Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Because A Supervillain Law Firm WOULD Be Awesome...

While I've never played any of the Phoenix Wright games, it probably isn't a surprise that I totally agree with this.

Seriously, superhero Law and Order would be the best thing ever!

Heck one of the reason I'm so thrilled Manhunter's coming back, aside from Kate, Todd, Damon, Dylan, et al, is that it's so interesting to see how legalities work in a comic book universe.

I have to admit, for all my problems with Slott's run of She-Hulk as it progressed, I really had enjoyed the sheer fun of the law aspect. How do you have a masked superhero as a witness? And comics-as-legal-documents was just brilliant!

I admit, I haven't read any of David's run yet, but the solicits seem to be playing up the bounty hunter angle, which disappoints me. (If I'm wrong and there IS superhero law in the book, let me know! I'm not a huge Peter David fan in general, but I would totally give it a chance!)

I'd actually like to see a superhero lawyer comic with characters that aren't necessarily superheroes themselves. Kind of Gotham Central for lawyers, so to speak. I mean, Manhunter and She-Hulk are great, don't get me wrong, but on some level the nifty lawyer stuff HAS to come secondary to the superhero thing. Which is as it should be since the women are superheroes.

Still, it'd be kind of awesome just to see regular folks. I mean, how legal IS it when Batman drops a criminal on the police doorstep?

I think if I were writing a law-type comic, I'd totally have characters pushing for some sort of "superhero license". Not, say, like the Registration Act or anything. But wouldn't it be neat if superheroes had to take some kind of seminar or class on what's legal and what's not in their profession? I mean, there'd need to be some way to keep identities secret. But really, it always seemed to me like getting dropped on the police doorstep by a guy in a batsuit would be a good way to getting cases or evidence thrown out of court or something. I mean, sure, WE know Batman's legit, but if I were a defense attorney, I think I'd have a field day with that. Anyway, I could see the license thing could be a (probably unsuccessful) attempt to try to get fewer cases thrown out of court. Also it'd be entertaining to see different heroes in the license process.

Though I suppose in full disclosure, I'm also one of those people who thinks a comic consisting solely of superheroes at the DMV would be hilarious. So my taste is very questionable.

Actually, I think civil cases would be more interesting. All that property damage! Or...say a supervillain dies without a will, who DOES inherit his eeeevil laboratory? His kid? His right hand man? How do settlements work in the DCU? Or contracts! Though I suppose a supervillain couldn't really sue a supplier for failing to deliver the doomsday device on time. But then again, it would totally entertain me to see him/her try!

Ooo, what about all those kids with one hero and one villain parent? Imagine the custody cases!

Would Batman be able to sue Batwoman for copyright infringement?

Though really, thinking about it, the main draw for this whole idea for me is the notion of what would have to be an eeeevil supervillain law firm. With superpowers! Imagine all the havoc they could raise! It'd be awesome!

I would totally read this comic. :-)


  • At March 25, 2008 9:13 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    I have to admit that this is an interesting concept. Sort of like Damage Control, but with torts.

    I swear that somewhere I read a story that said one of the reasons the cops can't stand Spider-Man is because he webs the crooks to a lamp post and then runs off, instead of sticking around to give the police his statement and evidence. They end up having to let the bad guys go.

    I also swear that both She-Hulk and Danny Rand threatened to sue the bejesus out of Iron Man, but then they let that idea drop, which is a darned shame.

    The DMV idea is just GOLD! Throw in Ted Kord and Booster,Fire and Ice and Guy, and it would be PERFECT!

  • At March 25, 2008 9:58 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    If you've never checked it out, you should try Moore's Top 10 (avoid the non-Moore mini, it was terrible). But anyway, among the various supporting cast is a "villain" law firm. Theres even a one-shot from some kind of ABC book that features them heavily trying to negotiate between two feuding vampire crime families...

  • At March 25, 2008 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've really thought about the same thing sometimes. I always assumed Batman brought evidence back later or something, or that's why the criminals came back so quick- the charges got dropped.

  • At March 25, 2008 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love these ideas too. And what about Real Property issues, such as, oh, what's your obligation if you're the owner of an abandoned amusement park or playing card factory? Does the "attractive nuisance" theory come into play for property that can attract supervillains looking for a base that fits their theme?

  • At March 25, 2008 6:29 PM, Blogger Ami Angelwings said…

    I've ALWAYS thought that a superhero L&O would be AWESOME :D

  • At March 25, 2008 9:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'd love to see this too, but I'd also like to see comic books about insurance companies, construction companies, and (of course) accountants in the superhero world. There's definitely some untapped potential here.

