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THE LAW IS A ASS for 12/28/1999
"The Law is a Ass" Installment # 24
Originally written as installment # 17and published in Comics Buyer's Guide issue # 540 March 23, 1984 issue
Ever trying to find new formats for my column in those early days, this time I went with a straight forward short story. No having characters visit me this time, but actual honest-to-Zeus prose fiction; capped by one of my worst puns ever.
Prophetic fiction, at that--especially the one Joker crack--considering "A Death in the Family" was still years away.
"The Law is a Ass"
Installment # 24
The onyx black sky over Gotham City was pierced by a powerful spotlight, which burned a white circle surrounding the silhouette of a bat into the nighttime clouds. Far below, a powerful sisteen-cylindered car, whose styling matched the signal overhead, entered an underground garage, as its occupants rushed to answer the call.
Athletic legs carried the costumed man and boy toward a secret elevator, which would take them to the office of the man who had called them. If there was fear in the heart of either, anxiety over the dreaded purpose for which they had been summoned, neither let it be seen. Both were ready for whatever awaited.
"Yes, Commissioner?" The Batman said, as he and Robin entered James Gordon's office. The Batman's trained eye saw immediately, that something was wrong. Gordon was standing toward the rear of the office looking silenitly at them. But his pained expression spoke plainly and announced, I'm. sorry, Batman. It wasn't my idea. I had to do it. Then Gordon's stare moved to the right and fixed on two more people, who were waiting. Gordon's openly contemptuous face added, They made me do it.
The Batman recognized one of the two as Arthur Reeves, a headline-conscious city councilman, who had proven himself to be a problem before. Reeves would do anything, if he thought it would get him some favorable publicity, including selling the bidding rights on his mother. The bespectacled, business-suited woman with Reeves, however, was a stranger.
"Are you The Batman?" Reeves asked in a very no-nonsense way.
"Isn't that question a little fatuous, Councilman," The Batman answered, "Even for you?"
Gordon held up a hand. It was a tired gesture from a man, who now realized he had fought one too many campaigns. "It would be best, if you just answered the question, Old Friend," Gordon said, with a weary, defeated voice.
"Yes, I'm The Batman."
"Officers." Reeves called. Two uniformed policemen entered the office. "Do your duty," Reeves said to them with a smile bigger than if he had inhaled Joker Gas.
One of the policemen pulled a small index card from his shirt pocket. He read from the card. "You are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can..."
The Batman didn't listen to the monotone Miranda rights recitation any more than he would have listened to a Carmen Miranda movie recitation. He knew his rights. He had even given them several times. He looked at Reeves. "You've tried this before, Councilman. It didn't work then., either."
"But it will work this time, Batman," Gordon said. "I'm afraid that Reeves has you dead."
"What are the charges?" The Batman demanded.
Every eye in the office centered on Robin, as Reeves, his voice as triumphant as a royal coronation, said, "Child endangerment."
The Batman knew. He knew why Gordon looked as if his daughter, Barbara, had started sporting white leather and a Mohawk and calling herself "Batter Punk." He knew why Reeves looked like someone who just got an A on a final exam by copying his neighbor's paper then covered the similarity of answers by getting the neighbor expelled for cheating. The Batman knew he had lost.
"What are they talking about?" Robin asked. "What do they mean 'child endangerment?' "
"How old are you, child?" Reeves asked Robin.
"Uh. Twelve. No, twelve and a- half," Robin answered. Then he added,"I'll be thirteen next month," trying to sound as old as he could.
"And The Batman takes you on patrols, doesn't he?"
"Well sure. I wouldn't be much of a kid sidekick, if I always stayed behind to dust the Batcave."
"And," Reeves persisted, "I further take it, that on these patrols, you encounter criminals?"
"Yes. Crime fighters without criminals are kind of like Charybdis without Scilla."
Reeves suppressed a moment's admiration at how well the young boy pronounced the two diffficult names and persisted with his examination. "Armed criminals?" he asked.
"Usually. It's better for the rep than taking on amputees."
"And The Batman lets you fight them?"
"Are you familiar with what the crime of child endangerment entails?" Reeves asked.
Robin scratched his head. "No, I guess not," he admitted. "That's not real high up on the Joker's 'To Do' List."
Reeves opened a copy of the Gotham State penal code. "Child endangerment," he explained, "is when the parent, guardian, custodian, or person with custody or control over a child under the age of eighteen creates a substantial risk of harm to the health or safety of the child, by violating a duty of care, protection, or support.
"Now, I don't think anyone could dispute that, when The Batman willfully allows you, an admitted child under eighteen, to patrol with him and to fight armed criminals or even super-villains, he is creating a substantial risk of harm to your health in violation of his duty to protect you."
Robin wasn't convinced. "I can dispute it. You said it had to be the child's parent or guardian. How do you know The Batman is my parent or guardian?"
"It also says 'person with control.' When The Batman takes you out on patrol, who calls the shots?
"He does. With Batman you have two choices: you can do it his way, or you can do it his way."
"So he is the person with control, as he is the adult to whose care you have been entrusted.
