Tagged: Riddler

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.

Marc Alan Fishman: Gotham Is Close, But So Far Away…

… from being what it could be. In short, they’re uncertainty is palpable, and it’s sickening to watch week to week.

For the uninitiated: Gotham creates a timeline in which a young James Gordon arrives in the titular city right as Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered. The city that will one day be protected by a dark knight is at present a cesspool incarnate. Corruption is common and even embraced by the police force. Politicians are mob-owned. And the mob itself has its nightclubs, contractors and restaurants littering the yellow pages. Impending war between Don Maroni and Carmine Falcone is discussed as much as the local sports scores and the weather (the Knights won, and it’s always going to rain). And literally crammed into every visible orifice on screen, a future commoner of the caped crusader’s cadre of kooky criminals lays in waiting.

Look, kiddos. I don’t have an issue with starting the show with Bruce Wayne’s orphaning (yeah, I’m coining the term). It’s a pivotal moment with plenty of roots into the budding season’s serial storyline. What I take umbrage towards is how desperate it all feels. It’s truly as if the writers, producers, and executives behind the show are compelled to scream at the viewing public “People! It’s Batman! This is the Batman show! Don’t you like Batmaaaaaan!?” I know this is a common thought that’s traveling amongst the blogosphere, but, seriously, why can’t DC and Warner Bros. just take a page from Marvel’s handbook?

When the House of Mouse announced Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., comic book fans largely held their breath. By anchoring their TV presence with a concept that could play in their cinematic sandbox but seemingly not require our favorite Avengers to drop by for a cameo… it took the better part of a season to truly win over the public at large. And when the words “Hail Hydra” were whispered, everyone rightly lost their marbles over the cleverness of it all. In contrast, Gotham has been obsessed with planting seeds that are so obvious they might as well just be trees already. Instead of trying to build a DC Universe, or even just a plausible setting, Gotham would rather be another Elseworlds tale. And were DC to have the smarts to tell us in any way that was the actual plan, maybe I would have happily declined even setting my DVR.

That’s a point I’d like to repeat for posterity. For Geoff Johns to drop even the inkling of a hint that the DCU-on-TV (Flash and Arrow clearly being coupled, Gotham, and potentially Krypton) could each exist in a parallel dimension to the movies, et al, is just dumb-dumb-doodle-dum. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. To think that the pencil pushers at DC Entertainment will eventually have to sell us a compendium guide to the Multiverse just so we can officially know where each damned show is in relation to one another is just sad to think about. Can you hear it now off in the distance? “Yeah, that Batman in Batman v. Superman isn’t the Batman from Gotham. No, I know that makes no sense [person who doesn’t understand Multiverse Concept].” Sigh.

As I’m prone to do at junctures like this, I’m apt to celebrate a few small victories the show has for itself. The cast – while anchored with pretty hammy dialogue – are all perfect fits. Our young Gordon is a proper police detective to Donal Logue’s lazy Harvey Bullock. The mobsters are all perfect caricatures we’d expect. And for what it’s worth, the Penguin is pitch perfect when he’s not going all kinds of Patrick Bateman on people wearing shoes he covets. The look of the show is also a small saving grace. Every edge is crammed with garbage and sepia toned grime. While it leaves little to no room for levity, the show is heads and shoulders above S.H.I.E.L.D. when it comes to environments… what little we’ve had to explore. And even young master Wayne is one of the better child actors I’ve seen cast. While (again) the script has called for less-than-stellar set-pieces for him to chew on (near suicide off the roof much, Brucey?), David Mazouz delivers a credible sell when he’s trying to be the rich kid forced to grow up too soon.

Beyond those points, Gotham is just too heavy fisted for its own damned good. With Edward Nygma posing poignant puzzles at every possible point he can, or Selena Kyle practically walking on all fours and meowing when she wants to be called Cat, it’s not as clever a turn as the showrunners seem to think. The public at large knows enough about the Batman mythos; few know about the brilliant shades of gray that exist in his world outside of the well-known rogues gallery. Why force feed us proto-Riddlers and Penguins when you can flesh out lesser-knowns like Mr. Zsasz, or Calendar Man who could tie to the mob war so much better than the current gaggle of goons being bum-rushed towards the credit roll. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. taught us that you need not depend on the name brands to be entertaining or credible. Don’t think so? Two words: Phil Coulson.

There’s still plenty of time for Gotham to turn things around. But the question to ask yourself is this: even if the show is successful, how will they find a way to not end up with fully developed supervillains straight outta Bat’s belfrey… all while he’s still having Alfred picking up Oxy at the Rite Aid? If the folks creating this cacophony could just take a deep breath and believe in Jim Gordon and solid police drama set in a slightly exaggerated world, Marvel might actually look up from their continuously growing pile of money and pay attention.

