by Robert Gillis 8/2010
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When it came to individual liberties (and the law in general) Silver Age comics could always be counted upon to dismiss such silly concepts as Miranda rights, due process, and fair protection under the law, not to mention all that bothersome and silly Bill of Rights nonsense. Here are two excellent examples of how the law really worked back in the Silver Age:
Adventure Comics 249, June, 1958: Clark’s wallet and ID have been stolen, and the sheriff grabs him because MAYBE he’s the sneak thief they’re looking for. Noble Clark doesn’t want the sheriff to phone his father because it would EMBARRASS Jonathan.
That’s damned noble. Go to jail so you don’t EMBARRASS your foster-father.
The sheriff, using sound legal precedent, arrests Clark as a vagrant because…wait for it… HE HAS NO MONEY.
No money = Obvious vagrant.
Yep, no possibility of a mistake in that logic.
That means most people in this economy… Are vagrants! Lock em up!
Hey, wait — the Silver Age Superboy can travel AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. You’re telling me he can’t speed away so fast that the sheriff doesn’t even realize it? Clark could have caught up with the wallet thief as Superboy before the sheriff said “Johnny Doe.” But if Clark did that, the story would only be one page long, and we can’t have that, so, logic (as always) goes out the window….
…and the sheriff throws Clark into jail and gets him a prison uniform. Later in the story, during a ten second hearing, Clark is convicted of vagrancy and SENT TO PRISON. Of course, by the end of the story everything is back to normal.
Similarly, in an “imaginary story” in Action Comics #305 (1963), Superman had to abandon his Clark Kent identity and find a new blonde-haired secret identify. He soon found that despite all his powers he couldn’t create identification papers, birth certificates, driver’s license, and so on — so the new identify would have no references… That led to this situation:
And ex-convict Clark would soon be up the river again!
From Adventure Comics 301, October, 1962. Lex Luthor, a teenager and already a career criminal, makes an unfounded accusation against Clark Kent – he alleges that Jonathan Kent (who is on the parole board and has never had so much as a parking ticket) is blackmailing Lex into revealing where he’s hidden his crime machines. The warden, who apparently doesn’t remember the 4702 times Lex has broken out of prison and done all sorts of horrible things, doesn’t just ignore Lex. He says he has no authority to detain Clark until the police act (that’s right) but.. (HOORAY! FATE TAKES A HAND!) …The bridge is washed out!
So Clark offers to stay as… wait for it… wait for it… A REGULAR INMATE. Are you kidding me? No, really, are you kidding me? The warden’s office doesn’t have a cot or something? Clark can’t bunk in the guard’s quarters? Nope — Honor student Clark Kent who has done nothing wrong, um, EVER, offers to help straighten out the whole mess by staying as an INMATE in a PRISON. Because everyone in prison is so nice to each other, like on “Oz.”
“Put Kent here through the regular routine,” the warden says. Clark, you SO don’t want to know what that entails. And then… wait for it… the ONLY cell available… is the one where Lex Luthor lives. Oh, yeah, this is getting more plausible all the time.
Sillyness aside, juveniles WERE unjustly accused and imprisoned back then, until the Gault Decision (1967) give them the same due process rights as adults under the 14th ammendment. Thank God some things HAVE changed!