Tagged: Bruce Wayne

The Law Is A Ass #422: Penguin Issues A License To Kill… Logic

Like I said before, well if they’re gonna make it easy for me…

Seriously, the season premiere of Gotham, “Pax Penguina,” didn’t even get out of the teaser before I was thinking, “Well, that’s not right.” It didn’t get three scenes into its first act before the episode confirmed it wasn’t just not right, it was wronger than a sentence using the word, “wronger.” And take it from someone whose grammar wasn’t run over by a reindeer, that’s wrong.

What did we learn in the teaser of the episode? We learned that the Penguin was issuing Licenses of Misconduct in Gotham City. What did we learn in the first scene of the episode? That criminals in Gotham City were paying Penguin half their take to get their Licenses of Misconduct. We also learned that criminals with licenses were fully sanctioned by Penguin to commit crimes in Gotham City and that criminals who were operating without licenses were physically, and violently, stopped from committing crimes by Penguin’s henchmen led by Victor Zsasz. What did we learn in the second scene of the episode? That Penguin had reached a deal with the Mayor of Gotham City and its Police Commissioner. By only allowing licensed and sanctioned crime in Gotham City, Penguin had reduced violent crime rate in the pre-Batman and crime-ridden city by fifty-seven percent. And in order to keep those crime numbers low, the Mayor and Police Commissioner permitted Penguin’s licensed and sanctioned criminals to commit crimes without any police interference. Unlicensed criminals they could apprehend, but licensed criminals were to be left alone. Oh yeah, and that the Mayor and Police Commissioner weren’t doing this just to keep Gotham’s crime numbers low. They were also getting a percentage of Penguin’s action; a small percentage, but a percentage nonetheless. What did we learn in the third scene of the episode? That when criminals flashed their License of Misconduct to police officers, said police officers were supposed to let them continue their criminal acts without interference.

And what did I learn from three years of law school and twenty-eight years of practicing criminal law? (The first one of you who says, “nothing,” will get such a pinch!) I learned that the odds of such an arrangement between a crime boss and the city government actually existing are about the same as the odds of getting in to see the Great Oz; as in, “Not nobody, not nohow!”

Oh, I’m not saying that crime bosses won’t bribe local governmental officials to look the other way when their operatives commit crimes. Hell, any city, town, village, or burg big enough to have an organized government will likely have such an arrangement with the local crime bosses. Hell, even the ones with unorganized governments will have such an arrangement.

What I am saying is that it defies logic that any government regardless of size would have the type of arrangement with their local crime bosses that the city fathers of Gotham City had with the Penguin. Not one that involved actual, physical Licenses of Misconduct.

Oh, did I forget to mention that part? Penguin wasn’t issuing metaphorical or symbolic licenses. He wasn’t telling people, if you pay me half you’re take, you’re free to commit crimes in Gotham City and the police won’t bother you. No Penguin was issuing actual, physical pieces of card stock that were called License of Misconduct and made that promise.

How do I know this? Because I screen capped one of the licenses when Bruce Wayne held it for its Mr. DeMille-sanctioned close-up and studied it. So I can tell you this actual, physical card, suitable for lamination, had the actual words “License of Misconduct” printed on it, a number indicating which license it was and the name and address of the licensee. It contained a checklist of crimes: “Smuggle, Loot, Rob, Murder, Blackmail, Grand Theft, Larceny, Kidnapping, Arson,” with actual boxes to be checked to indicate which crimes the bearer was licensed to commit. The bottom of the license contained the following promise, “This license entitles bearer permission to commit criminal offenses without repercussions or punishment from issuing authority and its affiliates.” The license was signed in ink (not by Pierre Andre) and stamped with the Penguin’s official umbrella seal. Then just to show that the license was comprehensive, it indicated whether the licensee was an organ donor. (You’ll be glad to know that the license Bruce took off some mugger indicated he was an organ donor. Nice to know the guy was socially-conscious scum and not just common scum.)

Okay, I know that the organ donor thing was a sight gag. But the License of Misconduct thing, that’s a joke.

