Namely, “liberals can beat people up too, so long as they are bad people.”
He be spiny like an Agave Cactus, he be the painbringer, he be Bahlactus.
[…] Mighty God King’s paid so many dues, Ninja Shark Bites feels used and abused!!! […]
I’m a liberal myself and there are characters I’d like to see receive an uppercut like that (at the very least).
People like Arnim Zola, Mephisto, Selene. Recently, the Hulk too.
Here’s the thing, though. Cathartic as it may be to see somebody beaten up, somebody whom you know is guilty and a bastard to boot, it can have consequences off-panel that you might not like.
I was reading “The Evil That Men Do” the other night, where Spider-Man and the Black Cat are talking about beating confessions out of people. They weren’t debating if they should beat a confession out of a guy, they were debating when to do it; she wanted to beat him up immediately, and he wanted to wait until they had more evidence.
MGK, you’re the law student here. I, by contrast, am not a big city lawyer. But, if I’m not mistaken (and you can tell me if I am), kicking a guy’s ass is a good way to make anything he might confess inadmissable, because his attorney will claim that he only said what he said because he was coerced.
Sometimes, superheroes get pretty ruthless when fighting bad guys, and sometimes they cross the line when interrogating them.
That’s sort of why I changed my position on Civil War. At first I was like “Liberty vs. Security, no fucking contest, liberty all the way.” I was behind Cap right up until he got shot.
Then I started thinking about it, and I thought “this is supposed to be about civil rights, isn’t it? The right of superhumans to privacy, to not be drafted, to not be blackmailed into going on missions for the government? That’s why I wanted Cap’s side to win, and that’s why it sucked when nutsac-zap-boy (better known as Anthony Stark) came out on top. Civil rights are important, and there are certain lines the government shouldn’t cross.
“Well,” I kept thinking, “what about the civil rights of the criminals, or the people they think are criminals? Sometimes Daredevil has acted like the bad cop, only it isn’t an act with him designed to scare the suspect. He’s actually broken their bones sometimes. There have been other times when Spider-Man had emotional breakdowns and got much more violent and much less restrained, and while he may be sorry about it afterwards it doesn’t excuse his conduct. This is fucking Spider-Man by the way, one of the biggest boy scouts in the Marvel Universe. If Peter Parker can go nuts and cross lines that police aren’t allowed to cross, anybody can. On the other side of the coin, we have Wolverine carving up Matsu’o Tsurayaba year after year just because he wants the guy to suffer.
“There are times these guys act the way heroes are supposed to, and other times when they go too far and do shit that a normal person like you or I would be arrested for. Other times when they act like interrogators at Gitmo or Abu Ghraib. When they go that far there has to be somebody ready to stop them, just like there should be people stopping the torture going on in the real world.”
So, while very much off-topic, that’s how I changed my position on the registration issue. Which is not to say I suddenly threw my support behind Stark and the rest of those douches. The Negative Zone prison is way too similar to Guantanamo Bay for my liking, as is the idea of forcing people to work for you using nanotechnology, as is the idea of blackmailing people using the information you made them legally obligated to volunteer, as are a lot of other things.
The SHRA was a bad idea, I still think that. But it was a response to something that really was a problem that really did need to be addressed, and still does need to be addressed in a more sane manner. You can’t have superheroes running around doing whatever the hell they feel like any more than you can have the government doing whatever the hell it feels like, or one branch of the government. Superheroes are human (at least the majority of them are), they make mistakes. Just because Spider-Man thinks a guy is guilty or dangerous doesn’t make it so. He’s been wrong before. When he assumes an innocent person is actually guilty and wants to wail on that person, there has to be somebody or something there to stop him, or anybody else who tries to do the same thing.
But, if I’m not mistaken (and you can tell me if I am), kicking a guy’s ass is a good way to make anything he might confess inadmissable, because his attorney will claim that he only said what he said because he was coerced.
Oh, you’re certainly not mistaken, but remember that most superheroes aren’t concerning themselves with the court admissibility of the confession, but rather where the location of the death ray / time bomb / herd of meat-eating sheep are, because they actually live in a universe where the ticking-bomb scenario is a going concern rather than a fantasy. The criminal charges, such as they are, come on weight of evidence other than confession – to wit, being webbed up in broad daylight with a dozen witnesses watching as you tried to rob the damn bank again.
But that’s not the issue. The issue is that it’s a superhero universe and we expect a certain level of suspension of disbelief. Spider-Man has spider-powers rather than cancer. The X-Men are superpowered mutants rather than just having three toes. The Punisher is, despite all odds, not dead. The Marvel Universe is not just “our universe but with superheroes,” despite conceits to the contrary; it’s a device designed to deliver thrilling adventure rather than, and I am just throwing this out here, legal process stories.
That was my problem with Civil War – it was providing the answer to a question people pointedly weren’t asking, because to do so is one of the things that could destroy the narrative fabric of the universe in question.
I’ll concede that sometimes the clock is ticking, but there are other times when it isn’t. In the example I mentioned with Spidey and the Black Cat, there wasn’t any hurry. She was saying “I know he killed my friend and I want to hurt him,” and he was saying “there’s no hurry, we can get evidence that we can take to the cops, and you can hurt him then.”
The image of the webbed up criminal reminds me of a story Paul Jenkins wrote during his run on Peter Parker: Spider-Man. Some of the stories he wrote back then were good enough that I was amazed by how disappointing his work on Civil War: Frontline was. Anyway…
The particular Jenkins-penned issue is a collection of interviews with various people working for the NYPD. Beat cops, detectives, medical examiners, etc. Somebody has asked them all what they think of Spider-Man, and we’re seeing them from the point of view of the person asking the question, who does not speak.
