A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Friday, July 29, 2005

JSA #45: The Trial of Kobra

All this week has been Kobra Week over at Dave's Long Box, so now seems a good a time as any to take a look at one of the final Kobra stories, when Lord Naga finally saw his day in court.

In JSA #10, supervillain terrorist Kobra blew up Lexair Flight #178, killing 217 people (including Atom Smasher's mother). In #45, almost three years later, he finally got his day in court. This time lapse, stated to be eleven months in DCU time, is probably the most realistic legal aspect of the story, as major cases often take many months to go to trial. But for readers of a monthly comic, it read like a loose end that dangled for three years until being resolved.

That court is shown to be the U.S. District Court in New York City. NYC is actually the home to two federal district courts: the Eastern District of New York (headquartered in Brooklyn) and the Southern District (in Manhattan). Not being a New Yorker, and lacking any images of either courthouse, I’m at a loss as to whether the art accurately reflects either building. But blowing up an airliner is a good way to get the feds on your case, so federal court is the right place for the trial to be.

A news reporter tells us three of the charges Kobra is facing: “first degree murder, conspiracy to commit an international act of terrorism, use of a weapon of mass destruction.” Hopefully those aren’t the only three, but at least the first and third are legitimate federal crimes. And I'll guess that the second charge is referring to this.

It’s never stated outright, but most of the dialogue and circumstances in the issue points to this being the first day of the trial, or at least very early in the proceedings (as Wildcat puts it, “We’re just settling in to watch the big circus go down” right after Jakeem Thunder said "I can't believe we're actually watching this. About time..."). There is only one actual trial scene, spanning pages 7 and 8.

Those two pages appear to make one of those mistakes that courtroom dramas should never, under any circumstances, make: the prosecution calling the defendant as a witness. And on what seems to be the first day of trial, no less. The prosecution can never call a defendant to the stand. Never. That's at the haert of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Major, unforgivable flub there, and the entire trial scene is dependent on this error.

Leonard Kirk makes the same mistake with Kobra as was made with the Shadow Thief in Manhunter, portraying the defendant in an orange jailhouse jumpsuit, wearing massive high-tech shackles on his wrists. Such an appearance is extraordinarily prejudicial to the defense, as are the armed guards flanking the witness stand. Perhaps Kobra himself chose not to wear any better clothes, but the shackles and guns are very much out of line.

There’s also that 10-foot screen hanging above the witness stand that shows Kobra in his full supervillain get-up. That crosses the line from legally erroneous to simply absurd. There’s nothing in a real court that resembles that in the slightest. Imagine if during the Michael Jackson trial there had been a giant portrait of Jacko hanging on the wall of the courtroom, in full 'Thriller' get-up.

The prosecutor begins with questioning Kobra about his name, to which Kobra replies “Jeffrey Burr no longer exists,” and the prosecutor responds “But he did once?” At this point, the defense attorney stands and says “I object, my client is a religious leader--.” This is wrong for two reasons. First, that’s not a real objection. Being a religious leader might be relevant if the question inquired into privileged information (such as asking a priest about a confidential confession), but that’s certainly not the case here. That leads to the second problem with the objection, which is that it’s not at all clear what he’s objecting to. Kobra being a religious leader does not seem to bear any relation to a name question, or at least not in any way that’s objectionable. I’m at a loss as to how the question is objectionable at all.

Then again, the defense attorney does get cut off, so maybe he had a better objection that he didn’t get to finish. That’s a problem in itself. The prosecutor interrupted, we never heard a full objection, and the judge never ruled on the objection before the prosecutor continued with the examination. Judges always rule on objections, and to do so, he would’ve had the defense attorney finish.

After interrupting the objection, the prosecutor goes into a long-winded narrative providing tons of expository details about the case against Kobra and the evils he’s committed. Now that’s clearly objectionable. It’s not a question, it’s testimony, and testimony is supposed to come from witnesses, not the attorney. Strangely, there’s no objection from the defense on that.

The prosecutor also mentions in passing that “by his own admission,” Kobra committed these acts of terrorism. Since there was no objection, then if he wasn’t denying his participation, I'm left scratching my head as to what the defense’s strategy was going to be. Insanity? Some sort of bizarre religious justification?

