No sooner did the Batman of Bradford, England, make international headlines for turning over a wanted man to police than he’s been unmasked by the media, thus ending the shortest-ever membership in the Club of Heroes.
As you might have suspected, West Yorkshire’s own Dark Knight isn’t Bruce Wayne, or even Cyril Sheldrake. Instead, he’s been identified as Stan Worby, a 39-year-old Chinese takeaway driver. And he wasn’t proving once again that criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot; rather, he was helping a friend pull off a joke.
Crime | Comix Experience in San Francisco was robbed at gunpoint Friday afternoon, with two young men demanding that owner Brian Hibbs empty the cash register containing about $75 and turn over an iPhone used for credit card transactions. A Lower Haight neighborhood blog interviewed Hibbs about the incident: “Divis [Divisadero Street] is generally pretty safe these days, so I was a LITTLE shocked at, y’know, a ‘brazen daylight armed robbery’ of it — but I am kind of more shocked that anyone thought that a comic book store was a high value target about an hour after they opened. Hell, life is like 85% credit cards these days, so even at our fattest there’s seldom enough to risk that kind of jail time, in my opinion …” [Haighteration]
History | Scholar Carol Tilley gives a first-person account of her research on Fredric Wertham, the super-villain of comics history, and how looking through his papers led her to an unexpected conclusion: His published works misrepresented what his research subjects had told him: “For many hard-to-articulate reasons, I didn’t want to write the scholarly paper on Wertham and the problems I found in his evidence, but not to write it seemed a disservice to the young people whose words and experiences Wertham distorted to help make his case against comics.” [Boing Boing]
Much like their Gotham City counterparts, police in West Yorkshire are left wondering about the identity and whereabouts of the Caped Crusader.
BBC News reports that a man dressed as the Dark Knight appeared at a police station in the early hours of Feb. 25 to hand over a 27-year-old wanted on charges handling stolen goods and fraud before fading back into the darkness. “Where he went, nobody knows,” correspondent Danny Savage says. “He disappeared into the night.”
While some have speculated that Batman might actually be a friend of the wanted man, police contend they have no clues to his identity.
Philip Williams, who’s just one of two wall-crawlers who lurk around the New York City tourist magnet charging for photos, was arrested Sunday after he allegedly punched a 44-year-old mother who refused to pay him for posing with her two kids.
The New York Post reports the woman stormed off to find her husband, intent on revenge. But upon her return … she angrily confronted the wrong Spider-Man. “A woman came to me and said, ‘What did you do to me, you fucker?’” the other webhead told the newspaper. “Her husband came over and said it was a different Spider-Man. They went over to the other one and started fighting.”
With that web of confusion untangled, the husband beat the 35-year-old Williams with a backpack until police arrived and hauled Spidey away, proving once again that J. Jonah Jameson was right.
You may recall the story of Anthony Chiofalo, a corporate attorney accused of embezzling $9.3 million from his Texas employer and then spending a sizable chunk of that money on high-priced collectibles, including a copy of Detective Comics #27 worth $900,000.
Well, now that story has another chapter — one starring a former investigator for the Harris County District Attorney’s office who appeared today in federal court on charges that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Chiofalo’s seized comic books and attempted to sell them.
The Houston Chronicle reports Lonnie Blevins was arrested following a lengthy federal investigation into accusations into items that disappeared following a raid on Chiofalo’s home and storage units. Blevins is accused of stealing dozens of the vintage comic books, possibly worth more than $1 million.
“There were so many, they just decided to take a few,” Chiofalo’s attorney Paul Doyle told the newspaper. “Talk about a breach of trust.” He plans to file a motion to dismiss based on misconduct.
Chiofalo’s other collectibles included a boxing robe worn by Muhammad Ali, a signed first edition of The Godfather and a baseball helmet signed by Pete Rose. Presumably they’re safe and sound.
Christjan Bee of Monett, Missouri, has been sentenced to three years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for possession of obscenity, specifically, comics that depicted children having sexual intercourse with one another and with adults.
