Tag Archives: Law

Review: The Law of Superheroes

The Law of Superheroes Cover

Could Batman patent the Batmobile? Is it murder if you kill Wolverine, knowing he’ll regenerate? Does Superman need a warrant to use his X-ray vision on your house? How much trouble can Stark Industries get in if one of Iron Man’s fights levels your business?

James Daily, J.D. and Ryan Davidson, J.D.’s The Law of Superheroes answers these and more questions about the legal implications of super-heroic tropes. You may recognize the names or the concept: The pair of lawyers and self-described comic-book nerds also write the blog Law and the Multiverse.

You’d think a book about law would be a dry read, but it’s actually a lot of fun. That’s sort of the point: some land dispute might not grab the average reader’s attention, but Superman’s troubles with the IRS? That’s something anyone can relate to. More than a “what if?” collection, the book works as an overview of U.S. and international law, told through the lens of comic books.


Some of the implications are kind of surprising. For instance: Music from a parallel universe where the Beatles never broke up (New Excalibur 4) might not be protected by copyright, because Earth-2182’s U.S. and U.K. never signed our universe’s Berne Convention. On the other hand, the surviving Beatles might still be able to control distribution through trademark law.

Another interesting thing to think about: if Commissioner Gordon calls Batman in on a case, he’s legally required to follow the same rules as the police regarding search warrants and the like, or else evidence may not be admissible. But if Batman goes after the Riddler on his own, he can probably sneak into the villain’s hideout looking for clues and not jeopardize the case (although he’d technically be guilty of breaking and entering). Continue reading

Captain Boomerang’s Legal Status

Captain Boomerang is sort of in a legal limbo right now: is he still culpable for crimes he committed before he died?

In one sense he’s like Ygor in Son of Frankenstein: Ygor was hanged for grave robbing and pronounced dead — but the coroner made a mistake. He was still alive, but legally speaking, no one could touch him. Not only had the sentence for his original crime been carried out, but they couldn’t arrest a “dead” man for new crimes.

In The Flash #3, the guards at Iron Heights prison talked about getting Boomerang’s murder convictions reinstated…but something’s missing: Until that happens, what is he being held for? What has he been charged with? (Admittedly, the prison is still run by Warden Wolfe, who has never been particularly concerned with following the law where criminals are concerned.)

Of course, now that he’s shattered a frozen guard (probably killing him), seriously injured several others, broken out of prison, and left a swath of destruction on his way to confront the Flash, it’s a moot point. There are plenty of new crimes to charge him with the next time he ends up in police custody.

But technically, what was he doing there to begin with?

The legal system in the DCU must have procedures, or at least precedent, for dealing with heroes and villains coming back from the dead. No one seems concerned about the Flash’s legal status, and Barry Allen’s official records say he was simply in Witness Protection, not dead, but it’s got to have come up in other cases.

Flash Hints from C2E2

DC has been really cagey with Flash news lately, since the new direction is just getting started, but they’ve let a few hints slip at C2E2. Here’s a round-up from Newsarama and CBR’s coverage of the event.

DC Nation was light on Flash information…though Dan Didio joked that “as far as dead meaning dead in the DCU, once we get to Nightwing and Wally West, yes.”

At the Brightest Day panel on Saturday, Geoff Johns answered a fan who was upset that Flash #1 had a “Brightest Day” banner, but didn’t tie into the book:

Johns said, “It was a good issue, wasn’t is?” before explaining that the book would tie in to what happens in “Brightest Day” in some small ways, though “I didn’t want to start Flash #1 with a white power battery. I wanted him to fight the Trickster.” Sattler added “The bannering on the books is about a theme in the DCU…the stories are important to Brightest Day’s central story.”

He told another fan, who was confused about the number of Zooms running around, “If you look at Reverse Flash, I try to do everything in reverse…”

At the DC Universe panel, Ian Sattler answered a question about a Flash Secret Origin story by saying, “Sooner than you think.” Wally West will make an appearance in Justice League.