"Moreover, I think he's probably also your parent or guardian. A fact we should be able to verify, once we unmask him."
"Now see here, Reeves," Gordon protested, but The Batman interrupted.
"It's all right, Jim. This isn't some comic-book story. They'll unmask me for the mug shot, anyway. What difference does it make, if I do it a little early?"
Gordon nodded. "I'm sorry, Bruce. I didn't mean for it to end this way."
As The Batman removed his cowl, revealing the face of Bruce Wayne, he said, "You knew?"
"How many people with square chins do you think there are? Dick Tracy and you. I'd have been a pretty sorry excuse for a police commissioner, if I didn't."
"And just so you don't have to ask, Reeves," The Batman said, "yes, Robin is my ward, Jason Todd."
"We thought as much." the woman, who was with Reeves said.
"I'm Monica Smythe-Evans of the Gotham County Child Welfare Department and I have a court order remanding the minor, 'Robin', to our custody, until there is a final adjudication in your matter. But I wouldn't count on your getting him back. Not when everything about you is revealed."
"What do you mean everything about me'?" The Batman asked.
"We got a complaint about you a month ago. A Mister William Henley, Jr. of Lakewood, Ohio filed it. Mr. Henley is a regular reader of a column in the Comics Buyers' Guide called 'The Law Is a Ass,' and he said it got him thinking as to the legality of kid sidekicks, When he realized you were in violation of the law, he reported you.
"However, when we received his complaint, we decided to check into our files. We also discovered another complaint lodged against you by a Dr. Frederik Wertham, which alleged certain other irregularities in yours and Robin's behavior."
"Fredrik Wertham?" The Batman said. "How old is that complaint?"
"Approximately thirty years."
"Then you can't accuse me of that. That was the Batman of Earth-Two,"
Ms. Smythe-Evans consulted some notes governing simultaneous evolution in a multiversal plane. "You're quite correct." She actually frowned as she spoke, not wanting to have to give up even one charge against the man. However, she resumed her smile just as quickly, when she continued her speech. "But we still have you on the child endangering, don't we?"
The police led The Batman down to his cell. He saw a bald man in the cell., he was also to occupy. The Batman knew he had reached his nadir, he was to be jailed with Lex Luthor. Then The Batman recognized the bald man. It wasn't Luthor at all.
"Charles?" The Batman asked. "Charles Xavier?"
Professor X looked up. "Bruce, is that you?"
Monica Smythe-Evans smiled again. "Yes. He's another of our recent investigations. Although I must admit we've been interested in the Professor for even longer than you.
"We've wanted to pull the accreditation for Professor Xavier's so-called School for Gifted Students for months. As far as we could tell he had only two teachers, himself and a part-time ballet instructor.
"Recently the school was abandoned for an entire week with no explanation to the students' parents."
"The X-Men and I were involved in the Secret War with the Beyonder. The New Mutants were rescuing Kitty from the Hellfire Club," Xavier explained.
"Yes," Ms. Smythe-Evans continued. "Because of the suspicious circumstances surroundng the school's being empty, we were able to secure a court order we entered the empty school. Imagine our shock, when we discovered an airport with a modified Blackbird spy plane. What, we wondered, would a school need with one of those?
"Our suspicions were even more aroused, when we found a large room, which was empty and ominiously called 'The Danger Room'. We investigated further and found incontrovertible proof that Professor Xavier heads two groups, the X-Men and the New Mutants, which consistently place minor children into dangerous conflicts with evil mutants and alien creatures.
"Well, we had no choice. but to file child endangerment charges against the professor. 'Child Endangerment' may prove more useful at rounding up criminals normally out of our grasp than tax evasion was in Prohibition-era Chicago."
Before they put The Batman in his cell, they gave him his one phone call. He called the law firm of Nelson & Murdock. He was lucky. Matt Murdock was in the office and not out as Daredevil.
"Matt? This is Bruce Wayne. Listen, they finally got me on that child endangerment thing, you warned me about. Do you think you can represent me?"
"I'd like to, Bruce. But you know I can only represent Marvel super heroes. You'll have to get someone from DC."
"Jean Loring Palmer."
"I don't think she likes super-heroes, right now. I'm not sure she'd be very committed. And her track record is none too good. She can only win a case if The Atom is secretly helping her. And given that the Atom is presently without a regular series, his involvement isn't very likely."
"How about Cecile Horton?"
"She's got her hands full with the Flash murder trial and, from the looks of how fast that story line is moving, she'll be busy for quite some time. Besides, I don't think she likes super-heroes, either."
Well, the only other lawyer the DC Multiverse has who's any good in this sort of thing is one from Earth-C."
"Earth-C? Isn't that the 'Funny Animal' dimension where Captain Carrot comes from?"
"Right. Look, Bruce, I admit he'd be a little unconventional, but the guy's good. Probably the best."
The Batman took Murdock's advice and hired the Earth-C lawyer, even if the lawyer wasn't a "he" but was an "it." All of which explains how it was, when The Batman stood trial, he was represented by the noted trial attorney, Flea Bailey.
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