There’s nothing remarkable about the rest of the questioning, though Mr. Terrific’s comment afterward that Kobra is “good…about as charismatic as they come,” seems very odd. Kobra’s comments on the stand are overtly threatening to Americans ("I reject your nation's sovereignty....A great darkness will spread its wings over creation."), and the jurors appear genuinely troubled, not charmed.

Finally, an explosion occurs outside the courthouse, and the courtroom bursts into chaos. A half dozen federal officials train their guns on Kobra, and the press cameramen (seen in the background of earlier panels) spill out of their box to catch the moment upclose on film. Kobra eventually speaks, saying “Now that I have the world’s attention, allow me to explain,” and proceeding to say that if he isn’t set free, five hundred of his followers outside the courthouse will be killed immediately.

State courts sometimes allow television coverage of trials, often at the judge’s discretion. But this is a federal court, and television cameras have been expressly forbidden from covering federal criminal trials since 1946. The reasons for this are said to be that cameras distract trial participants, unfairly affect the outcome, and lessen the court’s dignity. Unless the DCU gov’t adopted a very different rule, Wildcat should not be watching this trial on TV and Kobra should not have the world’s attention.

That’s it for the legal analysis, but there’s a political aspect to the ending I have to comment on. In response to the threat to the 500 lives outside, Mr. Bones and the judge agree to let Kobra walk free. This is a straightforward submission to a terrorist’s demands (and in front of live television cameras, no less). It has been the policy of the U.S. government for decades to never give in to terrorist demands. To do so may spare some lives in the present, but it endangers innumerable lives in the future. And as a result of this philosophy, America has been relatively free of high-stakes terrorist demands, in large part because it’s understood that we will never acquiesce in those demands.

Here, though, Kobra made a straightforward terrorist demand ("Set me free or hundreds will die"), and the US conceded and complied with it. We can't even be certain that the 500 were saved as a result, since they were all teleported away. With this action, though, the DCU opened itself up to the risk of future villains pulling the exact same stunt Kobra did to avoid punishment. And unless they appease each one, then sooner or later innocent people will die.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Guest Post: Nature vs. Nurture, Part 2

And now the conclusion of yesterday's comments on comic book chromosomes by ChaosBurnFlame. Once again, the following post contains considerable spoilers for the JLU season finale:


In ‘Epilogue’ it was revealed that Terry McGinnis, the Batman of the animated DC universe’s future, is the genetic son of Bruce Wayne. His entire birth was manufactured by Amanda Waller in hopes of creating a new Batman. The story defies most conventions about heredity and dominant genetic traits that ARE known by genetic science, and not only that, but it violates the validity of Terry McGinnis’s right to BE Batman.

In the story, Waller spins the yarn of her plan, using Bruce Wayne’s DNA and injecting a genetic retrovirus into Terry’s father to change the reproductive DNA in Terry’s father to that of Bruce Wayne’s, meaning that essentially it would be the same as if Bruce Wayne himself impregnated Terry’s mother. As the story continues, Waller says that it takes ‘more than genetics’ to make Batman, it also took tragedy.

Waller arranged the Phantasm to kill both of Terry’s parents in front of him to set off Terry’s ‘genetic need’ to become Batman. And this is where the whole thing falls apart, both in the story, and in all conventional means of storytelling.

The implications in the statements of Waller are that she planned this sordid plan for over a decade. That for ten years she was thinking “Gee, this is a great plan” And then, a mere five seconds before the final step in the plan was to be put in motion, the Phantasm gets cold feet and the plan’s abandoned, without a second thought.

Genetically speaking, however, the entire plan is flawed. If one wants to create a child that would have nearly all the genetic traits one would consider necessary for Batman, they shouldn’t use Batman’s DNA. They should use the DNA from Batman’s father.

Historically speaking, Eugenics has had a short time of actual practice for ‘breeding out’ undesirable elements in humans in the early 20th century. Of course, these practices didn’t even last a single generation, thus any relevant data is near impossible to gather. Eugenic studies on humans unethical and immoral, thus if one wants to gather any sort of logical data concerning how to duplicate desirable traits, one would look into the breeding of animals, such as horses.

One of the first steps in breeding horses is called ‘Isolation’. This means lowering the chance of getting any undesirable traits by limiting the selection pool. This typically means using for males the father to breed in desirable traits.

