REVIEW: Superfreaks!

Martin Phipps martinphipps2 at
Mon Sep 25 04:06:33 PDT 2006

Tom Russell wrote:
> A better example, in that same issue, is the scene in which Superman
> and Leroy Laurel discuss his alibi.  That scene doesn't have to be
> there from a plot point of view, as anything they would say would find
> its way to the trial (and it does, in the cop's testimony of all
> places).  But it works from a character point of view, and has earned
> Leroy Laurel my vote for Favourite Supporting Weasel at the next
> RACCies.

There's two good explanations for this, one in story and one glossed

The in story explanation is that the cop was being presented as an
"expert witness" and was allowed to speculate as to Extreme's post
coital physical condition.  The fact that the judge accepted him as an
expert witness meant that it was difficult for the defense to cross
examine whereas Extreme himself could have been asked embarrassing

The glossed over explanation is that Extreme couldn't possibly testify
because he would have been required to "tell the truth, the whole truth
and nothing but the truth" and that might have required Extreme to
reveal his identity in trial.  If he denied having a secret identity
then his fellow heroes could be supeonaed and asked if he was telling
the truth (assuming any of them knew) and if it was revealed that he
was lying then it would not only hurt him in the trial but he could
also have faced a perjury charge.  Come to think of it, this would have
been a good explanation for why the government would have agreed to an
out of court settlement in the civil case because in the civil case he
would have been compelled to testify.

There were glossed over details that I didn't explicitly go inro but
they did affect the final product in that they educated me as to what I
couldn't reasonably do.  (A recent issue of Amazing Spiderman actually
had a Spiderman trying to appear in court -pre identity reveal- and he
was refused the right to testify because he was a guy wearing a mask
who wasn't even willing to state his name for the record.)

> Martin compares this more to CSI, which I'm not familiar with.  If it's
> true that this is a super-CSI series, than the detectives in CSI must
> not do a whole lot of detective work.  Though I might be incorrect in
> making so sweeping of a statement, if my memory serves in *every*
> _single_ case, the investigators jumped right from crime scene to
> suspect.  Now, they might have to do some work to get that suspect (for
> example, they go to Poison Ivy to find her daughter), but they always
> know who it is seemingly right away.

Well, in all fairness, the reliance on technology does make the CSI's
job a little easier and sometimes the focus is finding *enough evidence
to convict* as sometimes high tech methods of finding crminals don't go
down very well with juries.  Yes, sometimes they have more than one
suspect but suspects are elimated very, very quickly as a result of DNA
or fingerprints or the lack of gunshot residue etc etc etc.  It's like
a race against time for the CSIs to catch the criminal(s) -usually more
than one- before the hour is up.

> For me, the interesting part of a police procedural is the procedure:
> it's seeing the police find their way to the correct answer.  In Law &
> Order, a lot of the false leads and grunt work is ellided in favour of
> a step A, step B, step C approach-- each scene yielding a clue that
> leads to the next-- but it's certainly more entertaining than step A,
> step Z.

Oh and I didn't try to place emphasis on the need to provide sufficient
evidence to convict.  A lot of the old detective shows didn't do that
IMO: a lot of them would end with a forced confession which might not
have actually stood up in court.  ("For God's sake, Columbo, okay,
fine, I did it, enough already!")

> In "Columbo", the tension arose from knowing who the suspect is but
> seeing how Columbo figured it out.  We see how the crime is committed,
> and we see how he solves it.  It's a very good structure, and nine
> times out of ten I'm rubbing my hands in glee when Lt. Columbo catches
> them in the fatal lie.

Yeah but with good lawyers they would still have gotten off.  Law and
Order and CSI are better shows in that once the criminal is identified
the focus becomes not simply getting them to admit to doing it but
actually finding sufficient physical evidence to get a conviction in

> The cops in Superfreaks must all be geniuses, because they piece
> together the crime almost immediately after it's occured.

Well, that's a good criticism of Columbo too.  Or Perry Mason.  They
always seemed to have an uncanny insight as to who is actually guilty.
At least the CSIs have the technology to quickly eliminate suspects.

> For example,
> they find a woman's body and they know she's been killed by retractable
> claws-- just like Wolverine's.  How the hell do they know they're
> retractable claws?

By supeonaing Weapon Alpha to appear and allow the wounds to be
compared to tests done on his own claws based on the suspicion
-suspicion mind you- that that's what they were.  Oh and they had his
DNA too so it wasn't just somebody using cleverly spaced skewers trying
to frame him.

> This is something Martin chided me for in JOLT CITY # 2, an incredible
> leap in logic on the part of the Green Knight as to how someone was
> killed.  And I'll concede that point, and fix it in a later repost.

In all fainess though CSIs are trained to make these leaps of logic and
the one hour time frame of a CSi episode requires that they do. :)

> I'm sure there's some way one can tell that retractable wrist-claws
> were used to kill the woman, but I'd like to know what it is.
> Similarly, when the former Robin follows a supervillain in time to join
> the battle with the Justice League, he says that if Batman taught him
> one thing, it was how to spot a villain.
> Well, I'd like to know _how_.  I'd like Robin to take a moment to
> explain what signals he saw, what behaviours, what mannerisms.
> Because those kinds of details are interesting.  And, furthermore,
> those kind of details are the entire point of a police procedural.

