Sunday, August 07, 2022

Today in Comics History, August 7: The Sixth and Eighth Amendments vs. a Caterpillar

This is an expanded and updated version of a post originally published October 14, 2010.

...granted, a talking, evil caterpillar: the no-good-nik Mr. Mind, who may very well know a lot about villainy but not much about public relations—really, who calls their organization "The Monster Society of Evil"? You may as well say you're "The Young Republicans" and be done with it, Mr. Obvious.

Anyway: after approximately 3,700 installments of the famous "Captain Marvel vs. The Monster Society of Evil" saga in Captain Marvel Adventures, Shazam Captain Marvel finally faces off against the wicked worm, and a battle to the death begins! But, seeing as this is Captain Marvel Adventures and not Criminal Caterpillar Comics, you know that big Red Cheese is going to bring home the bacon and ketch-up to Mr. Mind. Then, Captain Marvel zapped him right between the eyes (ZAP!) and before you know it, it's The Trial of the Century!

Captain Marvel Adventures #46
from "The Monster Society of Evil Chapter 25: The End of Mr. Mind!" in Captain Marvel Adventures #46 (Fawcett, May 1945), script by Otto Binder, pencils by C. C. Beck, inks by the Beck-Costanza Studio

It's Captain Marvel for the prosecution...hey, shouldn't that be done by a trained lawyer? I mean, Billy may have the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of conviction of Hercules, the comics of Atlas, the animal-shape-changing skills of Zeus, the heel of Achilles, and the legal skills of Matt Murdock, but I don't think he's passed the bar in whatever state Fawcett City is in...Calisota or Missitucky or Alderney or Moosylvania, whichever it is. That's the job of a district attorney, and after all, comics has a perfectly good district attorney already...and he's trained in all aspects of animal law!:

Mr. D.A.
cover of Mr. District Attorney #66 (DC, November 1958), pencils and inks by Sheldon Moldoff, letters by Ira Schnapp

Unfortunately, Mr. District Attorney already had his hands full with another insect related legal case:

Mr. D.A.
cover of Mr. District Attorney #54 (DC, November 1956), pencils and inks by Ruben Moreira, letters by Gaspar Saladino

Through the power of his tiny broadcast radio (pre-empting The Jack Benny Program to bring you special live coverage of this trial), Mr. Mind proclaims his innocence, declaring "If the accused is a caterpillar / You must acquit him of being a killer." Captain Marvel counters with the severity of his crime, but almost loses the jury's interest by reading the entire list of victims in alphabetical order.

Captain Marvel Adventures #46

Enter the caterpillar's crooked defense attorney: Malvolio Murdock, brother of Matt and Mike Murdock, major metropolitan mandate maestro! Luckily for Mr. Mind, he's taken some time out from his career as The Riddler.

Captain Marvel Adventures #46

It's at this point in the black-and-white criminal noir movie genre that the mob's legal eagle gets the crook off with a slap on the wrist and the cursing of Mike Hardshot, Private Detective. Let's see what sort of jurisprudent juggling the world's skinniest Bob Hope impersonator is going to turn the trial over in Mr. Mind's favor...

Captain Marvel Adventures #46

Whoa! That's definitely a violation of the Sixth Amendment and certainly a cause for a mistrial. However, as the judge has no apparent head, there's no objection sustained or overruled over whatever it is that they do here...look, I watched Ally McBeal for the short miniskirts, not for the legal instruction, buddy.

The jury deliberates for several tense days..naw, I'm just kiddin' ya. They don't take a step out of the courtroom, probably because the hotel in which they would have been sequestered does not have cable radio or MBO (Marconi Box Office).

Captain Marvel Adventures #46

Aw, was there any doubt about the verdict of this trial? Remember, kids (and caterpillars)...crime does not usually pay unless you get away with it.

Captain Marvel Adventures #46

Soon afterward, in front of an audience of Lex Luthors, Jimmy Corrigan and a train engineer prepare for the execution of Mr. Mind. Oh, so Fawcett City is in Texas!

Captain Marvel Adventures #46

As the clock ticks ever closer to the moment of death, Mr. Mind feverishly hopes for a phone call from the governor. Unfortunately, the Governor has his hands full with yet another one of J.J.'s wacky schemes!

The Governor and J.J.
cover of The Governor and J.J. #3 (Western/Gold Key, August 1970)

So, they stack up a few Fawcett City phone books as a booster seat and lower the helmet over Mr. Mind's head, not even bothering to wet the sponge on his scalp or to let him pet Mr. Jingles one final time.

Captain Marvel Adventures #46

How will Mr. Mind escape? What sinister plan will he put into action to escape the sizzling joy-buzzered hand of the Grim Reaper?

Captain Marvel Adventures #46

Oh. Never mind.

Many of the world's greatest mass murderers have been executed, of course, and frequently their bodies are later cremated and scattered to avoid making a shrine to their evil deeds. I'm not certain how much the Eighth Amendment's edict against "cruel and unusual punishment" extends after execution, but I'm pretty sure penal law doesn't cover stuffing the body and placing it on display in a museum. Which branch of the Smithsonian do you think they put him in? Whichever one it is, I sure hope you can't buy any Mr. Mind memorabilia in the gift shop.

Captain Marvel Adventures #46

Say kids, how did you like that story? Why not check the boxes on this final panel of the comic and let the editors know if you miss the greatest mass murderer in the world.

Captain Marvel Adventures #46

You know the rest of the story: years later, of course, the Beatles wrote a song all about the Mr. Mind trial, and a mentally ill criminal decided to adopt the song to his lifestyle, re-naming himself "Bungalow Bill" after the song, thus becoming one of the most terrifying icons of the early 1970s with his unstoppable rampage of stealing single-story domiciles across the country, until he was killed in a blazing gun battle, shot by this guy...

Kid Colt Outlaw
cover of Kid Colt, Outlaw (1949 series) #116 (Marvel, May 1964), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Sol Brodsky, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

...which only goes to show: crime does not pay a weekly wage or give you a 401(k).

Play us off, keyboard Beatles!


Sphinx Magoo said...

I've always felt that Mister Mind lives on... Deep underwater, trying vainly to get the formula for the Krabby Patty from Eugene Krabbs and Spongebob...

Dean said...

That is a LOT of murders, though.

Blam said...

// Soon afterward, in front of an audience of Lex Luthors, Jimmy Corrigan and a train engineer prepare for the execution of Mr. Mind. //
That is such a hilariously perfect description, I’m loath to correct any part of the post containing it, yet my comicologist’s oath compels me to point out that “Fawcett City” is purely a post-Crisis, Ordway-era coinage; Billy Batson’s place of residence in the Golden Age was, I believe, unnamed, meant to be a general stand-in for NYC like Metropolis or Gotham and similarly possessed of whatever geographical surroundings a story called for.