Who Owns Wolverine’s Bones?

Today’s post was inspired by an email from Frank, who asks:

Does Wolverine own his bones? Does Captain America own his shield?

Both of these characters are military agents granted  items by employers. Since I didn’t get to keep my rifle when I left the military, I presume that Cap would have to turn in his shield should he ever leave military service (or, in the case of the Civil War storyline, be prosecuted and presumably discharged).

Wolverine’s a more interesting case. Let’s presume that since adamantium is unbreakable, it will always have value of some kind. Can a body part be repossessed? Can you “own” an artificial organ installed in another person? Would it matter that Wolverine doesn’t need the adamantium to live, because of his healing power?

These are interesting questions!  We’ve previously (and very theoretically) addressed treating superpowers as personal property, but in this case we’re dealing with special equipment rather than intrinsic abilities.  I’m going to address Captain America first, since it’s the easier one to answer.

I. Who Owns Captain America’s Shield?

The answer seems to be “the US military.”  This is true of other military-issue equipment, including weapons and body armor.  And sure enough, the comics treat it that way, with Captain America giving up his shield on the few occasions in which he left service (e.g., Captain America #332).

So that’s that.  On to the much trickier case of Wolverine.

II. Who Owns Wolverine’s Bones?

Of course, what we mean here is the adamantium bonded to Wolverine’s skeleton, not the bones themselves.  In some ways it’s similar to having a plate or screws put in place by an orthopedic surgeon, or a device like a pacemaker implanted by a cardiologist.  The patient still has all of his or her parts, there are just some new bits added.

Normally the patient owns those bits, however, and they are just like any other piece of personal property.  In the UK, for example, “on implantation, an implant becomes the property of the person in whom it has been implanted and it remains his or her property even if it is subsequently removed. Following the patient’s death, it forms part of his or her estate unless there is any specific provision to the contrary.”  Department of Health and Social Security Health Notice HN(83)6 (1983).  The situations appears to be the same in the US, although I was unable to find such a specific statement.  I assume it is likewise the same in Canada, which is really the relevant jurisdiction here.

(Note that the situation with implanted devices is distinct from naturally-occurring organs and tissues.  The courts have pretty universally held that people do not have a property right in their own bodies or the parts thereof.  See, e.g., Moore v. Regents of Univ. of Cal., 51 Cal.3d 120 (1990).)

So under normal circumstances, Wolverine would appear to own the adamantium in his body.  But these are not normal circumstances.  Wolverine was a soldier, but he was also brainwashed by the Weapon X project.  So while he may have technically signed some sort of agreement giving the Canadian government ownership of the adamantium, the circumstances under which the agreement was made mean that it is probably not binding, either because of fraud or Wolverine’s mental incompetence.

But what if there had been no brainwashing and the Weapon X project had been completely forthright with Wolverine?  Is it even possible for someone to own a part of another person’s body?  What if it can be removed without (permanently) harming them?

These are interesting questions with no clear answer.  At least one commentator, writing in the context of microchip implantation, has argued that it is both possible and desirable to extend existing law to reach the conclusion that “anything within an individual’s body [is] the property of that individual.”  Elaine M. Ramesh, Time Enough? Consequences of Human Microchip Implantation, 8 Risk: Health Safety & Env’t 373, 403 (1997).  I agree with that conclusion, even if it is difficult to point to a particular legal principle that supports it.

Another approach is to consider not the property right but the remedy.  Supposing that the Canadian government did own the adamantium, how could it enforce that right?  It’s true that Wolverine could probably survive the removal of the adamantium, but it would be extremely intrusive even if the pain could be minimized through anesthesia.  It seems doubtful that a court would order such an operation.  Involuntary medical operations are generally limited to prisoners and people who have been involuntarily committed and even then there are significant due process safeguards.  Washington v. Harper, 494 US 210 (1990).  I suspect the law is similar in Canada, though Wolverine seems to spend most of his time in the US these days.