Robinson also said that he’s “very excited about bringing Jesse Quick to the team.”

Finally, at Sunday’s Flash/Green Lantern panel, Geoff Johns declined to answer questions about the current arc or about Flashpoint. He has plans for Wally West and the West Twins. We will “eventually” see the Tornado Twins and John Fox, but there are no plans for Inertia (he’s “really dead”) or Walter West (“but never say never”).

Someone else asked why the resurrected Captain Boomerang is already in jail, “Or is this based on his previous crimes?” Johns said yes. “Is there a legal precedent in the DCU for culpability for crimes you’ve committed before you’re resurrected?” “I’ll have Boomerang complain to the guards.”

The most interesting remark I found in the write-up was this:

“The Rogues always told Wally there was a mutual respect between them and Barry, and that was a lie.”

The funniest, though: Someone asked about Mopee. No one on the panel knew who he was, except Geoff Johns, who sighed and joked that he’ll be in issue #715.

Secret Identities on Trial

This week, The Flash: Emergency Stop hits the shelves. The trade paperback covers half of the year-long Grant Morrison/Mark Millar run from the late 1990s, and, according to solicitations, features the conclusion of “Three of a Kind.” This three-part crossover between Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and The Flash features the second– and third-generation heroes Kyle Rayner, Connor Hawke, and Wally West. Villains Heat Wave, Sonar, and Hatchet attack a cruise liner in which Dr. Polaris is being secretly transported, only to find the three heroes have booked a vacation on the same ship.*

Three of a Kind (Triptych)

The segment in The Flash v.2 #135 focuses on the villains’ trial, with flashbacks to the incident. At the time, Wally West’s identity was public knowledge, though he testified in full costume. This in itself is unusual given standard courtroom dress codes (a skin-tight bright red costume isn’t exactly conservative business attire, and tends to stand out a bit). But then Green Lantern takes the witness stand:

The Defense questions Green Lantern pleading the 12th Amendment to keep his identity secret. The Prosecution argues that the 12th Amendment is standard procedure for super-heroes testifying in court.

The usage is similar to the U.S. Constitution’s 5th Amendment, which states in part that “No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” Two things can be gathered from these panels:

  • The DC Universe had a “Federal Authority of Registered Meta-Humans” years before Marvel’s Civil War (though after the first story with the Mutant Registration Act).
  • The DCU version of the United States Constitution has a Twelfth Amendment which, under some circumstances, allows witnesses to give an alias rather than a real name when testifying in court.

There’s no indication that it’s required to register, or whether it’s simply a good idea if you want legal backing. It’s not even clear whether heroes have to register under their real names. I can’t remember whether any other books made reference to this authority, but suddenly I really want to find and reread my back issues of Chase.

In the real world, the Twelfth Amendment dates back to 1803 (passed 1804) and changes the way the President and Vice-President are elected. Assuming the DCU’s US just has one more Constitutional amendment than we do, their Twelfth would be just about as old, which leads to the question: Why did they need to amend the supreme law of the land to allow masked heroes to testify 130 years before the Golden Age of super-heroes?

Thinking about it, though, DC does have super-heroes whose adventures take place in earlier eras, especially in North America. Not just heroes of the Western genre like Jonah Hex or Bat Lash, but classical super-heroes with masks, costumes and powers. Max Mercury’s origin dates back to the early 1800s, for instance, and Miss Liberty (an ancestor of Jesse Quick/Liberty Belle) fought in the American Revolution.

Might the early United States in the DC Universe have decided it was worth letting some of their more colorful national heroes remain pseudonymous even in legal proceedings? It’s certainly possible.

Whatever the circumstances of its passage, it sheds some light on the otherwise nonsensical fact that Barry Allen kept his mask on and his identity secret from his arrest all the way through his trial for manslaughter in the case of Professor Zoom’s death, dissected in great detail by Bob Ingersoll.

The Flash's Mug Shot (Flash v.1 #326, October 1983)

*It’s a little more complicated than that, of course.