Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #357: NEWS, FLASH: YOU CAN’T DO THAT WITH THE BAD GUYS
Okay you’ve got them, now what are you going to do with them?
By “them” I mean super villains. So it shouldn’t be much of a leap to conclude that “you” means super heroes. Certainly a lot less than a tall building.
Doesn’t matter where you are – comic books, movies, television, or even cosplay – if you have super heroes, you’re going to have super villains. And if you have super villains, you’re going to have the problem of what to do with them after they’ve been caught. I realize that in today’s comics, catching the bad guys isn’t always a foregone conclusion, but for the sake of argument let’s assume that the super heroes actually do catch the super villains So, then what to do with them?
In comic books, it’s not a problem. Comic-book universes all seem to have some sort of power dampening technology. Turn it on and the super villains powers go away. That way they can’t use their super powers to break out of the prison.
Movies don’t seem to have much of a problem, either. Mostly because super villains in movies die at an alarming rate. Joker, Penguin, Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones and Aaron Eckhart), Bane, Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Venom, Electro, Iron Monger, Whiplash, The Mandarin, Red Skull, Malekith, General Zod (Michael Shannon version definitely and possibly Terence Stamp version) all appeared to die at the end of their movies. And I probably forgot one or two along the way. What to do with super villains after they die isn’t much of a problem. You just wait for them to turn up, not dead after all, in the sequel.
Television is where the heroes have the most problems with what to do with the bad guys. It started as far back as 1952 and the first season of Adventures of Superman. You remember “The Stolen Costume?” Two crooks learned Clark Kent was Superman and Superman left them on the top of a mountain so that they couldn’t tell anyone what they knew. When they tried to climb down, because they didn’t believe Superman would come back with food for them, they fell to their deaths. And Superman’s reaction was to say they fell off a cliff about as casually as he might say, “Lois? Oh she fell out the window.”
The problem got worse with the 60s Batman TV series. Oh, Batman knew what to do with the super villains he caught. It was Gotham City that didn’t know what to do with the super villains; other than let them escape. I swear Gotham Pen was built with unreinforced cardboard and doors locked on the honor system.
But in the new millennium, things have gotten really out of hand vis-a-vis captured super villains and what do with them. Especially in the shared TV universe of Arrow and The Flash.
In The Flash, the Flash and his team from S.T.A.R. Labs capture a super villain every few weeks. When they do they put said villain in The Pipeline, their private a prison inside the tube of the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator, quicker than you can say, “Jail, jail, the gang’s all here.” What the heck do we care? I don’t know about the you part of “we,” but the me part cares quite a bit. Putting the super villains in the Pipeline is problematic.
Yes, I know the S.T.A.R. labs group think that Central City and it’s ordinary prison for ordinary prisoners, Iron Heights, can’t handle the metahumans. Guess the all-S.T.A.R.s thought Iron Heights had incorporated all those prison reforms that Warden Crichton used in Gotham City . And, yes, S.T.A.R. Labs may think the metahumans are their responsibility, what with their particle accelerator having created the metas and all, but they can’t just round up all the metacriminals and put them in S.T.A.R.’s own private Ida-hole.
See Missouri – and according to the Flash episode “The Man in the Yellow Suit,” Central City is in Missouri – has a law. Missouri has lots of laws actually, but we’re only concerned with one; MO Rev Stat § 565.130.This laws says a person commits the crime of false imprisonment if he “restrains another unlawfully and without consent so as to interfere substantially with his liberty.”
The S.T.A.R. Lab Rats have definitely interfered with the liberty of the evil metahumans in a substantial way. They’ve locked them up in a private prison. Was it unlawful? Do pigeons poop in the park?
These villains haven’t been found guilty of anything. Hell, they haven’t even been put on trial. S.T.A.R. Labs just decided they were too dangerous to run around loose, so locked them up. And while S.T.A.R. Labs may be correct in its assessment, it’s wrong in its solution. You can’t go around locking up the people you think are dangerous. The government can’t do it without first affording due process of law. And private citizens can’t do it at all.
Don’t go crying PATRIOT Act to me, the metahumans aren’t foreign national enemy combatants. They’re just American criminals. Criminals with those annoying little things called constitutional rights.
As to S.T.A.R. Lab’s claim ordinary prisons can’t handle the metahumans, sez who? The Pipeline handles them all right. S.T.A.R. Labs developed some sort of power dampening technology that it uses to keep the metahumans under control in their private prison. In the episode “Rogue Air,” the dampeners even kept the metahumans under control outside of the Pipeline, when S.T.A.R. Labs and the Flash were trying to transport the metahumans to a different prison. If S.T.A.R. Labs has technology that it uses to keep the metahumans under control, why couldn’t it share the technology so that Iron Heights could use it to keep the metahumans under control?
If your answer was, “I don’t know,” don’t worry; so was mine. But I do know this, “I don’t know,” isn’t a good enough answer to justify not sharing it. Or for locking up metahumans in a private prison without any legal authority.
Now over in Arrow, there aren’t as many metahuman villains. Most Arrow baddies are held in the handy hoosegow. But there are a couple– Slade (Deathstroke) Wilson and Digger (Captain Boomerang) Harkness – who weren’t sent to the standard stockade. These two were locked up in a secret black box prison on the island of Lian Yu. The only difference is that it wasn’t Arrow who locked up the bad guys there, it’s A.R.G.U.S.
A.R.G.U.S. (or the Advance Research Group United Support) is a secret organization. In the DC comics, A.R.G.U.S. is a federal agency. Arrow has been a little sketchy with it’s background for A.R.G.U.S. but on the show the organization has enough governmental ties for it to be either an actual agency or a quasi-agency of the US government. It’s certainly enough of a governmental agency that the Fourteenth Amendment – the one that guarantees the government cannot deprive citizens of their liberty without due process of law – would apply to it. So because A.R.G.U.S. has both Deathstroke and Boomerang locked up in its secret island prison without either of them having had the benefit of due process or a trial, it’s violating their constitutional rights. It may not be against the law of any state – Lian Yu is somewhere in the South China Sea and not in any state – but it’s still illegal. What with it violating the Constitution and all.
So, to repeat the question with which we opened: You’ve got them, now what are you going to do with them? I don’t know. You don’t know. Maybe even the super heroes don’t know. But whatever’s done them, it shouldn’t be what’s being done with them now.