No crime boss would issue such an actual, physical License of Misconduct. No mayor or police commissioner would honor such a thing. And no police officer encountering such a thing would let the bearer go unimpeded in his criminal activities. Not if they wanted to keep on being crime bosses, mayors, police commissioners, or police officers.

How do I know this? I know this because previous seasons of Gotham have established that Gotham City has a District Attorney’s office. And what do all district attorney offices in TV shows, movies, comic books, novels, or any other work of fiction that supports our tropes have? A crusading DA who wants to become mayor or judge or governor or even President. Seriously, this cliché is so old, I think it’s the actual clich A.

Now you know what would a crusading district attorney who wanted to become mayor or judge or governor or even President love to be able to do? Prosecute the mayor, police commissioner, police officers, and local crime boss for corruption and R.I.C.O. violations.

And what’s the only piece of evidence that a crusading district attorney would need to prosecute the mayor, police commissioner, police officers, and local crime boss for corruption and R.I.C.O. violations? If you didn’t say an actual, physical License of Misconduct issued by the local crime boss which promises that the bearer was free to commit crimes without fear of being arrested, then what column have you been reading?

No, crime boss would print an actual physical License of Misconduct and no city official would honor such a thing because its mere existence would land all parties involved in the hoosegow. See, a License of Misconduct wouldn’t just be suitable for lamination, it would also be suitable for lamentation.

Marc Alan Fishman: That Moment That Makes You Feel Mortal

We here at ComicMix deal part-in-parcel with the capes and cowls. Super-powered beings who defy conventional laws of science, completing miraculous acts to save humanity from heinous villainy. Most folks on the outside looking in suppose that the fascination with our superheroes stems from the desire for escapism. Faced with our own mortal foibles and faults, we lust for the life that defies those insecurities – with laser vision, super strength, or any number of special skills and powers.

But I’d argue that while there exists that sci-fi appeal where our inner kid seeks out that which is totally cool, it’s those moments on the page (or on screen) where our heroes are most human that we truly find the best part of pulp fiction.

Bruce Wayne was a just a boy enjoying an amazing adventure at the movies with his parents. Depicted at an age where mom and dad were his heroes, we see the glee and unencumbered joy in his innocent face as his family exits the Monarch. Two flashes from the muzzle of a darkened revolver later, and Bruce loses everything. His heroes. His joy. His mentors. His innocence. His world shattered, we watch as he rebuilds himself in the name of justice and vengeance.

No matter what comes afterward – be it countless battles with colorful rogues, surviving devastating Earthquakes, or even accidentally being implicit in the destruction of the Justice League – we ultimately land back at those two shots fired that turned a boy into a lost soul. To change that origin, to remove that moment of mortality is to remove the sympathy that defines the single goal of Batman.

Peter Parker, imbued with the science-defying super-human properties of a spider, is able to become the antithesis to his normal self. A shy and introverted kid is given the power to let his id free. He gallivants to a local wrestling show to use his newfound powers for ill-gotten gains. I’ll spare you the rest; you know it all too well.

With the murder of dear Uncle Ben, Peter adopts the adage with great power comes great responsibility. That lesson, seated at the core of Spider-Man, is the moral nugget that defines the love we have for the character. Beyond all the web-slinging, trash-talking, and Mary Jane saving comes the guilt of a kid whose choices led the biggest loss in his life. That moment, that slip, makes the Amazing Spider-Man mortal.

In any story worth its salt, the conflict that arises must hold with it some connection to humanity. Be it man versus man, versus nature, or even versus himself, we as an audience must connect to something being presented in order to root our potential appreciation. When I think of a bad comic, a bad movie, or a loathsome TV show… more often than not what ultimately drags it down is that disconnect.

Think fondly of Star Wars: A New Hope. The retread of the heroes journey – reimagined as an epic space opera this time around – gives us Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, and Han Solo as our surrogates. The kid with wanderlust. The leader protecting her people. The asshole just trying to make a buck and live to see tomorrow. Through their eyes and actions, we see mortals with fears and dreams. We travel with them and succeed where they succeed.

Now, think of The Phantom Menace.

