Category: Columns

Michael Davis: Stan Lee – The Man Now And Forever

(In honor of The Man’s passing, Michael Davis asked us to rerun his column from last year. We are happy do to so. —Ye Olde Editor)

No Sex On The Good Ship Lollipop, part 3

From our last installment…

The Los Angeles neighborhood of Westwood is home to The University of Southern California, better known as U.C.L.A. It’s a trendy area filled with upscale shops and expensive restaurants.

I’ve never been a fan of Westwood U.C.L.A or trendy, expensive restaurants. I doubt if I ever will be. But because God gets a kick out of such things my new Viacom offices were in Westwood, the reference library I was compelled to use was at U.C.LA, and a trendy, expensive restaurant was where I was on my way to have lunch with Stan Lee.

Stan was kind enough to bring with him Jack Kirby… and the Black Panther.

Together the three may have saved my ass.

Showtime Networks and Marvel Productions were both housed in the same Westwood high-rise. I was just moving into my new offices at Showtime; helping me do so was Adah Glenn.

Adah is a fantastic artist I met some years before. She used her considerable wits to land herself a gig at Motown Animation when I was not hiring. That I assure you is no easy feat.

Adah was placing a box on my desk with one small problem. She missed the casually.

Crash!!! The unmistakable sound of breaking glass when the box hit the floor filled the room.

“I hope that wasn’t my Tiffany lamp,” I said.

“I think I just saw Stan Lee in the lobby” she said, not hearing or not caring about my statement. I gazed over to the box then to her. I did that repeatedly knowing she would get the hint and pick up the box.

She didn’t get the hint.

Instead, she looked at me with no indication whatsoever she’d dropped the box.

“I wish I’d thought of something to say to him. Do you know Stan Lee?” she asked.

Flipping my eyes back and forth as fast as I could I told her; “Yep.”

Nothing. It was like the girl was in a trance, and I’d had enough.

“Adah!!”

“What?”

“Ya wanna pick up that box you dropped?”

She looked down and was surprised to see the box at her feet.

“I do that? My bad.” She bent down to pick up the box and said; “Mike, do you know Stan Lee?”

“I know Stan pretty well…”

Crash!!!

When later that month I was sitting down with Stan over lunch I recounted that story. He has a hard time believing anyone would react that way. I had a hard time believing Stan didn’t know how he rolled.

I’d met Stan as a fan in the 80s. Although it was a while before we became friends, it was memorable when it happened. I saw Stan walking across the San Diego Comic Con Convention floor in 1993, the first year Milestone had a booth.

Hey Stan Lee! come on over; you’re the first contestant on The Price Is Right!” I yelled. Why? I meant just to say “hey Stan Lee come on over” but the rest just came out.

Stan, much to my surprise, came over. “What do I win?” He said with a huge smile. The Milestone partners all scampered over and said hello to Stan who gave Denys Cowan a “There he is.” When shaking Denys’ hand acknowledging to all there he and Denys knew each other. That made Denys BMOC (big man on campus) and HNIC (ask a black person) for a bit.

That is until Derek Dingle asked Stan “How do you know Michael?” Before he answered I chimed in with “Stan and I were in the Crips together.” Stan co-signed with; “Those were the days.”

Those were the days indeed.

Stan and I had just done a drive by when we decided to ditch the car and ran into the woods. It was dark as such we were taking care not to make any noise less so we were not discovered. At one point Stan whispered “Something just landed on me.”

It took my eyes a second to adjust to the darkness, but once it did I saw what it was and informed Stan; “It’s a spider…man.”

That’s when I created Spider-Man, but Stan will never acknowledge that or his illegitimate son Spike.

That’s how I opened the Stan Lee Roast at a 1994 convention event. By that time Stan and I were on a friendly basis. In 1995 Stan was kind enough to come by the Motown Animation booth at SDCC to wish me well and take some photos.

“You drive that thing on the street?” Stan asked as we stood in front of the Motown / Image Comics Van. The way he asked the question was so funny I couldn’t answer from laughing so much.

Stan and I talked about our history among a great many things over lunch, but mostly we talked about my new venture at Viacom. Since the deal closed the feeling I had made a major blunder was growing. “I gave up my golden parachute to follow a dream, and I’m beginning to think it was a mistake.” I said to Stan.

I told Stan about the comic book reading program.

“That’s a good idea but a hard sell.” He said.

“It’s sold, but now I’m not so sure it’s a good idea,” I responded.

“It’s a great idea. I should know because I did it when I was in the army,” Stan said. Then he told me how he produced the line of instructional comic books for the armed forces. Years later when at Marvel he tried to get comics in the school system but couldn’t crack that market.

Stan Lee couldn’t crack a market? I’m thinking gethefuckoutofhere!

I was convinced he told me that to make me feel better. He assured me he was serious and explained how it was a big deal to get into the schools.

He told me following a dream is rare for most people and said my dream was a noble one because it involved making something to benefit others namely kids with problems reading.

“You unquestionably helped a million kids with a problem reading I’m sure. You certainly helped me.” I told Stan that and how in the fourth grade he and Jack Kirby almost made me kill Ronnie Williams when I slammed a metal backed chair over his head.

“Why on earth did you do that?” Stan inquired through his huge grin. I explained how Ronnie took my copy of Fantastic Four # 73 and I wanted it back. Jack Kirby and he (and some advice from my mother) gave me the strength to get it back.

“Don’t forget the chair.” Stan deadpanned.

I realized this was a good a time as any to tell Stan something else he helped me with, my self-esteem. “Thank you for creating the Black Panther. How much flak did you get back in the day?”

He looked at me for a sec and then said; “Some, but it was the right thing do we thought.”

That may have been the understatement of my comics career. The Black Panther was all my comic book buddies, and I could talk about when we discovered him. Then it was the Falcon, Luke Cage, the Prowler and on and on.

It goes without saying Stan and Jack paved the way for Brotherman and Static, inspiring black creators of today with black heroes from our yesterday. I don’t know any creators of color from my generation who would not give those Lee and Kirby creations at least a nod.

Stan and I made lunch a pretty regular thing while we were both at that Westwood high-rise. Stan moved on launching Stan Lee Media where I almost ended up heading “Stan Lee Kids,” but that’s another story. I moved on not long after Stan left the building.

Stan was right. Comics in the schools were a good idea. My Action Files over twenty years later is still in schools. Some time back they started selling on Amazon (without the Teacher’s Guide), and to my knowledge, the program is still the only curriculum based comic book reading program sold in American schools.

In my mind, Stan has a real place in the history of current black comic characters. Those who don’t think so are welcome to that opinion.

The sheer guts it took to create the Black Panther during the time Jack Kirby, and he did so is enough for me.

They didn’t have to, but they did because ‘it was the right thing to do.’

The last time I saw Stan, it was bittersweet. He was the same old Stan holding court in the lobby of the Marriott. But when I shook his hand and looked into his eyes it was evident my Stan was gone. He didn’t remember me.

“Stan is pushing 100. He can’t remember everything and everybody” I was told this by one of Stan’s entourage who meant well but dropped me even to a deeper sadness. As I started to turn and walk away, this young lady must have seen the grief on my face and touched my arm stopping me.

She said; ” With age, God wipes away many things to lessen our burden. His long life may soon be over that’s not a bad thing he must be exhausted. He may leave us, but he will be at peace.”

Not true, I thought.

Stan will be with us forever.

Michael Davis: Confessions of An Uppity Negro, Chapter 1

From now on
These eyes will not be blinded by the lights
From now on
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
Tonight
Let this promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on
From now on 

Except from ‘From Now On’ written by Justin Paul & Benj Pasek

I am lucky
I am a con man
I am a fraud
I am uppity 

I AM LUCKY: 

“You’re very lucky to get even that.” The late Neal Pozner said that to me while handing me a ‘fill in’ job. It was a Captain Atom 10-page story an assignment given to me as part of my pay or play agreement with DC Comics while with Milestone Media.