    I'm tired of seeing buildings get razed without any repercussions. I want to see what happens afterwards. What happens to all the displaced people? What happens to the insurance company that goes under because too many of the buildings they've insured have been destroyed by villains (and heroes). All kinds of potential...

  • At March 25, 2008 11:26 PM, Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said…

    Powers is a similar concept, where the superheroes are the backdrop for police drama. There's lots of interesting (well, interesting to lawyers, anyway) conflicts between superhero-ing and the law. For example, the exclusionary rule. In some states (Texas, for example) it applies even to evidence obtained by persons other than the police (i.e., superheroes). Several Southern states have laws against wearing masks in public (a legacy of the Klan). What about incarceration? Would it be cruel and unusual punishment to keep a villain with literally earth-shattering powers under sedation? How do superheroes testify in court? And what about things like copyright law? If you have a secret identity, what's to keep some schmoe from using your name and likeness to sell deodorant and not give you dime one?

  • At March 26, 2008 6:11 AM, Blogger Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said…

    I agree, but I worry that those of us in the legal profession would find it more interesting than those out of it. Remember the TV show Century City, the legal drama that took place a little bit into the future and dealt with science fiction-ish legal issues? I loved that, but the series was cancelled quickly.

    Legal issues that I thought would be interesting include prisoners' rights. For instance, I imagined a scenario where a telepath was imprisoned and had his powers dampened. Later he gets stabbed by another inmate and sues because he could have avoided the stabbing if the State hadn’t essentially blinded him. I wonder where we would draw the line on what abilities we could “turn off.” It would be easier to run a prison in the real world if we could break the legs of all prisoners or keep them blindfolded, but we aren’t allowed to do that, so why would we be allowed to break super powered people?

  • At March 26, 2008 11:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You know, as far as superhero liceses go, I think Batman has that covered
    Just look at Black Spider, Electrocutioner and Lock-Up, they all wanted to be heroes, did what they thought was right, Batman said "nu-huh" put them in jail and from them on they where villains 'cause Batman said so

    And that's even without factoring Oracle; all in all I'm pretty sure that heroes in the DCU are a self-regulated community

  • At March 27, 2008 1:23 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Heh, somehow that just strikes me as more ammunition for a defense attorney.

  • At March 27, 2008 1:37 AM, Blogger philippos42 said…

    When you said, "Kind of Gotham Central for lawyers, so to speak," my brain filled in "Damage Control" for "Gotham Central." I think maybe cops & superheroes are enough alike as it is.

    But yeah, I would love a seriously law-oriented Shulkie book, or what you're talking about here. I want to see Julia "Spider-Woman" Carpenter try to sue Venom for stealing her costume design. (Has this ever been mentioned?)

    The licensing idea is, well, much better than what Marvel's been doing. Some comics have actually played with the idea. The first case that springs to my mind is an aborted horror series Bill Willingham did with "Licensed Private Heroes"--but in the three issues he did, he didn't have time to get into the licensing process.

  • At March 27, 2008 1:39 AM, Blogger philippos42 said…

    Oh, also, I maintain that the reason Batman's rogues aren't generally cooling their heels in prison is that stupid masked vigilante boy is useless to chain of evidence. From a prosecutorial standpoint, Batman is actually counterproductive.

  • At March 27, 2008 4:19 PM, Blogger Simon (formerly Johnny Sorrow) said…

    You might also want to try out the lawyer story from Busiek's _Astro City_, which features a lawyer trying to spring his (conventional criminal) client by invoking all the crazy clones, mind control, and so forth that the supers have been exonerating themselves with.

  • At March 30, 2008 2:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I like your ideas and with to subscribe to your newsletter. :)

    I remember in Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #2, Spidey has just defeated the Shocker for the fourth time, and wonders aloud why Herman (hee, Herman) isn't in jail for all the other times. Foggy Nelson, attorney at law, law partner to Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) was in the crowd, and explains to Spidey that he actually needs to bring Shocker to the police and press charges. A lot of those goons he leaves webbed to streetlights are let go because there are no witnesses, and the goons themselves certainly aren't going to tell the police why they're hanging from a streetlight.

    The superhero MMORPG "City of Heroes" had a lot of though put into the workings of the law in a world of superheroes. In order to operate as a hero in Paragon City, you must get a hero license, which lists your (hero) name, origin, powers, etc. While there's some gameplay and story segregation, heroes are supposed to follow the same sorts of procedures police do. In return for providing hero services and following the rules, the city provides the hero with a monthly stipend and access to housing and support services. They even get essentially free health care, thanks to the Emergency Teleport Beacons, that beam them to a hospital for treatment. Secret IDs are allowed to be kept secret, as well.

