Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Debate Toss-Up: Should the Silver Age Villains Have Simply Patented Their Inventions?

This came up in the comments on the last post and it's absolutely a perfect argument, especially as phrased by two of the commenters. Jim noted:

Say what you like about the Rogues -- they were fast learners. None of them were scientists by training; just about every one of them started out as an ordinary crook who'd stumbled on a gimmick (often by accident); yet by their second appearance they'd not only mastered their technology but made some truly impressive advances in it.

Just to take one example: In his first appearance, Captain Boomerang was a thief who used boomerangs to snag necklaces and knock out the Flash from behind. When he next appears, he's spent his time in prison inventing a TIME-TRAVELING BOOMERANG.

Makes you wonder why they didn't just make a fortune by patenting their inventions.

But Blaze countered with:

They probably stole their technological improvements as well. Even if we're seeing the inside of the villain's head (I so miss thought bubbles), these sociopaths no doubt lie even to themselves.

After all, this is the Silver Age, when Lois Lane (and probably Iris West...as I said earlier, I'm not Flash scholar) would be sent down to interview Professor Potter on his new time machine. Not in a "stop the presses, someone has invented time travel" hysteria, but in a "it'll make a good lead for the science section" all in a day's work tone.

So, either villains like Boomerang stole the work of scientists like Potter or building a time machine in that world is like inventing a more efficient vacuum cleaner.

Now that is a very interesting argument. I will admit that I have always been in the "Jim" corner in the past on this; I have pointed out quite often that many of the inventions of crooks have been so good that one ponders in vain as to why they would not have simply made their fortune with it.

And yet Blaze offers the perfect argument against this; if we accept the Silver Age world why would we think these inventions would be staggeringly valuable? What I find interesting about that argument is that it accepts much of the conceit of the Silver Age--the invention of time traveling machines, for example--without the implied pulling of that concept into our own world.

And that is very intriguing. Would a time-travel machine be as valuable in the DC universe of the Silver Age, with the Atom's Time Pool, Superman's twisting, Batman's friend Carter Nichols, and the Cosmic Treadmill, as it is to our eyes?