Tagged: She-Hulk

Thor swearing on a Bible

The Law Is A Ass #448: The (Dare)Devil’s In De Tales

Yes, him, again.

Matt Murdock. Daredevil. The subject of our last six get togethers.

But not to worry, we shan’t be talking about him again. Ever. Daredevil #612 was the last part of a four-part story called “The Death of Daredevil.” So that’s it, isn’t it? Daredevil is dead.

I mean, it’s not like Marvel would kill off a character and then bring him or her back to life, is it?

In Daredevil #609, the start of the four-part story, Matt was hit by a truck while saving a kid. I don’t know if it was a Mack truck or a semi with a hemi or even a hemi-demi-semi-quaver, but it was big. Big enough to send Matt to the hospital and to reevaluate his lot in life. Lots.

And Matt decided what he was going to do, if it was the last thing he did, was to prove that Wilson (The Kingpin of Crime) Fisk rigged the election and wasn’t legally the mayor of New York City. So Matt gathered together a team who could help him assemble the proof he needed to take down Fisk.

For three issues assistant Manhattan district attorney Matt Murdock and his team did just that. Assembled. They assembled more than Bob the Builder on speed. Until finally, Matt had a strong enough case to take to his boss, Manhattan district attorney Ben Hochberg.

Hochberg didn’t agree. Fisk was, after all, the Mayor. He was Hochberg’s boss and set the budget for Hochberg’s office. Hochberg didn’t want to risk rocking the boat by accusing Fisk of rooking the vote. But Matt prevailed on Hochberg with all the powers of persuasion that he could muster in all of five panels and Hochberg relented. He prosecuted Fisk for election fraud.

First Hochberg called Daredevil. Then he called the rest of Daredevil’s team; Cypher, Frank McGee, and Reader, supporting characters in the story that were so unimportant that I almost didn’t even mention them here. Then Hochberg called every character in the Marvel Universe from A-Bomb to Zzzax.

Okay, not really. But he did call Captain America, Thor, She-Hulk, and Spider-Man.

Oh yeah, and then, as the main event, Hochberg called as his final witness, Wilson Fisk.

Now I wish I could say, “not really,” again, but I can’t. Hochberg called the defendant as a prosecution witness.

But I’m not going to write about that; I already have. Several times. In earlier columns, I’ve covered the fact that the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee against self-incrimination means the prosecution can’t call the defendant as a prosecution witness about as many times as Vin Scully’s covered the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Beside which, it’s not like the trial actually happened. Because at the end of the story we learned that…

This is the place where I’d usually issue a SPOILER WARNING, but I’m not going to. If you’re like me and speak fluent cliché then there’s no way anyone can spoil…

…it was all a dream.

Matt was actually still in the ER after being hit by the truck. The whole four parts of “The Death of Daredevil,” including the trial and conviction of Wilson Fisk and his recall as mayor, was a dream Matt was having while the ER doctors were operating on him.

As endings go that one was a Ken Berry; a big F Trope.

So no, I’m not talking about calling the defendant as a witness.

Thor swearing on a Bible

On the other hand, I am going to talk about calling Thor as a witness, because that feat would have required almost as much legal legerdemain as calling the defendant.

Before witnesses can testify, they generally have to take the oath and swear “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help [them] God.” Generally, if a witness isn’t willing to take that oath, the witness is not permitted to testify.

Notice, I said, “generally.” Sometimes a witness doesn’t have to swear an oath before testifying. After all, how could Thor swear so help him God? Thor is a god. Okay, not the Judeo-Christian god name-dropped in the standard court oath, but he is the Norse god of thunder. An oath before the Judeo-Christian God would be meaningless to Thor as he doesn’t believe in that god.

In the same way, Thor couldn’t swear so help him some god in which he believed; say himself or Odin. The Anglo-American system of justice doesn’t recognize any of the gods in which Thor might believe as gods, so it wouldn’t allow a witness to swear so help him one of them.

Now, the Anglo-American system of justice does have a back-up. Witnesses who don’t happen to believe in the Judeo-Christian God, like Muslims; Buddhists; Hindus; or atheists who don’t happen to be in a foxhole, have an alternative. They can affirm under penalty of perjury that they will tell the truth, the whole truth, and yadda, yadda, yadda. But for Thor, even such an affirmation might be a whole yadda nothing.

Thor is, after all, the prince of Asgard. As such he might well have diplomatic immunity from prosecution for crimes committed in America. Even perjury. If that is the case, the affirmation would have no meaning to him and wouldn’t be sufficient to guarantee that he would tell the truth.

Sure Thor could spout off some pseudo-Shakespearean speech and assure the court that, “the word of the Son of Odin is ever my bond” and that he would no more tell defy the laws of man by lying in court than he would defy the laws of gravity by throwing a hammer then flying behind it as it dragged him through the sky.

And maybe the court would believe him and let Thor testify. Or maybe it wouldn’t.

It’s a puzzlement which, fortunately, I don’t have to puzzle over right now. Because I’m not really writing this column right now. It’s all a…

ZZZZZZZ

The Law Is A Ass # 425: Ant-Man’s Trial Has Character Flaws

The Law Is A Ass # 425: Ant-Man’s Trial Has Character Flaws

A long time ago in a multiverse far, far away…

The Flash went on trial for murdering Reverse-Flash in a multi-part story called The Trial of the Flash. As storylines went, The Trial of the Flash went on for…

Ever!

