Episode 185: Super-judge/jury/executioner? Superhero torture is, well, torture (Journey Into Mystery #114 & 115) -- March 1965
In this episode:
Mike and Ed discuss Thor’s battle with Crusher Creel, “The Absorbing Man”. Thor has used his own power against him by turning Crusher into helium and banishing him into outer space for an indefinite period of time. Thor claims that there are special laws and enforcement for “powerful people”. Who gets to decide who is powerful, and what the consequences are? Have we put too much trust in our heroes?
Behind the issue:
This is the first appearance of Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man. His powers as demonstrated in these issues allow him to gain the strength and abilities of whimever he is fighting. That power will later be retconned into just the ability to gain the strength and abilities of the materials he touches. Also, don’t worry about Crusher - he later escapes from his life as an amorphous cloud of helium floating through the solar system, returning the bedevil our heroes again and again.
In these issues:
Journey into Mystery #114:
The issue opens with Thor battling another super-science criminal. While in the midst of battle, Thor’s brother Loki cast a kind of spell to harm Thor, although Thor spoils his plan, not knowing that his own brother was trying to kill him. Enraged, Loki comes up with a new scheme. He searches the Earth and finds a brutal man named Crusher Creel, who has been imprisoned for his vicious crimes. Loki adds an enchanted potion to Creel’s drink, which gives him the amazing power of being able to assume the properties of anything he touches. He uses this amazing power to escape prison. Thor learns of the prison break and confronts Creel, who proves to be incredibly powerful, and potentially a match for Thor, all witnessed by a newspaper reporter. Thor is spirited away in the midst of battle to Asgard, as Loki has kidnapped the woman he loves, Jane Foster.
Journey into Mystery #115:
The issue opens with Thor battling Loki for the life of Jane Foster. Meanwhile back on Earth, Crusher Creel has broken into the house of a young couple, and is basically terrorizing them. Back on Asgard, Odin breaks up the fight between his two sons, and after some back-and-forth, Odin agrees that Thor can leave the battle to finish his fight on earth with Creel. Thor returns to Earth and engages the villain once more. Crusher Creel again proves to be a potential match for Thor, using his powers in creative and effective ways. Thor is finally able to defeat the villain by tricking him into absorbing the quality of helium gas, causing him to leave the planet in the ethereal form of an amorphous cloud of helium.
Assumed before the next episode:
People are wondering if superheroes have assumed too much power and authority after learning that Thor acted as judge, jury, and executioner of the villain Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man.
This episode takes place:
After Thor has banished Crusher Creel to his own personal hell, floating in a ghostly form through space for an indeterminate period of time.
Edward: Mike, I wanna start off today with a quote. Can I do that? We've never done this before.
Edward: Okay, Thor recently battled a new villain. This new villain that's just popped up called The Absorbing Man. And after he defeated the villain, he was speaking to a reporter, and I'm just gonna read it verbatim what he said to the reporter.
He said that this absorbing man person, "Crusher Creel has become lighter than the air and is swiftly being drawn into the atmosphere as I planned. In this gaseous state, he can survive indefinitely. I shall allow him to drift through space until the unearthly power he possesses is about a useless forgotten memory. Only then will he return to earth and assume his rightful form." So that seems really terrible.
Micheal: That's a chilling quote because we know that Crusher Creel is the absorbing man, and he was a bad dude who's in prison, but suddenly he got these powers and Thor's solution to him is to let him. So I guess people should know, I don't really know this, but it's been big news. I thought that the absorbing man can turn into anything like which he touches or something like that. So Thor somehow tricks him to turning into helium and floating away. Isn't that hellish? ,
Edward: You think? So?
Micheal: He's turning to a ghost.
Edward: We know that putting somebody in jail is a punishment. Within jail if you wanna punish the person further, what you do is you put them in solitary confinement where they basically aren't allowed to interact with other inmates. You know what's worse than that is floating through space for eternity
Micheal: Yeah. Or however long a thunder God decides you should. Thor talks about returning to finish his prison sentence, but only after he's lost a sense of who he is. So it means it could be an eternity. You could be going for eons through space going mad and you're right when you reference solitary confinement in prison. That's inhumane, right? I have a very strong view on this. It's inhumane and because as humans you do need social interaction. Basically turned into a ghost and float away is cruel no matter who this person is.
Edward: And solitary confinement, I think you're still allowed to read books. I think you're still having some sort of interaction with the broader world. If you're a gas helium, you went to a Cassius Helium floating through space, you don't have any interaction at all. Even if you're in solitary confinement, you can look at the bugs in your room, or you can look at the shadows that are changing. This guy's just floating through the vastness of space as helium.
Micheal: Yeah. So he's been sentenced to an indeterminate punishment, right? Like an indeterminate number of years by a thunder God, who may forget about him, be honest. But even if he doesn't. Thor doesn't forget that he has basically got a prisoner floating through space in a gases form. It's still, it's chilling that a well regarded superhero would choose this type of punishment, and you gotta ask why.
Edward: And it feels like if Thor had killed him, just murdered this guy, we would be having a conversation. There'd be people, a lot of people up in arms that these superheroes would just take the law into their own hands and murder people who they feel free to do that to, but instead what he's done, is it worse than murder? You could argue it is worse than murder and there's no up roar at all. In fact, the reporter who reported on this non ironically called Thor, the bravest, most self-sacrificing crusader he has ever known.