But I wouldn’t count on it.


The Law Is A Ass


8039971943_4211f4754e_zSeriously, where were these judges when I was practicing law?

In the real world, evidence can be suppressed when it is seized illegally. But in the real world, judges hate suppressing evidence and do it infrequently. No make that very infrequently. In comic books, TV, and the movies; judges seem willing to suppress evidence if it’s a day that ends in Y.

Same is true with the mental health docket. In the real world, juries don’t like the insanity defense and virtually never find criminal defendants not guilty by reason of insanity. And even that may be an overstatement.

Before the trial of John Hinkley, the man who was obsessed with Jodie Foster and tried to assassinate President Reagan, the insanity defense was used in approximately two percent of criminal trials. And it failed 75 percent of the time. After John Hinkley was found not guilty by reason of insanity, 83 percent of those Americans polled thought justice had not been done. As a result of the Hinkley trial, the United States Congress and two-thirds of the states rewrote their insanity defense statutes to make it more difficult to assert a defense used only two percent of the time and rejected 75 percent of the time. Another eight states rewrote their laws and changed Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity to guilty but insane. Oh, and Idaho, Montana, and Utah abolished the insanity defense completely. That’s how unpopular the insanity defense is with both juries and with judges.

Even though most insanity trials are tried to a judge instead of to a jury, judges don’t like finding defendant’s NGRI any better than do juries. For one thing, that 83 percent of the people that were outraged by the Hinkley verdict; they weren’t just people, they were voters. Voters who were stand to be equally outraged anytime a defendant is found NGRI. Judges don’t like upsetting 83 percent of the people the judges want voting for them by finding defendants insane willy nilly. Or Chilly Willy. Or even Willy Nelson. That 75 percent figure I quoted earlier; that was for all trials – jury trials and bench trials.

For the record, judges don’t much appreciate the legal subsets of criminal insanity, either. Things such as competence to stand trial. Makes judges look soft on crime. Which brings us, at last, to the reason I called you all in today. It was the story “Herded Limits” which can be found in Legends of the Dark Knight 100 Page Super Spectacular # 4.

(By the way, if, like me, you’re wondering about that title – no, not Legends of the Dark Knight 100 Page Super Spectacular; that title is a little cumbersome but perfectly understandable – “Herded Limits” is an anagram for “Riddle me this.” I know, I Googled it. Not important to our discussion, but nice to know.)

The Riddler was facing prosecution for attempting to steal some gold. I said attempted because he didn’t succeed. Why? Because Riddler sent the Batman a riddle, Batman solved the riddle, and Batman captured the Riddler. Seriously, do you even have to ask why a Riddler plan failed? The why of his failures are pretty much a given.

But before Riddler faced prosecution he had to go through a hearing to determine whether he was competent to stand trial. Now I give this story credit, it stated that Riddler had been diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD, which it then correctly defined as, “repetitive behaviors … that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.” That’s a quote directly out of the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders – or DSM-IV, as it’s called for short by the medical field. (Though for future reference, this reference is up to the fifth edition, or DSM-V, now.) The story noted that Riddler’s ODC didn’t manifest itself in the usual ways such as repeated hand washing or counting or all the other things you used to see Adrian Monk do. Riddler’s OCD manifested in his compulsion to inform the Batman of his impending crimes by giving Batman a series of puzzles which contained clues to his planned activities. Because Riddler had OCD, the court had to rule whether he was mentally competent to stand trial.

I give the story credit again, not only did it correctly define OCD, it correctly identified the standards a court must find are met in order to find a defendant incompetent to stand trial. The judge must rule that the defendant’s mental illness affects his or her mental processes so as to either render him or her incapable of understanding the nature of the charges brought against him or her, or renders him or her incapable of assisting in his or her defense. In “Herded Limits,” the judge ruled that the Riddler met those standards and was incompetent to stand trial. He remanded Riddler to Arkham Asylum until such time as treatment could render Riddler competent to stand trial. So the story got the law completely right. But the judge in the story got the law completely wrong.

The judge seemed to be operating under the misapprehension that if someone who’s been apprehended is mentally ill, he’s automatically incompetent to stand trial. But that ain’t necessarily so. In fact, it begs the question you’re begging me to answer: When is someone incompetent?