The reason for this is because in Bruce Wayne’s DNA, there are the recessive traits of both Thomas and Martha Wayne as well as the dominant. Using Bruce’s DNA as the father DNA creates a crapshoot to where the recessive traits between Thomas Wayne, Martha Wayne, and Terry’s Mother will quite frankly create a lot of dominant traits that most likely wouldn’t even be considered viable for the project. The law of statistics state that the chances of recreating the dominant traits that Waller stated were so desirable in what made Batman Batman would be cut to a sixteenth.

However, if one used Thomas Wayne’s DNA as the father DNA, then the chances are down to an eighth. Still not odds one should take to Vegas, but far better than a sixteenth.

Now for the ‘nurture’ flaw in Waller’s plan. Waller planned the murder of Terry’s parents when he was only 8 years of age. The odds of merely having Bruce Wayne as a genetic father and replicating Bruce’s young tragedy would instill the same dedication and drive Bruce Wayne had is, statistically, improbable.

Odds you shouldn’t take to Vegas even. In fact, one would have better odds in creating a Batman by going to 20 orphans whose parents were killed and training them. Statistically, it would be still highly improbable, but in this case at least, nurture would be the stronger influence instead of the Waller plan of waiting for divine coincidence.

The final problem in how genetics are handled in these two characters is this: It invalidates these characters’ places in their respective families. For Kon-El, he knew he wasn’t a clone of Superman, yet he worked hard to be good enough to have the name. He went through heartbreak, lost his first love Tana Moon, fought an evil clone of himself called Match, fought an alternate reality version of himself called Black Zero. And it was through all this that Superman said “Ok, you’re good enough”, invited him into the Fortress, gave him a kryptonian name, and made Superboy feel worthy of being a ‘cousin’ to Superman. He EARNED it.

The same goes to Terry. Throughout ‘Batman Beyond’, Terry constantly strived to be good enough to be Batman in this new time. Some of the old Batman’s methods worked; sometimes it took Terry’s personal touch. But the message was that Terry earned the right to wear the costume on his own merits. He EARNED it.

To suddenly make these two characters to be the genetic son of their predecessors takes away from this struggle to be good enough. It cheapens the struggle, it says that the only way to gain the legacy is through blood, not tears. And that is the problem with how genetics are handled in comics.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Guest Post: Nature vs. Nurture

Hot on the heels of the last guest contribution comes another new voice in Ben Carver, aka ChaosBurnFlame. He has a lot to say on the subject of genetics, so I'm splitting his comments into two posts, the second half of which I'll post tomorrow. And fair warning: tomorrow's portion will deal heavily in spoilers for this past Saturday's season finale of Justice League Unlimited.

That said, let's talk genetics:


Yes, we have heard all the old stories before. “Evil Clone” this, “Father’s footsteps” that. Yet I can’t help but feel, the more and more genetics are introduced in comics as crucial part of the stories we read, that the writers don’t know a thing about genetics. Now some of you reading might ask “Why would a comic book writer need to read up on genetics?” Well, they don’t really. They just need to learn enough to stop inserting their own opinions into the work and disguise it as pseudo-science.

One of the biggest debates in recent years regarding genetics and behavioral science is the one of ‘nature’ over ‘nurture’. It seems to me however the majority of the comic industry is currently holding ‘nature’ is stronger than ‘nurture’. A good, or rather, bad example of this is in Geoff Johns and his writing of Superboy in the Teen Titans comic series.

Superboy, or Kon-El, or ‘Conner Kent’ as he is known as now, was a character created and written by one Karl Kesel, one of the most unappreciated and gifted comic book writers of the last decade. Superboy’s character when written under Karl Kessel was a great example of nurture over nature. People who have not read the important issues of Superboy (Issue #0, and the ‘Hypertension’ arc) and Adventures of Superman (Issue #499) probably wouldn’t see why I would object to Geoff Johns and his handling of Kon-El. It all boils down to one thing: Kon-El was never a clone of Superman.

That’s right. It was repeatedly stated during Karl Kesel’s handling of the character that Kon-El’s genetic heritage and background is 100% human. And the genetic donor of Superboy’s DNA was none other than Paul Westfield, a corrupt and evil director of Project CADMUS.