For the Star Wars apologists, I won’t deny there were attempts at adding a touch of humanity to the over-glossy under-written prequel. Anakin Skywalker is forced to choose between training with the Jedi or remaining a slave. He leaves his mother behind. Beyond that? Find me some mortal moments amidst the trade negotiations, pod-racing, and droid army fights. Good luck with that. Simply put, devoid of any real reason to care for our would-be Vader and pals… we get a wooden movie with a heart harder to find than on a Tin Man.

To close the loop, it’s this message: That moment that makes you feel mortal that cements my own work in completing The Samurnauts. As our pastiche to the Power Rangers and super sentai series abound, it’s been creating these moments throughout the mini-series that I hope sets us apart from the normally vapid source material from which we draw upon. By giving each of my heroes’ moments of doubt, dread, fear, pain, or suffering, I present to my would-be audience a cast of characters they can relate to. Beyond the wicked-cool immortal monkeys, giant robots, and Photoshopped blaster fire is a story about people trying to overcome their lesser selves. Whether they succeed or fail… so long as I show it on the page, I’m confident of the quality of the end-product.

No paper cuts necessary to see me bleed.

Dennis O’Neil: Mayor Green Arrow? Really?


What’s the pothole situation in Starling City? And the re-zoning hassle – that still a headache? And the business with the access lanes to the bridge – was that ever settled?

Since Oliver Queen’s been elected mayor, it’s reasonable to think that this kind of mayoral busyness is the better part of his days. At night, of course, he puts on a mask and hood and grabs his bow and arrows and kicks (or maybe punctures) miscreant ass. Oh, and his also training a bunch of wannabe vigilantes to help with the kicking/puncturing – and not always being Mr. Nice Guy while he’s doing it. (Maybe he’s got some marine drill sergeant DNA?)

The question is, who is better for Starling City, the politician or the archer? If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’d probably choose the archer because obviously anybody would be better than a politician.

But that can of worms will be left unopened. Tell you what: let’s reframe the question. Who’s more useful to a storyteller, archer or pol? I guess it depends on the kind of tale being told. A story by…oh, say, Aaron Sorkin or Robert Penn Warren or Allen Drury would perhaps fare best as political drama. The kind of fantasy/melodrama/action tale we’re considering here is better with an ass-kicker as its protagonist. Which leaves our man Ollie where?

mayor-green-arrowA kind of hybrid, one who favors the arrow shooting part of his persona, is where. That’s pretty much how it has to be. Nobody with a taste for adventures – that is, nobody who’s Arrow’s natural audience – is going to tune in to watch a guy in a three-piece suit behind a desk reading policy papers. We want to see some arrows shot and some of that good martial arts action! Leave that other stuff to CNN.

Casting a superhero as a civic leader, it seems to me, strains the genre. Part of the appeal of costumed superdoers is that they can do what duly constituted authorities can’t. Where a mayor’s job ends, theirs begins. One explanation for adopting a second persona – and it’s not a bad one – is that the disguise keeps the bad guys from knowing who to wreak revenge on. The other reason for a civic leader hiding behind a costume and fighting crime is that he couldn’t do as mayor what he does as vigilante because the vigilante must break the law to do his deeds. But whoa! Don’t mayors swear to uphold the law? We got us some hypocrite mojo working here?

Another deep appeal of double-identited heroes might require some psyche excavation. The idea is, we all have more than one identity lurking within us – we behave differently in different situations – and we might feel that the real us is one of those unseen lurkers. Costumed heroes manifest this idea and also give us a hook into identifying with the good guy.

I think part pf the storyteller’s task is to make the two identities distinct and that’s often a failure. I tried and pretty much failed to convince my Batman writers that Bruce Wayne should present himself as a tough-as-nails businessman, but as a good-natured bumbler. And I never liked Clark Kent as the best reporter in town. (Didn’t he win a Pulitzer?)

Of course, as always, the secret is in the recipe, not the ingredients. If the story entertains, the creators have done their jobs and they’re free to go watch tv. Wonder what’s on the CW?

