywood, with all this worry about concept, you'd think someone would have given some thought to the concept of X-Factor. But, what do I know? I also thought that I'd have seen thousands of letters complaining about this offensive book by now.
Oh sure, there's been a few random complaints. But mostly it's, "Wow X-Factor is the greatest thing since Stan and Jack invented genetics back in X-Men # 1!"
Come on, people! Was Ward Batty correct when he wrote in his editorial in Comic Shop News that we are a bunch of Marvel Zombies who will read and accept anything that company puts out, no matter how bad? The X-Factor concept reeks worse than ten feet down an outhouse hole. Can't we recognize it for the evil thing it is?
No? Let's try it this way...
Suppose I were to write a new comic about five black teenagers who go to the deep south, dress up in KKK garb, contract with white bigots to round up blacks and ship them back to Africa, do round up blacks by force of arms, but then--instead of disposing of the blacks as promised--train them to pass for white; do you think even one issue would appear before the entirely justified complaints buried it deeper than a corpse in its Sunday-Go-To-Meetin' clothes?
Why is X-Factor escaping the same treatment?
This book espouses fighting bigotry with fifth column tactics designed to heighten the hatred behind the bigotry while secretly helping the oppressed. It posits that a viable means of promoting racial harmony is to train those who are different to hide their gifts.
You can not achieve racial harmony by painting everyone green. You can't beat bigotry by catering to its hate or by fostering it with advertisements that say, "You don't have to live in fear anymore!" Treating the symptoms while letting the disease infect the entire body solves nothing. It destroys everything.
You fight bigotry by facing it, attacking its erroneous premises, and eradicating the ignorance in which it breeds like the green slime that floats on top of stagnant ponds.
Am I making myself clear on this? I wouldn't want any of you to get the mistaken impression that I like X-Factor's destructive philosophy.
But, if X-Factor's philosophy is bad, it's M.O., what the characters actually do, is no better.
You say you want to round up mutants, so you can train them how to use their powers, but you don't know how to get them? Just use physical force to restrain them of their liberty under circumstances which create a risk of physical harm, and then remove them from the place where they're found. It's abduction. It's against the law. But who cares? Your heart is pure, so you have the loopholes of ten.
Or you could take a minor child whose father has died and with the intent to withhold him from his parent, guardian or custodian remove him from the place he's found. Child Stealing. It's also against the law. But don't let that little technicality stop you. After all, don't the ends always justify the means?
Or did we answer that question from 1941 through 1945?
Now, since you're supplying a service, you'll want to attract customers. How do you do that? You could try TV ads which contain intentional misstatements like, mutants "live in secret and plan to destroy the very lives of us normal people!" and which promise to "protect you and your family from this unseen menace," implying, of course, that X-Factor wants to dispose of mutants, while its real purpose is "to isolate and protect" mutants. Fraud in the inducement. After all, it's worked for bigger and richer capitalists than Warren Worthington, III.
Now, once you get a client, what's a fair price to charge someone whose ideals may be distasteful, but who hasn't really done anything wrong? How about twice his yearly salary, because it's "charmingly ironic" to "take the mutant-haters to the cleaners?" I'm not certain what laws, if any, this may violate, but I'm sure that it violates federal fair business standards.
What if your mutant-hating client refuses to pay? Obviously, you threaten to release the mutant you just caught, so your client can worry about the mutant in question seeking revenge. Ah, we're back on familiar ground. Obtaining money from your client by making him believe that you will cause serious physical harm to him. Extortion. It's illegal, but it's better than sending your client's name to a collection agency!
Finally, let's assume that at the same time you want to start up your new business, you're having troubles with you marriage? Your wife doesn't understand you? Your long lost--and you thought dead--love has returned? What do you do? Obviously, you abandon your wife and infant child. Nonsupport Of Dependents. It's illegal, but what else would a rational, intelligent, selfless adult do?
I could go on, but I'd hate for my dwelling on X-Factor to lead you readers to the impression that I like the book. I like the characters. I like the artwork. I even like the word crafting. I don't like the book.
I've been told by a reliable source that X-Factor is about to undergo some radical changes, which may undo many of my complaints about it. Such changes could not possibly come too soon. It would be nice if my only complaint about X-Factor was that it's another Marvel mutant book.
I don't have nearly as many complaints about the concept of DC's revival of Blue Beetle. True, it being the 80s, I didn't really need to see an exact replica of 60s super heroics again. And, yes, the villain of the first issue, Firefist, is a direct decedent of several old villains including writer Len Wein's own Firebug from Batman # 318. But there are worse ideas. Just go back about ten paragraphs and you'll see.
My biggest problem with Blue Beetle was Len Wein's idea that, when Blue Beetle came into the DC universe after the Crisis, his home base changed from a thinly disguised Manhattan called Hub City in the Charlton days to the real life city of Chicago. My problem? One of the 60s shticks that Len has chosen to keep from the Beetle's Charlton incarnation is Homicide Detective Max Fisher.
But before we can go there, we must first back-up a little. The first and original Blue Beetle was Dan Garrett. On a mission on Pago Island, Garrett died and his friend Ted Kord took on the mantle of the Blue Beetle. (Why is complicated and not really necessary for our discussions. Just remember that Garrett and Kord went to Pago Island, Garrett died, and Kord came back alone.)
Fisher suspects Ted Kord of murdering Dan Garrett out on Pago Island. When Blue Beetle was in the Charlton Universe and operated in Hub City, Pago Island was within spitting distance of Fisher's Hub City precinct. Look at Charlton Blue Beetle # 2 page 11 panel 6 if you don't believe me, and if you've got it. It was this little island just off the coast of wherever Hub City was.
Now Pago Island is in the DC Universe and got moved to "the middle of the Atlantic Ocean," while Lt. Fisher is currently employed by the Chicago Police. So why is he investigating the murder? Even if Pago Island is still inside of the United States' territorial waters, which the middle of the Atlantic isn't, it's got to be outside of Chicago's corporate limits. Which also happens to mean it's outside of the boundaries which limit Lt. Fisher's activities. Which also happens to mean that Fisher wouldn't be investigating the crime.
Hasn't he ever heard of jurisdiction?
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