A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Monday, December 31, 2007

Suspending Disbelief

After lengthy consideration, I've made the decision to retire the Suspension of Disbelief blog. The end of the calendar year seemed an appropriate time to close up shop. Although given the frequency of posts over the last several months, you may be thinking that this won't have much of an effect on the content of this site.

And I suppose it won't. With She-Hulk's changes of direction, and with Manhunter on a seemingly indefinite hiatus, I've been without a regular source of legal material for some time now. Equally problematic, and as I've shared before, my irregular trips to the comic shop have often put me weeks behind the rest of the net. A blog's readership deserves more than a post a month, and I just can't deliver that anymore.

That's not to say that I'm giving up entirely, though. For those occasions when issues do present themselves, I've arranged to share my thoughts over at the CBR blog, Comics Should Be Good. That was always the mission statement of this blog, so I think our ideals will merge nicely. If you don't already read the guys over at CSBG, I highly recommend it. I've even got a couple of back-issue reviews in mind that I should finally get around to. Chances are, I'll continue to mirror those new posts here, so in that sense this blog will continue to be updated somewhat.

To further occupy my time in 2008, I will be making another long-shot political run, this time for the United States Senate. So if you're a Georgia voter, please remember my name come November. Also, I'll soon be taking a new stab at issue-based political blogging, under the hyperbolic title Social Security Must Die! My homepage, LorenCollins.net, will be updated with whatever random little projects I take on (latest additions: Cotton Patch Gospel, and the Miracleman Countdown Clock). And there will continue to be updates to the Free Comic Book Index, with the next one before week's end.

Finally, my old offer, like Jim's, still stands for any creators out there: drop me a line, and I'll be happy to help answer any legal questions your story presents. Remember, if Mark Millar had taken up the invitation, Civil War might have made more rational sense. Maybe.

I want to thank everyone who read and commented over the last three years, and everyone who continued to visit even as the content became increasingly infrequent. Thanks also to the creators and authors who shared their thoughts and responses, which I'll admit is a singular and satisfying feeling. Of course, thanks to Jim MacQuarrie, Sandy Hausler, and the others who contributed material over time. And special thanks to Marc Andreyko, whose work on Manhunter assuredly provided me with more material than any other series, and to Neil Gaiman for an early plug that I fear I was never quite able to live up to.

So thanks for a great three years, and I wish everyone a happy, prosperous, and productive 2008.

See y'all in the funny pages,

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Comics Make the Bar

This was forwarded to me by its author a while back, and I wanted to be sure to share it before the year's end. It's an article for the Widener Law Review, and it aims to document the entire history of attorneys in comic books, from Mr. District Attorney to Manhunter. And believe you me, it's pretty thorough.

Hi Superman, I'm a Lawyer: A Guide to Attorneys (& Other Legal Professionals) Portrayed in American Comic Books: 1910-2007

- William A. Hilyerd, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hulk Ipsa Loquitur

Today was the original date for World War Hulk #5, but the mini-series' final issue has been delayed two weeks until November 14. What are Hulk fans to do until then?

Well, it was rumored and confirmed some time back that Marvel's "World War Hulk" is merely the second part of Greg Pak's planned trilogy for the green goliath, which began with the year-long "Planet Hulk" storyline. To date, Pak has been tight-lipped about what is next for Dr. Bruce Banner, and Marvel's solicitations for upcoming issues have been suspiciously silent on story details.

Suspension of Disbelief is proud to share that it has received top-secret information regarding this third act of the trilogy, entitled:

"Hulk Ipsa Loquitur"

From Marvel:

After failing to gain full satisfaction against the Illuminati through physical violence, the Hulk decides to hit the Illuminati where it really hurts: in their bank accounts. With the help of his cousin, New York attorney Jennifer "She-Hulk" Walters, the Hulk is taking the Illuminati to court. Now they're going to pay for what they did to him. Literally.

In the tradition of its Daily Bugle giveaways for their big stories, Marvel's promotions for "Hulk Ipsa Loquitur" will include a copy of the Hulk's lawsuit against the Illuminati.

What courtroom excitement can you expect in the pages of The Incredible Hulk in the months to come? Here's a sampling:

Incredible Hulk #111 - Bruce reaches out to Jen Walters for help. After the events of "World War Hulk," will family come through for him?