Okay, it went on for two years. But back in 1983 – before decompressed storytelling and multi-part stories designed to be binge-read in trade paperback collections – two years was forever. The second “The Law Is a Ass” I ever wrote was also my first column about The Trial of the Flash. Several more followed. How many more? Well let’s just say before The Trial of the Flash, and I, were finished, I had earned enough writing about it to pay off my mortgage, insure my kids had no student loan debt, and reduced the national debt to zero from the taxes I paid.

So you can imagine my trepidation upon reading Astonishing Ant-Man# 12. It was, you see, the first part of The Trial of Ant-Man. Still, a journey of a thousand columns begins with a single step, so let’s get started.

Ant-Man – the Scott Lang version, not Henry Pym or the one nobody remembers because even I had to look up Eric O’Grady – was on trial for a crime he didn’t commit. Of course he didn’t. When a super hero is on trial in a comic book you can be pretty certain it’s for a crime the hero didn’t commit. In comics the only thing more certain than that is death and resurrection.

The crime Scott didn’t commit? His daughter – and former super hero Stinger – Cassie Lang committed it. How did this one time Young Avenger go rogue? Long story short; like this. To protect Cassie, Scott took the blame. He said he kidnapped Cassie and forced her to participate in his crime. It was a noble gesture, but it had serious repercussions; as the whole “The Trial of the Ant-Man” title would suggest.

The trial started as most trials do with jury selection but as there is virtually no way to make the voir dire process visually or dramatically interesting, the story ignored jury selection and jumped right to opening statements. Starting with the opening statement of Janice Lincoln, the prosecuting attorney. Janice went for the jugular. Scott’s. She argued that the jury should ignore Scott’s good deeds as Ant-Man, as Scott had been convicted of several felonies, abandoned his family, burned his bridges with the respected members of the super hero community, recklessly allowed his daughter to be killed – but resurrected, see I told you – and kidnapped that same daughter to force her to be his accomplice in a heist. Probably the only reason Janice didn’t blame Scott for The Great Train Robbery is that Scott’s strong suit has never been silent.

There’s a name for that in the legal biz. We call it “putting the defendant’s character in issue.” We also call it improper. In a criminal trial, the prosecution is expressly forbidden from offering evidence, testimony, or even opening statements about a defendant’s bad character in order to prove that the defendant acted in accordance with that bad character. Or, in words that aren’t ripped from compelling prose that is the Federal Rules of Evidence, it’s improper for the prosecutor to prove or even argue that the defendant has been a bad person in the past so probably continued to be a bad person and committed the crime.

There are some exceptions to this rule. We won’t go into all of them, because only one of them applies to the story at hand. The prosecution may address the issue of the defendant’s bad character when the defendant puts his or her own character into issue first. If the defense offers evidence or argues that the defendant is a good person who would never commit the crime – in the legal biz we call that “opening the door” – the prosecution is allowed to walk through the open door and rebut evidence of good character with evidence that the defendant is a bad person who would commit the crime.

In her opening statement, defense counsel Jennifer Walters told the jury all about what a good person and upstanding hero Scott Lang was; ending with “I’ve seen it with my own eyes – this man is a hero.” It was after Jennifer Walters made this opening statement that Janice Lincoln made her opening statement and assassinated Scott’s character like it was that other Lincoln at Ford’s Theater. (What? Too soon?)

So what’s my problem with Ms. Lincoln’s opening statement? After all, if the defense put Scott’s character in issue – and it did – then the prosecution would be allowed to rebut that claim of good character with an argument of bad character. My problem is that if proper trial procedure had been followed – and the story went out of its way to establish that the trial judge, the Honorable Ronald Wilcox, was a no-nonsense, by the book judge who would follow proper procedure – the prosecution would not have been allowed to make the opening statement that it did, because the defense wold not have put Scott’s character into issue yet.

Proper trial procedure dictates that the prosecution makes its opening statement first, because it has the burdens of producing the evidence proving the defendant guilty and persuading the jury that the defendant is guilty. The prosecution makes its opening statement before the defense makes its opening statement. In a real trial, not one that played with proper procedure for dramatic purpose, Janice Lincoln wouldn’t have been able to attack Scott’s character in her opening statement, because she would have given it before the defense opening statement and before Jennifer Walters opened the door to Scott’s character.

Oh, I’m sure that Ms. Lincoln would have had her opportunity later in the trial. The defense’s sole tactic was to convince the jury that Scott Lang was a hero who wouldn’t commit the crime, so the defense was going to open that door eventually. Then all that other bad stuff about Scott’s character would have come in. In the legal biz we have a name for that, a bad idea.

Here’s a piece of advice to all you future lawyers out there: If you put your client’s character into issue, the prosecution is allowed to counter with proof of your client’s bad character. So don’t put your client’s character into issue when your client’s closet has more skeletons than The Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Law Is A Ass #418: HELLCAT IS NOT HEDY’S PATSY

The Law Is A Ass #418: HELLCAT IS NOT HEDY’S PATSY

Childhood friends turned bitter enemies. Sounds like the stuff of soap operas, not to mention more than a few recent comic books. And so we have former childhood frenimies and comic book characters Patsy Walker and Hedy – not Hedley – Wolfe. Nowadays, when they think about their shared past it’s angst for the memories.

