A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Thursday, August 31, 2006

She-Hulk #8: DestroyAllWarriors.com

She-Hulk #8

Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Paul Smith

*SPOILERS* follow

Synopsis: In the midst of the controversy over superhero registration, former New Warriors Justice and Rage come to Jen Walters for legal help.

It seems that following the tragedy in Stamford, a hate site called DestroyAllWarriors.com has been 'outing' members of the New Warriors team. Their real names and addresses are posted and shared with the world, and several members found themselves on the receiving end of violent attacks.

So She-Hulk takes the matter to court, suing to have the website shut down. Several witnesses are heard, including the website's financial backers and Iron Man. After the second day of court, Iron Man gives She-Hulk the name and address of the person behind the website: Carlton LaFroyge, a.k.a. former New Warrior Hindsight Lad.

Analysis: To prevent this from being an unreasonably long post, I decided to split my review over two posts. This first post is going to be a look at the realism of the events as they're presented in the issue, and the second post is going to take a closer consideration of the legality of the DestroyAllWarriors.com website.

I'll admit upfront that I'm not terribly familiar with the New Warriors, though I don't think that much affects my reading. I will say that Hindsight Lad has the dumbest hero name I've heard outside of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, and Rage has the most ridiculous superhero costume I've ever seen, period. The guy walks around shirtless with a painted-on kitty face. Despite having a name like "Rage," he looks about as intimidating as a clown.

The legal case is identified as New Warriors v. eScape Enterprises. Apparently, not unlike the Fantastic Four, the New Warriors are an incorporated entity. And presumably, either Rage or Justice is a corporate officer, capable of bringing the suit. The case appears to get before a judge within a day or two, but fortunately, we never see a jury.

That's a good thing, too, because what we're being shown is not a jury trial (regardless of whether Slott intended it to be one). Given the nature of the complaint, and the timing of the action, what we're seeing is (or should be) a hearing for a temporary injunction. It naturally takes time for a case to reach trial, but circumstances might allow for the court to force the website to be taken down, pending a future verdict and determination as to whether a permanent injunction should be imposed.

Witnesses may be heard at the temporary injunction hearing, but probably not the witnesses we see in this issue. (Witnesses which include, oddly enough, Haley Joel Osment.) In this type of lawsuit, the question posed is whether the website is protected speech under the First Amendment, or whether it consists of unprotected threats. (More on that distinction in my next post.)

The first three witnesses are the financial backers of DestroyAllWarriors.com. (One wonders how expensive this website must be, to require multiple financial backers.) After they're cross-examined, She-Hulk tells her clients "I'm not gonna redirect. My earlier questions established that they're funding the site." That might be relevant at trial, especially if the plaintiffs are seeking monetary compensation, but it's pretty irrelevant at an injunction hearing. If the website's full of potentially illegal threats, it doesn't matter who's funding them at this stage.

The defense attorney justifies his cross-examination of the three on the subject of Stamford by saying they are "more than just the website's financial backers...They're Stamford survivors. And that goes to their motives and the heart of this case." To the extent that motives matter in determining whether a threat has been made, the attorney is right.

But why he would want them to say how much the Warriors have ruined their lives is beyond me. Their testimony doesn't do much of anything to help his side, and arguably hurts it. He's supposed to be downplaying the threatening nature of the website, not drawing attention to how much the website's sponsors hate the New Warriors.

The other witness is Iron Man (prior to his public unmasking). He only gets quizzed on the Registration Act, making his testimony even more irrelevant. He has no connection to the website's authors or its targets, and he cannot add anything to the discussion of whether the site is a threat or not. Unless I'm missing something, the judge should never have allowed him on the stand.

Meanwhile, the natural witnesses for such a hearing are strangely absent. Debrii and Timeslip are the most explicit victims of the supposed threats, so they ought be there to testify. Hindsight Lad too, either in his capacity as a victim or as a defendant. Since it is Iron Man who eventually tells She-Hulk that 'eScape Enterprises' is a dummy corporation, one wonders how the court intended to shut the website down, when it didn't know who was responsible for operating it.

And on a final note, Rage should really have been held in contempt of court for this. (Plus, it shows how silly his costume looks.)

