The Law of Superheroes

Image of The Law of Superheroes
Release Date: 
October 10, 2012
Reviewed by: 

There are questions inherent to the world of comics easily explained and often, thanks to the inventiveness of writers such as John Byrne, Jack Kirby, John Broome, and Steve Ditko, quite logical in their reasoning.

For instance, the energy at the heart of Green Lantern’s Power Ring comes from the Central Power Battery on OA, home of the Guardians of the Universe. This makes sense because the Guardians of the Universe are responsible for the Intergalactic Police Force called The Green Lanterns. They created the power behind the ring and they do what they can to manage it.

Its existence is justified by the logic of its creation. You can read a Green Lantern story and understand why his ring works. (As to how it actually works, that may elude you. . . .)

But what happens when Green Lantern bundles up the Tattooed Man after catching him in a crime and drops him off in front of Coast City’s Police Station? What happens to the Tattooed Man’s rights?

Even though Green Lantern is part of an Interplanetary Police Force, does he have any real jurisdiction in the State of California? Did he violate the rights of the Tattooed Man when he choose to wrap him in green energy bands and, in essence, kidnap him and take him to the police against his will?

Can Batman testify in court without having to remove his cowl? Does the United States have a legal right to demand that the Mutants in the Marvel Universe register with the Government?

Dealing with the realities of the law, what a superhero can actually do in modern society, is a fascinating concept. Lawyers James Daily and Ryan Davidson have been doing this for a while now on their hit blog Recently they have expanded the blog into a fascinating book, The Law of Superheroes.

Mssrs. Daily and Davidson approach their work with the scholarly zeal of real fans. They obviously love both the law and comic books. By page 27 there are 57 footnotes. Wisely they provide an explanation of how to read law notes. Thanks to the effortless way they have written the explanation of how to read them, these footnotes are surprising easy to understand.

The appeal of this book transcends what it says to just fanboys or comic fans. For in a wonderfully subtle way Mr. Daily and Davidson have also created a grade A primer on what the law actually means and says in America.

Taking such concepts as Constitutional Law and its relationship to State Law and then placing them in reference to the Watchmen storyline deepens the reality of the original story line as written and drawn by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. At the same time the authors also give us an understanding of how the United States is actually governed.

These are ideas that we may have learned in high school or college, but they have long disappeared with almost everything else those institutions struggled to teach us. We need this book as a primer to take us back to those basic concepts of law.

In reference to the Mutant Wars at Marvel they give a seemingly simplistic and technical explanation of what discrimination in American means in accordance to the law. They also explain why some discrimination is allowed and many other forms are not.

Bringing those legal rationalizations into the logic of forced registration of Mutants in the Marvel Universe they not only showcase the neverending debate about who belongs where and why they have a right to be there, but the discussion also remind us of the perils of too much government. A defining line many American fret over daily.

Mr. Daily and Mr. Davidson remind us what the best of comic writing brings to the world we live in. Comics don’t always mean men in tights and over developed women or talking ducks who live with a rich uncle. Great comic writing such as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Carl Barks’ run on Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge or Alan Moore on The Watchmen all entertain, but on a deeper level what they each wrote or drew reflects our world back at us.

Part of that world is the laws that we as a society agree to live by. Yes, laws can get complicated, they can be bent and they can be ignored, but they also form the foundation for us to live together in the relative peace that we do.

And of course, as Mr. Dickens summed it up so succinctly many years ago, the law can also be an ass. Mssrs. Daily and Davidson remind us that the law is an always evolving attempt by us as a society to try and do the right thing. As much as we can . . .