The news came in a press release from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for Western Missouri, which prosecuted the case. According to the prosecutor, Bee’s wife contacted local police in August 2011 and said she had found what she believed to be child pornography on his computer. The police executed a search warrant and seized Bee’s computer:
During the forensic examination of Bee’s computer, a collection of electronic comics, entitled “incest comics,” were discovered on the computer. These comics contained multiple images of minors engaging in graphic sexual intercourse with adults and other minors. The depictions clearly lack any literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
This case is reminiscent of that of Christopher Handley, who also pleaded guilty to possession of drawn images of minors having sex. This is not child pornography, points out Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, because the images are drawn, not photographic.
Brownstein told Robot 6 today that he believes the Bee case wouldn’t hold up in front of a jury, but his comments on the case were limited because the CBLDF was not actually involved; he first heard about it from news reports that Bee had pleaded guilty and, therefore, waived his right to defend himself. Still, Brownstein said, “Even without knowing all the facts, it is an extremely disturbing case.”
Following an audacious heist that makes the recent Smurf assault seem like small portabellas, police in Hannover, Germany, are on the crumb-littered trail of a missing cookie — a 44-pound golden cookie. The prime suspect? A certain blue-furred compulsive eater by the name of Cookie Monster.
The gilded bronze sculpture was stolen early this month from a 100-year-old sculpture atop the headquarters of German baker Bahlsen (below), leaving authorities puzzled. While Cookie Monster adamantly denied any involvement in the crime — “Me no steal the golden cookie. But me willing to help find real cookie thief!” — not even the promise of a $1,350 reward for information could turn up anything about the real culprit.
But then on Tuesday, someone stepped forward with some demands. Some very delicious demands.
The store put out a call for help Wednesday afternoon on its Facebook page following a smash-and-grab that resulted in the theft of the comics, some of which dated back to 1940: The Amazing Spider-Man #1-2, The Amazing Spider-Man #1 signed by Stan Lee, The Avengers #4, Batman #4 signed by Jerry Robinson, Giant-Size X-Men #1, Green Lantern #76, House of Secrets #92, Incredible Hulk #102, Incredible Hulk #181, and Superman #33, signed by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. According to the post, the suspect smashed the front door and display case, and was likely in and out in less than three minutes.
Luckily a little later Wednesday, a suspect was apprehended and Beach Ball Comics owner Thomas Gaul was able to retrieve all of the books except the Lee-signed Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, Green Lantern and Superman.
“Thanks to the help of Paul at House of Secrets in Burbank and the quick thinking Ed & Nick at Collectors Paradise in Winnetka, we were able to coordinate police action to take a suspect into [custody] today,” he wrote. “[...] The culprit removed the CGC SS Batman from the case, so we expect the missing Green Lantern and Avengers books ended up the same way.”
Ed Kramer’s extradition to Georgia last week on child-molestation charges dating back to 2000 has again cast a spotlight on his relationship with DragonCon, the Atlanta convention he helped found nearly 26 years ago.
The 51-year-old Kramer hasn’t been directly associated with the event since his arrest in August 2000 on charges of sexually abusing two teenage boys. However, he continues to receive annual dividends from DragonCon — $154,000 for 2011 alone, according to Atlanta Magazine — after attempts to buy out Kramer’s stake in the for-profit corporation proved unsuccessful. The litigious Kramer has filed two lawsuits against co-founder Pat Henry and DragonCon/ACE Inc.
But horror author Nancy A. Collins, who was among the first to speak out against Kramer, contends DragonCon organizers haven’t done enough to extricate themselves from its co-founder. And so in a proposal circulated Monday by Stephen Bissette, the former Swamp Thing writer calls for professionals to boycott the convention in an effort “to cut off the flow of money” to Kramer, “who has been using the 150K+ a year he receives each year from DragonCon to avoid trial and manipulate the justice system.”
Former actor Peter Robbins, best known as the original voice of Charlie Brown, was set to be arraigned today in San Diego on charges that he threatened a police officer, a doctor and two others with death. “AAUGGGHH!!” indeed.