Next time: DestroyAllWarriors.com...Free Speech or Illegal Threats?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Completing the Archery Trifecta

Here is the highest-profile comic book archer in a long time, Green Arrow as he appears on the new USPS DC Super Heroes stamps

It's a pity DC couldn't have picked a better image of Ollie. It's like a visual checklist of all the common mistakes MacQ's noted (with the exception of Ollie pulling the string with just two fingers).

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Almost Archery!

Earth's Mightiest Heroes 2

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Wow, the Earth's Mightiest Heroes 2 cover almost looks like archery! He's got the arrow on the right side of the bow, he's actually using his back muscles instead of his forearm, and he's almost got an anchor point. The arrow is nocked backwards, but I've seen worse shooting than this at the range.

Now, can we please see about maybe learning what a bow looks like? The arrow goes on a rest or shelf, not on the knuckles.


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Monday, August 21, 2006

The New Justice League roster

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So when did Arsenal become left-handed? And why is he going to shoot Green Lantern in the head?

That's all. Carry on.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Daredevil: Matt Murdock, Felon

Daredevil: The Director's Cut


There was at least one other scene of legal note in Daredevil, and it's one that has absolutely nothing to do with the Theatrical Cut. During Dante Jackson's trial, the prosecution questions Officer McKensie, who found Jackson with the murder weapon. Matt listens to the man's heartbeat, and determines he's telling the truth. (Matt apparently prides himself quite highly on being a human lie detector, believing it's impossible the guy could be lying.)

Later in the movie, Matt confronts Officer McKensie outside a strip club. And he does it not as Daredevil, but as Matt Murdock. Who McKensie immediately recognizes from the courtroom.

And what does Matt do to McKensie? He pushes him a bit, then handcuffs him to the inside of his car. Matt then gets behind the wheel and, while pressing McKensie for information, intentionally drives the vehicle into a taxi and a dumpster in the lot. The final impact throws McKensie's head into the dashboard, bruising him and knocking him out. Matt jumps out of the car, leaving him unconscious, and handcuffed, in the car.

Now assuming the officer doesn't have a soft spot for Matt, there's little reason why he wouldn't press charges against Matt for this. After all, there's a pretty strong likelihood Matt reported his corruption. So what crimes has Matt committed here?

- Assault.
- Assaulting a police officer.
- False imprisonment.
- 3 counts of criminal damage to property (for McKensie's car, the taxi and the dumpster).
- Battery.
- and possibly Carjacking.

Thank goodness he didn't drive out of the parking lot, or else we could add 'Kidnapping' to the list. And he did all of this as Matt Murdock. Completely plainclothes, and with a victim who knew him.

Matt's staring down the barrel of about five felonies there, with a victim who probably has little to lose by making the accusations. Surely the taxi driver, at least, would want some recompense.

And beyond the criminal charges, as well as the potential civil suits, the New York Bar Association probably doesn't look kindly upon its lawyers assaulting police officers (even corrupt ones) in their spare time.

It's this sort of thing that gives "Civil War" its premise. Matt's actions here could fairly easily be grafted onto Daredevil or some other vigilante ero, and they would could then seem more palatable. But here he does it all without the benefit of a costume or a masked identity, and it ends up looking rather felonious. Yet Matt apparently gets off scot-free (just like he did for putting Quesada on the train tracks). This is what Captain America is fighting for?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Buy Absolute New Frontier!

And now for a commercial interruption:

I griped long and loud about DC's stubborn refusal to release an Absolute Edition of Darwyn Cooke's DC: The New Frontier. When the series was first released, I held off on buying it for two reasons: 1) the price, and 2) a high-quality collected edition seemed inevitable. That second motivation came back to bite me in the rear, as DC took a full two years after the final issue shipped to release a single-volume edition of the mini-series. Even after it won the 2005 Eisner Award for Best Limited Series, and the 2005 Harvey Award for Best Continuing or Limited Series.

However, the wait is nearly over, as the Absolute New Frontier is now due for release on October 4, just under two months from now. I've already ordered mine, my first Absolute Edition, and having pled so long for its release, I feel obliged to plug it.

The book's biggest disincentive for the consumer is the same as with any Absolute Edition: the price. It carries a cover price of $75.00. That may seem steep at first, but remember what benefits the internet affords us.