Dennis O’Neil: Superman – What Do We Really Know?

lois_lane_1964_by_ shawn vanbriesen

“Someone has just thrown Lois Lane from an airplane and she’s plummeting Earthward. But today is Humtyglumf Day, the most sacred day in the Kryptonian calendar – a day on which it is absolutely forbidden to rescue falling females. But if I do nothing, in about a nanosecond Lois will squish…”

Full disclosure: I don’t really know if Kryptonians celebrate Humptyglumf Day. On the other hand, I don’t really know if they don’t. Superman seems to have a lot of information about his shattered home world – he seems to knows a lot more about Krypton than I know about, oh…McCausland Avenue where, I have it on reliable authority, I spend the first four years or so of my life. But nothing about politics or religion.

The profit motive partly explains this. I’m thinking of one of my favorite novelists, now deceased. His name was John D. MacDonald and his best known character was/is Travis McGee. McDonald and McGee were, for me, buy-immediately-upon-sighting as I checked out the fresh paperbacks. I don’t know how many McGee novels I read before I realized how little I really knew about our hero. McDonald gave us what seemed to be a heap of personal data about his creation – his friends, his houseboat, his car, his workouts, his opinions of certain cities, his party-timing, all this and more well covered. Yessir, after reading two or five of the books you knew ol’ Trav. But did you? Tell me about his parents, his siblings (isn’t a brother mentioned somewhere?), his home town, the schools he attended, his political preferences, where, if anywhere, he worships…You might be tight with Trav, but you couldn’t fill out his census questionnaire.

I think what McDonald was doing, consciously or not, was employing a bit of literary legerdemain – what Penn and Teller might call “misdirection.” He gives you lots of detail and maybe you don’t notice that he withholds anything that is crucial – anything that might prejudice you against the character. (You don’t like Presbyterians? Well, he’s no Presbyterian!) It’s fair to say that most, if not all, writers of mass-consumption worked a similar dodge. The radio programs and television shows and movies were populated by…well, Americans! Probably ate white bread. Probably went to church (though which church we didn’t have to know.) Probably voted. (But which lever they turned is really none of our concern.)

Comic books? Let’s see…there’s Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker and Tony Stark and Steve Rogers…Nope – not an ethnic name in a truckload. And none of these guys have lapel pins indicating political preference, either.

I can’t decide if this pop culture homogenization has been helpful or harmful to the general welfare. Maybe a bit of both? I have a hunch that its time is almost past, but that’s not today’s topic. Nor is Humptyglumf Day.

Art by Shawn Van Briesen

Marc Alan Fishman: How Gotham Got Great(ish)


The past Monday, Gotham had its fall finale. While the episode itself was a bit meh to not-bad, the show thus far this season has been darn good to dare I say great. Since I last wrote about James Gordon and friends, the show has really settled into a fantastic groove. It’s been so good, I’ve privately sang its graces enough to ComicMix‘s EIC, Mike Gold, such that he mentioned it on his rockin’ good radio show. When Mr. Gold recognizes your opinion as valued, then you know something must be going right.

With the new season dubbed “Rise of the Villains,” Gotham has added a bit more serialization to its previously procedural format. We started with the entrance of the never-been-comic-booked nemesis Theo Galavan. Introduced as a scene chewing billionaire by day/evil criminal mastermind by night, Theo’s been mostly a high point to the proceedings. Especially when he flipped the script and murdered the Joker. OK, should I have said spoiler alert? Nah.

One of the worst parts of any prequel is knowing where everything and everyone is headed. Gotham smartly sidestepped that and showed that it has no problem playing its audience a fool when Theo sliced the throat of the proto-Clown Prince of Crime. And while the ginger-haired Jerome was an astounding would-be Joe Kerr, the powers-that-be recognized that there can be too much of a good thing. One knife slit later, and suddenly the show is a bit more unpredictable than it was the week prior. When Gotham remembers that it need not follow any known scripts to see means to the eventual communal ends we know and love, things have been never better.

Gotham from the starting gate was clawing over itself to debut as many proto-villains as it could. The need for world-building outweighed the need to build and establish emotional arches for the bloated cast. Take the curious case of Edward Nygma.