One of the cops who doesn’t like Spidey tells about how he intervened in one situation and made it worse. Some guys were robbing a store, Spidey got involved, beat them up and webbed them up. But the clerk at the store was too scared of retaliation to press charges or testify–as a matter of fact, he was intimidated enough to say what the robbers wanted him to, namely that Spider-Man initiated the violence before the police arrived. The suspect, when questioned about why he had his gun out around the clerk, claimed that he had pulled it because he saw Spidey coming at him for no reason and he was getting ready to defend himself.
The Marvel Universe is not just “our universe but with superheroes,” despite conceits to the contrary; it’s a device designed to deliver thrilling adventure rather than, and I am just throwing this out here, legal process stories.
I’m totally willing to suspend disbelief, but part of the appeal of Marvel products for me has been that they do take place in a world very similar to ours, which would be exactly the same if not for all the mutants and aliens and ultra-advanced technology and magic and stuff. The stories take place in NYC or another real city instead of a Metropolis or a Gotham. Things taking place in real life also happen on Earth 616, and while I think that stories like the post-9/11 issue of Amazing Spider-Man push it (Dr. Doom crying over the deaths of people he’s never met? Weirdly, I can buy the idea of a radioactive spider or a bomb granting super-powers and yet I can’t buy Doom responding that way), setting the stories in the same world and same political climate and same everything else as we readers live in…well, this is just my opinion, but I feel more of a connection to the characters than I would otherwise, because the world they live in is like the one I live in.
And, in addition to that, there are thrilling adventures! What’s not to love?
Anyway, if these people live in the same world (more or less) and the writer is trying to make their behaviour believable, they should respond to real world events pretty much the same way that a real person would, right? They’ve gotta deal with more than just supervillains or organized crime (and speaking of organized crime, with the Kingpin seemingly impossible to incarcerate or keep behind bars it often is a legal process story). They have to deal with friends abusing substances (or, in Stark’s case, his own alcoholism), getting AIDS or cancer, being screwed by the system (Luke Cage for one), nervous breakdowns, or whatever. Harry Osborn was self-medicating with acid in the ’70s, when a lot of other people were routinely doing the same. A friend of Bruce Banner’s died of AIDS in the nineties, after the disease had been spreading for a decade or so and so many other people had died from it. Northstar was finally outed beyond any doubt at a time when it was just starting to become safe for gay people to reveal they were gay without becoming pariahs. My point is that this stuff often mirrors what’s going on in the real world, and while that may not be attractive to everybody it is part of what made it attractive to me.
So when I heard Marvel was putting out this book, that’s when I began buying their products again, because it was something that not only mirrored what was going on in the real world but also something that I cared about. Something I cared about a lot, and the idea that Captain America would feel the same way about civil liberties as I would was attractive to me.
The main book sucked IMO, but the tie-ins got me reading stuff I liked a lot better by guys like Peter David, Ed Brubaker and J. Michael Straczynski.
If that question is the one Millar rhetorically asked in a Newsarama interview, namely “Would you really want these guys to be unlicensed?” then I agree with you. I wouldn’t ask the question, and I wanted more from the story than seeing dozens and dozens of superhumans punching one another or Cap being portrayed as this out-of-touch relic who isn’t eloquent enough to defend his position to Sally Floyd.
(Btw, Cap was a hell of a lot more charismatic and convincing while presenting his case when you read the CW tie-ins in his own book and in one particular issue of ASM.)
But let’s say there wasn’t a SHRA at all, but rather just a crackdown on superpowered vigilantism. Would that have the same effect on the narrative fabric of that universe?
See, if Spidey went around doing good and saving people all the time, I can totally believe that cops an politicians would give him a break and not try very hard to bring him in.
But if Spidey were to lose it and act like the Punisher, then it would be different, right? Those same cops and politicians would be trying their damndest to arrest Spider-Man for the same reason they have targeted Frank Castle his entire career. It’s because Castle goes too far.
The X-Men were also pursued by the authorities because they had as much notoriety as they had support. Their enemies caused it to look as though they broke into the Hellfire Club and assaulted everybody there for no reason, as well as breaking into NORAD. So naturally people would try to arrest them, right?
It’s all about conduct, or it should be anyway. “Can we trust this particular superhuman to run around fighting crime, or is this person a loose cannon that does too much harm for us to ignore?”
I think that 10 years ago I wouldn’t feel the same way about this stuff. I remember reading one scene of Uncanny X-Men back in the day after Havok had become bitter and hardened, and when his team took a henchman captive he nastily threatened to sear the guy’s limbs off a little bit at a time, one by one, until he talked. The heat would cauterize them instantly, so the guy wouldn’t bleed to death and his torment wouldn’t end until Havok decided to stop. Psylocke was shocked. Me? Not so much. He was a bad guy, and his actions in that issue didn’t make me feel too sorry for him.
But today? Fuck, today I’m different. I ask “WWWD?” a lot. “What would W. do?” I ask the question when I read a story, and I hope that the hero is going to do the opposite of whatever Bush would do, because if the hero acts like that so-called President then I’m going to lose a ton of respect for that hero. I’ll want the hero to lose.
Back to the beginning of this ridiculously long-winded comment (sorry btw): Felicia Hardy wants to break every bone in this dude’s body because she’s angry. That seems to me like something W. would do, albeit by proxy. Later in the same story Spider-Man savagely beats a guy who, as it turns out, is only trying to help. Attacking somebody who is not threatening you or anybody you care about is also something W. would do, and I found myself disgusted with Spider-Man for the remainder of the story. I mean, I felt sorry for the poor bastard he was beating up, and I really wished that there was something or somebody to keep him from doing things like that.
Just a note to Rob Brown: Re Cap not being able to explain himself to Sally Floyd.
That’s good, because it means that it wasn’t really him who got shot! 😀
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