U-T San Diego reports the 56-year-old Oceanside, California, resident was arrested Sunday night returning from Mexico after border security discovered he had an outstanding warrant in San Diego County. He was booked early Monday and held on $550,000 bail until his arraignment today on four felony counts of making a threat to cause bodily harm or great bodily injury and one count of stalking.
Legal | DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer, who hasn’t been associated with the show since 2000, has been brought back to the Gwinnett County Jail and booked on child molestation charges that date back to August 2000. The 51-year-old Kramer was released on bond after his initial arrest following accusations that he sexually abused three boys, and has avoided jail and court for more than a decade because of his health problems, although he was under house arrest for a while. He was arrested again in Connecticut in 2011 for violating the conditions of his bond after he was allegedly found alone in a hotel room with a 14-year-old boy. Atlanta Magazine ran a lengthy expose on Kramer last year. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
Crime | The burglars who broke into Flea Market Comics in Mobile, Alabama, left the cash register alone but stole $10,000 worth of comics, according to owner Stephen Barrington. The thieves cut three locks off Barrington’s storage units and replaced them with a combination lock, presumably so they could come back and get more. “It just left me deflated,” he said of the theft. “People would come in just to look at the covers on them because they were such a various period from the ’30s to the present and like I said anything on a display; they took.” [Fox 10 TV]
Passings | Kiichi Toyoda, the first editor-in-chief of the Japanese manga magazine Shonen Sunday, died Jan. 10 at the age of 87. Shonen Sunday is the home of Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha and Ranma 1/2 and Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game. [Anime News Network]
You’d think that after one hit movie and a sequel on the way, the Smurfs would’ve cleaned up their acts. Instead, Peyo’s little blue creatures appear have turned to a life of crime, with Papa Smurf right in the middle of it.
Live Leak reports that police in Australia are on the lookout for four Smurfs suspected of committing two crimes Dec. 16 at a 7-Eleven in the Melbourne suburb of Pascoe Vale. According to authorities, a 37-year-old man was walking out of the store at about 1 a.m., when he was approached by a Smurf who asked for a cigarette.
The Smurf, whom we’ll call “Smokey,” then asked for a light, suggesting perhaps that the creatures aren’t nearly as resourceful as the comics and cartoons would lead us to believe. The man refused and noticed that three other Smurfs were trying to hotwire a van in the parking lot, undoubtedly regretting they hadn’t brought Handy along. At that point, the man’s evening turned very un-Smurfy, as he was assaulted.
Luckily, police have a lead in the form of the 7-Eleven’s surveillance video (below), which shows three of the suspects. I suggest the cops start by knocking on doors in that strange neighborhood with the little mushroom-shaped houses …
Texas authorities are trying to track down comic books worth hundreds of thousands of dollars purchased by an attorney accused of embezzling more than $9 million from his employer.
Anthony Chiofalo, 51, appeared Monday in a Houston courtroom after spending seven months fleeing felony theft charges with at least $150,000 in cash he’d allegedly siphoned from Tadano America. An attorney who had been disbarred in New York, Chiofalo was hired by the company in 2009 as head of legal affairs; within a year, prosecutors say he began setting up dummy law firms that charged his employer for litigation work — to the tune of $9.3 million.
The Houston Chronicle reports Chiofalo is said to have spent a significant chunk of that money of comic books and sports memorabilia: When his home and storage units were raided, authorities found a baseball signed by Babe Ruth, a first-edition Playboy, and a copy of Detective Comics #27 worth about $900,000.
Legal | Both Warner Bros. and automobile customizer Mark Towle have filed for summary judgment in the studio’s 2011 copyright-infringement lawsuit against Towle, whose Gotham Garage sold several replicas of the Batmobile. Warner, the parent company of DC Comics, claims the design of the Batmobile is its intellectual property, while Towle argues that copyright law does not regard a “useful object,” such as a car, as a sculptural work and therefore the design can’t be copyrighted. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Crime | Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, are investigating the theft of 600 X-Men comics, dating back to the 1970s, from the communal storage area of an apartment building. [Journal Star]