Part of the agreement with DC was in exchange for devoting all our time to Milestone our standard of living would not suffer. If my Milestone income wasn’t sufficient, I could petition DC for freelance creative which they could provide or not. Either way, we got paid.

The word came back from Neal that no editor liked it and as such, they would not hire me. That’s when I knew the fix was in and I would never do work for DC again.

FUN FACT: I laid out thumbnail sketches but other than that I didn’t touch that job. John Paul Leon, Bernard Chang, and Charles Drost did the actual artwork.

“Frankly Michael, the word is that you’re not a very good artist.”

Nooooooo, John Paul Leon, Bernard Chang, and Charles Drost were not very good artists, and we KNOW that is bullshit. You may not be familiar with Charles’ work (Chuck to his pals) he’s a fine artist animation producer and director, but he’s as talented as they come, and everyone knows Bernard and John Paul are two of the biggest talents working in comics today. All three were part of my Bad Boy Studios.

So, yep the fix was in.

When Neal told me, no one wanted me because I sucked as an artist I wondered why on earth did they offer me two deluxe format projects and pay me well over a hundred grand before my name went the Moses route and was stricken.

DC: Let the name of Davis be stricken from every book and tablet, stricken from all comics cartoons stricken from every monument of the industry. Let the name of Davis be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of men for all time.

This surprised me because Neal and I were close until one day we just were not.  I met Neal at a Gays in Comics mixer at a convention. He came over shook my hand and said, “It’s not many straight guys in comics who would attend one of these.”  NO IDEA how he knew I was straight, but we ended up talking and becoming friends. After that, we would hang out together whenever we ended up at the same event.

When Neal died, I contributed his coldness to more substantial matters that affected how he treated trivial shit. He was a good guy I liked him nevertheless he was part of the DC Machine that was fucking up my shit.

I AM A CON MAN: 

“Michael, I see you’ve conned yourself into yet another rather nice deal.”

Bob Wayne said that to me at Comic-Con International in 1994. I’d just been named President and CEO Motown Animation and Filmworks. I went over to the DC booth to say hello to Bob. He was loud enough so all those within earshot could (and what I thought his purpose) would hear.

This REALLY surprised and hurt me because Bob and I were buddies until one day like with Neal we weren’t.

I gave Neal a pass-why? I liked him and ‘pay or play’ means assignment or not DC had to pay me.

They didn’t. But that’s another story, and here we were talking about Bob Wayne.

Yeah, Neal got a pass. Bob, on the other hand, did not because I was livid. When I returned from Comic-Con, I wrote a very detailed letter to Bob’s boss explaining how unprofessional Bob was and how I was offended.

Realizing Bob may have destroyed any opportunity to work with another influential entertainment company Bob’s boss fired him. That act so impressed me I licensed the entire Gerry Anderson catalog to DC for a dollar. Polygram was a sister company, and I was given Thunderbirds, Stingray, and Captain Scarlet among other properties to develop. Yeah. Bob was out of a job, and I entered into a publishing deal with DC that has produced the most successful Black character in DC’s history.

HA! That will teach anyone to fuck with me.

Then I woke up.

The publisher of DC didn’t even respond. He and Bob most likely laughed their asses off.  OH, wait a sec, you’ll don’t know Thunderbirds, Stingray, and Captain Scarlet was among the universes I had dominion over?

I AM A FRAUD: 

At the very same convention that Bob Wayne thought he had dominion over me, I ran into Howard Chaykin. Howard was a friend who I idolized when younger.  Not just because of his fantastic work his badass take no prisoner attitude had a significant influence on me

His reaction when I told him the news of becoming President and CEO of Motown film and TV. Hell, he was a friend— what do you think he said to me?

“What? But you’re a fraud!”

Well, I thought he was a friend.

I AM UPPITY:  

“You get in people’s faces.”

“You’re loud.”

“Who do you think you are?”

SOOOOOO many people pros and fans alike have said the above to me and MUCH MUCH more.

Howard Chaykin invented getting into people’s faces. No one is louder than Todd McFarlane.

Who do they think they are?

I’m willing to bet those guys don’t get questions on their pedigree.

There are two distinct differences between Howard, Todd and me.

  1. They are way more well-known than me.
  2. Really? Do I have to say it? OK, I will, my dick is bigger, and I can dance. (watch some idiot not get the joke)

Now there are those will say they are more accomplished than me.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Depends on how you measure accomplishment.

Now would be a good time to tout my resume. Nah. Not gonna do it. I’ll just ask is there a Howard Chaykin auditorium somewhere or do they only give those to frauds?

Just askin’.

Here’s my question-what gives anyone the right to call me a fraud when they have no fucking idea what I’ve done? Or call me lucky when made aware something I’ve done?

Or say:

“You get in people’s faces.”

“You’re loud.”

“Who do you think you are?”

All that my friends are code for uppity, short for Uppity Nigger. Fraud? That’s when people have no respect for you. I can’t explain why Howard said that to me and that shit HURT. What did I say?

Not a damn thing.

I’m nobody’s bitch I’m not afraid of Howard but he may have forgotten the snowed in night at UP START STUDIOS when he spent a great of time giving me advice and showing real concern.

It was just he and I from around 9pm until well after midnight. This stands out as one of the best memories of my best memories because all the time he was talking to me he was inking AMERICAN FLAGG.

FUCKING WOW.

He may have forgotten, I haven’t.

So, no I didn’t say a word.

There’s a company that took their objection to my swagger personally. I say company because when the little bitch who started it all left the company, I thought the stupidly went with him. I just found out it didn’t.

This asshole produced a document that is so damning he thought when I signed it he had successfully killed my career. Why would I sign such a document?

Because MY lawyers who come from one of the most powerful law firms on the planet say it’s unenforceable and those who produced it were fools to do so. It shows an absolute bias against me.

Right now, the punk ass bitch who put this shit together is thinking ‘statue of limitations’ That would be a concern if I signed outside of those limitations.

What, me worried?

It’s not like I had called the character Tyrone Cash Super Nigger. Cash was a brilliant black scientist who gains the powers of the Hulk, KEEPS HIS INTELLECT, then decides to give up his job as a brilliant scientist TO BECOME A DRUG DEALER.

He solved a problem that Dr. Doom, Reed Richards, Hank Pym and every other big brain in the Marvel Universe couldn’t. That makes him the smartest person in the Marvel Universe. That means the most intelligent BLACK person in the Marvel Universe thinks being a fucking DRUG DEALER is a worthy endeavor.

This idea was created by superstar creator Mark Millar.

It’s not like I called Mr. Millar’s creation ‘Super Nigger.’ THAT would be a reason to worry.

Shit. I did call Tyrone Cash, Super Nigger. But Mark, if you’re reading this, don’t get mad. It’s not like I called you a fraud or asked who you think you are.

BTW-does one stupid character negate your other work?

No. You’re still a brilliant writer, but TC is as FUCKED UP as FUCKED UP can be.

But (HOWTHEHELLYOUDOINPETERDAVID?) I digress.

Am I worried about outing the nincompoops who think they have the right to treat me like my name was Toby?

Nah.

I’m looking forward to their explanation. Then they can also explain why they produced that document AFTER two employees SWORE I’d called their company racist. Funny thing about that those representatives of this massive entertainment corporation. They were not mistaken, they were not wrong they were not incorrect.

They were LIARS.

It was a setup. Yes, I’ve got proof and so does Ropes and Gray.

Explain THAT.

Why am I dealing with this at all when I let it go for so long?  Truth is this isn’t the first time I’ve written about these things— this time it’s different because I made a promise to my cousin Regina a few months ago.

