Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lex Luthor Loves Land- The Great Gotham Swindle and How it Affects Our Lives

Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor from Superman II, obtained from

We all know that Lex Luthor has a great interest in real estate. This was established way back in Richard Donner's first Superman film. In that movie, Luthor's plan was to sink California so the land he had purchased in Nevada and Arizona would be worth a fortune as beach-front property. Superman stopped that plan, but Luthor kept his fixation on land. In Superman Returns, Luthor went the other way in his schemes. He tried to grow an entire continent out of Kryptonian crystal. Planning to rearrange the surface of the Earth and get rich by renting his new continent, Luthor excitedly went along with his plan until Superman tossed his new continent into space.

But the Lex Luthor of the comics also has a fondness for acquiring land. In the year-long Batman crossover "No Man's Land" that ran through the Bat-family books in 1999, Lex Luthor hatched a plan involving seizing control of all of Gotham. Gotham City had just been wracked by a massive earthquake which reduced most of the city to rubble. In the wake of this disaster, the US
government isolated the Gotham disaster zone and prevented anyone from exiting or entering. Inside the city, Batman and Commissioner Gordon tried to maintain control against the gangs and madmen who roamed the streets.

In the midst of this chaos, Luthor identified a way to fill his own personal habit to get that real estate fix he had been needing. Using agents to destroy the original land deed records for Gotham, Luthor tried to gain ownership of the city without paying a cent. He offered to help Gotham's citizens rebuild without telling them that his assistance came with the price of ownership of their land. Eventually Batman foiled his plans, but I'm sure Luthor's desire for real estate has not yet been satiated.

Batman:No Man's Land Volume 1, obtained from

Now, you may be asking why I bring this up. I do so because we are in the midst of a world financial crisis. A crisis so enveloping that it affects all of our lives. It almost seems like some criminal mastermind has orchestrated this recession. Someone who values ownership of property above else. Perhaps someone who would be interested in giving mortgages to high risk lendees who would not be able to meet their financial obligations once rates had been raised. Someone who would watch gleefully as he regained control of their repossessed properties while the world markets crumbled.

That's right, LEX LUTHOR engineered the sub-prime lending crisis!!!!!!!!!!!

Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor from Superman Returns, obtained from

I bet, if we look carefully at those mortgage agreements, somewhere on those forms we will see a monogramed "LL."

Damn you Lex Luthor. Damn you!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Competition Is Murder- Supervillains and Industrial Sabotage

Cover to Iron Man: Legacy #1, art by Salvador Larrocca

While reading Iron Man:Legacy #1, I stumbled upon an interesting topic. The story opens with Stark Industries being attacked by environmental terrorists protesting Stark's arc reactor technology. Though it initially seems that a group of idealists armed with melting ray beams are trying to topple Stark's industrial power, a quick investigation by Tony Stark shows that the environment group is actually funded by an oil conglomerate. What had appeared to be an act of idealistic terrorism was actually good old fashioned industrial sabotage. And this is not a frequent occurance in the comic book world. It seems that the cost of doing business in a comic book is dealing with supervillain industrial sabotage.

Iron Man (and his alter-ego Tony Stark) has been a frequent victim of this. Competitors like Justin Hammer, Roxxon Industries, and Obadiah Stane have often sent hired villains to damage Stark's property. In fact, Iron Man has had to deal with the likes of the Ghost, the Chessmen, the Beetle, Spymaster, and quite a few others who have tried to mess up his stuff.
The Ghost, art by Bob Layton

Bruce Wayne has also suffered industrial sabotage from the likes of Lex Luthor and Black Mask. He overcame these machinations with some quick work as the Batman.

Lex Luthor, art by Ed McGuinness

I'm sure that there are tons of other examples throughout comic history of the cost of doing business.

It just goes to show that you can't build something nice without a competitor hiring a maniac in spandex to blow it up. Or something along those lines...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Everything Has a Cost

Shield #3 by Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver, Marvel Comics (2010)

Galileo knew it. Newton knew it. But poor Nostradamus apparently doesn't get the idea.

Or he just figures the cost is worth it.

Marvel's Strongest War Economy- The Kree

The Kree, obtained from

In the world of cosmic Marvel, the Kree are a warlike race of aliens who have been very prominent in comic books lately.

In Annihilation, the Kree were the primary adversary of Annihilus and his alien invaders. The massive armies of the Kree held Annihilus' forces at bay until Nova, the Silver Surfer, and Galactus were able to defeat them. This conflict left much of the worlds controlled by the Kree devastated.
Annihilus, obtained from

Then in Annihilation: Conquest, the Kree tried to resist the Phalanx with military force but were eventually overwhelmed. Even though the battle with the Phalanx ended, the Kree people were ravaged and much of the Kree empire was devastated.

The Kree then joined forces with the Inhumans in order to restore some of their strength. But only days after this union, the Kree went to war with the Shiar. Now, the Kree are part of a multi-race coalition of forces battling invaders from another dimension.

It's hard to imagine the war force that could sustain this level of conflict for so long. But the Kree are that force. In fact, though it seems like they have recently been thrown through a wringer of conflict, the Kree have always been at war. For hundreds of years, the Kree have battled the Skrulls.

They clearly know how to run a war. The level of production and construction shown in the Kree is truly something impressive. Looking at the Kree in a Keynesian perspective would lend us to believe that the state of a permanent wartime economy would increase spending, up product demand, dramatically advance technology, and raise productivity. And the Kree certainly seem strong.

