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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 11/20/2001

"The Law is a Ass" Installment # 122
Originally written as installment # 111 and published in Comics Buyer's Guide issue # 706, May 29, 1987 issue

Dave Sim, the creator and writer/artist of Cerebus must have taken offense to what I said about the comic in this column. (Imagine the nerve of it all, I actually wrote a column suggesting that rape was a bad thing! Imagine what might have happened if I also criticized murder?) Anyway he wrote about this column in the letters page of Cerebus, saying both that I was off the mark and a "colorless lawyer from Cleveland."


I keep trying to tell people, I'm just really, really blond.


"The Law is a Ass"
Installment # 122
Bob Ingersoll

Let's get this one out of the way immediately. I'll vent my spleen, get the venom out of my system, and be able to be my usual jovial, pleasant self for the rest of this column. Or as close as I ever get.

Cerebus # 94!

The little porker has been increasingly unpleasant issue after issue. With this issue, he surpassed himself.

With this issue, Cerebus became a rapist.

Yes, I admit the scene I am talking about is ambiguous enough that it is open to multiple interpretations. But, no one who has read the issue in question can deny that rape is one possible interpretation of the closing scene. One of the most likely, if not the most likely.

I will also admit that this column may be premature. I haven't seen issue # 95 yet, and whether or not there are any negative repercussions from the fact that Cerebus raped Astorialike throwing the little bugger in jailis still unresolved. But I tend to doubt there will be negative repercussions. Especially, as the final line of the book, Astoria's thought, "Be still, oh my trembling heart," implies that she enjoyed the whole thing.

Frankly, I found the entire incident sick!

People, be they man or woman, have a choice as to with whom they will engage in sex. Not just the right to a choice, mind you, but a choice. They must be free to say yes. They must be free to say no. Someone who is unwillingly manacled, gagged, and blindfolded, as Astoria was, is not free to choose or refuse.

It does not matter that Astoria had tried to offer Cerebus sex in return for him setting her free and even mocked him. At the moment that Cerebus acted, Astoria did not have the freedom to consent or refuse. That is not only rape in my book, it is rape in the law books.

As I said, sick. Even more sick, however, was the fact that Astoria enjoyed being violated. I know rape. I have friends who were raped. In the course of my job, I have seen, interviewed, and heard the testimony of too many rape victims to think of rape and rapists as anything other than evil, twisted, and foul. Neither rape nor rapists should be portrayed as positive or enjoyable.

Yet, that is exactly the what Cerebus # 94 seemed to do.

Frankly, I fear Cerebus # 95.


Would you tell me where the Adult Parole Authority for Gotham State was able to find five people who don't change their clothes, ever, but will engage in wholesale mind exchange? I mean, look at the Parole Board in "Love Bird" from Batman Annual # 11. Days, weeks, maybe even months pass between their appearances in the beginning and end of this story, and they're wearing the exact same clothes in both scenes. While, at the same time, their minds have become diametric opposites.

At the beginning of the story, the Parole Board is willing to overlook the Penguin's entire criminal history and ignore Batman's advice and parole Penguin. Penguin actually goes straight and uses the opportunity to start up an umbrella factory, a completely legitimate business. Batman spends the entire story convinced that Penguin hasn't reformed and will turn criminal again, only to be convinced by story's end that Penguin has reformed. Unfortunately, Penguin chooses to employ other ex-convicts, who can't get a break at his factory. This puts him in violation of parole by consorting with other convicted felons.

It is a violation, I think. We always hear or read that consorting with known felons is a violation of parole, but I've never actually seen that condition imposed on any parole in real life. I'm not even sure that such a condition would be constitutional. (How about it; are there any state parole officers in my reading audience who can write in and tell us if parole boards still impose this condition on paroles?)

Nevertheless, in this story the Parole Board did impose such a condition, so I won't disagree. Penguin was in violation of his parole. A technical violation, I'll admit, but, I guess it was a violation. Still, it was a violation which did not hurt anyone else. It helped numerous ex-convicts, by giving them a job, and maybe even helped society, because these ex-convicts did not have to return to crime now.

But, because he violated probation, Penguin was hauled before the Parole Board for violating his parole. This time, however, Batman argues to the Parole Authority that Penguin has reformed and that they shouldn't violate his parole. And for many of the same reasons I pointed out. The Parole Boardthe same people who were so willing to ignore both Batman's statements and Penguin's past and believe that Penguin was a changed man who wanted only to do good worksnow ignores Batman's statements again and the fact that Penguin is doing good works and bounces him back into prison, because of the technical violation found in Penguin's payroll.

I found it hard to believe that any Parole Board would really violate someone's parole on such a technicality. Considering the fact that every prison in the country is overcrowded and that the prison authorities are looking for ways to decrease the prison population, I just couldn't accept a parole board violating someone who wasn't actively doing something illegal or harmful.

Maybe it was the Batman. The Parole Board resented his presence. Maybe they acted to spite him both times. However, if that's the effect that the Batman is going to have on people, maybe he should re-think his life's work. He's overlooking a wonderful career in diplomacy.


This is an open letter to Captain America. You asked me earlier if the Commission could really do what it was doing by ordering you to work for them or surrender the Captain America identity. I know that I wasn't suregiven that the entire concept of Captain America, not to mention all of your equipment and the source of your power were government issuewhether they were doing anything wrong in asking that you either work for them or return their property.

However, when I told you this, I didn't know that they were going to try and enforce a contract they haven't tried to enforce since 1944. In the law there is a little principle called laches, which says that when people do not seek to enforce their legal rights within a reasonable time and wait an unconscionable time, the law will not allow them to prevail on their stale demands.

What I'm saying, Cap, is you may have a defense, if you should choose to fight the Commission on this one. However, should you decide not to fight, so as not to embarrass the government by making its demands known, I respect that.


Back when he was still a lawyer, Daredevil puzzled me. Here's a man who spent his evenings as Daredevil fighting and apprehending the likes of Purple Man, Owl, and Stilt Man. Then during the dayas Matt Murdock, ace criminal-defense attorney, he'd spend his time trying to get these same people acquitted and back on the streets. Anyway, I didn't wonder how Matt could defend anyone he knew was guilty, I've done that enough times to know the Constitution demands a lawyer turn a blind eye to his client's guilt and give the best defense possible. I just wondered how Matt could defend people who had tried to kill him only hours earlier.

Couldn't he see that subconsciously he might be pulling his punches out of anger over the fact that his clients had tried to ventilate his skull the night before? Couldn't he see that he might very well be in violation of the ethical consideration that a lawyer must represent his client competently and zealously at all times by representing people on whom he subconsciously wanted to avenge himself? I could see it, for Wotan's sake! So why couldn't he? And why did he continue?

Then I realized what Matt/Daredevil was really doing. And I realized that for his plan to work, Matt had to give his all to his clients at all times, even those who had tried to kill Daredevil, so there was no ethical violation. By catching the criminals as Daredevil and getting them off as Matt, the man was creating two social needs, the need for a protector such as Daredevil and the need for a lawyer such as Matt Murdock. It was a brilliantly conceived and executed plan for self-perpetuating, bi-directional job security.

Bob Ingersoll
<< 11/13/2001 | 11/20/2001 | 11/27/2001 >>

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