Customer Reviews: The Law of Superheroes
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on October 14, 2012
(Full disclosure: I received a free advanced review copy of this book through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program.)

Could Superman really run for president of the United States? Might the makers of the genetically modified spider that bit Peter Parker sue him for patent violations? Is the Superhuman Registration Act constitutional?

In THE LAW OF SUPERHEROES, lawyers, co-bloggers (at Law and the Multiverse), and self-proclaimed comic book nerds James Daily and Ryan Davidson attempt to answer these questions - and many more. Wherever the law and comic book stories intersect (and the points are both numerous and varied!), Daily and Davidson are there, armed with a library's worth of case law, a comprehensive knowledge of comic book lore, and an easy, engaging sense of humor. The result is an accessible, enjoyable look at US law as explained using examples culled from comic books.

The book is split into thirteen chapters, each of which covers a different area of US law:

1 - Constitutional Law: e.g., Does the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment grant mutants civil rights? Could the state ever force a superhuman to relinquish his or her superpowers?

2 - Criminal Law: If you murder a superhero who's later resurrected, is it still murder? Is the Joker legally insane?

3 - Evidence: Could the court ever allow testimony given by a masked superhero? Can the services of psychics be used to verify a witness's testimony?

4 - Criminal Procedure: Would evidence gathered by Batman be admissible in criminal court? Could a superhero be held liable for false arrest?

5 - Tort Law and Insurance: Does the nonconsensual use of telepathy constitute a violation of privacy? Who's legally responsible for the massive property damages sustained in the comic book universes?

6 - Contracts: Could Batman really contract the services of thugs to rescue civilians, as he does in No Man's Land? Are contracts with the Devil enforceable?

7 - Business Law: Which business designation would best fit a superhero team, e.g., for tax and liability purposes? Does the Americans with Disabilities Act afford mutants any protection?

8 - Administrative Law: Would Superman owe taxes on pieces of coal that he crushed into diamonds? How would flying superheroes deal with the FAA?

9 - Intellectual Property: Does Peter Parker own the copyright to photos he takes for the Daily Bugle? Do the surviving members of The Beatles have a copyright claim on music created by their counterparts in an alternate universe?

10 - Travel and Immigration: Could Superman really renounce his US citizenship? Would international restriction on travel apply to superhumans who travel by teleportation devices (i.e., since they aren't technically crossing borders)?

11 - International Law: What are the territorial markers of Atlantis? Do US courts have any jurisdiction over crimes committed on other planets?

12 - Immortality, Alter Egos, and Resurrection: Would the compound interest on their investments provide a living wage to immortals? Can immortal beings collect Social Security in perpetuity?

13 - Non-Human Intelligences: As a non-human, would Superman have any rights at all? Can the Endangered Species Act be used to protect intelligent super-nonhumans?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I found the early,"sexier" chapters on Constitutional and criminal law more entertaining than those on business and administrative law. That said, the authors still manage to make the tax code seem somewhat interesting.

My chief complaint is that the most fascinating chapter - and that with the greatest potential for real-world implications - is the also the shortest: "Non-Human Intelligences." The discussion begins with an all-too-brief look at animal rights law (without condescending to animal rights advocates - yay!) and how this might be applied to "intelligent" fictional nonhumans, including but not limited to the very humanoid Superman and his fellow Kryptonians; the apes of Gorilla City and the aliens Shi'ar and Skrull also get a mention. ("Intelligent" in scare quotes because, as per usual, intelligence is defined strictly in human terms.)

Artificial Intelligences - such as Brainiac, Awesome Andy, Ultron, and the Vision - receive just a page and a half of attention! The only legal issue discussed in any depth is who might lay claim to intellectual property created by AIs. The authors note several other (and much more interesting) concerns (e.g., "if an AI is a legal person, then is deleting it tantamount to murder?"), but fail to follow up on any of them.