After reading my articles for the last 25 years, she noticed I’m no longer ‘getting in people’s faces when they fuck with you.” She also noticed I’m not happy nor am I, “Being the badass take no shit from no one we all love and shake our head at.”

She said it was my duty to show young kids of color if wronged bring attention to that wrong. People always want Black men to show their papers we both agreed that was still a problem, if not you’re a fraud or lucky and if you’re confident about your ability, you’re uppity.

Regina was my biggest fan, she was family.

On the one-year anniversary of Len Wein’s death, before I could post my article marking that sad occasion my beloved cousin, Regina Keesley passed from this earth.

I made a promise to Regina that I would no longer tolerate those who question my intelligence or doubt my resume.

OR are stupid enough to FUCK WITH ME.

Ice Cube said; “I’m the wrong nigga to fuck with” and so am I.

I’m off to NYC for Regina’s service. I intend to tell her face to face I’m gonna keep my promise.

Funny, I’m going to show some folk my papers, just not the ones they expect.


I’m trying not to duplicate what I write. Bleeding Cool, ComicMix, and Pop Culture Squad have all run the same article at times. Not my intention— I want each entity to have exclusive content from me.

This article is exclusive to ComicMix.

I’m writing a series of articles called “The Ugly Side of Comics” at Bleeding Cool. I see “Confessions of An Uppity Negro” as a sister series but as original to ComicMix as “The Ugly Side of Comics” is to Bleeding Cool. I hope to start a series at Pop Culture Squad soon. Working title “Not Me.”

—Michael Davis  
LAX, 9PM, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2018 

 

The Law Is A Ass #438: Stu Went Looking For The Old Bailey

TV or, not TV, that is the question. The answer is TV.

I know, I’ve spent the past five columns writing about a TV show and not comic books, and also four out of the five columns before that doing the same. But sometimes these TV shows are just asking for it.

Like “By His Own Verdict,” the November 15, 1963 episode of 77 Sunset Strip. Okay, most of us weren’t even born when this episode first aired. And those of us who were – like, gulp, me – couldn’t shave yet. But the law involved in the story hasn’t changed in the almost fifty-five years since the episode aired. In fact, it’s been the law since 1910, which is before all of us were born. So the topic is still topical, even if it’s not timely.

Joseph Cotton played Arnold Buhler, a criminal defense attorney who was about to retire. His last case was defending Max Dent, a petty criminal played by Nick Adams who was on trial for murder. Right after the not guilty verdict, Max verified that because of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the 5th Amendment, he couldn’t be tried again for the murder. Then he told Arnold that he was guilty; he killed the man.

All of this took place in the teaser, before the opening credits. In my day, people wrote compressed stories that weren’t being padded for trade paperbacks or season-long story arcs, things actually happened. And they happened faster than a frat boy’s Friday night dash to the toilet bowl.

Arnold was upset. He had prided himself on being able to tell whether a prospective client was guilty or innocent and only representing the ones who were innocent. Max not only blemished that record but that also meant Arnold was complicit in a miscarriage of justice. So Arnold hired private investigator Stu Bailey to investigate and try to determine whether Max was truly guilty.

Stu took the case but without the usual aid of the other members of the 77 Sunset Strip team. This was an episode for the 6th season, after Jack Webb took over as producer, decided the show needed to be film noir rather than light-hearted action adventure show, and jettisoned everything that made 77 Sunset Strip 77 Sunset Strip except for Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and the title. And the title didn’t even make sense any more. Stu’s office wasn’t on the Sunset Strip, it was in the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles.

While Stu was helping his friend from America’s Old Bailey, we viewers were hoping what Stu would really do was find the old Bailey. Alas and alack, that was not to be. Instead of classic 77 Sunset Strip, we got a muddled story that suffered from a loss and a lack of legal accuracy.

Before Stu had finished his investigation, Arnold began, for want of a better word, stalking Max. No, not for want of a better word; there is no better word. Arnold was stalking Max. Following him around. Bothering him. And finally, hinting that he wasn’t glad to see Max, that was a pistol in his pocket. Arnold told Max that while Max couldn’t be tried in a court of law again, he could be tried by Arnold. Arnold would be Max’s judge, jury. And executioner.

Meanwhile, Stu learned Max was as irredeemable as a book of expired Green Stamps. So, just in time for the fourth act, Arnold announced he had reached his final verdict and went looking for Max.

Arnold found Max in the train yards. Max ran. Arnold chased him, usually with his hand in his pocket where the gun was. While Arnold and Max were playing Hide and Seek, Stu and Marty Kline, the DA who prosecuted Max, were looking for Arnold to stop him from killing Max.

As the doctor in the Myanmar epilepsy ward said, that’s when the fit hit the Shan. Max, after pleading with Arnold to stay away to no effect, pulled out his own gun and shot Arnold. As Arnold lay dying in Stu’s arms, he explained that he had set the score right. Arnold goaded Max into killing him. But Arnold didn’t really have a gun, so Max couldn’t claim self-defense. Max had murdered Arnold. Now Max could be prosecuted for murder again, just a different murder.

Marty the DA lamented to Stu that Arnold wouldn’t get the result he had desired. As Arnold had provoked Max, the best they could do was prosecute Max for manslaughter, not murder.

Bob, the former public defender, lamented that self-defense law must not be on the curriculum in California. Because neither Arnold nor Marty had the slightest idea how it worked.

A person may defend himself when he has a reasonable belief that there is an imminent threat of physical harm to his person. In defending himself, the defender may use the same amount of force being used by person against whom the defender is defending himself. Max reasonably believed Arnold was chasing him with a gun and was going to kill him. That’s what those of us who know how self-defense actually works, call deadly force. Because Max reasonably believed Arnold was going to use deadly force, Max was entitled to use deadly force to defend himself against Arnold.

But, wait, Arnold didn’t have a gun, so he wasn’t going to use deadly force against Max. Doesn’t that disqualify Max from asserting self-defense? Do you really think I would have wasted all these column inches, if the answer to that were yes? If the person has a reasonable belief he is in danger of being killed, he may assert self-defense, even if he is, in fact, mistaken in that belief. Like I said, that’s been the law of the land since at least 1910. Probably longer.

In order to goad Max into killing him so that Max could be prosecuted for his murder, Arnold spent a good part of the episode convincing everyone, especially Max, he was going to kill Max. Max had a reasonable belief Arnold intended to kill him. Meaning Max had a right to use deadly force to defend himself, even though Arnold never actually intended to use deadly force. Max didn’t commit murder or even manslaughter. Max didn’t commit any crime at all. Nick Adams might have been guilty of overacting a bit, but Max, he was as innocent as Dr. Richard Kimble, Jason McCord, and all of Perry Mason’s clients. Combined. (Wow, I really have to kick this fixation on old TV shows.)

Arnold, you knew less about the law than a first year student at the worst law school in the country. And because of that, like Narcissus withering away by that pool of water, you died in vain.

Emily S. Whitten: San Diego Comic-Con Party Round Up 2018

It’s been universally accepted that San Diego Comic-Con is the place to be when it comes to elaborate comic-con parties, including a slew of more exclusive events. For no other genre convention do multiple news outlets make long, detailed lists of where to go for a (potentially) good time each evening.

And while the party scene may be shrinking due to companies focusing more on the activations, there were still plenty of parties to fill out your SDCC weekend.

I’ve been covering the SDCC party scene for years now. And while I haven’t been to every party (because to do so I’d have to propagate more clones of myself than Spider-Man ever had), I’ve been to enough fab parties and flops that I both think it’s worth it to make the rounds if you can, and know the downsides that go along with trying to do so.