Incredible Hulk #112 - The search for Nick Fury begins...in order to serve him with process.

Incredible Hulk #113 - The Illuminati may think themselves capable of a lot of things, but even they know better than to attempt a pro se defense. So who do they turn to in their time of need? Matt Murdock, Attorney-at-Law. Duh.

The 13-part arc begins next month, with tie-ins that include the 4-issue Hulk Ipsa Loquitur: Gamma Court mini-series written by Bob Ingersoll, the 3-issue Hulk Ipsa Loquitur: The Twelve profiling the Hulk's jury, and, kicking the whole event off, the 48-page special, Hulk Ipsa Loquitur: Civil Suit.

So strap yourself in for a year of a whole new kind of Hulk story. Because you wouldn't like the Hulk when he gets angry; when he gets angry, he gets litigious.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Isn't this just nitpicking?

A few readers have at various times remarked upon the necessity or desirability of this blog, suggesting that it's nitpicking, or somehow rude to the artists whose work we critique, or reveals a negative attitude toward the comics in question.

So I'll take another whack at explaining it, only this time I think I'll let an expert do the heavy lifting. Here's Matthew J. Bruccoli, editor of the Cambridge University edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Dr. Bruccoli is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of literature at University of South Carolina and a leading authority on Fitzgerald. On the subject of accuracy, Dr. Bruccoli says, "Factual errors in fiction distract readers who spot them and may undermine confidence in the work and the author.* Many careful readers hold that if an author cannot be trusted in details, he may not be trustworthy in larger matters."

Dr. Bruccoli goes on to explain the two types of errors that occur in fiction, external errors (those regarding the actual world in which the work is set) and internal errors (those involving the fictional world).

Returning to the world of comics, we can call continuity problems "internal errors", and this blog is utterly unconcerned with them. If a given issue of Superman says that Clark Kent's middle name is "Joseph" and another says it's "Jerome", that's an internal error, and fans are welcome to argue over it to their heart's delight (or they can declare that his full name is "Clark Joseph Jerome Kent", as Wikipedia says).

We are concerned here with external errors, that is, things in the actual world that comics get wrong for no good reason. When Loren takes on issues of law here, he seldom deals with the fictional laws presented in comics except as how they interact with real-world laws that are assumed to be in force in the comics world. The primary concern is how real-world law is presented in cases where no comics-world law is in play, as for example in issues of courtroom procedure.

Or as I said from the beginning, I'll accept that Green Arrow can shoot an arrow through an ant's ass at 100 yards while swinging upside-down from a chandelier... provided you first show me that he knows how to hold a bow.

One comic writer, discussing a character's amateurish shooting form, told me that "the guy is just that good, he can still be accurate even shooting that way. He's doing it on purpose." Sorry, that doesn't wash. The laws of physics may not apply to Superman lifting a building, but they do apply to Hawkeye aiming an arrow, otherwise there's no point in having an archery-themed superhero at all. At that point it merely becomes a fashion choice, a theme, and not an ability at all.

Similarly, inconsistencies in the geography of Metropolis are not our concern, but inconsistencies in the geography of real-world places like New York, such as moving the Empire State Building, are an issue for us. I hope you see the difference.

* Bruccoli, "Getting it Right: The Publishing Process and the Correction of Factual Errors--With Reference to The Great Gatsby," Library Chronicle of the University of Texas at Austin, 21, no. 3-4 (1991), 41-60. Quoted in Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby, The Authorized Text, Scribner Paperback edition (2003), p. 192.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Artistic license?

Over at John Byrne's forum, a reader from Hong Kong asks "Mister B., do the pose of the character is an accurate pose of using bow and arrow, or is it involving artistic licence for the sake of a good pose ?"

Byrne replies "Artistic license."

Sorry, Mr. B, but that dog won't hunt. Artistic license is valid for picture #2, since it's clearly a frozen moment in the action, so even though Ollie obviously doesn't know how to shoot a bow, it can squeak by on the argument that he hasn't finished drawing.

Number three might even be arguable, even though the arrow is falling off the bow.

But that first picture is just wrong. Incontrovertibly wrong. Try it yourself. Grab a yardstick and a piece of string, make a bow and try to draw it that way, pulling the string up over your shoulder on the outside of your arm. It does not work, and calling it artistic license doesn't cover it because the pose is awkward and doesn't look good.