Amazon.com has Absolute New Frontier for $47.25. Granted, it's not the $13 bargain so many of us tried to take advantage of a while back, but it's still a sizable savings over $75. With no shipping, and no sales tax. That's about the same expense as buying the first 19 issues of 52, and you get more pages.

And if that still seems unduly expensive, recall the cost of the original mini-series. Six 64-page issues, at $6.95 apiece. Merely buying the monthly issues was a $42 expense by itself. Now, for a few dollars more, you get an oversized hardcover collection, with nearly 80 pages of bonus material (including a dozen new story pages).

If that's not enough, read this interview with Darwyn Cooke from last week. Maybe that'll change your mind.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

OT: "Legally Blonde"

While looking over old posts from my defunct personal blog, I came across a brief legal look I took at the film Legally Blonde. It's nothing even remotely technical, but rather some broad errors that threw me out of the film. And since I've been talking about the law in a particular movie as of late, I thought I'd share this as something extra.


Since I just finished law school, it seemed like as good a time as any to watch the GenX version of "The Paper Chase," "Legally Blonde." I'd heard mostly good things about it over the past couple of years, but it mostly disappointed.

I could complain about the smaller leaps of logic in the film (e.g. first-year students assisting on a major murder defense), but I'll let those fly. Although I thought Elle's boyfriend was a jerk from the moment he dumped her, I'll let that issue go too. And while the subplot with the manicurist was mostly pointless, it didn't hurt anything.

No, my chief two problems with the film were these. First, Elle's performance on the LSAT. The LSAT is scored on a scale from 120 to 180. When we see her taking a practice test, she gets a 143. That's a pretty middle-of-the-road score. The next scene has her getting her final score, a 179. One point shy of perfect. That was some miraculous studying inbetween those scenes. And yet that score pretty much never gets mentioned again, despite all of the talk of her vapidness. Her fellow law students treat her as if she's inferior, but a score of 179 would be better than 90% of them, even at Harvard.

Second, Elle's performance in the courtroom at the end is, I suppose, to illustrate her unexpected intelligence and grasp of the law. But she hardly said or did anything legal at all. She recognized a hair-care error in the witness's story (I know virtually nothing about hair, and even I saw the problem immediately), and then the witness broke down and gave an on-the-stand confession. Then everyone praises Elle for being a legal genius. If that's all it takes to be a legal icon at Harvard, maybe I should've gone there instead of staying in-state.

The film had its moments, but for legal comedies, I'll stick with "My Cousin Vinny."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Daredevil: The Trial of Dante Jackson

Daredevil: The Director's Cut

Now for part two of my movie review. The biggest change in the Director's Cut of the movie is the inclusion of an entire subplot about Matt and Foggy defending a murder defendant named Dante Jackson.

It's a very substantial and worthwhile addition for two reasons. First, as Sean Whitmore pointed out in the comments of my earlier post, the Theatrical Cut gave Matt Murdock, Super-Lawyer, just a single, lousy scene in a courtroom. This subplot fixes that. Second, it ties into the main Kingpin plot in a way that addresses a major plot hole from the Theatrical Cut.


Dante (played by Coolio) stands accused of murdering a woman, having been found in an alley, unconscious, with the murder weapon in his hand. Not the makings of a strong defense. But Matt knows that Dante is telling the truth when he says he's innocent.

Several weeks back, I said I was laying off the speedy trial complaint because of the soap demands of the serial medium. That reasoning, however, doesn't apply to movies. So consider how fast Dante gets to trial.

As Matt goes to bed after killing Quesada, he hears the attack on the woman that Dante is accused of committing. The next day (Foggy shares the newspaper story about Quesada's death) they meet Dante, who is accused of the "August 9th murder of Lisa Tazzio." Matt and Foggy clearly waste no time in signing up clients. (And as they explicitly offer to take his case, they're not merely acting as public defenders.)

It's a good thing, too, because while no explicit dates are given, it seems like Dante's trial began the very next day. Not a bond hearing, or an arraignment, but his actual 12-person jury trial. The 'next day' presumption comes from the movie's pacing. Matt's first meeting with Dante takes place concurrently with the Kingpin instructing his men to fly in Bullseye for a hit. And the murder trial begins immediately after a scene with Bullseye on his flight to NYC, and before he does what he's been hired to do.