Before I get into this year’s parties, let me share a few things I’ve learned about the SDCC party scene:

  1. Unless you are a Legit Famous Person, getting into invite-only parties can be a crapshoot. Even with my consistent press coverage at SDCC and other cons, as well as writing about genre entertainment throughout the year, I’ve had years where the people who immediately put me on the list the previous year didn’t even respond to an event inquiry, and years where the opposite happened or I receive an invite to an exclusive party I didn’t even know about. There are some companies that are more (what I see as) loyal, and consistently invite you to their SDCC parties and treat you well, and some companies that are weirdly flaky. And then, there are events that only happen in that particular way one year; or where you manage to squeeze onto the list for one year, but a spot can’t be spared another despite your knowledge that it’s not personal; or where the rules change so that one year only people who directly work with the company are invited. Sometimes, invites seem random; and sometimes, you truly do have to know someone. But also, even if you are on the list, SDCC is so chaotic that if the person at the door can’t find your name, you might still be screwed (depends on how understanding the check-in staff is, really). Or you’re definitely on the list, they’ve got your name right there, but it turns out the party is already “at capacity” thirty minutes in. Like I said – crapshoot.
  2. It is often impossible to predict how good a party will be. I’ve been to amazing parties that were not that “exclusive,” and really-hard-to-access parties, with famous people right nearby, that turned out to be kinda lame. (And yes, I’ve even crashed some parties. That’s not a predictor either, although it is occasionally a good time.) What’s fun about this spectrum of events is even a lame party is still a party (possibly with free drinks!) and you can always leave if you’re bored (oh, except for that one nightmare time I got stuck in the literal cordoned off press pen they set up at The Last Ship party a few years ago, where we weren’t allowed to go to the actual party if we’d said we’d take red carpet pics first; there was no food or water or seating; and we were told we couldn’t go to the restroom or we wouldn’t be let back in. It was awful and I’m still bitter and PR people take note: press never forget being treated like second class citizens. Anyway. Moving on!)
    Another fun thing is the coolest party you go to might be a nice surprise because it’s a thing you didn’t expect. (The downside, of course, is if you roll the dice on two simultaneous parties and it turns out the one you didn’t pick was The Best Thing Ever and all your friends ended up there and had a blast. Oh, FOMO, how I wish you didn’t exist.) This is because a cool venue and big-name company, property, or guests are no guarantee of a hit. What really matters is if there’s stuff to do (this could be literal stuff, like gadgets to play with, photo booths, a game to watch or play, artists to watch as they draw, etc., or interesting people to talk to, including creators and celebrities who actually enjoy mingling instead of being cordoned off at their private tables the whole night, or friends who have been permitted to attend as your plus-one), thoughtful theming in both decor and good food and drink, and people treating each other well and like we’re all people even if we’re not all famous. This is why even the open parties can be a blast if done right (the Nerd HQ parties, which I mourn the loss of, being one example).
  1. Some parties really are just The Best Thing Ever. Events that stand out over the years include the Nickelodeon Double Dare party (put that one in the Hall of Fame, it was perfect!), the American Gods rooftop party, the Scholastic parties, the Dent the Future cocktail parties, the Fashionably Nerdy cocktail hour, the NVE + Nylon Mag parties, the Nerd HQ parties, Michael Davis’s shindigs, and, of course, that time I went to a club to see Elijah Wood DJ on a whim and it turned out he was really good.

So given that, what parties did I hit up this year? And which ones were the most fun? Well:

Wednesday:

Wednesday night is usually low-key, since preview night runs until 9 and can be exhausting. This year we stuck with what’s become a tradition and headed over to Basic Bar/Pizza with a small group of friends. Basic does a really good pizza, and is also the location for Gabe Eltaeb’s Annual Comic-Con Kickoff Party, now in its 5th year. I’ve been to every one of these, and although I confess when I walk in the door the biggest thing on my mind after preview night is “food!” the event is also really neat. They have quality artists doing live sketches which they raffle off along with other prizes to raise money for the Hero Initiative, which helps comics creators in need due to medical or financial crises. This year, the live sketches were done by Gabe Eltaeb (Harley Quinn), Todd Nauck (Deadpool), Jim Calafiore (Exiles), Chad Cavanaugh (The Map), and Jeff Martinez (Skull Thumper); and other prizes came from companies like Blizzard, Funko, and Dark Horse Comics. It’s a cool, laid back event to try on the first night, you can usually walk in without too much trouble, and it’s done for a good cause. And even while rapidly consuming large quantities of pizza, I appreciated both the atmosphere and the party music coming from the event side of the bar.

Thursday:

This year, it seemed like almost every single party I wanted to hit up was on Thursday night. I made it to four of the five I’d decided I might be able to get to based on start times (I really wanted to make the Dent the Future Reception, too, but I confess I took a nap instead). Here are the ones I got to:

Tor Books / Den of Geek Happy Hour – this was at the Horton Grand Hotel Courtyard, and was an invite-only party for industry insiders. The setting was nice (an airy open atrium area with a connecting indoor room) and they had open bars in both rooms with themed cocktails (The Superhero and The Supervillain – I got the Superhero, which had blue curacao and vodka, pineapple, triple sec, lime juice, and soda, and it was mighty tasty), hors d’oeuvres, and a full dessert table. They also had a variety of swag, ranging from funky branded sunglasses and Den of Geek’s SDCC magazine to a gift bag with a bunch of Tor books. I always like it when parties have something fun to do, and this one had a photobooth with great props that I hopped into with NPR’s Petra Mayer, YA author Alexa Donne, and other friends. I also had fun chats with the delightful author and co-editor of Boing Boing Cory Doctorow, YA author Scott Westerfeld, and other industry greats. This party was excellent, and I only left because I didn’t want to miss…

The Scholastic Graphix Party – this was on the pool deck of the Hotel Palomar, which is a great outdoor venue, and was an invite-only party. I always make sure I stop by the Scholastic shindig, which has good food, themed desserts, and open bar; nice (if heavy!) swag bags of books; usually at least an activity or two going on; and fun guests – plus, at this event not only are there friends around, but also I somehow always end up running into at least a couple of industry friends I otherwise might not have seen all con (this year it was author and editor Joe McCabe). This year’s party featured guests such as Raina Telgemeier (Smile), Ian Boothby (Sparks!), Jarrett Krosoczka (Hey, Kiddo), Molly Knox Ostertag (The Hidden Witch), Aron Nels Steinke (Mr. Wolf’s Class), and Gale Galligan (The Baby-Sitters Club), as well as Jim Kay, Daniel Jose Older, Victoria Schwab, Maggie Stiefvater, and Scott Westerfeld (again!). I couldn’t stay at Scholastic forever, though, because I didn’t want to miss…

The Lion Forge Talent Reception – this one was an invite-only gig at The Bootlegger (and I’m a sucker for anything with a speakeasy feel, so I loved the venue choice). To be honest, that’s about all of the setting I noticed at this party, because my entire time there was spent catching up with the wall-to-wall awesome comics creators and industry folks I was surrounded by – including Gail Simone, Dean Haspiel, Ben McCool, Reilly Brown, Ben Fisher, and Jim Calafiore. (I also got to attend the Lion Forge Fall Preview panel on Sunday, where they talked about a slew of great comics coming soon from names like Michael Uslan, Andrew Pepoy, and David F. Walker, and announced that Gail Simone will be the “Chief Architect” of the Catalyst Prime line of comics. More about that in another piece). How did I end up at this party? Well, let’s just say Ben Fisher and I are working on an exciting new project! As much fun as we were having, though, I still had one party on my list, and I couldn’t miss out on saying hey to the crew at…

The Line Webtoon Green Room Party – this one was an invite-only event at the Altitude Sky Lounge, and it was over-the-top excellent, as are all Line Webtoon parties I’ve attended. (P.S. If you haven’t checked out their comics, you really should. They have a great variety of cool stories you can read for free on their super easy-to-use app.) The view was amazing; they had a crazy setup with green lights everywhere; and we all got casino chips with which to “gamble” before using them to try to win a big ticket raffle item. There, Ben and I met up with Thom Zahler, Luke Daab, The Beat’s Heidi MacDonald, Tony Fleecs, and so many more. It was a great end to a pretty crazy night, and the swag bags had several cool items, including a classy set of branded coasters. Everything Line Webtoon does has style, and this party was no exception.