Superboy during the Kesel years was handled beautifully well, a story that started about a teen that was artificially created, learning responsibility, friendship, and truth. He even spent a good deal of his time working as a CADMUS field agent, having nearly daily exposure to geneticists, clones, and other relevant parties concerning ‘nature’ vs ‘nurture’.

When Geoff Johns got a hold of the character, the first thing he did was retcon Kon-El’s past. Instead of being a human, Johns changed Kon’s genetic structure to be half human, half kryptonian, and Kon’s new human ‘donor’ to be Lex Luthor. Despite the fact that Kon has had SEVERAL genetic examinations, including an unplanned one in Hawaii by Emil Hamilton on the spur of the moment (Superboy #0), an examination of an alternate Kon-El from a parallel Earth and comparing genetic markers to Superboy’s (Hypertension Arc), it is easy to say that there is no way to fit the Half Luthor/Superman DNA thing into the Superboy history without ignoring Superboy’s past wholesale (and ignoring a 100 issue series and over 80 appearances in other books including Adventures, Young Justice, and many others).

But it’s not just the structure of Kon-El’s DNA that changed under Johns. It was his entire attitude. Now Kon fantasizes about destroying his high school simply because his teachers annoy him. Now Kon-El is struggling with the feeling of nature vs nurture, when under Kessel, Kon had to deal with his ENTIRE genetic code being contributed by Paul Westfield. Now, simply because its Lex Luthor, we’re supposed to believe, thanks to the ‘Future Titans’ arc under Johns that Kon-El is capable of Luthor’s level of evil, thanks only to the fact that he has Luthor’s DNA.

Not only does it have no foundation in Kon-El’s history, it has no foundation in his characterization, or in genetics. The belief that the morality of a father directly affects the child is an idea that’s laughed upon by most genetic authorities. The so-called ‘evil gene’ doesn’t exist, and the whole idea that there’s a gene in someone that makes them want to burn down their schools, or want to become a global terrorist.

Not only that, it also gives little to no room the argue against nature being a strong defining force in what makes people’s personalities and morality. I haven’t seen a single strong scientific argument to prove that the children of criminals, based on genetics alone, are predestined to enter crime.

There is no moral way to feasibly do a double blind study on the subject of Nature versus Nurture without creating entire nearly identical cities and cloning several test subjects just for that purpose. From what I see, two different writers, one character, and only one writer handled the character well in the terms of genetic realism. Karl Kesel understood that nurture is the defining point, not nature.
If you think that the pages of comics are the only place where this attitude of nature over nurture is infecting the industry, then you need to see the Justice League Unlimited season finale, ‘Epilogue’....

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Guest Post: 'Fantastic' Flub

And now, a guest submission from a new contributor, Brian Kilkowski, a.k.a. metaphysician, on some cringeworthy science in the Fantastic Four film. Don't worry if you haven't seen the film; there are no spoilers to speak of.


In any story involving the Fantastic Four, there will be science, comic book
and otherwise. Overall, the movie was actually pretty good from this angle.

The comic book science was nothing to bother anyone who could accept the
basic movie premise. Several scenes also made fairly good usage of at least
plausible actual science (the capture of Reed Richards and the defeat of Dr.
Doom, specifically, were good). However, one scene stood up and made my
inner scientist cringe. That, was the test scene for Johnny Storm, the
Human Torch. There were two significant elements of the scene, one only a
minor nitpick, the other. . . not.

Firstly, Johnny's temperature peaked out at just under 4000 Kelvin when the
test was cut off. This was referred to at one point as being "as hot as the
sun." This is technically correct, but misleading. One can find
temperatures of 4500 K in the sun; specifically, that is the temperature of
a sunspot. However, sunspots are also, by far, the coldest portions of the
sun. In comparison, the core of the sun is 15 million Kelvin, and even
normal temperature portions of the photosphere (where sunspots are located)
are 6000 Kelvin.

(As an aside, 4000 Kelvin is also roughly the melting point of diamond, the
substance with the highest known melting point. Whatever Reed made that
test chamber out of, I hope he's selling it to NASA. However, I don't
consider this a nitpick, as Reed's whole schtick *is* "supergenius
scientist," after all.)

