One Plus One: I Want In, editorial page
That was a bit of a rush, referring to the head-feeling. Certainly not a rush on execution – I wrote the initial, six-page version of this story in early summer of 2015, hoping to get it busted out for fun, and look what happened …A word to wise, artists: the longer you temporize, the more ideas the writer gets!
Robbing banks is the default “here I am, beat me up” activity of comics supervillains. It’s the classic establishing shot to fill in those first few pages, to get some fighting in there if you didn’t want to write about fighting this issue, and to showcase the branded look and powers of the hero. I used to wonder if villains deliberately chose banks along the route and schedule of known heroes’ patrolling habits – “Spidey’s depressed again, let’s cheer him up and go knock over that Wells Fargo branch.”
The trouble is, robbing banks is the quintessential dumb crime. It doesn’t work; people who do it are merely acting out stuff they see in movies and on TV, and the police understand that perfectly.
There’s a great webcomic I follow, The Badguys. May I precede my point by saying it’s witty, fun, professional, and very successful, gets a million zillion views, likes, votes, and all that stuff. Therefore if you are inclined to say my modest success with Adept Comics means I shouldn’t criticize it, then OK. I’m not dissing it, but calling attention to its reliance on unexamined tropes … Anyway …
Banks do leave cash lying out like that. It doesn’t represent deposits on file or anyone’s savings at all; that’s just bits and bytes – it’s bait, intended to give robbers something to “get” so they don’t hurt anyone. The staff is trained to react such that the robbers will get to it immediately and won’t hurt them. It’s numbered to the bill and usually dyed, either with stuff that’ll show up on UV or, deep in the stack, intended to hit you later, with other stuff that’ll turn you purple and is very hard to get off.
Then there’s the famous visual tropes of pursuit – but in reality, there really aren’t panel or screen edges you can step out of to be safe. Why pursue you? Security systems have filmed it all, and the booby-trapped cash will do its job either when you spend it and someone deposits it, or when everyone notices that you look mighty purple. Frankly, about then, you better rat on your pals before someone does you first.
Maybe not, you say? OK. Go a couple of weeks down the road – what did you think it would do for your life? Is it a paycheck? Do you think using it as one won’t set off alarms – gee, Strapped-for-Payments Pete just spent $8,000 at Lady Kitty’s Pussy Club … or paid off half his mortgage, either way. When you use it, do you think your friends and family who happen be be currently mad at you won’t speak out?
And even more so … that green paper isn’t shit. Think about it. You’re not a fucking tycoon; you’re a schlub with assets and debts that sum, literally, to old-school weregild. It’s strictly a matter of whether you’re worth more alive or dead as far as Finance Insurance Real Estate (FIRE) is concerned. What if someone gave you, personally, $500,000 in cash? But with no paperwork, no justification, no nothing … meaning, nothing to say where it came from? So, how are you going to deposit it? Account for it? Pay taxes on it? Do anything with it? To FIRE, wealth creation is its prerogative. Not saying where it came from and not having to spend it the way FIRE wants (i.e., payments to itself) is a crime, and the tax man and the judge listen to FIRE’s “policies” when they apply the law.
Topaz knows all this, and has reversed all the standard tropes to make them work for her. You can see it in the story:
- In the vault, she took exactly what she knew was there, and where, and nothing else. It wasn’t cash at all; it was a unique thing that had unique value to specific people.
- You can see that she blew the vault door out, and exited some other way.
- She converted it immediately into electronic wealth and laundered it – and that’s really how her super-powers made this theft possible.
You can see too, I hope, why she deliberately leaves a selfie, having fritzed the rest of the recording. She could have done this 100% stealthily, but no, it’s broad daylight and she made a big ol’ explosion. Not being a mass murderer, she chose a Sunday. It’s theater – she’s building her brand. That’s what my supervillains do. She’s already robbed about half a mil this year with no foofaraw or costumes at all, so this is the single public one she’s planned toward that branding.
How about the banks and the Bandit? You just got a hint in this story. There’s a lot more to see about that in the next.
Next column: Everyday religion (September 18)
Next comics: Sword of God, The Edge, p. 9 (September 20); One Plus One, Two, cover (September 22)