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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.

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THE LAW IS A ASS for 04/10/2001
DOCKET ENTRY
"The Law is a Ass" Installment # 90
Originally written as installment # 79 and published in Comics Buyer's Guide issue # 661, July 18, 1986 issue


Wanna know how to tick off your loyal columnist? Just keep reading.

******

"The Law is a Ass"
Installment # 90
by
Bob Ingersoll

So what exactly is the opposite of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens?

Or, for those of you who aren't familiar with the American musical comedy, today we discuss recent comics which were not among my favorite things. In fact, these comics irritated and angered me.

First up is Adventures of the Outsiders # 35, but not for anything that happened in the story. No, the problem I had with this book was in the letter column. (Yes, Mike Barr, you did hear another can of worms being opened.)

I don't want to be guilty of misrepresenting or taking anything out of context, so I will quote exactly from Mike Barr's response to a letter complaining that Katana killed Prince Mardo. "Sure, the Outsiders could simply have captured Prince Mardo and let the Abyssians put him in some kind of jail, but there would always be the possibility that he would escape and, doubtless, start developing some other fiendish plan. Katana, realizing all this, decided not to give Mardo that possibility, and removed any question of him returning. To have left Mardo alive to work further schemes against humanity would have been to deny her responsibility toward the innocent people of the world whose only defense against tyrants like Mardo are heroes like the Outsiders. (For a more realistic reading of the above, read 'mugger' for 'Mardo,' and "anyone who values the lifes [sic] of innocents' for 'the Outsiders'.)" It goes on, but I'll precis the rest of the argument.

As soon as someone chooses or even threatens to take the life of an innocent, he/she forfeits any claim to life he/she may have had and anyone who chooses to kill him/her, regardless of the circumstances, commits the heroic act of protecting the lives of the innocents. So, if the hero can capture a villain without killing said villain, the hero should kill the villain anyway, because even though the villain is incapable of harming anyone at the moment, he/she might possibly kill some innocent in the future. Or so the argument goes.

There's a word for intentionally killing someone, when that other person cannot harm anyone else.

Murder.

No one has the right to kill another. That includes villains, and that includes heroes. That's why homicides are against the law. And while society has chosen to justify some types of homicides, including wartime killings and self-defense, neither applies here. Our commander-in-chief notwithstanding, what Mike described is not wartime killing. As for self-defense, read on.

Self-defense means killing someone who is attacking or threatening you with deadly force and is capable of killing. In the face of such an attack, one doesn't have to stand there and let the attacker kill, one can kill the attacker. A recent example is Captain America # 231 where a terrorist is actively machine gunning a crowd of spectators, and to stop him, before he kills more, Cap kills the terrorist. That's self-defense, because Cap used deadly force on someone who was using deadly force. It doesn't matter that the terrorist wasn't shooting at Cap. The self-defense doctrine still applies, if one is acting to defend another person.

But killing someone who is defeated and is no longer capable of killing is not self-defense. It is murder.

I'm sorry, Mike, but we have a basic disagreement here. Maybe heroes do kill, sometimes, as Cap did. But they should not murder.

So you can probably guess what I thought of Miracleman # 7. You know, the issue where Miracleman ran up a bigger body count than Clint Eastwood in a Sergio Leone film festival. Yes, Mike (Miracleman) Moran had been left to be mauled by Miracledog. (Now cut that out! I didn't make these names up, you know?) Yes, Miracledog bit off two of Mike's fingers. Yes, Dr. Gargunza still held Mike's pregnant wife prisoner. Yes, he was understandably angry. But he was also Miracleman. You know fast, strong. Invulnerable. Nothing any of Gargunza's henchmen could have done could have hurt him.

But what did Miracleman do? He slammed two of the henchmen's heads together, so that they exploded like some left over F/X from Scanners. He drove his finger through the chest and heart of another henchmen. He flew through another, like a sprinter parting the finish tape. And finally, he threw Dr. Gargunza to the Earth from somewhere in the upper atmosphere, so that the parts that didn't burn up on reentry hit the Earth with a SPLAT! not unlike that of a batter pudding hurled in Bexhill On Sea.

The story was well written, and Miracleman did what any real person who suddenly found himself possessed of his powers would have done. Still the deaths bothered me, because they were gratuitous.

Not gratuitous in the sense that the deaths didn't advance the story. They did. As Miracleman advanced through the stronghold by killing the people within it, the story also advanced. Actually, death rather seemed to be the story in this particular installment. Rather the deaths were gratuitous in the sense that Miracleman did not need to kill any of the people in the stronghold in order to defeat them or capture them or free his wife.

