SPIDER-MAN’S FIGHT WITH SANDMAN WAS FRAUD WITH PERIL
Ok, while it wasn’t enough to make him a threat or a menace, what Spider-Man did wasn’t very nice.
It was Mike Barr, a long-time friend and even longer-timed comic-book reader, who reminded me of this story. Mike’s a friend and comic-book reader of such long standing that when he said Spider-Man #4, I knew which comic he meant. When the long-timers say Spider-Man # 4, we only mean one book. We don’t need no steenkin’ adjectives. Or even volume numbers. For us the original The Amazing Spider-Man was Spider-Man and Spider-Man #4 can only mean what is now clumsily called: The Amazing Spider-Man v 1 #4.
In the middle of this story, the first appearance of the villain Sandman, said villain was running from the cops and decided to hide out in Midtown High School, which seems the perfect place to hide. Considering the level of intelligence Sandman’s shown over the years, I’m not sure anyone would ever think to look for him in a school. Unfortunately for Sandman, it wasn’t such a perfect hideout, after all.
If you’re a long-enough-time reader, such as Mike, or me and you get to call The Amazing Spider-Man # 4 by its nickname, you’ll remember that at this point in Spidey’s career he was still a high school student and Midtown High is the high school he attended. If you’re not, either read the Spider-Man wiki entry I’ve already linked to in this column or take my word for it.
Spider-Man and Sandman then had the story’s obligatory fight scene in the school. And – SPOILER ALERT! – Spider-Man won. Then Spider-Man remembered that he hadn’t taken any pictures of the fight scene, pictures for which Daily Bugle editor, J. Jonah Jameson would “pay a fortune.” That’s when Spider-Man decided to improvise.
Improvise, that is, if you mean by “improvise,” make stuff up. And seeing as how that’s what improvise means on Whose Line Is It Anyway? I guess I can mean that, too.
So Spider-Man set his camera up so that it would take pictures. Then he went to the fire bucket…
If you’re in the target Spider-Man age demographic that Marvel’s shooting for in 2015, you probably don’t remember fire buckets. Older buildings, of which schools are usually a subset, used to have fire buckets in them; buckets filled with sand. (Maybe they still have fire buckets in them. I haven’t seen one in quite a while, but I don’t know.) The intent was that someone could throw sand from the bucket on a small fire – particularly an oil fire upon which one shouldn’t throw water – and smother it with the sand.
…went to the fire bucket and grabbed a handful of sand. Spidey threw the sand into the air and dived through it, to make it look like he was fighting the sand. Then he threw another handful of sand into the air and punched it. I guess Spidey took it seriously when someone told him to go pound sand. Then Peter Parker sold the pictures of this “fight with Sandman” to Jameson for big bucks.
Wait, this was noted cheapskate J. Johan Jameson we’re talking about. Peter probably sold him the photos for chump change and a key to the employee wash room. And not even the executive washroom.
What Peter did when he sold Jameson those pictures was wrong. It was fraud. Don’t believe me. How about Noah Webster, would you believe him? He said fraud is an “intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right.”
So let’s see. Peter acted intentionally; I mean I don’t think he threw the sand into the air and punched it by accident. He perverted the truth by faking pictures of Spider-Man’s fight with Sandman and passing them off as the real thing. And he induced J. Jonah Jameson to part with something of value. Hey, chump change and a key to the employee washroom have some value. Even if it’s not the executive washroom.
Still don’t believe me? Then would you believe the New York State Assembly, which made what Peter did a crime? For the purposes of New York’s fraud prosecutions NY Penal Law 170.00 defines a “written instrument” as “any instrument or article … containing written or printed matter or the equivalent thereof used for the purpose of reciting, embodying, conveying or recording information.” A photograph would be an “instrument” containing “printed matter or the equivalent thereof” used to convey information. That takes care of the appetizer, let’s move to the main course, Forgery in the third degree. NY Penal Law 170.05 defines said crime as “falsely mak[ing] a “written instrument” with “intent to defraud, deceive or injury another.” Peter falsely made a written instrument – photographs – with the intent to deceive Jonah and injure him by taking his money. That’s close enough for government work. And considering the police and prosecutors do government work, it counts.
Finally, if you don’t believe me, would you believe Peter himself? Because, in The Amazing Spider-Man# 4, he justified what he was doing by thinking, “Since this really happened a few minutes ago, it can’t be unethical! It’s like shooting a re-take of a movie!” Methinks when a man doth protest to himself too much, he knows he’s doing something wrong. Trust me, anytime someone thinks, “this can’t be unethical,” it is.
After all, if what Peter did – faking news stories – wasn’t wrong, people such as Brian Williams, Stephen Glass, and Jayson Blair would still have their old jobs. They don’t, so you can draw your own conclusions.
Of course, that’s nothing to what Peter did to Jameson in The Amazing Spider-Man #9, but that’s, literally, another story. And, maybe another column.