Having colaunched a blog on crime, Blottered, and having kept it afloat for over two weeks now (though it seems to be dying at the moment), we're obviously the first choice to review the new crime-focused magazine Justice. During a two-week-plus run with Blottered, the only thing we, the principals, kept away from covering has been celebrity crime. It's everywhere already and we, generally, have nothing to say on it, except there aren't nearly enough celebrities getting arrested for indecent exposure or operating a motor vehicle while sodomizing. On Blottered, we also don't try to solve crimes, which America's Most Wanted and the FBI do a nice job of themselves; another thing off our cold plate. Frankly, our reach isn't big enough to make a difference anyway, and I doubt Justice's will ever be to make the cut of your average bathroom reading library. But they dream and at the end of a few mini articles, they leave conscience-cleansing phone numbers you can call in order to provide tips or leads for unsolved crimes. Maybe you'll even be able give the authorities some of your 411 before the cases get freezer burn.
The success of sites like Defamer and the Smoking Gun attest to our collective love of, and absolute need to know, what celebs look like in their mug shots. With that in mind, you'd think Justice would be able to capitalize on our foibles and confessed ridiculous obsession with things of the criminal bent. Unfortunately, they launched a magazine instead of a Web site. (A feature on the magazine's Web site, Daily Justice, is just the first three or so paragraphs of news stories from other sources reprinted—a missed opportunity to add a standout voice to Justice's coverage.) Almost all of the magazine's content consists of stories you've read months, if not years, before. I suppose if you start collecting now and keep them leather-bound, you can enjoy some quick quality reading in the half-hour right before our civilization suicide-bombs itself.
Starting at the beginning of the mag, Justice takes it first shot with a feature (too low-brow for Mad magazine, too high-concept for Jerry Bruckheimer) that superimposes Michael Jackson's face on other celebrities' (e.g., Brad Pitt, Colin Farrell) and then asks, "Which fake Jackson looks the most innocent?" It's judged by an expert, Susan F. Filan, former CT assistant state's attorney, now an analyst for MSNBC. All this feature tells us is that CT needs to fish in a richer-stocked pond next time it's hiring state's attorneys, because what else could possibly be the point of this? That if Jackson had gotten plastic surgery to look like Pitt he'd have been found innocent? Apparently, he can get by okay with his own monstrous mug, thank you very much, Justice.
Next, a "Where Are They Now?" feature informs us that Tonya Harding boxed on Celebrity Boxing and that Jeff Gillooly made a porn video with Harding and is currently engaged to someone. And Nancy Kerrigan has kids and does charity work and had no comment for Justice. The effort that didn't go into reporting this bit is staggering.
Then there's Courthouse Couture, in which Clinton, Adrianne, and Stacey (I didn't bother to figure out their credentials) run down the to-court fashion choices of Martha Stewart, Lil' Kim, and others. We've seen the pictures before, we've heard the frivolous and non- commentary before, and, yes, we know, Phil Spector is a creepy looking dude. Move on, already. Moving on. There's more of this ilk. Flip through this issue just to see the missed opportunity that is the Cases to Watch map on page 21; it'll make you proud of your pre-schooler. Then, let's see, there's some reviews of Casino and Monk and a Q&A with author Janet Evanovich that makes Time Out's back-page interview look like a CIA interrogation. Ah, here's something, possibly the most entertaining feature in the whole magazine: Marcia Clark is The Advocate.
Debi N., from LA, writes in to The Advocate saying that she tore her dress "through no fault of my own" at Costco and wants the store to pay her the $120 she spent on it. Clark goes to bat for her and speaks with some poor bastard at Costco and gets him to shell out $100 for Debi's "favorite dress." Good use of her skills and time. No wonder Clark lost the O.J. case.
When Justice does go right, it tries to hook hard and still slams into a Jersey barrier. There's the beginning of a good story in "Women Who Love Men Who Kill," despite the Lifetime Television title of the piece. Though it's largely anecdotal, there's some interesting insight in places. The author writes, "There are two broad categories of women who seek relationships with killers. The first have had a bad history with men. 'Many of the women,' says Sheila Isenberg, who wrote the seminal book on the topic, Women Who Love Men Who Kill (oh, there's where they got the title), 'have a past history of being abused. They're looking for a safe relationship." Perversely, there may be no safer relationship than one with a convicted killer." However, sidebars excluded, it's not much longer than this review so it fails to get very far into the psyche of these women and spends most of its time centered on one pair of lovers, which is what the sidebars should be used for.
Generally, Justice has a problem with balance and credibility. It tries to be funny, catty, serious, and maudlin in one slim issue and ends up reading like rapid-fire, day-old Web surfing, albeit in a very controlled environment. Hopefully, in future issues, the editors will take a chance on articles that either have the explosive power of a .50 caliber or the precision needling of a laser-sited M14, 7.62x51mm. The shotgun spray-and-pray approach doesn't work; the only one left wounded is the guy dumb enough to have stood in front of the magazine stand when the bundle of issue was tossed from the delivery truck. The premiere issue's cover has a big fat photo of J Lo—headline: "Stars Behind Bars"—and is indistinguishable from myriad tabloid celeb mags (though, inside, there are two nearly identical ads for Gold Toe socks; my grandfather's pair of choice, which I suppose sets it apart distinctly apart).
It's difficult to tell whether the people putting together Justice love magazines or crime, which should be essential qualifications. (It's clear, though, that they like bright colors.) The sense is that this team could have put together a magazine on video games, drifting, New York dogs, or any other niche category not yet filled, because as more niches get filled, it's the quick MBA who jumps to be that peg doing the filling. The smart ones, say, Vice, screw the niche entirely. I don't know what the people at Vice in fact love, but they do seem to like putting out that magazine.
Justice's last page—I don't know what the magazine people actually call it, but in the industry it seems to have become the tossed-off punch line to that month's issue; as has the last paragraph of this review—is dedicated to the Nick Nolte mugshot that was making the rounds years ago. And if you know your graphic formats, it looks like a it was converted from a JPEG, so the quality is crap and it's best viewed either on a computer or while squinting—as would be the rest of Justice magazine.
Chris Gage and Andrew Krucoff are the co-founders of Blottered, a crime blog.