Say the Riddler suffered from delusions and killed someone he thought was the devil, he might not understand the nature of the murder charges brought against him, because it’s not against the law to kill the Devil. Of, if the Riddler’s delusions made him think his lawyer was the Devil, the Riddler might be reluctant to talk to his lawyer. In either of those admittedly simplified cases, the Riddler would be incompetent to stand trial.

But neither is true of the Riddler. The Riddler has a compulsion to inform Batman of his impending crimes. How does this affliction render him incapable of understanding the nature of the charges against him? The Riddler knew he was going to commit crimes. He even challenged Batman with the task of stopping him from committing the crimes. This compulsion to give advance warning indicates that Riddler would know the nature of the charges being brought against him quite well. He was charged with doing the thing he said he was going to do.

In the same way, the fact that Riddler is compelled to inform Batman when he’s about to commit a crime doesn’t mean he can’t assist in his own defense. To be competent, a defendant must be able to communicate with his attorney, understand and process information, and be able to make decisions regarding his case. Riddler consistently shows, through his riddles, that he can communicate. If anything, he communicates too much. His riddles shows that he can understand and process information so well that he can take information and process it into elaborate puzzles. This combined with his genius-level intelligence indicate that he could make decisions regarding his case.

Nothing, absolutely nothing in Riddler’s rather particularized OCD indicates that he is incompetent to stand trial. I simply cannot understand how 27 different psychiatrists, according to the story, could evaluate Riddler and find he was incompetent to stand trial. I can’t understand how the judges who presided over Riddler’s cases, however many that was, could find he was incompetent to stand trial, either. The judges were more likely to find the 27 psychiatrists incompetent for their erroneous opinions about the Riddler.

But judge after judge has found Riddler incompetent to stand trial and sentenced him to Arkham to be treated until he can be restored to competence. (Really? Arkham? Riddler hasn’t been declared criminally insane only incompetent to stand trial. Judges don’t send a man whose crimes are “rarely violent” and who has been ruled incompetent to the maximum security asylum for the criminally insane. Cleveland, which is a much smaller city than Gotham City, has several institutions for treating defendants in its mental health docket. We don’t normally send people ruled incompetent to the super-max asylum to rub shoulders with all the violent offenders who have been found to be criminally insane. We send them to the lesser institutions. But, I digress.)

Gotham City has seen judge after judge find the Riddler incompetent to stand trial under facts where no judge in the real world would likely find a defendant incompetent. So I repeat the question I posed at the beginning of this column: Where were these judges when I was practicing law? If I had been able to appear before them, I would never have lost a case.

The Point Radio: Donal Logue Thrives In GOTHAM

Donal Logue is Harvey Bullock in the new Fox series, GOTHAM and he has a lot of say about it,  including how this compares to his previous roles and what it’s like to be part of a story where everyone already knows the ending. Plus, it’s the 60th Anniversary for The Guinness Book Of World Records, with a ton of new wacky entries and some old ones that may never be broken. Ever wonder how it all began? We go right to the source to answer that and more.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Law Is A Ass


Batman_Vol_2-23.2_Cover-1_TeaserWell, there’s no putting it off any longer. I might as well get the unpleasant business out of the way right up front.


 I want to discuss the legal aspects of Detective Comics: Futures End # 1 and there is literally no way I can proceed without discussing its ending. So if you haven’t read Detective Comics: Futures End # 1 and you don’t want to know how it ends, stop reading now. Come back after you have read it. If, on the other hand, you have read the comic in question or you simply don’t care that I’m about to give away the ending, then continue reading.

This has been a test of the Emergency SPOILER WARNING! System. We now return you to your regularly scheduled column already in progress.

The story opened five years from now – remember, the DC books coming out in September this year all tie into the weekly Future’s End http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Futures_End series and take place five years in the future – with a scene of The Batman flying through Gotham City. Now it’s not unusual that a Detective Comics story should open with the Batman. Many of them do. What is unusual is that Batman was flying toward a large skyscraper with a huge question mark insignia on the top floor.

Clearly, it was the headquarters of The Riddler. But why would a master criminal have such an obvious and ostentatious headquarters?

It seems that sometime in the five years between now and five years from now when some futures are going to end, Batman helped broker a full pardon for the Riddler. How? I don’t know. Why? I still don’t know. (Seriously, did you think that between writing those two sentences, I went back to re-read the story, and saw something I missed the first time?) The story didn’t reveal either how or why the Riddler was pardoned. It’s one of those great mysteries we may find the answer to in the next five years. Like which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or who’s on first?

Batman needed Riddler’s help. Seven days earlier, Julian (the Calendar Man) Day broke free of his cell on Arkham Island, the new asylum of the criminally insane that was – Will be? – built in Gotham Harbor. Julian was holding several of the Arkham staff hostage.