All because of Patsy’s mother. When Patsy was a teen, her mother, Dorothy Walker, exploited Patsy by writing a series of teen humor comic books starring Patsy and Hedy. Patsy was embarrassed by them, but her mother wouldn’t stop writing them. That caused a rift between Patsy and her mother. Of course, the fact that when Patsy’s mother was dying she tried to sell Patsy to the Devil so that Patsy would die instead of her probably didn’t help their mother-daughter relationship. It makes Joan Crawford’s hanger management issues look like Mother-of-the-Year stuff.

Dorothy and Patsy didn’t get along. Hedy, on the other hand visited Dorothy frequently and paid Dorothy’s hospital bills. So Dorothy asked Hedy to write up a contract granting Hedy all the rights to the Patsy and Hedy comic books, which Hedy did. Now Hedy is reprinting all those comics, much to the rekindled embarrassment of Patsy. And her re-Nooked embarrassment, too.

Patsy, who is also the super heroine Hellcat, hired Jennifer Walters, attorney-at-law when she’s not being the super heroine She-Hulk, to represent her against Hedy and recover the rights to the comic books. Jennifer, in turn, hired former super heroine and now owner/operator of the Alias Detective Agency, Jessica Jones to investigate the case. (Hellcat? She-Hulk? Jessica Jones? I think this book has a heroine addiction.)

Jessica’s investigations led her to believe that a dresser Hedy had in her living room deserved to be checked out. So in Patsy Walker, A.K.A. HELLCAT! # 7, Jessica and Hellcat broke into Hedy’s apartment and found Dorothy’s medical records in the dresser.

Jessica took a picture of the records and texted it to Jennifer. From those records Jennifer learned that when Dorothy signed the contract with Hedy, Dorothy was on a heavy morphine drip and mentally incapacitated. How incapacitated? Well, let’s just say she tried to sell her own daughter to a demon so she was like a mint tablet that couldn’t be turned into fertilizer; non-compost Mentos.

Because Dorothy’s morphine drip prevented her from having the mental capacity to form a contract, her contract with Hedy was null and void. A contract is a meeting of the minds and you can’t have a meeting of the minds when one of the minds isn’t there because it isn’t all there.

That was Jennifer’s legal argument, anyway. Hedy’s counter argument was that the evidence was obtained illegally so wasn’t admissible. As this is Patsy’s comic book, guess which argument won. If you guessed Patsy, then you won.

Evidence that’s obtained illegally is perfectly admissible in court. Iago famously said, “He who steals my purse steals trash,” but if they were prosecuting Othello for stealing said purse, do you think they’d introduce trash as evidence or the purse? Evidence that was illegally obtained by theft is admissible in theft prosecutions. So, yes, evidence that is obtained illegally is admissible.

Okay, our case isn’t a theft case, it’s a civil suit over contract and copyright issues. And my stolen property argument is a more of a straw man than Ray Bolger. The question is, if someone in a civil trial obtains evidence illegally and gives it to one of the lawyers, can that lawyer use the evidence in the case?

The general rule is that if the lawyer wasn’t involved in obtaining the evidence and didn’t know how it was obtained, the lawyer can introduce it. The story clearly established that Jennifer had no idea what Patsy and Jessica were doing. So in most cases, Jennifer would have been able to introduce the evidence against Hedy even though it was obtained illegally.

There is, however, a wrinkle to the general rule that would have some bearing on admissibility in this case. Jennifer hired the Alias Detective Agency to obtain evidence in the case, so there are agency problems.

No, not problems with the Alias Detective Agency, problems with the fact that Jessica was Jennifer’s agent. When Jessica and Patsy broke into Hedy’s home, they were acting on the behalf of Jennifer. The fact that Jennifer didn’t order them to do this doesn’t matter, they were still acting as Jennifer’s agents because she had hired Jessica to obtain evidence in the case.

Under agency law Jessica’s illegal act can be imputed back to Jennifer and make it as if Jennifer, herself, broken into Hedy’s apartment. If Jessica’s illegal act were to be imputed back to Jennifer, then Jennifer wouldn’t be able to admit the evidence.

Don’t think that settles the matter, though. We need to break out the starch, because there is a wrinkle to this wrinkle. Jessica and Patsy didn’t actually take the hospital bills, they just photographed them. So they didn’t obtain any evidence illegally, they only found evidence illegally. The evidence was obtainable through perfectly legal avenues. All Jennifer had to do was have Patsy, Dorothy’s next-of-kin, request Dorothy’s records from the hospital. After the hospital supplied the records, Jennifer would have obtained the evidence legally and it would probably have been admissible. When Jessica pointed this out, Hedy made like the Carlsbad Caverns and caved.

The fact that Jennifer needed Jessica to find this evidence in the first place makes me wonder how good of a lawyer Jennifer is. If I had a client who wanted to void a contract signed by a mother who was in the hospital and dying, the second thing I would have done was have the client request the mother’s medical records to see whether the mother was on any mentally-incapacitating drugs. The first thing I would have done is make sure the client’s check cleared.

Still, all’s well that ends well. One page and three days (according to a caption) later, Hedy settled out of court and surrendered all the rights to the comics back to Patsy and the Patsy-Hedy childhood rivalry story finally ended. And it was about time, if you want my fr-angst opinion.