Friday:

Okay, so Thursday was pretty wild, and we paid for it on Friday. I ended up skipping a couple of planned parties (Sorry to miss you, Nerds of Color/Women in Comics mixer!) but did make it to:

The NatGeo and Nerd Nite Mars Party – this party is consistently quality, and this year was great from the get-go – from the reasonably-sized VIP line to the cool red glowstick wristbands. Set on the pool terrace at the Hotel Solamar, this party had a ton of good food, free drinks, and the coolest entertainment I saw at any party – performers inside giant LED-lit hula hoops, whirling and twisting between the crowds and the pool. Advertising the NatGeo series MARS, which begins again November 12, the party had a projection of Mars on the side of a building, a glowing red décor, MARS pillows, miniature MARS cornhole games, and “astronauts” on stilts handing out Mars Bars. And on top of all of that, it featured a number of talks about real science, featuring Alejandro T. Rojas from Den of Geek, Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Emily Manor-Chapman, Bobak Ferdowski, Systems Engineer with Jet Propulsion Laboratory and NASA, and Leland Melvin, former NASA astronaut. This party is a combination of awesome fun and real nerd substance, and it was an absolute blast.

Saturday:

One thing I love about SDCC is that sometimes, randomly, an awesome event pops up for the first time; and if you’re lucky enough to hear about it, you can end up being one of a select crowd of folks enjoying something that may eventually become another crowded, sought-after evening event; or may be that magical unicorn that only occurs once and that you got to experience. Either may happen with the fun event I went to on Saturday night:

The Bootsy Collins House Party, hosted by DJ Lance Rock and featuring Tom Kenny & the Hi-Seas Rocknsoul Revue. I don’t know how the other attendees got the word on this party, but I lucked into it when I texted Tom (best known as the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants and other great cartoon voices) a couple of weeks beforehand to see if I’d be seeing him at the con. At that time, the event was just coming together, and even Tom wasn’t sure quite what to expect. It was held in the courtyard of the San Diego Central Library, and had the charm of being lively, funky, and a bit unpredictable. I arrived as the band was setting up, only to immediately run into the delightful Fred Tatasciore (best known as the voice of The Hulk). We caught up as Tom warmed up the crowd with an amazing “mic check” song, and then all hung out with DJ Lance Rock until the Hi-Seas, dressed in New Orleans-themed sequins, were ready to go. They are super talented, and Tom, along with being such a versatile voice actor, is a fantastic singer. He’s also a super energetic performer, and totally into it, which makes it more fun for the crowd to let loose.

One of the fun things he did was take down the barriers that had been set up between crowd and performers and invite little kids, and anyone else who wanted to, to come up and dance. A bunch of kids went up, along with a variety of adults including at least one couple who were dressed in classic clothes and could have easily won a couples dance contest. It was great to watch everyone dancing, as well as to see Tom roaming out into the crowd to interact with attendees. The band also sang Happy Birthday to a few folks; and eventually, performed some SpongeBob songs. Around that time I was dying for some food – but happily, the Central Library snack bar had stayed open, so I chilled in the back with Fred and ate a sandwich while the music went on. And then came Bootsy Collins. How do you describe Bootsy Collins? I mean…over the top? The sparkliest man I’ve ever seen? Extremely warm and giving to his fans? (The first thing he did was dance out into the crowd, take a million selfies with anyone who indicated they wanted one, and sign some autograph books, all while grooving to the beat). He was great to watch, and along with performing, hosted a dance competition with Tom (I couldn’t see everyone who won, but congrats to the Death cosplayer who was dancing up a storm and won the first round). The whole thing was crazy fun, and I’m so glad I got to go.

And that was the end of the party scene for me this year – although I also want to mention the fun I have just chilling with friends in the evenings between the other excitement. Sometimes, that’s exactly what you need at SDCC to balance things out and recharge – so shout-out to all my friends who invited me to come relax the rest of the night away at bars and hotel room parties. Cheers to you, fellow nerds. You’re what makes life precious. See you next time!

 

Glenn Hauman: Four Or Five Moments

Even when you thought you could get away from watching the news that was on every other channel by watching a rerun of Deadpool on FX, you couldn’t get away from the concept.

Four or five moments – that’s all it takes to be a hero. Everyone thinks it’s a full-time job. Wake up a hero. Brush your teeth a hero. Go to work a hero. Not true. Over a lifetime, there are only four or five moments that really matter. Moments when you’re offered a choice – to make a sacrifice, conquer a flaw, save a friend, spare an enemy. In these moments, everything else falls away.

Which leads us to John McCain.

Asked how he wanted to be remembered, McCain said: “He served his country, and not always right — made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors — but served his country, and, I hope we could add, honorably.”

And he was right to criticize himself. He made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors. Cheating on his first wife. His time with the Keating Five. Rude jokes about Chelsea Clinton’s parentage. Picking Sarah Palin as his running mate, thereby introducing her to the rest of the world and coarsening the standards for high public service. Ditching an appearance on David Letterman’s show claiming he was needed in Washington, then staying in New York to do an interview with CBS News instead.

But still. Four or five moments. Here are some of them.

  • During the Vietnam War, he was injured, captured, held prisoner, and tortured. Yet he refused an out-of-sequence early repatriation offer, and would not consent to release unless every man taken in before him was also released.
  • When he ran for President in 2008, during a campaign rally Q&A in Minnesota, Gayle Quinnell, a 75-year old McCain supporter said she did not trust Obama because “he’s an Arab.” McCain took the mic back and replied to the woman, “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man, a citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.” He knew his base well enough to know that making that statement would cost him votes, and he made it anyway.
  • When Donald Trump was elected, McCain took it upon himself personally to try and reassure world leaders, visiting multiple countries in the first six months of 2017 at the age of 80, exhausting himself before he got his cancer diagnosis.
  • Two weeks after brain surgery, on July 28 of last year, he cast the decisive vote against the Republicans’ final proposal that month, the so-called “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act, which failed 49–51.

Four or five moments.

Maybe it’s enough.

The Law Is A Ass #437: Green Arrow Joins The FB Aye-Yi-Yi

No, I didn’t lie.

All I said I was that I finished with the Arrow episode “Docket No. 11-19-41-73.” I never said I was finished with Arrow.

Now, all Arrow had to do for me to be finished with it was get through the last two episodes of the 6th season without any outrageous legal gaffs. Aaaaaand it couldn’t even do that. Hell, the season finale “Life Sentence” couldn’t even get through the “Previously on Arrow” part without an outrageous legal gaff.

You will recall, unless you purged the nonsense of “Docket No. 11-19-41-73” from your mind – and I wouldn’t blame you if you had – that Oliver (The Green Arrow) Queen and Team Arrow were fighting Ricardo Diaz, a crime lord who had taken over Star City. In the “Previously on” section of “Life Sentence” Oliver went to FBI agent Samandra Watson and asked her help to take down Diaz. Watson, who had been in Star City all season investigating whether Oliver Queen was secretly the Green Arrow – so far unsuccessfully – told Ollie, and I quote, “You want my help, I’m going to need you to say the words.” “The words” being an admission that he was the Green Arrow.