The second, and by far worse problem, is his claim that Johnny could have
"ignited the atmosphere" if his heat went any higher. Firstly, in order for
any of the atmosphere to burn at all, requires that some react with the
oxygen in the air. Oxygen does not burn; it facilitates burning. Second,
in order for this to "ignite" the atmosphere, the reaction in question would
need to release more energy than it absorbed, sufficient to power further

The possible reactants include Nitrogen, Argon, Carbon Dioxide, and Water (vapor). The second two are themselves already combustion products (of carbon and hydrogen, respectively); they are not going to further combust, but rather, they would be decomposed into their components, thus absorbing energy. Argon is a noble gas; the only compounds it forms at all are unstable molecules ( heh ) with Fluorine, and only in exacting laboratory conditions. This leaves Nitrogen as the only even vaguely possible reactant, though only in the sense that it is not a combustion product
itself and isn't a noble gas. Thankfully, atmospheric nitrogen naturally
exists in its most stable possible form. While sufficient heat can combust
nitrogen, the resulting chemical reaction absorbs energy, rather than
releasing it. This is precisely the reason why both ATP and TNT contain
numerous nitrogen atoms; the bounds they form contain much energy, while the
nitrogen itself is in a less stable state, thus allowing for the molecule to
readily be broken down to release the energy.

There is also experimental, as theoretical, evidence for the non-danger of
atmospheric ignition: specifically, the aboveground testing of nuclear
weapons. The US alone has done hundreds of such tests, and even a Hiroshima
class bomb generates temperatures far in excess of 4000 Kelvin. The fact
that we are still here, is proof enough that a "mere" 4000 K superhero is no
threat to life as we know it.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Daily Show Disappoints

This isn't comic-related in the least, but since I imagine a certain amount of folks out there are "Daily Show" viewers, I felt compelled to share this.

Last night, Jon Stewart's guest was Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who talked about how thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative once common in vaccines, is linked to autism in children. Here's one quote of Kennedy's from the interview: "If you actually read the science...the science is overwhelming that there is a link between the autism and the thimerosal."

Now you may not have picked up on this, since Stewart didn't dispute his guest's allegations at any time during the interview, but RFKJr is lying through his teeth.

For starters, here's a few of the organizations who are not convinced of any such link: the FDA, the CDC, the World Health Organization, UK's Health Protection Agency, the European Medicines Agency, and the the Danish Epidemiology Science Centre.

Kennedy referred to an article he wrote for Rolling Stone and Salon last month. Regarding that, I can only recommend the responses from Respectful Insolence and the Skeptic's Dictionary and Skeptico. In fact, Skeptico has an entire section devoted to anti-vaccination hysteria that's worth a look. The New York Times also has a very good article on the subject.

If you'd prefer some back-and-forth debate, I got most of the health organization links above from this thread debate. Note who cites recognized health agencies and who cites quacks and anti-thimerosal websites while claiming the CDC is part of a propaganda conspiracy.

You want it all summed up in one point? OK, here goes: real scientists submit their research and papers to peer-reviewed journals. Now look at the 'science' linking thimerosal and autism, and see how many have been published in legitimate scientific journals.

I must admit, though, that I take some amusement in Kennedy's Simpsonwood conference conspiracy theory, since that's only a few miles from my home.

I'm most disappointed in Jon Stewart. He's long made a habit of calling guests on the table over unsupported allegations. Sure it's a comedy show, but he can ask the tough questions. I expect him to give a hard time to a creation scientist or a person who claims cell phones cause cancer, but he played right along with Kennedy's nonsense.

Update: Skeptico breaks down the Daily Show interview.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Serenity #1

After a long drought of Firefly goodness, Serenity #1 came out last week. It captured the series very well, IMO, right down to the Chinese phrases.

Unfortunately, I (and I imagine, you) don't read Chinese. And without the tone and inflection that live-action dialogue provides, it can leave the reader a little unclear as to what the characters mean.

Thus, let us give thanks to the Firefly-Serenity Chinese Pinyinary:

Serenity #1 Chinese Translations

Monday, July 18, 2005


In this past weekend's JLU, we see Cadmus headquarters in Washington DC. In one shot, it appears to be a fair bit taller than the Washington Monument.

You may have heard that, by law, the Washington Monument is the tallest structure in DC. I'd heard this too. But it turns out that that's only somewhat true.

Urban Planet gives the rundown. Basically, DC used to have a height ordinance that made the Capitol the tallest building in town. While that is no longer in effect, current law says that new buildings can be no more than 20 feet taller than the width of the street in front of it. And this effectively preserves the Monument as the tallest structure in DC, and gives the city a different look than most American metropolises.

