Technically, we can’t call Batman a “white hat” hero. Even back in the 50s in his brightest days his hat – er cowl – was blue. But back then his actions were noble. He was and acted like a white hat hero, even if his headgear didn’t match.
Now, however, his hat is somewhere between dark gray and black. And his actions frequently trend even darker. Like in Catwoman # 29.
Now before you go further, I should issue a customary SPOILER WARNING, because I’m about to give away more than you could have wanted to know about the plot to Catwoman # 29, unless what you wanted to know was how it ended. If that’s what you want to know, then keep reading, because that’s what you’re about to get.
In this story Catwoman was attending a large black-tie publicity party being held by Taylor Pharmaceuticals. The purpose of said party was two-fold. The first was to celebrate the imminent launch of MR-40, a chemotherapy drug with minimal side effects that will revolutionize cancer treatment. The second was to celebrate the fact that WayneTech , which wanted in on the ground floor of MR-40, just purchased Taylor Pharm for 30 million dollars and the CEO was about to ride a golden parachute into the Caribbean sunset.
Now I have no problem with any of that; at least not in so far as it involved a legal problem. There was none. I do think 30 mill seemed a bit cheap for a big pharm company that was about to revolutionize cancer treatment. A few more zeroes to the left of the decimal point would seem the more likely asking price. In 2000, the Cleveland Indians, a team that wasn’t revolutionizing much of anything – including bringing an actual championship to Cleveland, sold for 320 million dollars. If a mere baseball team was worth 320 million in 2000 dollars, imagine what a big pharm company that was about to revolutionize cancer treatment would be worth in 2014 dollars? Were I the shareholders of Taylor Pharmaceuticals, I’d would have preferred that Taylor Pharm swallowed a poison pill rather than sell for chump change and would have wanted the heads of the Board of Trustees in a silver mortar.
But undervalued sale prices is not why we’re here. We’re here because of what happened next.
What happened next was that Catwoman used her cat burglar skills to break into the Taylor Pharm R&D department and steal the prototypes of MR-40 and something called ADR-17. Stealing prototype drugs was a little out of Catwoman’s usual M.O. Taking jewelry or art was more her usual line, but someone had hired her to get the MR-40 for him.
Everything was going smoothly until the lab’s security alarm went off as Catwoman was taking the vials of said prototype drugs and some poor schlub of a security guard confronted her with his gun drawn. Catwoman had been hired to steal the MR-40 and ARD-17 prototypes and deliver the MR-40 to her employer. Her employer told her to smash the vial of ARD-17, although he didn’t say how. So, as a distraction, Catwoman threw the ARD-17 at the guard. Who promptly turned into a New 52 version of the Incredible Hulk, except that he was flesh-colored and couldn’t even manage the vocabulary complexities of, “Hulk smash!”
The fight which ensued between Catwoman, the hulked-out guard and the other security guards who answered the alarm spilled out into the party. (Seriously, the Taylor Pharm party ballroom was on the same floor as the R & D labs? That didn’t seem like a security, and maybe even health, hazard to anyone?) Taylor security subdued the security guard with seven doses of a sedative then tried to capture Catwoman, but she made her escape by diving out of a window on the 27th floor.
Catwoman scampered off to deliver the MR-40 to her employer. Those of you who were wondering where and how Batman comes into this story will probably not be too surprised to learn that Batman was Catwoman’s employer. He hired her to steal the MR-40 as a distraction. Her real mission was to smash the vial of ADR-17, which was an experimental steroid offshoot of Venom. (No, not the Spider-Man villain but the DC super-steroid which powers up Bane. (No, not Mitt Romney’s company, but…) So that explains why when ADR-17 hit the security guard, he didn’t just grow like Topsy, he growed like Topsy on… Well, on steroids.
Anyway, Batman decided that a newer, more powerful version of Venom was too dangerous to exist. So while Catwoman was stealing the drugs and destroying the only physical sample of the steroid, Batman was wiping the formula and all of the ADR-17 research files off of the Taylor Pharmaceutical computers and servers.
Tomorrow, the new owner of Taylor Pharmaceuticals, Bruce Wayne, would reassign all the people working on ADR-17 to work on restoring MR-40 and, he hoped, no one would even notice that the experimental steroid was missing. Although given what happened to the security guard, someone is probably going to suspect something. But that’s why Batman also set off the security alarm, so that the guards would see a masked cat burglar stealing prototype drugs and assume she made off with both the MR-40 and the ADR-17, too.
Now I’m not a ruler-wielding nun in a parochial school, I don’t even play one on TV. But if I were, I’d probably tell Batman he needed a time out to think about what he had done.
What had he done? Well, he hired Catwoman to break into a research lab and steal the prototype of a valuable new chemotherapy drug, that’s what he’d done. And what laws did he break by these actions? You know my methods, apply them.
But to point you in the right direction, you might remember that Gotham City is supposed to be somewhere in New Jersey and start with the New Jersey statutes governing conspiracy, complicity (or aiding and abetting, as those of us who aren’t fancy-word-slinging state legislators call it), burglary, theft, and assault. That should be enough to let you hit the ground running.
I’m not concerned with the crimes Batman committed, however. I’m more concerned that in order to stop development on a new steroid, a potentially dangerous new steroid I admit, he interfered with the development of a new chemotherapy drug for the treatment of cancer. Even if Batman’s actions only delay the development of said drug by, say, a week, that’s one week later that said drug will come onto the market. And, because we’re talking about a drug designed to fight and control the spread of cancer, even one week could mean that several people might die, who would not have died if said drug had been delivered to the market one week earlier.
Batman, or Bruce Wayne but for our purposes what’s the difference, was about to take over Taylor Pharmaceuticals. He could have ordered all work on ADR-17 to stop. He could have ordered that all files on ARD-17 be destroyed. He could have….
Well, he could have done lots of things. Surely there were other ways that Batman could have arranged for work on ADR-17 to stop without potentially endangering the lives of untold cancer patients.
Batman’s actions were callous, uncaring and, frankly, mean. And, in this case, I’m not sure that the ends – destroying ADR-17 – justified the mean.