When first we met the horn-rimmed medical examiner, most of us smacked our foreheads in frustration. Nygma was easily one of the worst parts of the show when it began. The fact that the writers shoved him unnecessarily into the fold at the GCPD felt like the cold, lifeless hand of the boardroom trying to script doctor its way into good synergy. Each time Nygma popped up, the show got goofy. And while camp has proven useful to lighten Gotham’s macabre production design, with Edward it always felt like a chore.

However, in season two we get to see the fruit from those wicked seeds. Halfway into “Rise of the Villains” and Eddie is a murdering, piano-dueting, BFF with Oswald Cobblepot. Remember when I said camp is useful? I beg you to answer the riddle of how taking the character 1000% away from anything resembling even the Jim Carrey performance somehow ended up with the Riddler being one of the high spots of the series. Maybe it was the slick turn from Nygma’s actor, Cory Michael Smith, in showcasing the dormant dichotomy within Nygma. Or maybe it was the writers leaning into the shared psychopathy of seemingly everyone in the show, allowing all problems to be eventually solved with murder. Whatever the specific answer to that riddle is, I assure you, making me care about Edward Nygma has been a huge win for the season at large.

And how could I forget the last son of Gotham? At the end of the first season, Bruce Wayne found his father’s secret cave of wonders (behind the fireplace, don’t ya’ know). I half gagged over the triteness of it all. Somehow, my silent prayers were answered. Season 2 has shown young Wayne to have finally gotten a dose of needed testosterone. Somewhere between firing, re-hiring, and demanding a fight education from Alfred to staging his own abduction to glean information from Silver St. Cloud, I saw the necessary glimpses of the man who would become the Bat.

Kudos for denoting Bruce’s love of owls. Well-played, fancy pants. And double kudos to the writer who wrote Wayne’s parting words in the fall finale, which denoted the young scion’s predilection to planning the perfect escape.

Ultimately Gotham has come a long way. It’s traveled from a groan-inducing parody of noir and Mafiaso procedural to a semi-serious / semi-camp gallivant loosely playing with every known rule in the Bat-handbook. There’s no doubt we’ll never get to an actual man in a cape and cowl striking fear into the hearts of men. Instead, we’ll travel to every dark and dank corner with a murder-happy grin-scowler in James Gordon as he cleans up the streets just enough to eventually need the help from a sexy Ben Affleck and frowny Henry Cavill.

And while we’re making our way there, the writers and producers will ruin every single villain and confident we think we knew… laughing maniacally all the way to the bank.

John Ostrander: Watching the World Burn


 “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”  – Alfred to Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight

To be honest, I think that’s ISIS, especially after the violence in Paris on Friday night.

One of the things I’ve gathered about them from my reading is that they are an apocalyptic cult. They’re looking for the end of the world. Yes, they are Muslim and quote and believe a very literal version of the Koran. But they also believe and are working towards the end of the world. Christianity has had and does have its own apocalyptic cults (e.g. the Rev. Jim Jones in Jonestown) and I read an interesting and, I think, apt, analogy somewhere, suggesting that ISIS is to Islam what the KKK is to Christianity.

The purpose of terrorism is, of course, to cause fear in your enemies but I think it’s also to provoke reactions. To make the governments affected (or allied) “clamp down.” Donald Trump thinks the Paris assault proves the necessity of the wall he wants built, although he has not explained how a wall between America and Mexico would keep out ISIS terrorists.

There are and will be those (especially on the right) who will call for military action. That may be what ISIS wants; such actions could increase the number of volunteers – and money – that flows to them. And there’s that end of the world thing – provoke one last great battle. Hey, Christianity has the Book of Revelations and that has a similar scenario. Whoever’s version you listen to, it’s pretty sure that they feel that God/Allah/Jehovah/Whomever is on their side.

Part of me wants that military action against ISIS. I got very angry (again) with the violence. I wanted, I want, that violence visited upon those who planned it, who ordered it. I want it Biblical, baby, with fire and brimstone. I may be agnostic but I was raised as I was raised and that’s part of it.

Problem is, this was born out of violence. We helped launch ISIS with our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are victims and refugees and some of them, not all but some, are a result of our adventuring. ISIS has a lot of weapons that come from the US of A, gleaned when the Iraqi troops that we trained ran away, dropping everything behind.