I wish I had a screenshot to show how well JLU actually captured the appearance of the National Mall in its four seconds onscreen. Pennsylvania and Maryland Avenues are prominent, as are the Smithsonian buildings. On the other hand, it looks like the Cadmus building is smack dab in the middle of the Potomac River, or possibly inside Arlington National Cemetery.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Hawkeye: Lousy archer?

Ever since I dissected that Teen Titans Go cover (and by the way, would you all leave Todd Nauck alone about that? He didn't draw it), I have people asking me about archery in comics. I'm working on an exhaustive "dumb archery mistakes" page so I don't keep pointing out the same things, but meanwhile, I've been directed to these two images with the question "MaQuarrie, either of these right? As far as archery goes:" So here is my analysis of these two Hawkeye images....

The second one is better than the first. Barely.

The first one has the arrow on the wrong side of the bow and Hawkeye drawing with only two fingers (most archers use three for recurve, four for longbow). He also doesn't seem to believe in an anchor (string hand in contact with the face to provide a firm aim). Oh, and his "shooting glove" covers everything EXCEPT what it's supposed to, the fingertips. Shoot half a dozen arrows with bare fingers and you'll understand the idiocy of those gloves. And he apparently has his arm guard on the wrong arm, assuming those big ol' honkin' buckle/strap things on his right forearm are part of an armguard and not just a Liefeldesque affectation. The chest protector is a nice touch, but it seems to be attached to his quiver somehow. Weird. Also, I have no idea how he can aim consistently while thrusting his head forward like that, but I'll allow it as artistic license.

The second one at least has the arrow on the correct side. The four-finger draw would be okay because he's using a traditional bow, which takes more strength, but he's got the string all the way down into the second joint of the fingers. It should be in the first. He's also pinching the nock in a big way, which will make the arrow jump sideways off the bow. And he needs to get that thumb the hell out of the way if he ever intends to release that string (the thumb is kept back from the drawing fingers). Again, no anchor. And again, useless gloves, armguard on the wrong arm (it's supposed to protect the bow arm from getting hit by the string), and this time he has his quiver on backwards. The arrows should be sticking up over his right shoulder so he can reach them with his right hand. At least the fletchings are correct. You can only see the one that's pointing down, meaning that the index fletch is pointing toward Hawkeye and away from the bow, which is correct. Hawkeye is shooting "off the shelf" (without an arrow rest) and is wearing a glove, which is correct for a traditional bow. His posture is more suited to a recurve, but that's not a biggie.

As a coach, I'd point out to him that the bend at the wrist on his draw hand indicates that he's not using his back muscles properly and not getting maximum power out of his bow; he's using his forearm muscles too much.

The armor on his left arm seems to have some sort of ridges, which is silly. The secondary purpose of the arm guard is to provide a smooth surface upon which the string will slide if the archer's form causes the string to hit the arm. Ridged armor would do the opposite.

Somebody remarked that the second picture was clearly done from photo reference; if so, it's a photo of somebody who doesn't know how to shoot a bow.

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Monday, July 11, 2005

Ultimate Indictments

Even though he may be the most prolific writer in comics right now, I don't think I've critiqued anything from a Bendis book yet. But now I can remedy that, with this passage from a TV news program Ultimate Spider-Man #79:

"[Walter] Dini, known consigliore of Kingpin Wilson Fisk, was indicted at his home Tuesday morning, said the Assistant U.S. Attorney."

There are two ways that criminal charges can be formally filed against someone: indictment or information. Indictments are for serious crimes, typically felonies, and involve the prosecutor taking the case before a grand jury. The grand jury hears witness testimony and evidence, and if it decides that there is a probable cause that crimes were committed, it issues an indictment, formally charging the defendant with the crime(s).

Informations, on the other hand, are usually used for misdemeanors and don't involve grand juries. Just judges and paperwork.

Thus, it doesn't make any sense for a person to be "indicted at his home." (That is, unless the grand jury met at his home.) I'm not sure what Bendis was trying to convey, either. Maybe he meant "arrested"? I can't think of anything else that would happen at the defendant's home.