Julian had one demand and if it wasn’t met, he was going to duplicate the city-wide blackout that the Riddler had cast over Gotham City back in the “Batman: Zero Year” story arc. Excuse me but what? When they built this new asylum for the criminally insane, did they build it over Gotham City’s main fuse box?

Because Calendar Man had hostages, Gotham City couldn’t bomb Arkham Island. And the police couldn’t storm the island because they couldn’t get past the security devices that Riddler built into it. (Yes, sometime in those event-filled five years, the Riddler, a former inmate in Arkham Asylum, designed the new version of Arkham Asylum and all of its security measures. I hope it was good therapy for Riddler, because it sure don’t make much sense otherwise.) So Batman came to Riddler so that Riddler could help Batman get past Arkham Island’s security.

While Batman and Riddler had fun stormin’ da castle, Batman told Riddler what Calendar Man’s one demand was. Several years ago, before he became Calendar Man and was still just Julian Day, Julian’s wife died. Julian started drinking, lost his job, and became muscle for the Gotham crime boss The Squid. He also physically abused his son when he got drunk. So in Detective Comics Annual v. 2 # 3, the Batman defeated all the bad guys Julian was working with, foiled their plans, and placed Julian’s son in a shelter for battered women and children. Now Julian demanded that the man who destroyed his family be brought to him or he would black out Gotham. Riddler expressed some regret at what Batman is doing. After all, Calendar Man and his thugs were going to kill Batman and Batman was the only worthy adversary Riddler ever encountered.

So, cutting to the chase – of whatever it is I’m cutting to, as this story didn’t actually have a chase scene – Batman and Riddler got past the security devices. Then Batman had an obligatory fight scene with Calendar Man’s henchmen, because there hadn’t been a fight scene yet and it was obligatory.

When Calendar Man appeared, Batman explained that Riddler helped Batman get past the security devices, so that they could deliver to Calendar Man the man responsible for destroying his family. Then Calendar Man ordered his men to take Riddler away.

Riddler asked why they were taking him, it was Batman who destroyed his family. Calendar Man said he was a rotten single parent and deserved to have his son taken away. His wife held his family together and it fell apart after her death. His wife’s death is what destroyed his family and she died in Riddler’s Zero Year blackout. Riddler was the man who destroyed his family.

As Calendar Man and his goons dragged the Riddler off to Crom knows what, Batman smiled a smug and oh-so–pleased-with-himself smile and said, “Riddle me this. How do you trap the untrappable? You get them to trap themselves.”

The end of the story and the beginning of the meat of this column, so I guess I should have included a Vegetarian Warning, too. I don’t know what Calendar Man and his goons plan to do with Riddler. Riddler thought they were going to kill and they probably are. But kill Riddler, cut him, or force him to watch Gigli; any way you slice it – or the Riddler – it’s going to be bad for the Riddler. And the Batman delivered Riddler to these men knowing something what was going to happen.

Which makes the Batman a murderer, or assaulter, or a torturer depending on what Calendar Man and his goons do to the Riddler. Let’s go with murder, because I don’t want to keep typing all the possibilities.

How so? Well the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, which defines the crimes for that state, has a statute – N.J.S.A. 2C:2-6 – which defines the crime of Complicity. In New Jersey a person is an accomplice to a crime, and is as guilty as the principal offender, when he or she has the intention of facilitating the offense and aids the principal offender commit the offense. You may know this crime better as name aiding and abetting, which is what it’s called in some other states. But a crime by any other name is still illegal.

If the Batman helped Calendar Man murder the Riddler and if the Batman intended to help Calendar commit that crime, then he’s as guilty of the murder as Calendar Man is. The getaway driver who takes bank robbers away from a bank robbery – or to a bank robbery – is as guilty as the actual people who actually rob the bank, because he helped them commit it. In the same way, the person who brings the victim to some murderers and who knows that they will murder the victim once they get him is as guilty of the murder as the murderers who actually commit the murder. Why? Because he helped them commit the murder by bringing the victim to them, that’s why.

Now I know that this story takes place some five years in the future, but if you think in those intervening five years someone repealed the complicity statute, you’re delusional. They may have been dumb enough to let an ex-inmate of an asylum for the criminally insane design the new asylum for the criminally insane, They may even have been dumb enough to build the new asylum for the criminal insane over the main fuse box of a major city. But repeal the complicity law at a time when the prevailing attitude on crime is you’ve got to be tougher than utility beef? No one’s that dumb.