As I said before, no man has the right to kill. If society deems that someone should be killed, should receive the death penalty after that person has been given his or her full due process of law, that is one thing. But no man should make that life or death decision alone without the checks and balances of due process of law. That way lies tyranny and abuse of the power.

******


I wasn't too awful thrilled with Power Man and Iron Fist # 125 either, the last issue of the book that tried to return Power Man to what he was in the first issue of his book: a fugitive from justice accused of a murder he didn't commit and without even the safety net of being named Richard of having the convenient one-armed man as a deus ex machina when this story plays itself out and it comes time to prove his innocence.

But, perhaps I'd better set the scene a bit. Iron Fist was pummeled to death by Bobby Wright, a dying twelve-year-old boy with the ability to alter his molecular structure and become the super powered Captain Hero. Immediately after he killed Fist Bobby disintegrated into energy particles and the only witness to this was Luke Cage. Now, because Luke is super strong, because he and Fist had had an argument the day before, because Luke was the sole beneficiary in Fist's will, but mostly because Luke is a black ex-convict so is "dirty" in the eyes of D.A. Blake Tower and Captain Chris Keating; Luke is suspected of murdering Iron Fist.

Tower and Keating illegally hold Luke without charging him. They subject Luke to a long illegal interrogation, so that they can break him, before some lawyer can "come along to protect his 'rights.'" And despite the fact that both a twelve-year veteran cop and a federal agent watched the interrogation and recognized it as the best railroad job this side of being the president of Lionel, Tower and Keating persist in their accusations. After all, they know Luke is "dirty," he's a black ex-con.

Well, I don't buy it. The plot premise, that is. Unfortunately, I did buy the comic.

Yes, inequities exist in the legal system. I hardly needed Power Man & Iron Fist to tell me that; I fight said inequities everyday in the Public Defender office. And I don't mind a story that spells out some of those inequities. As long as there are people who don't recognize the Bill of Rights when they see it and think it is a Communist petition, we need such stories. But such a story should, at least, be fair. This story wasn't.

In the first place, there has never been any previous indication, or at least none that I remember, that either Blake Tower or Chris Keating were bigots. It wasn't fair to turn them into bigots for the dramatic sense of the story. If a bigot was needed for the story, one could have been created without corrupting an established character. Second, bigots aren't automatically idiots, which is how Tower and Keating were portrayed.

I'm expected to believe that these two would pursue a prosecution against Luke despite the fact that Reed Richards, Captain America, Sam (Falcon) Wilson, Janet Van Dyne and other members of the Avengers can all testify that Iron Fist was in Bobby's room with Bobby, that Bobby has since disappeared and can also testify as to Bobby's powers. I'm expected to believe that Tower and Keating find Bobby's disappearance contrived, despite the fact that the same witnesses can testify that he was wearing wrist bands which had, in the past, sent people into the Negative Zone. I'm expected to believe that they don't believe Luke, because he's a black ex-con, which I could accept; and they intend to pursue a prosecution before a jury, which I could not. The only way that they could get a conviction against Luke, an established super hero, is if the jury didn't believe him, when he told them how Iron Fist died. And the only way Tower and Keating can hope to impeach an established super hero would be to show he's an ex-con. But, he isn't an ex-con, remember? Luke proved he was framed and was, ultimately, acquitted of those old charges against him. That being the case, his record was expunged and he now has no record. So, no judge in the world would allow any testimony about his past to go before the jury, because he doesn't have any past.

So why are Tower and Keating bothering to go after a conviction they know isn't just and that they can't win? As I said, because suddenly they're bigots and this story wanted to show the effects of bigotry in the justice system. A story with a message. Unfortunately, while the media may be the message, this message was medium.

Well, it certainly wasn't well done.

******

BOB INGERSOLL, a comic book collector and lawyer, wants to take this opportunity to talk lawyer to lawyer to the recently barred Bill Mantlo. About the Daredevil story you wrote for Marvel Fanfare # 27...

You know the scene where Jorge admits stealing over two hundred cars in the past, but says he didn't steal the car he was on trial for stealing? You know the part where the jury believes him and finds him not guilty? Don't hold your breath for that to happen in one in your trials.

I'm not saying it couldn't happen. It's just that there are some things which are a little more likely. Like Ronald Reagan dismantling our entire nuclear stockpile.


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