Micheal: I don't think he fits that description by doing that. This is an ungodly punishment for this person. It's hellish. The human equivalent here on earth of imprisoning somebody so they couldn't move and just kept them alive. If that happened on here on earth, if people are doing that, and certainly if police forces were doing that, our governments were sanctioning that we'd rightly denounce that as being torture. So that's what's happened is that it's clearly an avenger is committed torture.
Edward: He's committing torture and we just write it off. I think partly because it's a villain that he did it too, and partly because we can't see the impact. I think your point of if he had been frozen where he's in the middle of Central Park as a frozen statue and we know his mind is still working, but he's not able to move or communicate or do anything. I think people would be offended and mad, but because he's like off in space somewhere, it's like, oh, you know, we can't. We just, we'll just ignore it and, and call Thor the bravest, most self-sacrificing. How is self-sacrificing? What did he self, did he sacrifice anything?
Micheal: Nothing. And this skips over and I don't wanna skip over the idea that this is actually a punishment without a trial. It's imprisonment as a ghost without a trial. It just offends all notions of justice and liberty.
Edward: And, and it was premeditated too, it's not premeditated murder. It's premeditated extra-judicial torture intentions. Torture. Yeah. Like before this whole thing happened when, when Creole was happening when he was like causing problems and before Thor was able to deal with him, Thor also spoke to the reporter and told him that, what was it? What did he say? He said that, that crusher is too powerful for regular law .
Micheal: So that's it. Right? So is it that, would people be more accepting of what's happened here because Thor has determined that, nothing else is gonna work. We gotta deal with this trust me on this, guys. This is somebody I can't defeat and therefore, All the rules are, there's no rules and he's throwing the book out. It's just coming up with a new way of dealing with it. I don't think we can accept that.
Edward: It feels like there's a few things going on. One is the fact that there's some sort of bar above which if anybody is above that bar, they are so powerful that we stop falling the law. Like the fact that we create that bar at all. Should there be some level of power that we ignore the law, it feels like as you get more powerful, that makes the law even more important to follow.
Micheal: It would render the law meaningless, to be honest, because this is why the Lords back in the time of the Magna Carta went to King John and said, we need to have rules here and that they wrote out the world's first, or the West, sorry, not the world's, but England certainly wrote out the rules that should apply, the laws that should apply, not just to people that the king feels they should be applied to, but to the king or queen themselves. It's my sense of the Magna Carta in my head
Edward: There was an ammendment to the Magna Carta that said that it applies to all people, including the king, but not to very powerful super villains.
Micheal: Oh, that whole, the, well, that's the first amendment to the Magna Carna. The first Amendment. That's now...
Edward: And even if we gave them that, even if we said, you know what, okay, when someone gets so powerful, the only way to deal with them is to ignore the law and just allow Thor to be the final arbiter of everything. Even if we agree to that, then the question becomes is how powerful? Who decides how powerful that is? Is there a certain... Hey, you know what, Human, Torch law applies to him? Cause he's not that powerful. But, you know, The Thing, he's so powerful that the law starts up, doesn't start applying to him. Do we have some sort of ranking of power levels of individuals and if you are a villain, your goal is to get as close to that top of that bar as possible without going over
Micheal: It's frightening. And what about this? So what if Thor didn't have good intentions? What if Thor just decided that, you know what, this guy's more powerful than me and I like being the most powerful, strongest superhero out there. And so he just decides, actually this new superhero that's out there, superpowered person, he's more powerful than me. So we need, we needed to deal with him right away cuz he was, he was doing bad things. Trust me on that. That's kind of what happened here. We know in this case that Creel was a bad person and he'd done bad things.
Edward: He was in prison before this whole thing happened. He should be put back in. Even if he committed no crimes, he still needs to be put back in prison for his old crimes.
Micheal: That's right. But so in that case though, so we know he is done bad things. I don't say he's necessarily a bad person, but he is done bad things and he is battling Thor. And that's enough for Thor to decide because he's so powerful. I'm just gonna be judge, jury and executioner.
Edward: Judge, jury and torture.
Micheal: Torture in chief. And how do we know that Thor couldn't just with that new power that he has this authority, he could just do that whenever he feels like if somebody is threatening him. Like what if there's, I don't know hercules comes around , right? Hercules might be stronger than Thor. If the Hercules exists, if the Greek myth, He says, no, no, no, no. You guys don't know. I know Hercules. He's a bad dude. He's stronger than me. And so I battled him and I and I killed him, or I turned him into, I don't know, I tied him into healing blooms and he's floating through space forever, whatever.
Edward: I made him hold the earth for all eternity with a raven plucking at his liver. He's not what God's do.
Micheal: Yeah, that's, that's right. So it is troubling and if we allow this to happen, if we allow this to continue, then we're accepting the fact that the laws don't apply equally. And that we're also allowing superpowered individuals to write their own laws and write their own rules
Edward: Effectively there's two laws out there now. There's the laws that apply to everybody unless you're a threat to Thor.
Micheal: I don't like it.