Of course, this has also led the Kree to become a completely militaristic society. They would be unable to function under any other system since their economy is centered entirely around war.

And it's hard to tell whether this is a bad thing. On one hand, the Kree kill a lot and die a lot. On the other hand, the Kree were responsible for holding off forces which could have destroyed the universe. The Kree are unique in their ability to destroy, but their economic and military strength is truly something wonderful to behold.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Respect Your Assets: Two-Face Doesn't...

Art by Dustin Nguyen from the cover of Streets of Gotham #15, obtained from

In a recent issue of Batman: Streets of Gotham (issue #15 actually), we see what happens to a crime boss who isn't aware of the resources available to him.

Two-Face has had some trouble maintaining his criminal empire recently. Since Battle for the Cowl, Two-Face has had to face gang wars with both Penguin and Black Mask, as well as the forceful intervention of Batman himself. In Streets of Gotham, Two-Face has also had to deal with the fact that he has an undercover cop in his ranks.

Streets of Gotham #15 shows Two-Face dealing with the ramifications of these events. Most of Two-Faces gang has been murdered or arrested, leaving Two-Face with only two hired thugs supporting him and very little money. This is a dire state of affairs for the crazed crime boss, yet Two-Face refuses to acknowledge the limitations that are placed on him.

When Two-Face continues to expect unreasonable things from his rapidly deteriorating "organization," his last two henchman turn on him. Realizing Two-Face is out of touch with reality, the thugs fill Two-Face with lead rather than continue to risk their own lives for a madman. Naturally, they dump Two-Face into the river and leave him for dead.

Let this be a lesson to all of us. When resources are limited, we need to recognize what we (and the organizations with which we involve ourselves) are capable of. It is important to pay attention to your available assets whether they be property, stock, or murderous henchmen. Don't over-extend yourself (like some recent financial institutions) or you may find yourself floating in a harbor (or bankrupt at the very least).

Food for thought.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Steve Rogers Reinvents The World- National Deficit Soars

Now we've all heard about the "Heroic Age." Norman Osborn was smacked down, the Sentry was killed, Steve Rogers is back, the Avengers are reinstated and everything is fantasti-awesome in the Marvel Universe.

Steve Rogers art by Mike Deodato and others, Image obtained from

Yup, H.A.M.M.E.R. (Norman Osborn's perversion of S.H.I.E.L.D.) has been disbanded and the good guys are back in charge. Everything has been fixed. Only one thing hasn't been accounted for... the goddamn cost of it all.

Lets examine whats been happening in the last few years of the Marvel Universe, shall we? First there was a superhero Civil War, during which S.H.I.E.L.D. was restructured with super powered battle suits (called "cape-killers") to hunt down heroes.

In addition, Tony Stark became the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and started building new devices and heli-carriers left and right (including a red and gold heli-carrier ala his Iron Man armor). I'm sure these changes (both substantive and cosmetic) came with a fairly hefty price. But that was just the beginning.

Then when Norman Osborn took over national security, he dismantled everything Stark had created and replaced it with his own version of hardware and manpower. This includes new soldiers and new weapons (granted they were created using stolen technology). He also reinvented the Avengers and revamped the super hero initiative by training and paying villains as personal hit squad. The massive amount of government funds appropriated for Osborn's "Dark Reign" should have shown up to even the most oblivious of congressional oversight commitees. But somehow, Osborn was allowed to continue employing supervillains and redirecting funds.

Norman Osborn, art by Mike Deodato and others, obtained from

But that's all over right? Osborn got his butt kicked. He was removed from his position as head of the nation's defense and has been replaced with Steve Rogers (the man who was formerly Captain America). And with the new heroic morality that Steve Rogers brings to the position, surely fiscal responsibility will follow. Right?


The first thing Steve Rogers does upon taking control of America's superheroic defenses is to dismantle H.A.M.M.E.R. He immediately, arrests the vicious H.A.M.M.E.R. soldiers and disable the institution itself. Rogers then reorganized S.H.I.E.L.D. and reformed 4 teams of Avengers. That's right 4 Avengers. The regular Avengers, the New Avengers, the Secret Avengers, and created an Academy for young Avengers who desperately need training. Rogers also re-did the Thunderbolts program under the guidance of Luke Cage.

Now, a revamp of national security obviously needed to be performed. Norman Osborn had spent a year perverting the nation's defenses into something awful. Steve Rogers had to make some changes. But it's the sheer volume of his changes I can't help but object to. One group of Avengers was enough for most of the history of the Marvel Universe. Then two were around, and they dealt with problems just fine. But here Steve Rogers has created multiple government-funded Avengers teams to protect the world. This on top of disbanding the superhero initiative (and thereby dismantling the very expensive infrastructure underlying the initiative) while trying to replace the gap in protection that initiative teams provided surely could tax the national budget.

Now, being a resident of New York State (where the schools are in desperate need of funding and services are constantly being cut), I've taken issue with Steve Rogers' willy nilly spending party. I think he needs to scale back his changes and take things slowly in light of the massive spending that the two previous men in his position indulged in.

No wonder the economy is tanking. We're all subsidizing a Secret Avengers trip to Mars.

Cover to Secret Avengers#1, art by Marko Djurdjevic, obtained from