Additionally, Daily and Davidson focus disproportionately on the DC and Marvel Universes; Dark Horse gets precious few mentions. Finally, while they include a number of reprinted panels, the quality isn't always that great. (Granted, this problem might be specific to the advanced review copies.)

All in all, THE LAW OF SUPERHEROES is a fun, quirky book with great crossover potential. The authors approach both topics from an introductory perspective, so that the reader need not have much preexisting knowledge of either to follow along. A must for anyone who enjoys pop culture analysis, Smart Pop style.
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on December 5, 2012
This book is absolutely perfect for me and will not be quite as perfect for anyone else. Hence the four stars.

If part of you has been wondering your whole life what would REALLY happen if someone subpoenaed Spider-Man, or what the hell Tony Stark is doing with his flagrant disregard for international treaties, or what the legal standards of death might be in the Marvel Universe, this is the most enjoyable and thorough work imaginable. The book both analyzes the plausibility of the various legal solutions that comics writers have come up with over the years and extrapolates on those solutions to explain what the consequences would be for other superheroes if it were true. It's funnier than the blog--I think the authors are well-suited to a slightly longer form--and it doesn't spend too long on any one idea. The only potential problem is that the comics pages didn't transfer very readably to the Kindle edition, but as the captions explain all the necessary information, there's no real loss of content.

If you are staring at the previous paragraph and thinking, "I have now seen depths of nerdiness I did not previously believe were possible," you are going to be bored by this book.
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on October 29, 2012
I first ran into Daily and Davidson (they even sound like a law firm) when I was doing research for my own books. Their website, Law and the Multiverse, acquainted me with the facts about state actors and why superheroes who worked closely with law-enforcement could easily mess up a case when it came to trial. After reading their posts on state actors, secret identities, and superhero insurance, I decided the traditional freelance vigilante model just wasn't going to work in my stories (I was striving for realism, an interesting goal for a piece of superhero fiction). So naturally, when I saw that The Law of Superheroes was finally available, I snatched it up.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Two groups of readers will read it cover-to-cover, highlight it, dog-ear it, pass it around, and have to get a second copy when their first wears out: first, and obviously, writers chronicling the adventures of superheroes (in comic-books or prose--a growing fiction-genre), and second, and more widely, anyone who referees a gaming group playing one of the many excellent superhero role-playing-games (Champions, Mutants & Masterminds, etc), The Law of Superheroes is an invaluable resource.

If you belong to either of these two groups, get it. Get it now, before you write another chapter or host another episode. If you're anybody else and just like to think about this kind of stuff--and I believe this defines a significant portion of comic-book fandom--get it anyway just so you can mock the writers when they get it wrong. If they hear from enough of us, maybe they'll start to get it right.
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VINE VOICEon January 30, 2013
We are all familiar with comic book superheroes to some degree, as many of the most popular of these characters have become pop culture icons. We enjoy the stories, but have we really thought about the legal implications of what these superheroes do or represent? I must admit that, for the most part, I hadn't really given such issues much thought, except where they became part of the storyline (such as in the movie "Hancock", where the superhero's irresponsible behavior leads to a prison sentence).

But when you find two attorneys who also happen to be fans of superhero comics, you end up with this book as a product of their combined interests. But you don't have to be a lawyer to appreciate their efforts. The beauty of this book is that is serves as a rather concise law primer for the layperson while exploring a wide variety of legal implications raised by the idea of superheroes. In the application of basic legal principles to the scenarios described in the comic books, the authors have managed to make legal analysis both entertaining and accessible!