Now what Ollie should have answered was, “Listen, lady, how about I tell your frelling boss that instead taking down a frakking international crime lord, like you’re supposed to do, you’re threatening to withhold FBI cooperation unless I admit I’m a criminal?” (Although, I would have substituted in a few of what Mr. Spock called “more colorful metaphors.”) Instead, Ollie admitted he was Green Arrow. And by the end of the episode –

SPOILER ALERT!

– the FBI used Ollie’s confession to get him to agree to a plea bargain. We’ll forgo discussing the details of the plea bargain for the nonce, because we have other nonsense to discuss first. Such as the fact that the FBI was able to use Ollie’s statement against him in the first place.

The Fifth Amendment says that no person can be compelled to be a witness against himself. Courts have interpreted said language to mean the government cannot coerce a confession from a person. Now as I don’t think any of you have any problem accepting that an FBI agent is part of the government, the real question is, did Agent Watson compel Ollie into confessing? What say thee, Messrs. Merriam and Webster?

You say to compel is, “to cause to do or occur by overwhelming pressure.” I think what Agent Watson did fits that definition nicely, so I am unconvinced that Ollie’s confession could have been used against him in a court of law. So unconvinced, in fact that I think even Jean Loring, as bad a lawyer as she showed herself to be in Ollie’s trial, could have won that argument.

Watson’s next step in bringing down Diaz, the one taken after she had stepped all over Ollie’s constitutional rights, was to go to Quentin Lance, the acting mayor of Star City, and have him sign an authorization for the FBI to operate in Star City, because “Diaz’s crimes are local.” Then Diaz spent the rest of the episode trying to extort Mayor Lance into rescinding said authorization. Which makes me wonder, was no one paying attention to what Diaz had been doing all season?

Here are just a few of Diaz’s many crimes. Diaz used Star City’s docks to import illegal narcotics into the city which he then distributed for sale. That means Diaz was involved in crimes that either crossed state or international borders or both. The FBI has jurisdiction to investigate interstate and international crimes. It don’t need no steenkin’ authorization from the local authorities.

Diaz joined The Quadrant, an international criminal organization. Or what the FBI calls transnational organized crime. And you know why the FBI calls it that? Because it has jurisdiction to investigate TOC activities at the local level without authorization.

Still I can’t fault the show for making this mistake. Without the B plot, the episode would have had twenty minutes to fill. And it might have filled it with something even dumber.

Which brings us full circle, back to Ollie’s plea bargain. In return for Ollie admitting he was Green Arrow and pleading guilty to whatever federal offenses he violated by being the Green Arrow, the federal government agreed to grant immunity for all the members of Team Arrow. Then Ollie went off to federal prison.

While Team Arrow all went to state prison. See, the FBI and the federal government could only grant Team Arrow immunity from prosecution for federal crimes. It had no jurisdiction to grant them immunity from prosecution for any state crimes they may have committed.

Remember when John Diggle, Dinah Drake, and Felicity Smoak testified that Ollie wasn’t the Green Arrow? That was perjury. Remember how Ollie was being prosecuted for vigilantism? Well those three could have been prosecuted for all the acts of vigilantism they committed as Spartan, Black Canary, and Overwatch. As could Curtis (Mr. Terrific) Holt and Rene (Wild Dog) Ramirez. Team Arrow could even have been prosecuted as aiders and abettors for all the crimes Ollie was prosecuted for in “Docket No. 11-19-41-73.” The feds couldn’t have granted them immunity for any of those state crimes. So Ollie’s happy ending? Only if he’s happy that Team Arrow’s on the Friends and Family Plan.

Okay, Team Arrow wasn’t actually prosecuted and didn’t actually go to prison. I guess law schools in Star City don’t have any classes on the difference between federal and local jurisdiction. Which is probably fortunate for us. After the nonsense that was “Docket No. 11-19-41-73,” did we really want to suffer through Docket Nos. 11-19-41-74, 75, 76, 77, and 78?

The Law Is A Ass #436: Is Green Arrow Not Guilty By Reason Of Inanity?

I’m sick of it!

I’ve spent the past three weeks writing about the Arrow episode “Docket No. 11-19-41-73” and like Popeye said, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!” No matter how long it takes, I’m going to finish with “Docket No. 11-19-41-73” today. Even if I have to write about it from the beginning all the way to the SPOILER WARNING! at the episode’s end.

(more…)

The Law Is A Ass

The Law Is A Ass #435: Green Arrow Adds Insult To Perjury

Suppose you were a lawyer. (Don’t worry, this is just a thought experiment. I wouldn’t wish that fate on my worst enemy; only on myself.) Suppose also, that you told your significant other you wouldn’t get married until you had established yourself as a lawyer. Suppose further that you couldn’t establish yourself as a lawyer, because you kept losing all your trials. And, finally, suppose you continued losing trials until your significant other became a super hero and secretly helped you win them. What would you call yourself?

Self-centered would be a good start. Then you could move on to lucky your significant other was so understanding. Calling yourself a bad lawyer goes without saying, but you should probably say it, anyway. Finally, you could call yourself Jean Loring, because that was her character arc in 1961, when she was introduced in the comics.

Jean’s not like that in the comics anymore, but let’s not go there. (Aw, c’mon, if we go there, Amazon gives us a cut! –Ed.) Instead let’s go to the world of the TV series Arrow, where Jean Loring is just a bad lawyer and hasn’t become an insane murderer. Yet.

I’ve spent two columns so far writing about the Arrow episode Docket No. 11-19-41-73.” You know, the one where Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen was on trial for violating Star City’s anti-vigilante law and some assorted homicides and assaults. So far, I’ve only covered the prosecution’s case. Now, to have Jean paraphrase that Get Smart episode when Max was on trial for murder, “For the past two columns, I have sat idly by while my worthy opponent, the prosecuting attorney has stood up here and made a complete jackass out of herself. Now it’s my turn.”

Two state’s witnesses – John Diggle and Dinah Lance, both of whom are secretly costumed heroes who work with Ollie on Team Arrow – lied under oath. They testified that Ollie was not Green Arrow. If Jean were to get information that Ollie was the Green Arrow, she would be ethically required to report their perjury to the court. Moreover, Jean would also not be able to question Ollie or any other witness, if she believed they would lie under oath and testify he wasn’t Green Arrow. That would be suborning perjury.

So the last thing Jean would want to do is ask Ollie, “Are you the Green Arrow?”Naturally, it was the first thing Jean did. Did it before she even put on her first witness. And Ollie told her he was. Because he’s the hero, he wouldn’t lie. He wasn’t under oath yet.

Once Jean knew Ollie was Green Arrow, she suggested their best tactic was jury nullification; that is admit to the jury that Ollie was Green Arrow but argue that the jury should still find him not guilty, because of all the good he had done as the Green Arrow. Basically, you asking the jury to nullify the law by ignoring it and returning a verdict that is contrary to the evidence and the law.

There were a few minor problems with Jean’s jury nullification plan. First, lawyers aren’t supposed to do it. You can’t ask the juries to ignore the law, you’re supposed to ask them to obey it. Second, because jury nullification is not permitted, when judges see lawyers engaging in jury nullification, they put a stop to it. Third, Judge MacGarvey, the judge presiding over Ollie’s trial, was corrupt and under the control of Ricardo Diaz, the crime boss who ruled Star City and who wanted Ollie to be convicted and rot in prison.

Did I say minor problems? A bar serving under-aged drinkers has minor problems. This plan had major problems; more than the 4077th.

Jean was trying a case in front of a judge she suspected had a vested interest in making sure Ollie was convicted and her plan was to hope he’d allow her to assert an improper defense he had every reason – both ethical and financial – to stop. It’s a good thing the 2017 Cleveland Browns didn’t fire their head coach after that 0-16 season, because with those strategy skills, the Browns would have snatched Jean up in a second.

