A few posts ago, I had made the comment that the CCA was once a valid authority but not a just one. Now, it may seem as though if you understand the individual words, you understand what that means. Hopefully, you’re right. This concerns the idea that leaders have come to their position of leading in a right sort of way, however they aren’t good at it (it can mean other things, too, but for today, this is all we need it to mean). In fact, their decisions tend to run counter to the idea of righteousness as it is laid out before them, or at least to the duties they have been assigned. The CCA got the job the right way, but they didn’t have a good idea what to do with their power. Confused? Luckily, comics are rife with examples of just that situation.
The Justice League. Shoot, they have “Justice” right there in the title. But I guess The Justice Lords did, too, however you count the animated cannon. How do we differentiate a group who uses justice as a guide instead of an excuse?
The Justice League, with only mild argument, would be considered “just”. They only target those who perpetrate evil, waiting until after sufficient action has been taken so that guilt has been established, then take only those actions they have to stop them and detain them, allowing police to walk them into prison. The interesting question is that of validity. By what right does the JL have to do these things? Seriously, if you had just robbed a bank, why is it that Batman gets to beat on your face until you’re concussed then swing away as if it never happened? Here in the states, citizen’s arrest actually allows for such a thing. As long as the detainment process doesn’t turn into torture and the cops are notified quick, game on. Even better, a private citizen is allowed to accrue evidence by almost any means necessary and still have it be admissible in court. Batman acts as far as a citizen can act, but always defers to the police and legal system. He is catching criminals that the police cannot and when the crook gets to court, most juries hear “Batman gave me this evidence” and respond “oh, guilty, then”.
The issue is that as a populace, we never really extended to them that authority, at least not in any sort of formal way. While it was just a bunch of normal dudes, kinda doin’ what normal dudes could do, there was never any need to question it. The Kick Ass rules apply. Everyone’s on the same page. Now, it could be argued that a special criminal would require special means from special people to stop their spree of crime. To that end…
The CW’s Flash has a secret prison in Star Labs. Thing is, there is NO WAY that is on the up and up. As just as their cause maybe, and, yeah, they’re right, if you stuck Peek-a-Boo in a standard issue prison, she’d be out before the key turned. Pretty obviously, that does not justify illegal imprisonment. The authorities and Flash should be on the same page. Failing to do so moves from concerned citizen to vigilante and false imprisonment, as much of a technicality as it maybe.
But that’s DC. They tend to act as gods walking amongst lesser beings with sympathy and overwhelming compulsion to stop all crime at all times, what with the constant patrolling and all. They know more than us, are better than us, and are willing to take the scorn of humanity so long as they keep it safe. Marvel is less so, at least on the whole. They generally suit up only once the big bad guy presents himself. There are counter examples, sure. Spider Man doesn’t wait to go out and patrol New York. The Defenders tend to have Hell’s Kitchen on lock down. Then there’s the Punisher. Frank Castle is literally hunting down bad guys and shooting them dead. Or stabbing them. Or blowing them up. Or, you know, whatever else. On his best days, he’s a vigilante, on his worst, something far worse. He’ll be getting a more in depth write up after DD:S2 comes out, but it will do for now to say that he lacks authority, and in a lot of cases, he lacks justice as well.
Wow, that was fine warm up. Now, we got this pretty well covered, lets take this back to where we started. CCA was absolutely a valid authority. Valid because they came into being in the way such things have to be here in the states; those who were within their rights wanted to give authority to a group to watch over the world of comics and control it as they saw fit. Once given, the group, with all the best intentions, used their power to keep the minds of the youth safe. Down the line, however, they lost sight of their meaning and held only their rules. There is no benefit in keeping the image of the word “drug” out of a comic book unless doing so led the readers away from drug usage. If having the image in the book led them away from their usage, then it should be used, as that is the point of their existence and the reason for their power. When they were no longer the ones making the calls, but rather appealing to a soulless set of rules set forth by men years prior as though the nonliving, nonthinking, and unfeeling words held more power of authority then they had lost their validity as well as their way. Whatever just-ness their power had previous was invalidated by that action.
This is an important topic to me and hopefully most people. Responsible citizens, and indeed a marker of an enlightened adult, is the ability to look at authority and determine its validity and virtue. Know when a thing has the right to make a call, even when bad, and know when the right reaction is rebellion and when it is to follow anyway. Know when a thing has no right to make a call, even when it is good, and know when the right reaction is to follow anyway and know when its better to just ignore. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers here. I wish I could give the perfect formula here, but if I could, it wouldn’t require wisdom, and it does require it. I can say, the longer you wrestle with it, the more your wisdom will grow. In any case, it is never as simple as “Do or Do Not”, but to know what consequences to expect no matter your choice.