Some people might think of comic books as flights of fancy filled with characters wielding supernatural powers to fight foes from other planets, and yes, that’s true. But there are other comics that, while still being imaginative fictions, ground themselves in the real world. Even in the world of Big Data and E-Discovery.
A great example of this is Green Arrow. The title character -- who’s alter ego is Oliver Queen, CEO of Queen Industries -- has no superhuman or special powers other than being an amazing archer with a lot of resources and a drive for social justice. In the latest iteration, Oliver Queen uses technology to his advantage when fighting crime in his home city of Seattle, and real-life elements that mirror our world – computer forensics, wire fraud, banking laws, even a DC version of Bitcoin (aptly named Lexcoin after Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor) – show up in the stories.
I recently spoke with Green Arrow writer, Benjamin Percy, about his thoughts on this, and he said, “So much of our lives are presently online. Socially, financially, professionally -- our tracks are everywhere. We can so easily end up violated or even...possessed, erased by hackers, viruses. Green Arrow is a comic that -- more than most -- taps into the zeitgeist. I'm channeling cultural anxieties onto the page, and it's natural that electronic data and commerce will play into my storylines.”
For further analysis relating Percy’s narratives to the legal world, I asked Joshua Gilliland, Esq. -- blogger for Bow Tie Law, and one of the two founding attorney bloggers for The Legal Geeks – to take a look at the latest story arc in Green Arrow: Rebirth. Here’s what he had to say:
“Green Arrow: Rebirth features the Ninth Circle, who are the world’s scariest bankers ever, as the poster children for human trafficking, computer forensics, mobile devices, cyber security, forensic accounting, and a quiver full of other legal issues. These are the bad guys who fund other bad guys. A US Attorney would need a very complex discovery plan to hit the target for convicting the members of the Ninth Circle of everything from Racketeering to Human Trafficking to Murder. Safe bet the Ninth Circle is not paying taxes either.
The adventure begins with the Green Arrow tracking the kidnapping and auctioning off homeless people in Seattle. Black Canary discovered that the homeless were delivered monthly by shipping container to an artificial seagoing fortress named the Inferno. There, the victims were “baptized” in fire and trained to serve the Ninth Circle.
These horrifically burned bankers who build an army of slaves by kidnapping, torturing, and conditioning them to be the disfigured henchmen known as “The Burned” takes evil to a new level.
The kidnapping and enslavement of Seattle’s homeless would clearly violate Federal law prohibiting human trafficking. Law 18 U.S.C.S. § 1590 states:
(a) Whoever knowingly recruits, harbors, transports, provides, or obtains by any means, any person for labor or services in violation of this chapter shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If death results from the violation of this section, or if the violation includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or the attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, the defendant shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or life, or both.
(b) Whoever obstructs, attempts to obstruct, or in any way interferes with or prevents the enforcement of this section, shall be subject to the penalties under subsection (a).
The Ninth Circle, the crew of the cargo ship, and the Underground Men kidnapping the homeless, could all be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C.S. § 1590. This criminal conspiracy encompassed recruiting kidnappers, kidnapping, the transportation of victims, mutilation, and torture of its victims. Everyone involved in the conspiracy could be convicted for life.
On the state level, Washington in the real world has enacted statewide coordination (Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 7.68.370) to fight human trafficking. The fictional Seattle police would leverage Washington’s “information portal” to coordinate the kidnapping information for all statewide task forces, which includes monitoring news on trafficking. This information would be extremely helpful to Henry Fyff, the hacker of Green Arrow’s support team, and is also publicly available, as opposed to his hacking into traffic cameras.
Cases are built on evidence, and in today’s world, virtually all evidence is electronic. One of the main villains in the story is Cyrus Broderick, the Chief Financial Officer for Queen Industries. Broderick is working with the Ninth Circle and betrayed Oliver Queen by trying to murder him, while making Ollie look like a drug addict, and destroying his bank accounts.
The story raised computer forensics issues after the Green Arrow performed a one-man raid of his own building in response, which resulted in the capture of Broderick’s laptop. Ollie then took the laptop to his friend Fyff to analyze the data on the device.
However, a computer forensic expert would not do what Fyff did in the comic -- examining the laptop live, most likely without a write blocker, with the computer connected to the Internet. These are all “no-nos.” A forensic investigator would instead extract the data on the computer with forensic software to create a “mirror image” of the device. The data would then be analyzed with a variety of technologies, reviewing internet history, what programs Broderick used, emails that were sent, and files created in software applications.
If the computer had been acquired by law enforcement and searched pursuant to a search warrant, the next step in building a case against Broderick would be document review. Unfortunately, Fyff never got to that stage, as he spilled a drink on the computer (which is not good, but doesn’t necessarily mean the data is unrecoverable).
Green Arrow Rebirth is a compelling story that highlights the best qualities of the classic character. All of DC’s Rebirth books have been extremely rewarding (One word: Wally!), but for those of us in the legal world, Green Arrow Rebirth is one that connects issues of computer forensics to the horrors of generational involuntary servitude with the dangers of unregulated banking. Ben Percy and team are really hitting their target.”
 Green Arrow Rebirth, Issue 1.
 Green Arrow Rebirth, Issue 4.
 Green Arrow Rebirth issue 4.