We need to figure out our response and it needs to be a reasoned response, not from the gut or shot from the hip, because the Paris attack is guaranteed not to be the last such atrocity. There will be more and sooner or later some attack will come to our shores. No amount of rhetoric from the right or the left will prevent it. We’d best be prepared and think about how we want to respond when that attack comes. Remember, the other side is not looking for world domination; they’re looking for apocalypse.

Or we can all sit back and sing along with R.E.M. –

“It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine”

The Law Is A Ass


Batman_Gotham_Adventures_Vol_1_35So how was this even remotely fair?

First, Mark Filcher was on trial with a name like Filcher. Filcher? From the 16th Century word filch meaning “to appropriate furtively or casually?” Why didn’t Mark just change his name to I. Emma Thief and save us all a lot of trouble?

Second, the jury of Mr. Filcher’s peers included Bruce Wayne; billionaire playboy, corporate CEO, and phila… er, phila… er, yes, er, Good Deed Doer. I’m not saying it was unfair because a billionaire playboy and philanthropist wasn’t exactly a peer of career criminal Mark Filcher. (Although, truth be told, I’m not sure an actual peer is Bruce Wayne’s peer.) I’m saying it was unfair because, this being a Batman comic it should come as no surprise to you that Filcher was apprehended by Batman. And this should really come as no surprise to you; Bruce Wayne is Batman.

Seriously, how fair is it to have the guy who arrested you sitting on the jury which is deciding whether you’re guilty or not guilty of the crime that guy arrested you for?

(Please tell me I don’t actually have to answer that last question.)

Bruce Wayne had personal knowledge about the case. People with personal knowledge of a case aren’t supposed to sit on juries. They might decide the case based on their own knowledge of the case rather than the facts presented in evidence. In fact, that’s one of the standard questions that’s asked of prospective jurors, whether they’ve read news paper accounts or heard new stories about the case or have any personal knowledge about the case. It’s asked to keep people with personal knowledge of the case off the jury.

To be fair, Bruce did try to get off the jury; with an attempt that was more half-hearted than the Tin Woodsman without his testimonial.


Question: “And is there any reason you shouldn’t be on this jury?” Answer: “Yes. I’m Batman.”


That was fine as far as it went. After all, Bruce was under oath and couldn’t lie, and his being Batman was both the truth and a valid reason why he shouldn’t be on the jury. Unfortunately, as far as it went was about as far as Usian Bolt went on that Segway. After the judge admonished Bruce to refrain from further jokes, Bruce ended up on the jury.

It would have been easy for Bruce to get off the jury. He could have said Wayne Enterprises’s business would suffer were he to serve on the jury instead of being its CEO. I’ve seen this excuse used many times by people who want to get off a jury. And successfully. Okay usually by rich people who contributed to the judge’s campaign. But Bruce is certainly rich enough. So, unless he contributed to the trial judge’s opponent, he would have qualified.

Or Bruce could have said, quite truthfully, “I saw Batman arresting Mr. Filcher.” Everyone would assumed Bruce was standing on the street looking up when Batman arrested Filcher and saw what happened. But because he had seen the arrest and had some personal knowledge of the event, he would have been excused from the jury.

Or Bruce could have said, again quite truthfully, that Batman saved his life on more than on occasion, so he tends to believe Batman doesn’t make mistakes. (Remember this is the Batman from Batman the Animated Series we’re talking about, not the sociopathic buffoon who’s been wearing the costume since the New 52 started. It’s possible people would believe animated Batman was incapable of mistakes.) Bruce could have said he believed anyone Batman arrested was probably guilty so his ability to be fair and impartial toward Mr. Filcher would be compromised. Quite truthful. And it would have gotten him bounced from the jury faster than asking, “Can I plug in the electric chair?”

Any of those responses would have gotten Bruce excluded from the jury. Unlike Bruce Wayne or Wile E. Coyote, I am not a super genius. So if I was smart enough to figure out how Bruce could have gotten off Filcher’s jury, what’s Bruce’s excuse for not being excused?