Here's what it should look like.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

John Byrne goes 0 for 3

Over at John Byrne's forum (byrnerobotics.com), he recently posted some of his drawings of Green Arrow. Given that Mr. Byrne is a notorious stickler for accuracy (see any of the numerous controversies in which he's embroiled himself, such as the logical inconsistencies of Captain Carrot), let's see how he does with archery...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

First, the positives: Byrne's Green Arrow is consistently right-handed, consistently has the arrow on the correct side of the bow, and consistently has the fingers on the string in the correct orientation. His bow fairly accurately resembles an old-fashioned Ben Pearson or Fred Bear one-piece recurve in most respects.

On the minus side, there's no way that this guy can shoot straight. No anchor. No back tension. He's canting the bow. Arrows only have two fletches, or are nocked upside-down so that the index fletch will strike the riser. In picture #2, GA is pulling on the shaft rather than the string. In #3, the arrow has fallen off the bow and is resting on GA's knuckles.

Worse, in picture #1, Green Arrow is drawing the bow up above his bow arm. The string should be under the arm. Of course, the bow should be vertical, but apparently archery has been affected by the same idiocy that causes gangbangers to turn their guns sideways in order to try to look "cool".

I don't know what those little cuffs on the ends of the limbs are supposed to be, but that's not how the string attaches to the bow.

In a nutshell, if this guy showed up at my range, I'd send him back to the beginner class.

Mr. Byrne, my offer still stands. If you would like assistance in portraying archery accurately, I am happy to offer photos, consultation and reference materials free of charge. If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area at any time and would like to try archery for yourself, I am happy to offer free lessons, including the use of all equipment, at any convenient time.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Star Trek & Federalism

I meant to share this last week, but it slipped my mind until now:

Ilya Somin: How Federal is Star Trek's Federation?

How much power does the Federation's central government have, and how much is left to the individual planets? Does the central government's Star Fleet have a monopoly of military force, or do Vulcan and other planets have their own local forces? Does the Federation subsidize planetary governments heavily, or are there hard budget constraints? Despite five Star Trek TV series and numerous movies, these questions haven't really been answered. Unfortunately, the academic literature on Federation law isn't much help either

Somin continues with an interesting (and wonderfully geeky) analysis of Trek-era government, and there's a lengthy discussion that follows in the comments.

Edited to Add: No sooner did I post this than the National Review went and had itself a Star Trek Weekend, with multiple Trek analyses, including a modified version of Somin's earlier column.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sprechen Sie Deutsch, Herr Claremont?

Stelok, a new poster over at the Comics Should Be Good forum, had a few things to say recently about the use of German in Marvel comics. With his permission, I'm reposting some of his comments:


Fabian Nicieza typed in X-Force Vol.1 #8 that Baron Strucker greeted to Cable and his gang, "Guten Tag, mein Freunds". That is wrong. There is no such German word as "Freunds". Nicieza should have typed "Meine Freunde". Obviously he has never studied German once in his life.

Mein Freund- masculine, singular, nominative
Meine Freundin- feminine, nominative

Meine Freunde- plural, for both males and females, nominative
Meine Freundinnen- plural, for females only, nominative

There is another book called "Captain Amerca: Medusa Effect", written by Roy Thomas. In that book, Helmut says "Mein Mutter". He should have typed "Meine Mutter", not "Mein Mutter".

"Mein" is the masculine German article of "my" while "meine" is the feminine German article of "my."

And I also think Bucky is supposed to ask Helmut the informal question "Sprichst du Englisch?" instead of the formal question "Sprechen Sie Englisch?"

Fabian Nicieza also made a typographical mistake with a German word in X-Force's 1999 Annual. The correct German word for "experiment" is Versuch, not Vershuct.

Take my advice. Don't learn German phrases from Marvel comics. Don't learn them from an English-German dictionary, because just a dictionary is not adequate enough. I know it, because my German teacher noted some German words in all of my English-German dictionaries were not accurate. Learn them from a German tutorial class instead.