Fan of superhero comics will almost certainly enjoy this, but even if you only have the most passing familiarity with the contents of the comic book genre, this book is still likely to be fun to read and educational. Anyone who would like a better grasp of how laws are applied and the implications of the legal system to different situations will find this to be a far more attractive source of that information than most traditional books, which either rely on abstract hypothetical examples or else on actual court decisions, neither of which is nearly as entertaining as the material presented here.
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on March 19, 2016
Ever wondered if Superman is eligible to run for US President( probably yes as he wasn't legally "born" until his spaceship landed on US soil), whether Wolverine's claws count as deadly weapons( most definitely YES), whether Batman , Spider Man, Daredevil or any other masked hero could testify in open court(Federal as well as State) without revealing their secret identities, or just as to whether or not mutants have any civil/legal rights in the Marvel/DC universes? Then "The Law Of Superheroes" by authors/attorneys James Daily and Ryan Davidson answers all these and many other questions you always wanted to ask about what it would be like to apply real life(American) legal principles to the superhero universe. The crowning defect of most legal text books the authors maintain, is just how BORING they are in actual fact, but hey, even if you're NOT a comic book fan( or have seen films based on them such as the Spider-Man trilogy), then you will at least be interested in such an exercise. Full disclosure: I am currently writing a novel featuring Captain America in which two superheroes (Russian) are sued for personal injury and found this book to be worth every penny- it was invaluable.
Buy, borrow or if you must steal this book- it is most definitely as "must have" for any comic book aficionado!
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VINE VOICEon January 6, 2013
Disclaimer: Nothing in this review should be regarded as legal advice. Literary advice is another matter altogether!

Like many recent superhero books, The Law of Superheroes owes pop culture familiarity to The Incredibles. The same source material was also mined in Tom King's unusual but ultimately unsatisfying mid-2012 novel, A Once Crowded Sky.

Penguin's Gotham Books imprint seems particularly suited to this subject matter, orthographically speaking. The Physics of Superheroes is an earlier offering from the same publisher and represents another opportunity to enjoy the superhero canon in much the same way that ever-expanding Sherlockian scholarship keeps the respective memory green.

With accessible legalese and extensive citations, this volume is an enjoyable diversion--especially for comic book nerds--into hypothetical case law. We learn, for example, that Superman and other self-propelled superheroes fly outside of FAA authority, but that superheroes such as Batman or Iron Man who use a "contrivance" to fly (such as a vehicle or rocket belt) may be governed by FAA regulations. We also explore the applicability of international arms control regulations for superheroes, and the feasibility of the insanity defense for supervillains. It's all in good fun, full of well-reasoned efforts to reconcile legal systems between the real world and its comic book counterpart.

On cross-examination, I must admit that I am not a huge fan of the cover, the spine, or even the title. I noticed a few missed edits; "kind of" in quick succession on pages 66 and 69, for example. But rest assured: the Doogie Howser-like persona of co-author James Daily, J.D. gets off with just a warning. More criminal in my opinion is the book's lack of closing argument.

[The reviewer was provided with a complimentary copy of the book.]
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on January 20, 2013
This book was great on almost every level. The authors know how to explain complex legal concepts without getting bogged down in too much detail while maintaining the light mood of the main focus—comics. Not only did they open my eyes to concepts I never would have considered could affect the comic book world, but I learned a lot about how the American legal system and the Constitution of the United States actually works in the real world.

The only wish I had was that they would have gone into more detail on artificial intelligence and the law, but at least they recommended a book for further reading on the topic.

Aside from that, this book could not have been better!
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This is a fun book that teaches legal principles through the stories and situations of comic book universes and answers such vital questions as the legality of testifying in masks and the propriety of psychic mind scans. Too many, the most interesting chapters were those on civil laws.

As someone who writes superpowered hero fiction, the book was a helpful resource. Of course, not all stories may line up with legal realism, but it's good to know whether your bending a rule or just being total absurd. It's a very fun and informative read.
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on April 26, 2015
This is a good read. I can't say how well it reads for a non-legal professional. For a legal professional there are times when it doesn't go as in depth as you'd like it to, but it makes interesting/funny points. It's certainly inspired a law review note or two.
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on December 5, 2014
You might think that this book only contains fringe examples of law, but actually provides a memorable method of framing legal analyses which have been used on occasion in real judicial analogies. It's certainly more fun to think about tort law in terms of comics than horn books.
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