So if we assume the murder took place on a Saturday night, it would seem that the murder trial began on Monday morning. Maybe Tuesday. It's a good thing Daredevil's justice is blind, or else it would get vertigo from moving so fast.

To be fair, there's one other date subtly dropped in the movie. Matt's invitation to the Natchios' gala is dated July 24. That would put it nearly a year after the "August 9th murder," and that's a perfectly fair pace for a trial. Unfortunately, that's almost certainly an internal continuity mistake, because there's no room in that part of the script for time to jump ten months ahead.

We don't get to see much of Dante's actual trial. It's pretty much limited to Matt's opening statement, a few questions from the prosecution for a police witness, and Foggy's questioning of Dante on the stand. At the least, everything takes place in the right order. And the jury is suitably diverse.

Matt's opening has that high-minded attitude that is sometimes expected of legal speeches, but it's remarkably free of facts specific to the case being tried. Then again, it's not like Matt had much to work with. One can't help but wonder what kind of evidence he expected to put forward. When the defendant was found in such an incriminating position, merely asking the jury to conclude that reasonable doubt exists is a bad trial strategy. Matt needs some kind of exculpatory evidence to present, because asking the jury to believe in a frame-up without presenting a lick of evidence to support the existence of a frame-up isn't going to win an acquittal with most juries.

Nothing really struck me about either witness examination. Criminal defendants are usually discouraged from taking the stand in their defense, but it makes sense for Dante to do so. When there's no other evidence to present in a case this bad, it's worth the gamble to put the defendant on the stand to tell his side of the story, and pray that the jury might just believe him. Foggy asked a couple of incredibly objectionable leading questions, where he was basically feeding answers to Dante.

And while Dante got off in the end, that scene with Foggy was the end of the movie's dealings in the courtroom. From all appearances, Dante was framed, charged with murder, tried, and cleared all within a week or so.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

52: Booster Gold Should Go to Jail

Week 6 of DC's weekly 52 series began with a meeting in a sewer between Booster Gold and an armored man. The man is an actor who Booster hired and provided with a suit of armor, and who then 'attacked' a subway platform as "Manthrax." Booster then swooped in and saved the day, while "Manthrax" escaped. They subsequently meet in the sewer so Booster can give "Manthrax" (he states his name is Bill, although Booster keeps calling him Bob) his check, and Booster tells him to return the armor to the same storage locker he had picked it up at.

On day 7 of Week 7, Booster saves a group of people from a burning tanker truck. While he's being interviewed by Lois Lane, Manthrax emerges from the crowd and asks how much Booster paid for the disaster. He tells the media how Booster paid him to stage the attack, and says he came forward because Booster's check bounced. (Strangely, he also gives his name as 'Bob Castell,' although his name was Bill a week earlier. And he still has the check that he says bounced.)

Booster next appears on day 5 of Week 8, complaining about the Daily Planet's article about Manthrax's allegations and how Supernova is stealing his spotlight. The last I saw of Booster, in Week 10, he was having to move to a smaller apartment as a result of his lost marketing deals.

Booster is apparently outrageously bad with money, since he seemingly went broke within only a month of Supernova's first appearance in Metropolis. And I'm curious how Supernova is eroding Booster's endorsement deals, since Supernova gave his first interview to Clark Kent just a day earlier. (And I'm curious why Booster paid his hired crony with a check rather than good ol' untraceable cash.)

But that's not why I'm writing. I want to know when Booster is going to suffer the legal consequences of his actions back in Week 6. Thus far, all it seems to have wrought him is bad press.

Manthrax tells Lois in Week 7, "I said I knew I could go to jail for my part in this -- but I'll do it to drag that son of a bitch down." We're never given specific detail of what the fake attack entailed, only references to the "villain's struggle to bomb the city's busiest subway platform" and how Booster "disarmed" him. That's pretty much it. At the very least, this suggests that Mr. Castell is guilty of terroristic threats and aggravated assault (since he was armed at some point), both felonies. The bomb might have been fake, but the threats and the assaults were real. Depending on exactly what else happened in that station, there could be other crimes as well.