III. Conclusion

Not all superhero equipment is created equal, even equipment that came from the military.  Captain America will have to give up his shield if he retires, but Wolverine probably owns his adamantium bones, or can at least retain possession of them as long as he lives, which should be a very long time!

58 responses to “Who Owns Wolverine’s Bones?

  1. Melanie Koleini

    Wolverine’s adamantium bones are completely internal. What about devises that are only partially internal? Let’s say Robocop was NOT legally dead before they constructed him. Would he own his arms and legs under current law?

    Also, I assume a device must be (more or less) permanently implanted in a person to become their property. I don’t know if they are used clinically, but in the past researchers have experimented with diagnostic devices the patient would swallow. The device would collect information as it traveled through the digestive system and then be collected at the other end. From a practical point of view, I don’t know how research on such devices could go forward if the research subjects became the owners of the devices (and could keep them). (Maybe a contract stating the patient had to transfer ownership back to the researcher as soon as they excreted it?)

    • What about devises that are only partially internal?

      That’s an interesting question as well. It’s a hard line-drawing problem, and one that is no longer the realm of science fiction. Consider, for example, an advanced arm or leg prosthesis that has both internal and external parts. The internal parts may include connections to the patient’s nervous system, whereas the external parts may be easily removed or replaced. Or consider an artificial vision system that includes both brain or retina implants as well as external sensors (i.e. cameras).

      If a patient needs a loan in order to pay for the installation of such a prosthesis, could the loan be secured with its external parts, allowing the creditor to repossess them? It seems like an important question, and I’m surprised I couldn’t find more written about it, although it’s possible I wasn’t looking in the right place. These issues were written about generally by Gowri Ramachandran in Assault and Battery on Property, 44 Loyola of L.A. L. Rev. 253 (2010), but he did not offer much in the way of substantive law to support his positions.

      I don’t know if they are used clinically, but in the past researchers have experimented with diagnostic devices the patient would swallow.

      Capsule endoscopy is one version of that. Whatever argument there is for implants becoming the patient’s property likely does not apply to something like that, which is understood from the beginning to be temporarily ingested. Even so, there could be a contract, as you suggest, and enforcing the property right would not require invasive surgery, since it would pass naturally.

    • Perhaps a legal argument could be made that any device which is essential for the continued physical and mental well being of the individual cannot be repossessed. A computer chip that allows a physically fit person to somehow mentally access the internet wouldn’t fall under that category* but a computer chip that allows a paraplegic to control a machine with their mind might. By the same logic, a prosthetic leg can be argued to be vital to a person’s continued well being.

      Out of curiosity is there any case law concerning items like wheel chairs?

      *At least not in the current world.

      • Wheel chairs are an interesting case. A quick perusal of the case law didn’t turn up much, but I’ll note that wheelchairs are often prescribed for patients, and state laws often exempt prescribed devices from attachment in bankruptcy or to satisfy judgments. See, e.g., Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430(9); N.Y. Civ. Prac. L. & R. § 5205(5).

        Still, that doesn’t address no bankruptcy and non-money-judgment cases. For example, what about security interests or property interests (e.g. if the device is only leased)?

      • I suspect it doesn’t come up much since few people would want the bad publicity of trying to force someone to give up a wheelchair.

    • TimothyAWiseman

      This is part of, but only part of, the reason I have to conclude that “anything within an individual’s body [is] the property of that individual.” is probably the wrong conclusion entirely, or at the very least needs substantial nuance to it.

      In addition to the difficult in line drawing that Melanie brings up, there are numerous examples in science fiction (some of which may soon enter reality) of things implanted entirely within a person that remain someone elses property. One possibility is tracking devices wholy implanted in felons.

      Another is some form of performance enhancing cybernetics that could be removed with minimal ill effect. In the case of a hypothetical device which is not needed for any normal functioning and could be reasonably removed, it certainly makes sense to permit it to be used for collateral or assigned temporarily to someone but reclaimed by the true owner at the later date.