Um... because he looked evil? :)

And it was more of a Justice League / New Avengers cross.

> There are also a couple of moments that made me go, "huh?"  For
> example, when Speedy/Arsenal is arrested for murder, he's considered to
> be insane, unable to stand trial, unable to tell between right and
> wrong.  But from the scene between him and the psychologist, I don't
> get that vibe: Speedy _knows_ murder is wrong, but he felt that this
> particular murder was justified, that he was _above_ it, that he has a
> saviour complex.  Which is certainly insane, but _not_ legally insane.

The subjectiveness of this kind of decision was a major point in Batman

> Feeling you're above the law or that a crime is justified is _not_ the
> same thing as not knowing the difference beteen right and wrong.
> Really, legal insanity exists to prevent people who cannot control
> their actions-- the mentally retarded or the hallucinatory/delusional--
> from being prosecuted for their crimes.

Again, it's subjective.  Harry Roy admitted to killing Edward "Lex"
Goodhead.  The psychiatrist decided that Harry Roy was sufficiently
confused as to why his actions were wrong as to make him unable to
stand trial.  In his opinion.

> Furthermore, though a judge can declare someone not fit to stand trial,
> generally "not guilty by reason of insanity" is a point of law for a
> jury to decide, and someone like Alan Russell would, I think, be canny
> enough to put the guy on trial.  His defense attorney, to make the
> insanity plea, would have to put him on the stand: surely if he relied
> on only expert witnesses, Alan Russell would have plenty in his corner
> as well.

But that would have required Harry Roy to admit to being insane in
order for him to enter in that plea.  He knew he was guilty but he was
waiting for the courts to just make it right, seeing as how the man he
killed was a master criminal.  In a way, his attitude was similar to
that of the Exterminator: he knew that killing was wrong but he was
killing bad people so that made it okay.  He also expected others to
come to see things his way.

> The jury might see how nutso he is but they would also see his
> superiority complex and, instructed on legal insanity, I don't think
> they'd find him innocent.

The defense might have also been able to play on the jury's sympathy,
given that the Archer, his mentor and supposed father figure, had been
killed.  A repentant Harry Roy could have claimed temporary insanity
brought on by grief.

> Of course, I'm no lawyer.  I could be wrong about some of this.  But it
> certainly doesn't feel quite right.

No, no, you're right in some of your points.  I just don't think it
would have affected the outcome in this case as I think Harry was crazy
enough to warrant institutionalization.

> But here's another detail I _am_ familiar with-- Martin's assertion
> that young men and teenagers just don't die.
> Well, Martin, I've had a friend die-- a perfectly healthy one who died
> of perfectly natural causes.  No foul play.  His heart just stopped.
> And one of my cousins (also in good health) had a heart attack at the
> age of twenty-two.  He lived, thank God.

Okay.  But here the coroner couldn't find any explanation as to why he
died.  Supposedly the victim did not die of a heart attack.  That's a
point I could have included.  But I'm not a medical doctor so I just
assumed that heart attacks would have been extremely rare amongst

> But your assertion is just plain wrong.  Granted, the case needed
> investigating or there would be no story.  I think you were probably
> commenting on Anna Nicole Smith's son's mysterious death, which is
> probably also of perfectly natural causes-- the same way you were
> commenting on the Crocodile Hunter's death.

No, but that's a good counterexample where people are in fact saying
that a young man shouldn't just die.  Thanks. :)

> Granted, with the Croc Hunter, I think you were going more for laughs--
> and your fourth wall break in # 7 was played more for laughs as well.
> And you've said, if it helps, think of Superfreaks as a parody
> universe.

You mean the "master of the mystic arts" line?

> And, sure, there's some funny stuff.  Willey an unrepetent
> rapist-murderer?  That's funny.  Brenton killed by Super-semen?  Well,
> not so funny, but smirk-worthy.

Oh, wait, no, you've got it all wrong.  I wasn't making Willey out to
be a murderer.  Nor is anybody named Ross or Goodhead a criminal

> I like your dialogue and some of your banter.  I even like the slow
> growth of trust between the police and Captain America.  It's a nice
> touch.

Which results in the death of the series, of course.  #6 and #7 had
cases ending with "We've done all we can do.  It's up to the heroes
now" which is unsatisfying in a series about ordinary cops and lawyers.

> It's very readable and very interesting, and I do recommend it.  I wish
> there was more for the detectives to do, that there was more plot and
> twists & turns.  And I really wish that your analogues weren't quite so
> transparent.

I think I would have enjoyed Psychopomp more if I knew in advance what
kind of character he was based on.

> For example, look at Poison Ivy.  With the name you saddle her with,
> there's no reason for her to have poison lipstick; plants should be her
> motif.  Poison works for Poison Ivy because she's both plant-based and
> toxins-based.  I think your name for her should have been something
> more on the toxic side of the equation.  It makes more sense that way,
> doesn't it?

Maybe but I couldn't think of a good name.  Deadly Kiss Woman?  A bit
too obvious.  I mean, how is she going to kill anybody with a name like
that? :)

> But, hell, you're not pretending these characters are anyone but who
> they are: the same people, just different spandex. Really, the name
> changes are prefunctory at best, which is why I didn't bother with them
> in writing this review.

I see. :)

Martin... has to go eat.

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