And that's where Booster's problem lies. He solicited Mr. Castell to commit those felonies, which is a crime. He and Mr. Castell worked together to fake the attack, so they're both guilty of conspiracy. Booster has gotten all worked up over his public image, but he seems to have forgotten that the police could easily be taking out warrants for his arrest. As for why the cops hadn't come knocking by Week 10, maybe they were just building their case. Should I ask if that's changed by now?

At the least, I certainly hope that Manthrax doesn't end up behind bars while Booster gets off scot free. Not only would that be superhero favoritism, but it looks a little bad to lock up the African-American co-conspirator while letting the oh-so-Aryan co-conspirator/instigator walk.

Speaking of 52, I just so happen to be auctioning off my set of 52 #1-10 this week. It's enjoyable stuff, but I'm looking to thin out my collection, and I don't expect I'll have a hankering to reread these issues. If you win the auction, e-mail me that you learned about it here at SoD and I'll throw in something extra.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Daredevil: Quesada's Comeuppance

Daredevil: The Director's Cut

I bought the Daredevil Director's Cut DVD several months back, and I finally got around to watching it recently. It was a definite improvement over the Theatrical Cut, and I would readily say that it's better than all the Marvel movies that weren't directed by either Sam Raimi or Bryan Singer.

The reason I bought the movie to start with was because one of the added subplots in this version deals with Matt's legal representation of a murder defendant, played by Coolio. And that's not the only law-related aspect of the film, which is fortunate, since the title character is, after all, a lawyer.

Fair warning, I'm going to spoil the heck out of the movie, particularly some of the added material. So if you haven't seen the Director's Cut already, consider yourself warned.

Near the start of the film, we see Matt Murdock in a (suspiciously small) courtroom, questioning a defendant, Jose Quesada, who's on the witness stand. It seems that Mr. Quesada is accused of beating and/or raping the woman that Matt is representing. When Quesada insists that their intimacies were consensual, Matt can tell from his heartbeat that he's lying.

Quesada gets off (more on that in a second). Matt dons his Daredevil costume, and follows Quesada to a bar. Matt ends up fighting a lot of bargoers to get to Quesada, who, in the end, Matt throws onto the subway tracks, where he taunts him before the oncoming subway train cuts him in half.

There's a scene in the Director's Cut where Daredevil tries to console a scared kid, in front of whom Matt's just beaten up a thug, by telling him that he's not the bad guy. Based on his treatment of Mr. Quesada, I think it's fair for the kid to be scared.

It begins with some confusion as to what kind of trial we saw. Was Mr. Quesada a criminal defendant or a civil defendant? Was he on trial for the criminal charge of rape, or was he just being sued by the woman? If it's the former, he's facing serious jail time; if the latter, he'd only owe her money.

Matt is a private attorney, working for the private firm of Nelson & Murdock. He's not a criminal prosecutor, who by nature are government employees, and are the only people who could be prosecuting a criminal rape case. Legally, there's no possibility that what we observed was a criminal trial, despite Quesada's later references to being "acquitted." So by default, it had to be a civil trial.

And that's fine within the context of the trial scene itself. I don't believe that it's all that common for women to sue their rapists, but it's an available route. Plus, the burden of proof is lower. They may not be able to collect much from a lowlife, but at least they could sully his name.

(Incidentally, one funny moment in the trial was when the defense attorney objected to Matt's questioning, and told the court that his client was "a respectable member of the community." Not the best choice of words to describe a guy who was oozing sleeze on the witness stand.)

So if it's a civil trial and Matt loses, all that means is that his client doesn't get any money. He didn't lie his way out of a prison sentence, he lied his way out of owing his victim money. That's it. Apparently, Matt took the loss kinda hard, since he ended up killing the unrepentent Quesada. And that seems like a rather harsh punishment to mete out to a guy who only beat a civil allegation.

Like I said, that little kid was right to be scared.

The best case scenario that I can think of is this: Quesada had already avoided a criminal conviction. Either the prosecutor's office didn't think the evidence was strong enough to pursue rape charges, or it already went to trial and Quesada managed to win. Then Matt comes along to help with a civil trial, and it fails too. Knowing that the guy managed to escape rape allegations twice, Matt takes the law into his own hands.

That's the only way I can make it work. Otherwise, Matt's revenge is driven by nothing more than his failure to win a monetary award and get paid.