Tagged: Isaac Asimov

Bob Ingersoll: Captain Marvel Fails At Being Civil


The Law Is A Ass Installment # 401

Despite Marvel’s claims about Captain Marvel being a human-Kree hybrid, she must really be an X-Man… because she certainly x-acerbated the whole Ulysses Cain problem.

Civil War II is a series about said the Inhuman Ulysses Cain and the problems he caused for the Marvel Universe. Ulysses, you see, was a seer; able to predict the future. He used mathematics to, “determine, to within a fraction of a percent, the probability that certain events are going to take place.” Kind of like Isaac Asimov’s psychohistory, only more refined. In Dr. Asimov’s Foundation series, Hari Seldon used psychohistory – a discipline that combined history, sociology, and statistical analysis – to make general projections about the future acts of very large groups of people. Ulysses’s brand of mathe-magic let him make specific projections about the future acts of specific people.

And why am I dragging the good Doctor into this? Foreshadowing. Psychohistory contains “psycho.” In comic books, has anything good ever come from something with psycho in its name? Or Civil War in the name, for that matter.

Iron Man overreacted to what Ulysses could do. Ulysses predicted that Thanos was going to invade. Captain Marvel heeded that prediction and sent a superhero team to Thanos’s predicted landing point, so heroes would already in place when Thanos put boots on the ground. Iron Man’s best friend, War Machine, died fighting Thanos. And the Shinola hit the fan. Iron Man kidnapped Ulysses and tortured him to find out how his powers worked. That’s how Iron Man overreacted.*

*(See last week’s column, Boisterous Bob.)

But let’s not spend all our time criticizing Iron Man. It’s not like Captain Marvel didn’t pull out the cooling rods on her own overreacter.

Captain Marvel saw Ulysses as having more potential than stopping random alien invaders. Ulysses could predict when people were about to commit crimes. Captain Marvel realized that if she acted on those predictions, she could “stop tragedies before they happen.”

So Captain Marvel went up to the people who were about to commit crimes and said to them, “Hey, I know you’re about to [insert whatever Ulysses predicted the person would do here]. Don’t do it. Because if it happens, I’m coming right back and arresting you.” Right?Unfortunately, no. That’s only a little onerous. Not nearly bad enough. Think bigger.

Captain Marvel assigned some superhero or government agent to follow the predictive baddie around very noticeably, until the time window for the prediction was over, to make sure the bad guy didn’t do whatever it was Ulysses predicted would happen? That might be a little sword of Damoclesian, but still not nearly authoritarian enough. Think even bigger.

What Captain Marvel did was…

Assembled the Cadets, a “predictive justice” task force composed of volunteers with “unique skill sets.” Then in Ms. Marvel Vol 4 # 8, put the Cadets under the supervision of Ms. Marvel. And not any of the first three Ms. Marvels, you know the adult versions. No Captain Marvel put the current Ms. Marvel in charge. The one who’s still in high school. What’s the matter, Captain Marvel, no supervisors in their terrible twos available?

And why did Captain Marvel think her Cadets needed a teenage mutant ninja babysitter? Well, as Captain Marvel put it, “Until we understand exactly how Ulysses’ powers work, [the Cadets] need to stay within the law.

In Ms. Marvel Vol 4 # 9, we learned exactly how Captain Marvel and her Cadets stayed within the law. By physically rounding up all the people Ulysses predicted would commit crimes and imprisoning them in a makeshift jail in Jersey City until the time frame for their predicted future crimes had passed.

That’s staying within the law the way a kid with a coloring book stays within the lines.

Captain Marvel was an operative of a defense agency which was overseen by a multi-national Board of Governors, so she was an operative of several governments, America included. For our purposes, how many governments doesn’t matter. Just as long as she was an operative of the American government. The government which is, itself, governed by the United States Constitution.

That Constitution says that when a government locks people up for something they haven’t done yet, it denies those people of their liberty without due process of law. The pre-crime detainees haven’t committed a crime yet so, obviously, they haven’t had a trial, let alone been convicted of anything. Nevertheless, they’re being imprisoned. It’s like that old Dostoevsky novel in reverse, Punishment and Crime. Or worse, punishment without crime.

By imprisoning people without due process of law, Captain Marvel was acting unlawfully. People who unlawfully restrain people aren’t the luckiest people. They’re criminals. After all, New Jersey may have been willing to look the other way over Snooki, but it actually has a law against false imprisonment.

So, good job of staying within the law, Captain Marvel. When you were a kid, did you keep secrets by saying, “Daddy, we didn’t go get ice cream today?”

Look, I know this sort of thing happened in the past. During World War II, thousands of Japanese Americans were interned without trial for fear of what they might do. But that was decades ago. Has anything like that has happened more recently? Guess I’ll have to Gitmo .

However, just because something that was wrong happened once before, or twice before – or probably more times than any of us really want to know about before – doesn’t mean it’s right for that same wrong to happen now. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Two 45̊ angles do.

And, yes, I know Captain Marvel had good intentions. Doesn’t matter. Because it wasn’t just Dostoevsky that got flopped. Captain Marvel’s road to good intentions was paved with hell.

Mike Gold, Disturbed


The most disturbing thing that happened to me in comics – non-violent, that is – occurred more than 30 years ago during the early days of the real First Comics. In fact, it didn’t even happen to me directly. It happened to then-associate editor Rick Oliver. That’s how disturbing it was to me.

We had published a story, damned if I remember what it was, about evil robots doing what evil robots do – murdering humans and generally raising a ruckus. That’s been a popular theme over the years, and if you think about it that’s just what Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates were talking about last August when they were talking about the dangers of artificial intelligence. As an aside, any time that kind of brain trust agrees on anything, I pay attention. But I digress.

A gentleman called us quite perturbed that we published such a story. Actually, perturbed isn’t quite the right phrase. Hysterical would be more accurate. He went apeshit because we did a story that violated (actually, ignored) Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. In case you’re not up on such things, those laws go exactly like this:

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

An admirable plot device, and Dr. Asimov held to it consistently for decades… in his fiction. Fiction. He never said it was science fact. Actually, he did say he wasn’t the guy who came up with it, that it was something writer/editor John C. Campbell said to him in December of 1940. On the other hand, Editor Campbell claimed that Author Asimov already had the Three Laws in his mind. But I digress. Again.

If this were an in-person conversation at a comic book or a science fiction convention, the caller would have been arrested and taken to a mental ward for observation. Seriously; he was that upset. When Rick told me about the call, I had newfound gratitude for Alexander Graham Bell.

Most of us understand that there are whack jobs out there (I’m sorry I don’t recall the politically correct phrase for “whack jobs”), and we’ve all seen more than a few hanging out around our Great Comic Book Donut Shop. This gentleman didn’t recognize that the Three Laws were merely a good idea and a great fictional plot device. Hell, he didn’t even recognize we had yet to create robots that are useful enough to need the Three Laws. Today, even drones have human controllers.

He desperately needed to get a life… and probably some lithium. But he represents a danger that we see in all of us who are passionate about our hobbies. You see this sort of thing at media conventions all the time – fans who are disappointed that actors aren’t as familiar with their work as they are. Plenty of times I’ve heard fans say that one actor or another was stupid (or worse) because he/she/it didn’t remember some minutia from a teevee series from many years past.

So. Why am I reminded about this now?

Simple. The fourth Republican debate was on teevee last night.