Legal analysis of the problems of superherodom


23 Responses to “Legal analysis of the problems of superherodom”

  1. TimO says:

    So wearing a cape in this day and age isn’t enough??

    Personally, I thought the whole ‘marking people’ thing went down after certain peoples were forced to wear yellow stars in Germany. I guess there are still people with that mentality….

  2. Loraan says:

    It may well be that the Constitution requires that if a state will grant a concealed carry permit for a firearm then it must do the same for an otherwise lawful superpower.

    This is a more liberal interpretation of the 2nd Amendment than actual courts have taken. Consider: the state of Georgia offers a Firearms Permit that allows concealed carry in public, but there is no statute that allows the carry of a “weapon-length” knife (actual length depends on local ordinance, but generally, greater than 3″). Furthermore, federal law restricts the ability to possess and transport automatic weapons (machine guns) and “destructive devices” (explosives, among others). Basically, courts have consistently found that the government is able to restrict the 2nd Amendment in determining which types of weapon may be possessed and carried, and which may not. There’s no reason to conclude that the 2nd would compel the government to license super powers, which can be more dangerous than firearms.

    Then again, the fact that the super power is innate to the person seems like it would raise all sorts of other Constitutional questions such as prior restraint, but IANAL.

  3. Richard Daily says:

    Congratulation to Ryan and James for a great website and the thoughtful articles.

  4. YarbroughFair says:

    Once again this is nothing new. Do your research. This was one of the major themes in The Incredibles.

  5. Moriarty says:

    Super powers might be as dangerous as powerful weapons, but they are not weapons. Existing gun control laws would not apply to them any more than they apply to an especially strong normal person.

  6. Lobster says:


  7. webmonkees says:

    The big problem is the real-world damage incurred during a fight.
    If throwing a bus is the appropriate weapon against a villain, who pays for the bus?

  8. Ernunnos says:

    Or they could just move to Vermont or Arizona.

  9. strandedlad says:

    The post about the Wikileaks mirror allegedly tracked back to the CIA is gone from the front page without explanation…as well as the Google cached page.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Strandedlad is correct and is down as well

  11. Anonymous says:

    This is without a doubt the most wonderful way to waste time posted on BoingBoing all day.

  12. Nadreck says:

    There was a great sequence in some JLA comic about the problems of superheros with secret identities testifying against the super villains in court. Basically it was a version of the protocol used by SAS commandoes (who actually do have secret identities) testifying at inquiries and trials. It involved a federal database of unique identifying characteristics of superheros, such as their voiceprint or MRI scan, which would not normally be recorded in the civilian world. So you can say this guy is The Flash: the same one who is registered as superhero #2859 because the voiceprint matches. Barry Allen’s voiceprint, on the other hand, is unlikely to be in some database so this identification doesn’t link back to the secret identity.

    There was a great run of “She Hulk” too when she worked at the Marvel Universe’s premier super-law firm: the one with the shape-shifter summons server.

  13. peterbruells says:

    I think you misread the text. “Marking” was not a requirement, it’s just that obvious superheroes with capes and powers aren’t concealed. The other option was a mandatory registration of ones superpowers, to allow meta to go out in public w/out breaking laws forbidding concealed weapons.

  14. peterbruells says:

    I don’t buy this. I don’t believe that this has been thought out well.

    First, the Torch. Yes, he doesn’t a secret identity. Anybody can know that he’s Johnny Storm and how he looks like. But he doesn’t have his power only when in uniforum, he can “flame one” anytime – both when nude in the Sauna or fully zipped upped when skiing.

    Next, Superman, Wonder Woman, all those Marvel mutants – they were born with traits which are termed super-powers, buch which are a natural part of their physiology, like the amazing “color vision” , “depth perception” or “high pitched hearing” many natural born humans just know about, but never experience themselves.

    • A.Lwin says:

      Watch the latest episode of Smallville, the Vigilante Registration Act sounds like a parody of how the TSA and other real life agencies are doing things.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Mutant registration vindicated at last!

  16. Anonymous says:

    This is what the X-men was all about during the 80 and 90s

  17. Tynam says:

    Anyone who found this interesting should also check out and the archives of Bob Ingersoll’s magnificent (and sadly long-defunct) The Law is an Ass.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Well this is related to the “My hands are registered with the police as deadly weapon,” meme. ISTR vaguely that there were some early court cases that treated martial artists as if they had concealed, deadly weapons. Certainly it IS harder for somebody with martial arts training to plead manslaugher or second degree homicide if they kill somebody in a barfight, but for most people fisticufs are not usualy considered “deadly force.”

  19. planettom says:

    I’m sorry, I need this explained to me by my lawyer, She-Hulk, in her Ally McBeal skirt.

  20. iamanumlaut says:

    You can’t forget about Damage, Inc., the insurance company to the capes.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Start reading Brian Michael Bendis’s ‘Powers’; the whole- ongoing- series is based on the interaction of superpowers and the law.

Leave a Reply