John Ostander: Annotating H4H, Part 2

This coming week, Marvel is issuing the second part of my work on Heroes For Hire and, as I did when the first volume came out, I thought I’d talk a little bit about it and why I made some choices that I did and what I was thinking when I created the stories.

Background info: my run on H4H began in 1997 and ran for 19 issues. The team was a corporate entity, hiring out groups of superheroes for various missions. Luke Cage and Iron Fist were the core, with the Original Human Torch, Jim Hammond, running the business. Lots of characters cycled in and out, the most constant being White Tiger, Ant-Man (Scott Lang), Black Knight and Thena of the Eternals. We also had lots of guest stars such as Hercules, Wolverine, Shang-Chi, She-Hulk and Deadpool who, not surprisingly, was featured on the cover.

Deadpool is probably one of the main reasons Marvel is gathering this collection right now, along with the fact that Luke Cage and Iron Fist both either have had or will have a series on Netflix that will lead into the Defenders miniseries. And, maybe, the fact that I wrote Suicide Squad and that movie is now out on DVD, Blu-Ray, and so on. Ah, name recognition!

Often the guest stars would appear depending on availability and also on with whom I wanted to play. That accounts a lot for Deadpool’s appearance. ‘Pool is a lot of fun to write; he has a deep streak of whacky and I like whacky.

In fact, the entire series has a deep streak of whacky as best exhibited by the narrator. The voice of the narrator started normally but rapidly developed into sort of a character of its own. I was influenced by Stan Lee’s way of talking to the reader, calling them “effendi” and promising to get them caught up when the story started in the middle of a fight scene (which is one of the best ways ever to start a comic). My narrator would complain about not being told what’s going on and once panicked when there was a crash and it appeared all the heroes were dead. She-Hulk, who was also a lawyer, later broke the fourth wall and fired the narrator. We had a new, normal narrator after that; even the font changed to establish this was not the “same” narrator.

I have no idea what readers thought but, hey, I was amusing myself.

Smack dab in the middle of this we had a five-part crossover with the Quicksilver book that I was writing along with Joe Edkin. That year, Marvel was doing “paired” Annuals and, since I was involved with both H4H and Quicksilver, they got paired. Joe and I had inherited a storyline involving the High Evolutionary, the Knights of Wundagore, Exodus and the Acolytes, and ultimately Man-Wolf. In retrospect, Joe and I probably should have wound up that storyline sooner than we did and gone on to our own ideas. We hoped that linking the Quicksilver book with H4H would create an event and would help increase the readership of Quicksilver.

It didn’t work out that way. Quicksilver actually got canceled and I think we hurt H4H in the process. There were just too many characters and plenty of switching sides. Maybe we should have had a scorecard.

The pencilers on the series were generally top notch. Pachalis (Pascual) Ferry was our regular penciler and he’s terrific. Very flowing artwork but with a sense of energy and excitement akin to Jack Kirby. Excellent storyteller, too.

My other favorite penciler remains Mary Mitchell for a lot of good reasons. I first encountered Mary at a Chicago Con; incredible storytelling skills, a great sense of architecture and place, and even minor characters seemed to have a real life. They all had their own stories and we could have followed those but we were following these other characters instead. I helped her get some of her first jobs and she eventually came to live with Kim Yale and me. She stayed during Kim’s fight with breast cancer and stayed after her death. Much later, she and I became a couple and still are but at the time of her doing the story in this volume, we were just good friends.

The story was a solo adventure of the Black Knight who was a favorite character of mine and who I had brought into the group.

Another favorite character that I brought into the comic was Mrs. Arbogast, the older and sometimes acerbic secretary who had worked for Tony Stark. She has a dry disdain similar to Alfred in the Batman movies.

We had lost some readership but it was growing again but this was the Ron Pearlman era when the company was owned and operated by bunch of people who clearly didn’t know what they were doing. One underling decided he would curry favor by saving money by canceling a bunch of books – including H4H. We didn’t really warrant it. Said underling then left the company a short time later. Such is life.

I’m proud of my work on H4H. My approach was consciously different from my work at DC; a bit looser, a bit more in what I considered to be “the Marvel manner.” A plot might not complete in one issue but end at the start of the next issue and we would then plunge into the next story. Sometimes the pace was a bit breathless and that was all by design. I wanted H4H to be fun and the best way to make that happen was to have fun myself. I did and I think it shows. If you take a look, I think you’ll have fun, too.

Excelsior!

 

Glenn Hauman: Rejected!

she-hulk-byrne-copy

One of the most frustrating things to learn when you’re trying to break into the comics business is that you can be doing everything right – you can be skilled in your craft, pro-level, ready to go, with genuine audience pleasing work – and you still don’t get the job.

Even more, you can go back, show the same work again, get an even better response to it – and you still don’t get the job.

Let me offer myself as an example.

1989. Summer. Batman had been in theaters for six weeks and I was at the San Diego Comic-Con. My first, their 20th. I was 20, so it seemed fair. The show was still in what they now call the San Diego Concourse, with the Masquerade in the Civic Theatre, and it was the biggest convention I’d ever seen, bigger than all the New York shows I’d been to – why, there were eleven thousand people there!

(We pause for a moment of laughter – nowadays, that’s the line for Hall H. Onward.)