Bruce didn’t try to get off the jury so heard the case. Probably fortunate for justice, but unfortunate for Mr. Filcher. Or any concept of due process. The jury’s initial vote was 11-1 for acquittal. But Bruce knew Filcher was guilty. So in a reverse 12 Angry Men, he filibustered until he was able to convince the other eleven to change their minds and vote 12 to 0 for conviction.

Bruce convinced the jury, in large part, because he established that Filcher lied about his alibi. The attempted kidnapping for which Filcher was being tried occurred in the Stovertown neighborhood of Gotham City at 6:00 p.m. Filcher claimed he was in the Kubrick District until 6:00 p.m. then drove to Templeville where he was arrested at 6:15. So he couldn’t have been in Stovertown to attempt the kidnapping. Bruce found a juror who lived in Kubrick and that juror said in rush hour traffic it would take forty minutes to get from Kubrick to Templeville. Filcher couldn’t have stayed in Kubrick until 6:00 then gotten to Templeville by 6:15, as he claimed. It was more likely that he left Kubrick at 5:00 – which was the last time anyone remembered seeing him in Kubrick – went to Stoverville, attempted the kidnapping, then fled to Templeville. I mention this to point out that personal knowledge of this type – how long it might take to drive from one part of town to another – is not impermissible in jury deliberations.

Jurors are allowed to bring personal knowledge of a general nature to deliberations. They’re not required to forget everything they know; although I swear some of the juries I had did just that. Jurors have general knowledge about things like what time the sun rises, when does Easter fall each year, and what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? Those sort of things, jurors can bring to and use in their deliberations. They just can’t have personal knowledge about the specific facts and details of the case they’re hearing.

I guess we’re supposed to be happy about Bruce staying on the jury, because he made sure the bad guy was actually convicted of the crime he actually committed. I wasn’t happy, because, as I said, Bruce should never have been on the jury. Defendants are entitled to juries that are fair and impartial, not juries that are, to be fair, partially partial.

Ed Catto: Batman’s Empty Nest


Batman 1It’s back to school time and even though it comes around every year, it always surprises me at how quickly it sneaks up after a fun summer. This year, we’re sending our last child off to college, and that’s made me think of a classic Batman story. Face with an empty nest, I’m seeing a familiar story in a totally new light.

Batman coverToday we’d call the October 1969 issue of Batman, #217, a reboot. It’s hard to conceive of it now, but in this story, they stripped the character down to his very basic elements. No more Wayne Manor, no more Robin, no more Batcave and no more outlandish villains. Of course, they all came back eventually.

The time was right for a change. The Batmania of the sixties, fueled by the TV show’s camp craze, was over and done with. By 1969, the TV show was like an embarrassing memory from a party where you had too much to drink. Oh sure, it was fun at the time, but then you need to sober up and leave that tomfoolery behind you. And back then, no one ever dreamed that one day in the future Batman would be bigger than ever and there’d be a whole new wave of Batman ’66 merchandise. And to even say that you could actually own every episode, and watch them whenever you wanted, seemed crazy.

bm30to70Back in 1969, comics in general, and Batman in particular, were taking big steps to position themselves as more than juvenile kiddie fare. Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams led the brigade of creatives who took a more serious, more grown-up approach to Batman. He’d no longer be a silly buffoon in tongue-and-cheek adventures.

“One Bullet too Many” by Frank Robbins, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano, was first published in ’69, and later reprinted in the classic collection: Batman from the 30s to the 70s. This tale was a part of a long re-energizing of the Batman mythology.

In this story, Dick Grayson (a.k.a. Robin the Boy Wonder) is preparing to leave for his freshman year at Hudson University. Dick gently teases the saddened Bruce (Batman) Wayne and their butler, Alfred about his imminent departure for college. He then brings his two (!) suitcases to the front door. I guess Alfred didn’t need Bed, Bath and Beyond’s College Registry/Pack and Hold in those days.

Astoundingly, Bruce and Alfred don’t arrange to drop young Dick Grayson off at school. Instead, Dick casually hops in a taxi as the adults glumly watch from the front doorway. Can you imagine a parent hailing a cab to take their child to the first day of college today?

Batman 4Long before I started my freshman year of college, I read this Batman story and thought of how I’d be like Dick Grayson one day: bra
vely leaving for college with equal parts of excitement/hope and homesickness/apprehension.