      I think a better basis for a rule is on the remedy side as you suggested. Anything implanted in a body such that its removal would have serious health implications cannot be involuntarily removed from its user while they are alive. But even then, it might make sense to allow reclamation of a hypothetical expensive and reusable component after death, even if its removal during life would cause serious health issues.

  2. There was an issue of X-Men where Magneto leeched the adamantium out of Wolverine, hurting him a lot. But Wolverine survived due to his healing factor. Still, it was theft, as Magneto had no right to take the metal.

  3. The Weapon X Program was an illegal (international) operation, though, wasn’t it? Logan was kidnapped, brainwashed, etc. in order to make the implantation of the adamantium possible. That he ended up deriving considerable personal benefit from the surgery is immaterial to the fact that crimes were committed against him.

    • It isn’t clearly an illegal operation in all continuities. If you want to go by the X-men movies he consented to the procedure, at least until the general was idiotic to say within his hearing ‘erase his memories’. Had the general not said that and not attempted to do it then it would probably have been legal.

  4. James Pollock

    How about the intellectual property (if any) in Cap’s uniform? It was created by the federal government, and therefore not copyrighted, but is there any kind of trademark interest in the uniform that would affect Cap should he be separated from service (I’m thinking here of Clayton Moore, whose situation was a bit different.)

    • I’m pretty sure that the Department of the Army has trademarks in the Army star logo and the “Army Strong” slogan, but I’m not a lawyer of any stripe, much less an IP lawyer, so I don’t know how strong their ability to defend those is.

    • TimothyAWiseman

      Interestingly, fashion is generally not copyrightable even when made by private individuals. The reasoning has to do with it is being (at least viewed as) a primarily functional item.

      Even if there was a trademark interest in the uniform, it probably wouldn’t affect Caps use of the uniforms he already had. Trademark is theoretically about preventing consumer confusion regarding the manufacturer or service provider. In practice of course it is used for other purposes as well, but it is still generally tied towards manufacturing or advertising. My riding boots have the trademarked Harley Davidson logo on them, but even if the Harley Davidson company for some reason decided they hated me, they couldn’t stop me from wearing them. Trademark might stop Cap from getting a private tailor to manufacture more of them for him though.

      There are other ways the government could try to stop Cap from wearing the uniform if he left the service though. For one, the uniform may actually be government property, espeically considering their special nature. Even if not, there are generally laws against impersonating a military officer, and it could be argued that Cap would be doing that by wearing his distinctive uniform after leaving the service, especially if he formally and effectively resigned his commission.

      • Mark Biggar

        Is there a explicit legal right of an veteran to wear his uniform after being discharged? If not, that could mess up a lot of Veterans day parades. I believe that “Impersonating an Officer” requires claiming to be a serving officer with intend to defraud or assume undo authority not just wearing a uniform. Veterans still make use of their old officers titles as well with out problem. If a service member is dishonorably discharged do they legaly loose the right to wear their old uniform and use their old title?

      • Derek Lyons

        Is there a explicit legal right of an veteran to wear his uniform after being discharged? If not, that could mess up a lot of Veterans day parades.

        Within narrow limits, yes. See 10 USC § 771 and 10 USC § 772. However, it should be noted that though it’s technically illegal, prosecutions of veterans for violating the law are rare to the point of non-existence so long as they limit themselves to doing so for Veteran’s day parades, unit re-unions, funerals for those they served with, or similar such ceremonial and solemn occasions.

      • James Pollock

        “it probably wouldn’t affect Caps use of the uniforms he already had.”
        Refer to the Clayton Moore situation.
        While Cap wears his uniform, there is an assumption in the public that his services are being provided by the United States. If he goes rogue and continues to wear the uniform, there is a possibility of confusion in the consumers of his services. If I work for McD’s, and they make me buy a uniform, and I later quit, they can’t keep me from wearing a McD’s uniform… but they CAN keep me from wearing a McD’s uniform at my new job across the street, at the BK.