The easy out here is that the TV reporter didn't know what s/he was talking about, and used the wrong word. And that's not too unlikely, since the news media has been known to bungle things like the concept of 'arraignment' on a fairly regular basis. But that's a topic for another time.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Doom Patrol & Drug Prohibition

Scott brought this scene from Doom Patrol #10 to my attention: Nudge has been taken to the hospital by the police. Her parents rush in to see her, and the doctor tells them "Your daughter is in a world of trouble. The police have arrested her for possession of a very dangerous drug we have never seen before."

If you ever look at a drug statute (like this one), you'll see a long list of chemicals. The state cannot merely say "All non-FDA approved drugs are illegal;" they have to name the drugs that carry criminal sanctions. This is because the public must be put on notice as to which drugs and chemicals are illegal. If the state doesn't specifically say "This chemical/drug is illegal," then there's no way for an individual to know whether he's breaking the law or not.

The makers of designer drugs used to exploit this characteristic of the law by manipulating existing drugs to create new ones that weren't yet illegal. But in 1986, the Controlled Substances Act made all possible variations of existing drugs illegal, thus heading off such extralegal innovation. Also, if a new drug is sold on the premise of being similar in effect to an existing illegal drug, criminal charges can result.

However, if one had to guess from the side effects as presented in the issue (it makes the user somewhat psychic), Nudge's drug doesn't look to be a variation of any existing illegal drug. It looks to be something totally new, and the doctor's comments back this up. If that's the case, then Nudge's drug is not yet illegal and she can't be convicted of a crime for possessing it. If it's merely a variant of a fictional DCU illegal drug, then it could still be illegal.

However, even though Nudge probably isn't guilty of a crime, I'd argue that it was still OK for her to be arrested under the circumstances. She was found in possession of what was clearly a drug, which had killed other kids who had used it. Cops aren't chemists, and can't make the determination of whether this particular mysterious drug is an illegal variant or a brand-new, from-scratch creation. That's a determination for the crime lab to make. The arresting officer only needs probable cause of a crime, and I think the situation provides for that much.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Shameless Plugging

I've been meaning to do it for about four months, but the other day I finally got around to putting some more of my comic collection up on eBay:

Loren's eBay Auctions

Auctions end this Sunday. There's not too much, but it is good stuff. Bendis, Ellis, Morrison, Priest...there are some comics that I finally realized despite the buzz, I just don't dig them myself. Sort of like Deadwood and The Sopranos; highly praised, but not my cup o' tea.

Plus, take satisfaction in that all proceeds will go toward the very worthy cause of building my Usagi Yojimbo library. And if there's any left over, some True Story Swear to God.

плотоядные птицы

In Birds of Prey #81, there is a scene in which two characters speak to each other in Russian.

So for those of you who have been wracked with curiosity for more than two months over the meaning of their unintelligible and brief exchange, I give you the translation of their conversation (courtesy of Kahnn06)

Guy on left: "There are two idiots near you." (or "...two idiots to your left.")

Guy on right: "Yeah, I see them."

So if you were hoping for something scintillating...sorry.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Oh Say Can You See?

Happy Fourth of July!

Being such, it's only appropriate that I have a post with at least marginal ties to America. So here's something I can share now that my scanner is finally working again.

Remember my post about Marvel's The Truth? Well, this is the page I was talking about:

What's wrong with this picture? There's a clue in the title of this post.

Friday, July 01, 2005

All the News That's Fit to Print

There's a little thing that Kurt Busiek did in Astro City: The Dark Age #1 that I admire, and felt deserved some recognition.

Several pages in, there's a panel showing the cover of the Astro City newspaper with a large cover story about the Old Soldier. What impressed me is that Kurt scripted the actual text of the article, despite most of it being covered by caption boxes.

Frequently, comic creators will utilize the image of a text piece, such as a newspaper or magazine, but will only script a headline and use Lorem ipsum for the article. So I appreciated that Kurt went the extra mile to write real news copy, even though it wasn't necessary.

I recently came across another example of this, by Christopher Priest in Black Panther #1. Granted, it's a splash page of only the newspaper article, but due to its orientation on the page, sentences start getting progressively cut off after the first paragraph. And yet Priest scripted the entire article in full, and didn't revert to dummy text partway through.

So kudos to Kurt and Christopher, and other comic creators who put that extra bit of care into their craft.

Edit: The full text of the 'article' can be read at the Astro City website.