Now I wouldn't expect comic writers to go to the lengths of taking night classes just to get their foreign phrases right. But in the age of the internet, it's all too easy to find someone fluent who could do that translation for you. I imagine that's how Alan Moore got the Arabic right in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Stelok also passes along a link to Nightcrawler's Marvel Wiki page, which has a short section on erroneous words and phrases that have been put in Kurt's mouth.

And on an unrelated note, reading this reminds me of my own time in college learning German, and how, as in Spanish, I came to despise the notion of "genders." Every noun is declared, more or less arbitrarily, to be male or female (or in German, neutral), which essentially doubles the number of things to memorize and unnecessarily complicates lots of conjugations. My German teacher once said that Germany was perhaps moving to use the neutral gender for everything; I don't know if that went anywhere, but it would sure make the language easier and do away with an utterly silly and useless complication.

Friday, September 07, 2007

New Defense -- She Hulk #21

Oh, and yest, there will be spoilers.

Well, one of the secrets of the Marvel Universe has been how the in the name of Jack Kirby could the She Hulk have slept with the Juggernaut?

Well, she did . . . or so in seemed . . . in an issue of X-Men a few years ago.

This issue answered that question while giving supervillains a new defense to their crimes.

It seems that some joker from Earth A has been sending people from that world to Marvel Earth and using an atomic resequencer to match the structure of their Marvel Earth counterpart. In other words, the Earth A Jen Walters came to Marvel Earth and has been doing some of the She Hulk stuff, including sleeping with the Juggernaut.

But this provides a new defense for super villains, at least for a limited time -- the Earth A guy did it not me. If a villain can make a colorable argument that he was not at the scene of a crime, e.g., on vacation in Hawaii, not fighting the Initiative in New Mexico, he or she, if they are later arrested, can argue that it was his or her Earth A duplicate. This would be especially good for those villains who we know had Earth A counterparts visiting the Marvel Universe. I'm sure Mallory Book (the new partner; it seems Holliway quit the firm) will take advantage of that loop hole.

Oh, by the way, the She Hulk's back. Part of me hopes she joins the Winter Soldier and they kill Stark (fat chance). But I'd really like to see her going after the SHRA, that blatantly unconstitutional piece of litigation. Isn't anybody doing anything about it?

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Spirit #5

The Spirit #5
Writer: Darwyn Cooke
Artist: Darwyn Cooke

Con-man Carrion is running a new scheme in Central City. Nothing illegal, mind you, but definitely odd. He's hawking sugar-sweetened pork & beans to the kiddie set, and using the Spirit as his marketing icon. The profitability of his operation draws the attention of the Cossack, leading to this confrontation:

The Cossack may need to get himself some better lawyers, because his current ones apparently neglected to advice against this course of action. He may have gotten Carrion to sign on the dotted line, but that signature's about as likely to stand up in court as a Salem witch's confession.

One of the basic rules of contracts is that they're not enforceable if signed under duress. Here, the Cossack has beaten, bloodied, and even shot Carrion, all in an effort to "persuade" Carrion to sign the contract. Carrion is certainly not signing of his own free will and volition. If the Cossack tried to enforce this signed contract, all Carrion would have to do is object on the grounds that he signed under duress, and explain that his signature was the result of the Cossack beating him and threatening his life if he refused to sign.

Long story short, when told "Transfer ownership, and you'll live," the safe thing to do is to agree to the transfer. Once the court learns that 'Sign or die' was a big part of the contract negotiations, it's pretty unlikely they'll require that the transfer go through.

Furthermore, one of the requirements of an enforceable contract is the existence of "consideration." If one party is choosing to give something up, he must be getting something in return. If the Cossack's paperwork simply transfers ownership of Carrion's operation, without compensating or benefiting Carrion in any way, then there doesn't appear to be any sort of consideration for Carrion that would allow the Cossack to enforce this contract the next day. On paper, it would have all the appearances of an uncompensated-for gift. Then again, maybe there is some kind of nominal consideration in the contract, and it's just not mentioned in the dialogue. After all, the Cossack seems more interested in getting the signature than in explaining the terms.

I'd chalk all this up to the Cossack simply being a violent and ignorant brute, if it weren't for the fact that he referenced his own legal counsel on the same page. As such, he really should've known better.

And from the same issue, but on a completely different subject:

I was raised believing that you make pork and beans with brown sugar. Never white. Is that a coloring goof, or is it representative of some kind of Yankee recipe?