Ollie rejected jury nullification, so Jean went with a more conventional defense. Her first witness was Felicity Smoak; Ollie’s wife and Team Arrow’s resident computer hacker. You know one of those characters who’s constantly typing on a computer and are contractually obligated to say,“Hack into the Pentagon’s computer. They’ve got the most sophisticated security in the—”

“I’m in.”

Felicity testified as a computer expert that a photo of Ollie as the Green Arrow was a fake that had been digitally altered. Which it was. So Felicity was telling the truth. Had Jean stopped there, everything would have been fine.

She…. didn’t stop there.

The code of lawyer ethics has a protocol for lawyers who believe a witness is going to commit perjury. Ethically, the lawyer can’t ask the witness questions and elicit lies. That’s suborning perjury. But ethically, the lawyer can’t refuse to call witnesses the defendant wants called, either. It’s the client’s defense. Defense counsel is the defendant’s advocate and is supposed to do what the client wants. So when the defendant wants the lawyer to call a witness who will commit perjury, the lawyer is supposed to call the witness and then just say something like, “Tell us what happened in your own words,” and let the witness give a narrative account That way, the witness testifies but without the lawyer asking any questions that elicit any lies.

Yes, that solution splits more hairs than Floyd the Barber shortly before the big Mayberry Founder’s Day Parade. But it’s the compromise the profession set up to cover the problem.

Jean, being a bad lawyer, didn’t do that either. She asked Felicity, is Oliver Queen the Green Arrow and Felicity answered no. Jean was pig-headed and did things her way. Which raises the question, was that suborned perjury or stubborn perjury?

Jean compounded the subornation with her next witness, Oliver Queen. She asked him whether he was the Green Arrow knowing he’d say no under oath and he played along by saying no. So far we’ve had four witnesses who committed perjury, a defense attorney who openly suborns perjury, and a prosecutor who didn’t interview any of her witnesses before calling them. Could this trial get any more preposterous? Of course it could.

Right after Ollie’s testimony, the episode had an act break. It needed a hook to keep the audience from changing channels while the network hawked some new drugs whose side effects always seem to be lymphoma, heart failure, kidney infection, death, loss of life, and diarrhea.

So just before that act break, the episode decided to insult our intelligence by having a surprise witness drop into the courtroom through the courtroom’s shattering skylight. A surprise witness wearing a Green Arrow costume.

And what was this surprise witness’s testimony? Wouldn’t you like to know?

Actually, I presume you would like to know. So I’ll tell you. But I’ll tell you next time. Just as the show needed an act-break hook, I need a this-column’s-too-long-and-needs-to-break-until-next-column hook. And as hooks go, a mysterious, skylight-shattering surprise witness works better than a pirate’s prosthetic.

The Law Is A Ass #434: Green Arrow’s Prosecutor Is Trying My Patience

If, as it has been said, a fish rots from the head down, then Team Arrow, from The CW’s Arrow, must be a twenty ton whale shark that’s decomposing from the head, Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen, down through the rotting body that is Green Arrow’s support group, Team Arrow. Why I call them rotten is something we’ll go into as “The Law Is a Ass” continues to suffer the migraine that is the Arrow episode “Docket No. 11-19-41-73.”

Ollie, a super hero in Star City was on trial for violating Star City’s anti-vigilante law and for some homicides and assaults occasioned by the fact that on occasion he shot people with arrows. I started writing about Ollie’s trial last column. I didn’t get too far. I covered the facts that Ollie’s trial was in Judge McGarvey’s courtroom; that McGarvey was under the thumb of Ricardo Diaz, the crime lord who rather openly ruled Star City; that Alexa Van Owen was the prosecutor; and that Jean Loring was defense counsel. I mentioned that Alexa called John Diggle, who was secretly the second-in-command of Team Arrow, and that John, with Ollie’s full knowledge and approval, perjured himself by testifying Ollie was not the Green Arrow.

I pointed out that Alexa wasn’t doing a very good job, because she called witnesses she had not interviewed before trial, so did not know what their testimony would be. I think the second thing they teach you in law school is don’t call a witness about whose testimony you’re uncertain and don’t ask a question whose answer you don’t already know. (The first thing they teach you is how to find the Tuition Office.)

So did Alexa’s job performance improve as the trial went on? Is the Dalai Lama Catholic?

Alexa’s next witness was Dinah Drake, a detective in the Star City Police Department, and also secretly the super hero Black Canary. And guess who didn’t lock down Dinah’s testimony before calling her as a witness?

Did you guess the prosecutor who didn’t know in advance that Dinah was going to perjure herself and testify that Oliver Queen wasn’t Green Arrow. How do I know that Alexa didn’t know what Dinah was going say in advance? Logic and the Rules of Evidence.

If Alexa had interviewed Dinah and learned Dinah was going to say Ollie wasn’t Green Arrow, then Alexa wouldn’t have called her. Not calling a witness whose testimony will contradict your case is so basic that not even Dr. McCoy would have quibbled over the logic. If, on the other hand, Alexa had interviewed Dinah and Dinah had told her Ollie was Green Arrow, then Alexa would have had a prior inconsistent statement from Dinah, which she could have used to impeach Dinah’s testimony.

The Rules of Evidence in most states allow a party in a trial to impeach its own witnesses. When the party calling the witness wants to impeach it’s own witness with a prior inconsistent statement, that party must first show that it was surprised by the testimony and that the testimony has affirmatively damaged its case. Or, put in language that even Cousin Vinny could understand, “Hey, Judge, I didn’t know da witness wuz gonna say dat, and it hoits my case.”

If Alexa had a prior statement from Dinah saying Ollie was Green Arrow, she could have argued to Judge McGarvey that Dinah’s testimony both surprised her and hurt her case. After McGarvey agreed — and even this bleeding-heart former defense attorney, agrees Alexa could show surprise and affirmative damage – Alexa could have impeached Dinah with the prior inconsistent statement. That Alexa either didn’t either know what Dinah was going to say or failed to impeach Dinah only shows that she didn’t interview Dinah before trial.

Oh, Alexa did impeach Dinah, but her method of impeachment was just as incompetent as her tactic of not interviewing her witnesses before trial. Alexa asked Dinah, over objection, whether she had murdered a drug-dealer named Sean Sonas. (Dinah had; trust me. I’ve seen all the Arrow episodes so I saw her do it.) Dinah declined to answer on 5th Amendment grounds.

Courts have held it’s improper to call a witness you know will invoke his or her 5th Amendment rights, because it is an attempt to build one’s case out of what the jury will infer from the witness’s invocation of the 5th Amendment. It’s just as improper to impeach a witness by asking a question you know will cause the witness to invoke the 5th Amendment. The jury will infer the witness must have committed the crime that the witness refuses to testify about and disregard the testimony of a witness it infers to be a criminal.

When Alexa asked Dinah whether Dinah murdered Sonas, she violated this principle. Not only should she never have asked the question, Judge McGarvey should have sustained the objection and never allowed the question to be asked. But, like I said earlier, McGarvey was a Black Friday judge; bought and paid for at bargain basement prices.

Alexa’s next witness was Rene Ramirez, secretly the Team Arrow member called Wild Dog. Rene originally planned to follow Team Arrow’s putrescent perjury party line and say Ollie wasn’t Green Arrow. (Meaning, once again, Alexa probably didn’t interview him before trial.) Rene changed his mind when Diaz threatened to harm Rene’s daughter, if he didn’t testify “properly.”

So for the first – and only – time in her trial, Alexa had a witness who did testify that Oliver Queen was Green Arrow. Then Alexa got to the heart of the various homicide and assault charges leveled against Ollie. She asked Rene if he ever saw Green Arrow kill or maim people. Rene testified that he had, but there were too many occurrences for him to estimate how many people it was.