And there was a panel there called (more or less) “The Mighty Marvel Pitch Session.” You would get up on stage and pitch your plot to Executive Editor Mark Gruenwald and Historian / Archivist Peter Sanderson, who would listen and critique you to the audience, and give you a thumbs up or thumbs down. I went. And I had nothing, really, except for a She-Hulk story that I’d written up and mailed to editor Bobbie Chase in the wake of John Byrne’s leaving the book, who rejected it.

Heck, I didn’t even have a copy of the plot, just the memory of it. But it was what I had. And so I went up, to face the judgment of the duo doing Siskel & Ebert.

I don’t have the space here to recap the plot, but trust me: I killed.

The audience was laughing hysterically at all the right places, and Mark and Peter were right along with them. By the time I got to the point where She-Hulk was arguing with the new voice in the narration box, wanting to talk to Byrne, and the narrator explaining Byrne wasn’t there because he wanted to have She-Hulk shave her legs with her heat vision –

“ – I don’t have heat vision!”

“Yeah, we know. Messy, ain’t it?”

Mark turned into the gale force of crowd laughter, exclaiming, “Does everyone know this story???”

I finished the story to rapturous applause, and got the only double thumbs up of the panel.

Afterwards, Mark came up to me. “That was a great story! Why don’t you submit it?”

“I did. It was rejected.”

“Really? Who did you send it to?”

“Bobbie Chase.”

“Hmm. That’s weird. Why don’t you send it to me, and I’ll bring it over to Bobbie and see what’s going on with it?”

An invite to submit a story to Marvel? To the Executive Editor who already likes your story? “Yes, sir, I’ll send you a copy as soon as I get back to New York!”

And so I sent it off, and waited.

I waited through August, and just as I was packing up to head back to my Junior year of college, I got a reply – which I just found this weekend in my files and reproduce for you here.

marvel-mark-gruenwald-rejection-letter

Good story, amusing story – just not usable anymore.

Argh.

By that time, school had started up again, and I got busy and didn’t end up pitching again – you know, just got caught up, had to finish school, had to pay the bills, had to move, yadda yadda yadda. My next time writing Marvel characters would be almost seven years later in a prose anthology, The Ultimate X-Men.

So, is there a moral here?

Yes, and it’s this: Don’t give up.

Seriously.

Every writing manual tells you not to get discouraged, just keep at it, and eventually it’ll break for you.

And it will, but it does take effort. It takes time to find a voice, a groove, a point of view. The only thing that moves that process along is output.

And even when you’re ready – the shot may not be there. Even crazier: the shot you take may miss.

And that’s okay.

Don’t take it personally.

There will be other chances, other places, other things that inspire you to create.

But also, this: Talent and skill does not necessarily correlate to career opportunity.

That’s a tougher one to handle; realizing that no matter how good or bad you are, your career will hinge to a completely unknowable level on blind luck and happenstance.

But that’s okay too.

Because then when you realize it, all you have to do is put yourself out there, and all you have to be… is ready.

The Law Is A Ass

BOB INGERSOLL: The Law Is A Ass #348: THE THING IS AN ESCAPED CRUSADER

32761dcd7454c1bac073e381ccbf841a_mFirst a show of hands, how many of you think the Puppet Master is dead?

No, I mean really dead. Sure Puppet Master’s always been a second-tier villain. After all, anyone who had access to his radioactive clay and a grade school art class could duplicate his powers. But how many think he’s really never-coming-back-from-the-dead dead?

Probably the same number of people who think that the Thing  really killed him. However, as things sit in Fantastic Four v5 #13, Thing was sitting in Ryker’s Island waiting trial for murdering Puppet Master. Until Thing recruited his own version of the Impossible Mission Force and broke out of prison.

Step One: Thing met with his lawyer, She-Hulk. Step Two: Ant-Man shrank down to subatomic size so he could navigate along the wiring of Ryker’s Island and use a pulse bomb to shut down the cell cubes and power dampeners that Ryker’s used to keep its super-powered inmates under control. Step Three: Sandman used his sand powers to hamper the efforts of any of the other inmates who tried to escape during the power outage. Step Four: Thing and Sandman ran along one of the prison’s supply tunnels to the prison wall. Step Five: She-Hulk and Darla Deering  – who was wearing her Miss Thing exoskeleton – knocked down the wall from the outside, because Thing’s strength hadn’t returned to full power yet. Step Six: They all went outside, where Medusa and the Inhumans waited with an airship which flew them to safety. Thing, why’d you stop there? Six more steps and you could have had an intervention.

The whole operation was a big success, although Sandman wasn’t always sure it would be. Still, he joined anyway. “What’s the worst they can do if it fails? Send me to prison?”

Well, yes, that’s exactly what they can do to you.

Escape is a crime in New York. According to New York Penal Law § 205.15 when a person charged with, or convicted of, a felony escapes from a detention facility that’s escape in the first degree. Thing was charged with murder. Sandman had been convicted of a felony – several, in fact. Both escaped from a detention center. Nuff said? Escape in the first degree is a class D felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison.

So yes, Sandman, they can they send you to prison. But it’s not the worst they can do.

Most judges’ view on escape is dimmer than a ten-watt bulb. Judges tend to sentence people convicted of escape consecutively to whatever sentence the criminal escaped from. So the worst isn’t that they’ll send you back to prison. The worst is that they’ll send you back to prison for even longer.