      • TimothyAWiseman

        @James Pollock
        I had to look up the Clayton Moore case on Wikipedia, but it seems Clayton Moore (as the defendant) won that and had the right to continue wearing his costume. Without actually digging up the entire ruling, that seems to speak that trademark generally could not be used to stop someone from wearing something.

        You do bring up a great point with the McDonald’s uniform situation that I had not considered. But that still seems to be somewhat narrow and it would bring up the question of whether Cap was actually providing a service and doing so in a way to confuse a consumer. If the government wanted to stop him, I think they would be better off arguing the impersonating and officer angle or (assuming they did retain title) reclaiming the physical items.

        @Mark Biggar
        As Derek Lyons pointed out, veterans do retain a very limited to continue to wear their uniform. But while a blind eye is turned towards most ceremonial uses even if they aren’t technically allowed, that would probably stop quickly if someone was found using it outside of the ceremonies Derek mentioned.

        As for using their old titles, they generally don’t and can’t, at least not in the way they did while active duty. There is something of a distinction between veterans in general and retirees in particular. Retirees, especially those with high rank, officially carry forward some of the appertunances of office and can use their old titles more freely than someone who exited the service before retirement. But even Retirees are required to highlight they are retired. Veterans who did not retire can certainly reference their old rank when highlighting their experience, but not actually use it the way active duty or even retirees do.

  5. “I. Who Owns Captain America’s Shield?

    The answer seems to be “the US military.” This is true of other military-issue equipment, including weapons and body armor. ”

    Nit: That’s really only true above a certain value… I still have the Bosun’s knife that I was issued because I had a maneuvering watch topside. I had my foul weather jacket for many years after I left the service (until some SOB stole it).

    • I’m in the Army, not the Navy, so maybe your Service does things differently, I’m not totally sure that there’s a “value” above which that’s true. I suspect that whoever issued your knife either forgot to sign it to you or it fell through the supply system’s cracks. (I have a few items like that in my closet). Your foul weather jacket, as clothing, may or may not fit into an exemption where they let you keep it. Do you recall if it was issued as a clothing bag item, or was it issued as organizational equipment?

      Normally small durable items like those things are supposed to be turned in, but since they’re so small, they’re not tracked on the unit Property Book and often get forgotten about when commander’s change out. Now, Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment (OCIE) is usually hand-receipted to the individual, but will often have things (like clothing that touches the body) that will be transferred to the individual upon ETS. Looking at my own clothing record I only see shirts, hats, polypro (long underwear) and Army Combat Uniform items issued downrange for ETS transfer.

      … …Now I’m wondering how they issued Cap’s shield to him. Does he sign a DA Form 2062 for it, or does he have a weapons card? Do they keep it in the arms room when not in use? Who’s signed for it on their property book? I don’t recall Captain America being a Commander, so does he belong to an HHC somewhere? Does that guy need a BLUE-2 report periodically?

      • Derek Lyons

        It must be that the Navy or the Submarine Force does things differently, because we simply didn’t have that level of paperwork. (Or time in garrison to deal with it.)

        The knives (along with screwdrivers, wrenches, and other such hand tools) didn’t appear on our COSAL (roughly the list of ‘E’ in an army TO&E), and like all such ‘inexpensive/expendable’ gear simply weren’t tracked in detail. The jacket was simply handed to me by a harried and overworked storekeeper who had a long line of nubs and new arrivals who needed jackets and better things to do. (I presume he signed for the issue from the tender’s stores, but I wasn’t asked to sign anything and neither was anyone else, then or later.) They were doing a mass issue as we left the yards, and they simply set up a line of tri-walls on the pier and handed ’em out. A couple of years later, when I sent one of my nubs to get his, the storekeeper just handed him a locally generated from (already signed in bulk by the chop (supply officer)) and told him to go to the appropriate cage on the tender and trade the form for a jacket.

        It wasn’t just individual gear handled that way either… Both the tender and our own storekeepers maintained “pre-expended bins”, bins of common repair parts and maintenance materials they kept topped off that you could simply walk up to and grab what you needed.