With that triumphant testimony, Alexa rested her case.

And promptly lost every homicide and assault count leveled against Ollie. Or should have, anyway. This is a TV trial, remember, so we can’t expect it actually to follow such things as burden of proof or proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We can hope, but we shouldn’t really expect it.

See, in a trial for homicide and assault, it isn’t enough for a witness to testify that he saw the defendant kill or maim lots of people. The witness has to testify that he saw the defendant kill or maim the specific victims named in the indictments. Or, if not that, how about the testimony of the medical examiner that he pulled green arrows out of the corpses of people Oliver Queen was charged with killing? Something, anything, to prove that Ollie killed the people named in the indictment as opposed to a general murder of murder victims.

Had a competent defense counsel moved for a verdict of acquittal on the homicide and assault counts because the prosecution failed to offer any evidence that the defendant actually killed or assaulted the named victims, it would have been granted. Naturally Jean Loring, didn’t even go through the motions by making the motion. After all, where would the drama in the episode be if a prosecutor as inept as Alexa Van Owen were facing a competent defense attorney?

So after spending a couple of weeks describing what a lousy prosecutor Alexa Van Owen was, is it now time for me to write about what a lousy defense attorney Jean Loring was?

No.

Next time will be.

Meaning this column has run out of what the newspaper game calls column inches. We’ll have to talk about what a lousy attorney Jean Loring was next column. And probably the column after that. There was so much barristerly balderdash in “Docket No. 11-19-41-73” that I’m afraid we’re in for a long haul down the halls of justice.

The Law Is A Ass #433: Green Arrow Wants Me To Trial Little Tenderness

The Law Is A Ass #433: Green Arrow Wants Me To Trial Little Tenderness

I think I’m losing all respect for Oliver (The Green Arrow) Queen. And considering when the TV series Arrow started he was a stone killer except he killed people not stones, I didn’t have very much respect for him to begin with.

We’re talking about the Arrow episode “Docket No. 11-19-41-73.” Keep those numbers handy; we’ll be talking about them for a while. And, no, I wouldn’t advise playing them in your local lottery. Why should those numbers be winners? Nothing else about this episode was.

Ricardo Diaz, the crime lord who had taken control of Star City earlier in the season felt it wasn’t enough that he used the corrupt politicians under his control to impeach Oliver as the Mayor of Star City, he also had his underlings prosecute Oliver. Diaz wanted Oliver to spend the rest of his life in prison, while Ollie watched Diaz ravage Star City. Diaz even brought in a special prosecutor, Alexa Van Owen with her 99% conviction rate, to prosecute Ollie. And that still wasn’t the worst thing Diaz did. Considering Kirk Acevedo, the actor playing Diaz, never saw a piece of scenery in the Arrow sets that he didn’t treat as a blue plate special, the worst thing Diaz did was emote.

Now you may be wondering what crimes Star City was prosecuting Ollie for in the case and episode called “Docket No. 11-19-41-73.” Wonder no more, I’m here to tell you.

That is, I would be here to tell you, if the episode had bothered telling us. I know Ollie was being prosecuted for violating Star City’s anti-vigilante ordinance by being The Green Arrow. I know that, because it’s the one count in Ollie’s indictment the episode did bother to mention.

Actually, there were probably multiple counts of illegal vigilantism. Star City Council enacted the anti-vigilante ordinance early in Season 6, so any time Ollie went out as the Green Arrow after that – which, considering the show is called Arrow, was every episode – that was a new, and separately-indictable violation of the ordinance. But there still had to be more.

Laws passed by city councils, as opposed to laws enacted by state legislatures, are misdemeanors not felonies. I’ve mentioned this before and I wish TV people would remember it. Misdemeanors don’t normally carry sentences in excess of one year. Felonies do. Prosecutor Van Owen offered Ollie a plea bargain with a fifteen-year agreed sentence. So, Ollie had to be charged with at least one major felony for an agreed sentence of fifteen years to be considered a bargain.

But what felony? The show didn’t tell us specifically, but it did give us enough information to let me make a law-school-educated guess. I’m guessing there were multiple indictments for the many murders and assaults with a deadly weapon that Green Arrow committed by shooting actual arrows into actual people over the course of the show.

There had to be some murder indictments somewhere in mix, because Ms. Van Owen’s offered plea bargain was to a single count of First Degree Manslaughter. Courts have ruled that a person cannot plead guilty to a crime, if it is not a lesser included offense to one of the crimes charged in the indictment. Pleading to crimes which are not lesser included offenses of one of the indicted offenses violates the defendant’s constitutional right to receive notice.

Manslaughter is not a lesser included offense of some “Don’t Be a Vigilante” Ordinance. First of all, manslaughter is a felony and, as I said, the anti-vigilante ordinance would be a misdemeanor. So manslaughter is a higher-degree crime than the anti-vigilante ordinance. It can’t be a lesser included offense.

Moreover, manslaughter wouldn’t contain any elements in common with anti-vigilante. One can be a vigilante without killing people. Hell, as brutal as he is, Batman does it all the time. So manslaughter also isn’t an included offense of anti-vigilante laws. On the other hand, manslaughter is a crime of lesser degree than murder and does contain common elements with murder. So if Ollie was offered a plea to manslaughter, he has to have been indicted for one, or more, murder.

After Ollie turned down the plea offer, the trial started. So did my note taking. Two legal pads and several Bics later, I was ready to start writing about the trial. Lucky me.

As her first witness, prosecutor Alexa Van Owen called Dr. Elisa Schwartz. Green Arrow had once brought fellow super hero Black Canary into Dr. Schwartz’s hospital with a knife wound and Dr. Schwartz was the attending physician. Alexa asked Dr. Schwartz that, as she was close enough to Green Arrow to determine his identity, whose face did she see? Dr. Schwartz answered that she was too busy treating her patient and didn’t pay enough attention to Green Arrow to determine his true identity.

Uh, Alexa, didn’t you vet your witness so that you’d know the answer to that all-important question before calling her? No. Okay. Still, a mistake that fundamental makes me doubt that 99% conviction rate. Seriously, on L.A. Law Susan Dey also played a prosecutor named Van Owen who would have done a better job. Hell, Susan Dey’s other big role, Laurie Partridge, would have done a better job.

Alexa’s next witness was John Diggle, Oliver Queen’s personal bodyguard, and also secretly Spartan, the second-in-command of Team Arrow. She asked John if Oliver Queen were the Green Arrow. He said no. And as the head of Oliver Queen’s security, John would know whether Ollie was Green Arrow. Again I’m forced to ask, did Alexa not vet her witnesses before calling them so that she’d know how he would answer her questions?

Okay, I admit that John perjured himself (with the full knowledge and approval of Ollie) because Ollie was the Green Arrow and John knew that. But Alexa didn’t know that. All she knew was that she posed a question to John and she didn’t know that he wasn’t going to give her the answer she was hoping he’d give her.

But Alexa impeached John’s damaging testimony. She pointed out all the injuries he had incurred in his years as Ollie’s body guard, so he couldn’t have been that good a security officer. Right, a body guard got injured protecting his charge; aren’t they supposed to do that? So John was conscientious in his job, that certainly proves he’s an unreliable witness the jury should ignore.

Did I say Laurie Partridge could have done a better job than Alexa? Hell, the Partridge Family dog Simone could have done a better job. At least he knows about vetting.

I’d tell you who Alexa called as her next witness, but this column is already pretty long and, when it comes to covering old Docket No. 11-19-41-73, I’m like someone who took sandpaper to his tablet computer. I’ve only scratched the Surface. (I’m not sure I’m even up to the third one yet.)

So, I’ll follow the time-honored tradition that all TV courts use when they need to go to commercial break. This column is in recess and will reconvene next week.