And it’s not like She-Hulk, Ant-Man, or Darla Deering would get off scot free. N.Y.P.L. § 115.08 calls helping a person to commit a crime criminal facilitation in the fourth degree. In addition, N.Y.P.L. § 105.05 says a person is guilty of conspiracy in the fifth degree when he or she agrees with one or more persons to engage in a felony.

Okay, both of these crimes are Class A misdemeanors so the possible sentence is anything up to one year. It may not be the seven years Sandman’s facing, but give them one year on each crime, run those sentences consecutively, and that’s two years. That’s more time than Animal Practice got and Animal Practice was a crime against humanity.

(BTW, I left out Medusa and the Inhumans, because they might have diplomatic immunity. I’m not sure what the Inhumans’ diplomatic status is. Just as I’m not sure what the status of their home city Attilan is other than blown up.)

Oh yeah, She-Hulk also joked about getting disbarred for her involvement in the escape. Not a joke, Shulky. Look at what New York did to Matt Murdock. If they catch you, they’ll disbar you, too. Then you can laugh all the way to the bank. The blood bank. Because you’ll be selling your blood to earn grocery money.

Then there’s Thing. Like Sandman, he’d be facing seven years for escape. Unlike Sandman, he wouldn’t have any underlying sentences that his seven years could be stacked on consecutively. But seven years is still a long time. Still, seven years in comic-book time is an eternity.

Which brings up an interesting question. In books, comic books, TV shows and movies, prisoners who are wrongly accused of a crime frequently escape in order to prove their innocence.  Richard Kimble escaped more times than Harry Houdini on tour. And once they prove their innocence, everything is hunky dory. They’re never prosecuted for escape, even though the escape charges would still exist, even if they were actually innocent of the other crime for which they had been arrested.

Do fictional prosecutors feel the innocent people suffered enough by being charged with a crime they didn’t commit so don’t bother charging them with a crime they actually did commit? I say fictional, because I certainly never met find any real-life prosecutors who felt that way back when I was practicing. Those prosecutors tended to press charges.

See, escapees escape from a prison or detention center or police custody. The guards, correction officers and police tend to be embarrassed when escapes occur on their watch. So they try to discourage escape, by making sure prosecutors file escape charges on anyone who escapes. That other detainees won’t get the same idea.

But that’s not how it’s going to happen. The Thing will be exonerated. Then neither he nor any of the people who helped him escape will be prosecuted. And they’ll all live happily ever after.

Except Sandman. Him they’ll prosecute.

Tweeks: Experience The Marvel Experience

TweeksMEXthumbnailLast week, we went to The Marvel Experience during its stop in San Diego.  Taking place in seven large domes, visitors become S.H.I.E.L.D recruits who undergo training in order to fight alongside the Avengers against Hydra in a final showdown. It reminded us of a Marvel themed amusement park, but is it worth the ticket price (ranging from $24.50 to $34.50) when it comes your city?  Watch our review to find out.

Tweeks: A-Force Assemble!

TweeksA-ForceGuide

Last week when Marvel announced the all-female team of Avengers, you better believe we were stoked! We studied the A-Force artwork to figure out who everyone was and got right to researching the superheroes we didn’t know. Now, we’re even more excited and can’t wait  read Secret Wars in May.  In this week’s video we’ll tell you why A-Force is rad, which mutant powers we’d use to make lunch, and our thoughts on the girls not included (namely Maddy’s #2 favorite superhero, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl). A-Force Assemble, indeed!

The Law Is A Ass

BOB INGERSOLL: THE LAW IS A ASS #338: SHE-HULK IS TRYING MY PATIENCE

She-Hulk_Vol_3_9_TextlessI guess it’s just an occupational hazard with the lawyering game; assuming your clients are lying to you. Lord knows, I was guilty of it enough times. Of course, it’s easy to do that, when your initial conversations go something like this.

“I didn’t burgle that house, Mr. Ingersoll.”

“The police found your fingerprints in the house.”

“The police planted my fingerprints there.”

“The police found you in the house.”

“The police planted me there.”

Okay, that was a slight exaggeration. My clients don’t actually know the difference between burgle and rob. But you get the idea.

So, as I said, it’s an occupational hazard. And it affects all of us. Even Jennifer (She-Hulk) Walters. Even when her client is Captain America.

So, if you guessed today’s column is about Part 3 of “The Good Old Days,” from She-Hulk v.3 #10, you’re right. Now as this was part three of a three-part story, let’s get you up to speed.

In 1940, Harold Fogler left his home in Brooklyn and went out to Los Angeles http://www.discoverlosangeles.com to make his mark. He failed like a wino with bad bourbon. Largely because he hooked up with some “bad people,” who were planning to cause a riot on the Los Angeles docks. Harold’s younger brother, Sam, and a pre-Captain America Steve Rogers came out to LA looking for Harold. They found him. But the bad people found them.

The bad people ordered Harold to shoot Sam and Steve. Harold refused. Then Steve started telling the bad people how weak and cowardly they were. According to Harold, the leader of the bad people told Steve if he didn’t shut up, he’d kill Sam. Steve didn’t shut up. The leader killed Sam.