    Interestingly, in-universe, "the right to a jury of one's peers," with regards to superheroes, means that when a superhero is put on trial, the jury is made up of fellow superheroes. I think this was a Supreme Court decision, starting from a hero disputing a guilty sentence he got from a jury of civilians.

    In issue 5 of the CoH comic book series by Blue King, one of the characters is selected for jury duty at a superhero murder trial. The Arcanist was accused of causing the death of Red Razor. They hated each other, and when they discovered they were working the same case, Razor tried calling his teammates for help, but Arcanist cast a spell to disrupt his phone. This apparently also disrupted Razor's Emergency Teleport Beacon, resulting in his death at the hands of the bad guys they were fighting.

    You can download .pdf's of the issue here, if you'd like to see them:

    I started imagining several scenarios related to your suggestions.

    -A mad scientist dies and wills his evil lab to his child. All the stuff in the lab had been legally obtained, it just happened to be where he built his robots, doomsday machines, and whatnot. However, the authorities had confiscated the lab. The child wants to claim ownership, but the confiscating authorities wish to keep it, because there's supertechnology they want, or they say it's dangerous because more robots/doomsday machines/whatnot can be built there.

    -Related to the above, how would patent law apply? A villain creates some gadget and uses it for crime. A hero, the government, or a private business is able to reverse-engineer the gadget and patents it. Can the villain sue for the patent? He obviously invented it, even if he was committing crimes with it.
    --As another example, takes Spider-Man's webfluid. It's obviously a very powerful adhesive, and certainly has uses in law enforcement as a non-deadly weapon. Let's say someone manages to work out the formula and wants to sell it. Can Spider-Man/Peter Parker sue for it?

    -Superpowered people are often seen smashing cars around. Aside from the questions about insurance and who pays for that, what if a pet or child had been left in the car? Who is considered at fault there, the parent for leaving the child in the car, or the hero/villain for smashing the car? It would be interesting to see a villain (or even hero) having accidentally killed a child that way, then try to pass that off on the parent for leaving the child.

    -Legally, would having been a constumed henchman, villain, or supervillain count the same as any criminal record, as regards to insurance, employment, etc?

    -I like the idea of a custody battle between hero and villain parents. Would having been a villain automatically disquailfy the villain parent from getting the kid? I'd like to see a custody battle between a hero parent that is away frequently and can barely spend any time with the child (or is otherwise unsuited to be a parent), and a former villain who as "gone straight" and can provide a much better environment for the child.

    -What of kid sidekicks? Adult superheroes is one thing, but would minors are allowed to battle dangerous criminals and arrest them? I'm sure if some parents found out their child was sidekicking to a hero, they'd sue the pants off the hero for endangering their child.
    --A Bruce Wayne/Tony Stark style hero with a public identity is about to get custody of the children of a dead relative. Someone else (another relative, perhaps) tries to prevent this, citing how often wards and children of heroes often becom sidekicks, which would be very dangerous to the child.

    -Kinda just wanted to throw this out there. In Ultimate Spider-Man, a film company was able to make a movie about Spider-Man. They even used real footage of Spidey, thus adding realism and saving money on special effects. (Spidey goes to the set and yells at the cast and crew. Director Sam Raimi--yes, the director of the real movie, it was a semi-tie-in to the second movie--tells Spidey that the footage they just made of him saved them several million dollars. Heh.) They could do this because his ID is secret, so he can't actually go into court and sue them. I mean, "Spider-Man v Big Movie Company"? Please. And later in the series, Kingpin learns that he owns the rights to Spider-Man's likeness (thanks to the wrestling company Spidey started out on), and decides to run the franchise into the ground. So people are making hundreds of millions of dollars on Spider-Man, and Peter Parker's got nothing from it. Although he did get $50 from a photo he sold to the Bugle, and happened to land a job working on the Bugle's website. But that's it.

    Er, anyway, what sort of legal recourse would a superhero, or even supervillain, have if someone was making money off their appearance?

  • At April 11, 2008 11:49 AM, Blogger Mana G said…

    Sort of reminds me of an old joke between my brother and I: "In the Marvel universe, if Thor's hammer falls on your car, does that make it an act of God?"
    I tell you, I'm an English major, and all those law/insurance issues that seem inherent in the comic book world fascinate me. I mean, what about all those people who've been accidentally given superpowers, through particularly unstable ones? Especially given that most of those are lab tests gone horribly wrong, can't they just sue the lab? That would lead to all kinds of interesting "burden of proof" issues, especially if one considers that you'd have to find the radioactive spider to prove it.


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