(Of course, Animal House and my father’s fraternity stories painted an entirely different picture of college, but that’s another story.)

So while I identified with college freshman Dick Grayson so long ago, now I find myself looking at this story in an entirely different way. As we venture to drop our daughter off at a college majestically overlooking the Hudson River, it sure seems like the fictional “Hudson U” to me. So I now find myself identifying with the crestfallen sadness of Batman and Alfred. And I now see this tale as the quintessential empty nest story.

As soon as young Dick’s taxi drives off, Bruce tells Alfred to pack it up, and that they’re getting outta town. “Take a long, possibly last look, Alfred,” says the Caped Crusader. “We’re moving out of this suburban sanctuary.” I guess there wasn’t a need to stay in the Gotham school system with Dick in college. He’s decided they’re moving to the city and he’s going to start a new business. The venture was called V.I.P. (Victims Incorporated Program), but it was essentially a “second act” start-up, by today’s standards.

Kudos to Bruce Wayne for his courage. Good for him, and Alfred, for closing down dusty old Wayne Manor and the Batcave to bravely start the next chapter of their lives. I’m overly sentimental, and, I’ll admit I am having trouble making the transition that decisively. Packing up our Wayne Manor and starting a new business isn’t quite as easy for me, but I get the idea. It’s good advice. Leave it to Batman to show me the way. Again.

“I can’t bear to look back, Master Bruce! “ whined Alfred.

Bruce Wayne resolutely respondsed, “Don’t, Alfred, the future is ahead!Batman 7


Dennis O’Neil: Caitlyn And The Real Us

O'Neil Faces

You! Yeah, you over there… you as sick of seeing pictures of Caitlyn Jenner as I am? I mean, they’re all over the place and the media are riding the story – paltry little story – like a merry-go-round unicorn.

What? You’re not sick of Jenner pix? Well, go dump your bumple – while I try to elide the above into something at least remotely appropriate for this column, which is supposed to be about comic books or pop culture or something. Here we go. I’ll assume for an as-yet undetermined amount of bandwidth that you have for the past month been on your bi-annual Zen retreat up there in those mountains, far from screens and speakers and media in general (which might explain why you’re not sick of Jenneriana) and so you don’t know that one-time Olympic medal winner Bruce Jenner has become an almost-transexual, posed for a magazine looking hotter than any 65-year-old, of any gender, ought to look, and in the process did a name-change: Bruce, look in the mirror and meet Caitlyn. Caitlyn apparently hasn’t had surgery – hence my labeling her “almost” – but in all other ways the transformation is a fact.

I commend her. Hers could not have been an easy decision to make. Let’s believe what she says – I have no reason to doubt her sincerity – and assume that all these years, from her winning Olympic glory in 1976 through semi-stardom in the Kardashian reality TV ventures after Bruce married Kardashian matriarch Kris, right up to her present notoriety glut, Jenner was hiding her real identity behind an assumed identity. “Bruce” was a mask; Caitlyn was the real person.

Claiming one’s truth is a noble act. But I can’t help wondering why it was done so publicly. The Vanity Fair cover, the television interviews, all the spangly show-biz… it’s almost as though she’s plastering a new mask over the old Bruce one. (Norma Jeane Mortenson, meet Marilyn Monroe.) And basking in the fleeting warmth of the spotlight? Again?

Some of this may seem familiar to comics fans. Ever heard, or even participated in, a debate over which is the real person Bruce Wayne or Batman? Clark Kent or Superman? Part of the appeal of the double identity trope, which isn’t limited to superheroes, is that it acknowledges and delineates basic human reality: we all present different faces to the world depending on the occasion. The you who has pizza with pals is different from the you who has dinner with grannie – and many of us, I suspect, feel that the individual society sees is not the real us. (And it probably isn’t.)

Part of me chooses to believe that Caitlyn is moving toward something valid that’s not just her ego finding another way to demand attention. (Is Batman an exhibitionist, despite his penchant for shadows?)

Now, your turn. Go and get a mask and put it on. Then find somebody who might want to look at it.