Seventy-four years later, Harold Fogler related this story for the first time while on his death bed. Then Harold’s heirs sued Captain America claiming that Cap wrongfully caused the death of their uncle Sam when he didn’t stop talking. Jennifer Walters represented Cap and Matt (Daredevil) Murdock represented the Foglers.

Matt introduced Harold’s deathbed statement as his main evidence. He also called Cap to the stand. Cap admitted that everything Harold said was true. And with that the plaintiffs rested their case. (And promptly lost, by the way, because the plaintiffs never introduced any evidence covering what damages Sam’s death caused his great-grandnewphews, so the jury couldn’t award them any money. But that’s another matter.)

Jennifer cross-examined Cap who told the jury his side of the story. It was basically the same as Harold’s side but it added two important things that Harold left out. First, the “bad people” were Nazi saboteurs and American fifth columnists working with the Nazis. Second, the leader didn’t threaten to kill Sam. He said, “Stop talking or someone will die.” Steve didn’t stop talking and the leader told Steve, “I should kill you.” But he didn’t want to kill Steve. He regarded Steve as weak and wanted Steve to marry and have kids so as to infect his country with his weakling genes. So the leader killed the “strong one,” Sam.

And there’s the difference: in Cap’s account, the leader didn’t threaten to kill Sam, he threatened to kill someone. Steve thought the leader was going to kill him, so didn’t know his talking would cause Sam’s death. That being the case, Steve didn’t act negligently in continuing to talk, so didn’t wrongfully cause Sam’s death.

The case became what, I used to call a swearing match when I was lawyering. No, I don’t mean the witnesses got on the stand and started cussing; although that happened often enough. No, it means one side’s witnesses testify and swear the events happened one way. The other side’s witnesses testify and swear they happened another way. Then it was up to the jury to decide which side’s swearing it believes.

She-Hulk was worried about the case. Steve couldn’t verify his version with any records because the matter had been classified. I think She-Hulk was over-thinking the case and worrying for nothing. Personally, I think it could have been the shortest closing argument in history. “Hey, jury, you have two versions of the story. One from a fifth columnist Nazi saboteur and terrorist, the other from Captain America. Who are you going to believe?” But She-Hulk worried. Probably because, lawyers believe their clients are lying, and she feared the jury would too.

Cap had anticipated She-Hulk’s doubts. But he needed She-Hulk to believe in his veracity, so that she could convince the jury of his veracity. So he had She-Hulk’s investigator, Hellcat, break into a government facility and steal the classified documents. He gave them to She-Hulk to prove he was telling the truth. But he told She-Hulk she couldn’t use the documents in trial.

Let me get this straight. Cap had no problem with Hellcat breaking into a government facility and stealing classified documents, but had qualms about introducing them in court? Hey, Cap, I have a suggestion for you. Should this happen again, call your contacts at S.H.I.E.L.D. or the White House and have them declassify the documents. They were seventy-four years old, for crying out loud, and had only been classified because back in the 40s, the government didn’t want the American people to know that “Nazis were working on U.S. soil.” Seventy-four years later, the government wouldn’t even care about this secret anymore. They would have declassified the documents for you in a second. Then you could have used them at the trial.

Anyway, armed with her new-found confidence in Cap’s veracity, She-Hulk gave an impassioned and convincing – because she was convinced herself – closing argument. She said exactly what I said in my version of the closing argument. Only longer. And the result was …

Actually, I don’t know the outcome of the case. Right as the forewoman of the jury was saying “We find the defendant…” the story cut to a new scene. I can’t tell you whether the jury found the defendant guilty or not guilty. Which is good. That way I don’t have to issue a spoiler warning.

So, I can’t tell you what the jury decided. I can, however, tell you this; despite what the forewoman started to say, the jury didn’t find the defendant either guilty or not guilty. This was a civil trial, remember. Juries don’t find defendants guilty or not guilty in civil cases. They either find for the plaintiff or find the defendant. But guilt doesn’t enter into their deliberations.

One little follow up and for this I do have to issue a

SPOILER WARNING!

Cap deduced that someone was behind this plot against him. Someone who wanted to discredit Cap and tarnish his reputation. Someone who convinced Harold to come forward after all this time, then convinced Harold’s heirs to sue Captain America, and leaked other evidence in the case. That someone was Dr. Faustus. So Cap, She-Hulk, and Daredevil fought their way past Dr. Faustus’s guards and into Dr. Faustus’s hideout, where Cap punched out Faustus cold.

Which created a whole new problem for She-Hulk. Cause when Dr. Faustus sues Cap for assault and She-Hulk represents him, if Cap denies his involvement, she won’t just assume he’s lying, she’ll know.

The Law Is A Ass

BOB INGERSOLL: The Law is A Ass #334: THE FALL OF THE FANTASTIC FOUR; THE WINTER OF MY DISCONTENT

tumblr_n6q6zjyY4D1rwso0yo1_500I have no idea what happened in this comic.

The trial shown in Fantastic Four v 5 # 5 started because some creatures escaped from the pocket universe created by Franklin Richards and wreaked havoc on Manhattan. A bunch of citizens upon whom havoc had been wreaked sued the Fantastic Four in a class-action suit. Had that been the extent of the trial, I would have had no problems. But somehow the trial morphed into something so unrecognizable that I became gobsmacked and I found myself spouting British slang instead of simple American words like nonplussed or flabbergasted.

And I found myself unable to understand what happened in the comic.

