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Thursday 11 January 2007
When Superman foils a robbery, as a duly authorized deputy of the law, he can testify in court about what he stopped those criminals from robbing. When Batman subdues a rapist, as a sanctioned vigilante, he'll be left off the police record as the Gotham Police will cover for him. When Green Lantern stops a murderer, as an intergalactic policeman, he has an organized system to ensure that justice is served. When Aquaman encounters a litterer on the high seas, as the King of Atlantis, he can do pretty much whatever he wants to that litterer. But how do the more secretive heroes handle criminals?
Green Arrow is a masked vigilante who has no love for "the establishment." As a result, he has no official pull in the criminal justice system of the cities he has fought crime in. So when he catches a drug-trafficing punk and leaves that punk tied up outside the police station, what happens next? Arrow isn't going to testify in court about what happened, and the police aren't likely to take his word for anything while he maintains a secret identity. Even if Arrow left the drugs tied to the fellow, in court the punk could testify that they were planted after Arrow grabbed him, and who's going to prove that they weren't? Therefore, the punk would go free. Is it enough for Arrow to prevent the crime even if he didn't stop the criminal? Is the threat of being shot in a sensitive but non-fatal body part with an arrow a strong enough deterrent against crime for that criminal? And if Green Arrow does shoot the punk, then the punk can send the police after Arrow. No wonder the Arrow is so hostile towards "the system."
I think these are the sort of issues that cause most superheroes to fight costumed criminals. When you subdue someone dressed like a clock, you don't really have to worry about the lingering effects of how the courts treat him. When the cops find him dressed in a skin-tight costume modeled on a Texas Instruments TI-80 calculator, you don't have to worry that the cops will take his word over yours. And when you "accidentally" break the arms of a man dressed as a calendar, you know that no one will think that the broken arms are the strangest part of the case.