Law of Superheroes: law-school seen through comic-book heroes' lens

In the The Law of Superheroes two lawyers called James Daily and Ryan Davidson do a magnificent job overview of the US legal system that manages to be extremely informative and incredibly entertaining, because, as the title implies, they tour the legal system as it would apply to comic-book superheroes.

This is much better than most of those "Physics of Science Fiction"-type books, since the legal hypotheticals that superheroes give rise to, while speculative, are actually just extreme macrocosms for the normal business of the real-world legal system. What better way to illustrate the rules of evidence than to explore whether (and why) things that Professor Xavier read in your mind would be admissible in court and whether Spider Man could testify in his mask? What better way to explore the "functional/informative" split in trademark law than to ask whether Captain America's round shield might be the subject of a trademark, or just the design on its face? What better way to explore corporate law than to explore the sort of legal entity the Fantastic Four and the Justice League of America should look to form in order to minimize liability and streamline their decision-making process?

I've read lots of popular law books, and spent a lot of time hanging around lawyers, and these kinds of hypotheticals are the best way I know of to turn a dry, detail-oriented subject into something fun and engrossing. It helps that the authors are very imaginative and have a seemingly encylopedic knowledge of comics, which leads ask whether Superman's torture at Lex Luthor's hands are assault or cruelty to animals, to investigate the tax implications of immortality, and to find a loophole by which Batman can operate Wayne Enterprise's vehicles in public without compromising his company's ability to file for patents on them (spoiler: he needs to sell them to the military).

This book covers an astonishing amount of ground, but given how long superhero comics have been around, and how many different plotlines they've explored, it's only fitting. From state's rights to torts, from contracts (deals with the devil, anyone?) to what the FAA would have to say about Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet, the authors show real aptitude for legal education and first-rate comics nerdery. It's a delicious combination!

The Law of Superheroes began with the brilliant Law and the Multiverse blog, which I wrote about back in 2010. If you're a fan of the blog, you'll love the book -- and if you love the book, you should really read the blog!

The Law of Superheroes


  1. I’ve always been interested in the question of courtroom testimony of masked superheros with secret identities.  It turns out that there is real world precedent for this.  SAS troopers testify masked and are only identified as “Trooper #12″ and so on.  An unmasked commanding officer testifies that each ID corresponds to the same guy throughout the case and that he was indeed at the incident in question.  In the superhero world I suppose you could have Superman, who doesn’t wear a mask, scan the witness’s DNA and testify that this is indeed Dr. Midnight or whomever.

  2. My favorite version of this is Batton Lash’s long running Supernatural Law starring his counselors to the macabre, Wolff and Byrd. “It Stalks the Public Domain” was a classic, dealing with the right to be a monster. The devil goes to court in more than one episode, with the appropriate hat tips to The Devil and Daniel Webster and Rosemary’s Baby. His advocates stand up for the monster in the closet and are nearly riven by The Green Eyed Monster stirring their rivalry. Lash’s take on gay marriage with Frankenstein trying to marry the Bride of Frankenstein was priceless in defense of those rights with which we were all endowed by our creator. Lash is a great plotter and a strong freedom of the press advocate. I’m only sorry he has been around so long and so few have discovered him.

  3. Forget about the legal implications for Wayne Enterprise’s vehicles. What about the guy who keeps a boy in a cave? A boy who he doesn’t even allow to wear pants??

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