What I do know – what I was able to understand – was that what had been a simple class-action suit for damages had become a “hastily formed” “special judicial inquiry.” What kind of “special judicial inquiry?” I don’t know. It can’t be a civil case, because opposing counsel was prosecutor Aiden Toliver and prosecutors appear in criminal trials.

In civil trials you have plaintiffs and defendants v. In criminal trials you have prosecutors and defendants. If prosecutor Toliver is the FF’s opposing counsel, it would appear that the civil class-action case had become a criminal case.

How? A civil case can’t just become a criminal case, they’re entirely different types of cases with entirely different burdens of proof. Remember O.J. was tried in a criminal case for murder and found not guilty because the prosecution couldn’t prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? Remember how he was then sued in a civil court for wrongful death where the jury found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he had committed the murders? His criminal case didn’t suddenly become a civil case. He had two trials. Trials in the plural.

I suppose that while the class-action lawsuit against the FF was being prepared, some party became alerted to the FF’s history and brought criminal charges against them. But that would have been a separate case and a separate trial, like O.J.’s trials – trials plural – were. So what happened to the civil case? It didn’t just become the criminal case, as the story implies.

Also the FF’s trial can’t be a criminal case. In the United States, the Fifth Amendment absolutely forbids the prosecution from calling the defendants as witnesses in its case in chief. Yet Prosecutor Toliver called Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Sue Richards, Johnny Storm, Reed Richards again, and then Sue Richards again as prosecution witnesses. He called more defendants than a bailiff in the arraignment room. So it must be a civil case for damages not a criminal case.

Except, in the end the judges presiding over the trial – yes, judges, there were clearly three of them sitting at the bench – didn’t award any civil damages that I saw. Instead, the judges evicted the FF from the Baxter Building and took custody of the Richards’ children and the other children of the Future Foundation and put them in the care of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Only I don’t see how that could have happened. If the case was a civil damages suit, the trial court wouldn’t have had jurisdiction over the question child custody. That would have been the purview of Family Court, and that court wasn’t involved in the case at all, that I could see.

Now, I suppose forfeiture of the FF’s custodial rights and eviction from their home could have been conditions of probation http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/probation. But that would mean that the case was a criminal case, that the FF was convicted, and that they were put on probation. That might work. (Are you starting to feel like you’re watching a Tennis match here?)

Yes, a criminal case. The case couldn’t have been a civil case, because there were three judges. In the United States, when a civil trial waives a jury and tries the case to the judge, the judge who hears the case is the judge presiding over the trial. That’s judge in the singular. Civil trials don’t normally have three-judge panels.

Of course, criminal trials don’t even have three-judge panels for the most part either, unless it’s a death penalty case. This wasn’t a death penalty case. At the end of the day, the FF was evicted from the Baxter Building, but they weren’t relocated to Death Row. Or even to Def Jam.

Wait, a criminal case with a three-judge panel. And the cover copy said “Accused: Crimes Against Humanity!” Was the FF being tried in the International Criminal Court, or as it’s more commonly called the World Court? Maybe. The World Court does conduct its criminal trials before a three-judge panel with a prosecutor representing the plaintiffs.

But, if it was the World Court, then why was the trial being held in “Manhattan’s central courthouse,” and not the World Court building in The Hague? Possibly, because Article 3 v of the Rome Statute, the multi-national treaty which created the World Court, says that, “The Court may sit elsewhere, whenever it considers it desirable, as provided in this Statute.” Most of the witnesses – which mostly seemed to be the FF itself – lived in New York. I could see the World Court relocating this trial to New York as being more convenient to the participants.

That’s it then, the FF was being tried for crimes against humanity in the World Court. Crimes such as, oh what heinous acts did Prosecutor Toliver ask them about? Minor physical damage caused by the Invisible Woman. Property damage caused by The Thing. Property damage caused by the Torch. Property damage caused by fighting the Hulk  in Manhattan. Not helping S.H.I.E.L.D. or some other agency trap Namor so he could be tried for war crimes. Not sharing what they knew about the Inhumans with any branch of national security. Letting Reed and Sue’s daughter Valeria live with that known terrorist Dr. Doom. Misplacing the Ultimate Nullifier. Letting Annihilus and Blastaar and other such nasties come out of the Negative Zone portal to attack New York City. Sue causing a riot and destruction in New York after she had been brainwashed by the Hate-Monger and adopted the name Malice. Oh yes, and Ben Grimm, in a fit of pique, destroying the taxi cab of one Mr. Dupois and the FF’s lawyers failed to make reparations in a timely manner.

So that, property damage and negligence is how prosecutor Toliver defines crimes against humanity. Know how Rome Statute defines it? “[P]articularly odious offenses in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of human beings.” Crimes against humanity are also the acts of government, not men. Okay, men do the acts, but do so either as part of a government policy or with the approval of the government. Crimes against humanity include such things as murder, massacres, extermination, human experimentation, slavery, cannibalism, torture, rape, persecution and other inhuman acts. They don’t include forgetting to throw the dead bolt on the Negative Zone hatch.

That being the case, the case wasn’t a trial in the World Court for crimes against humanity, either.

So what was it?

I’d like to say, “Ah’m so corn-fused.” But I’m not Li’l Abner. If I can’t go with the Al Capp ending, I’ll go with an aria da capo ending.

I have no idea what happened in this comic.