      • Derek Lyons

        Forgot to add, and it may be important: This was in the 80’s, much has probably changed since then. While the SSN side of the house is still overtasked and undermanned, the SSBN force isn’t under quite the same pressure as it was back then.

      • That’s similar to the Army, then. Stuff like knives is not tracked on unit property books, but you’re still technically supposed to hand-receipt it to individuals, to make sure they turn it back in. They often get forgotten about, though. Usually clothing is a little better tracked, but I can see how a jacket might fall through.

  6. Here are two more hypotheticals:

    1) Weapon X implants Wolverine with adamantium. However, in this version, Weapon X got the adamantium by stealing it. They didn’t actually own it. Would implanting something that they didn’t own into Wolverine still change its ownership to Wolverine’s?

    2) In this scenario, Wolverine steals some adamantium and gets it implanted into himself (maybe Magneto hurt him and he needed a replacement, or something). If, in scenario 1, the adamantium becomes the property of Wolverine even though it was stolen, can it also become the property of Wolverine when he himself is the one who steals it and gets it implanted into himself?

    • Hmm, given the major health concerns raised by removing the stuff, I’m not sure you could get an order to remove it even if it was stolen, but I wonder if in those cases they could be on the hook for the financial value of the material? That would seem to be the best compromise between the property rights of the original owner and Wolverine’s right to not die. Could actually see the question arise in real life someday if somebody stole and implanted some sort of cybernetic device critical to the implanted person’s life (being essential to their life would likely be a motive for such theft; imagine a “patient needs an X to survive but can’t afford it” scenario).

      • Mark Biggar

        Is there case law on this. Refer to the recent movie “Repoman” about legally repossessing (even if it kills you ) of implanted artificial organs.

    • James Pollock

      You’re mixing up the elements of the crime with the remedies. In either hypothetical, the property remains the property of the owner from whom it was stolen. When the owner sues, they will receive a judgment for money damages for the value of the property stolen, and the ownership of the property will pass to its present possessor. Good luck enforcing the judgment against Wolverine, though… although if I recall, he does own some real property in Madripoor, and given his long lifespan, he may hold title to some other land (or other hidden assets) which he doesn’t even remember.

      Also, there’s a chance that the clock starts ticking on an adverse possession claim (though adverse possession is usually only used for realty, it’s possible that it may extend to personalty, as well, depending on the wording of the statutes that apply.)

      • You’re mixing up the elements of the crime with the remedies

        Crimes do not have remedies, they have punishments. The punishment is exacted by the state for the damage done to the state, not the damage done to the victim as such. Hence, the punishment is normally a fine or imprisonment—which do not compensate the victim—although restitution may also be ordered.

        When you talk about a remedy of money damages, what you’re talking about is the tort of conversion, for which the usual remedy is a forced sale (i.e. the plaintiff gets money damages in the amount of the value of the property and the defendant gets to keep the property). But there are other causes of action with different remedies. For example, detinue allows the return of the property.

        Restitution may also be ordered in a civil case, in which case the property would have to be returned.

      • James Pollock

        OK, yes, I was sloppy with my terms of art, and I should have used “offense” instead of “crime”. Since a criminal court can’t change the ownership of property, I was considering only a civil court.

        In both hypotheticals, the part (adamantium) has been made part of the whole (Wolverine), so both the crime and the tort of conversion have been committed. If Wolverine is dragged, hissing and spitting, into criminal court, he could be imprisoned or fined, but the basic problem remains… property belonging to another is unlawfully in Wolverine’s possession (although, if an adverse possession statute applies, that would certainly start the clock ticking.)
        Given the difficulties inherent in effecting a self-help repossession, I’d assume that a settlement would be reached.
        Alternately, the owner of the adamantium might choose to wait until Wolverine is no longer using it… although it could take a while (given Wolverine’s talent), it might not (given Wolverine’s hobbies.)

    • The first one is not entirely a hypothetical. The process of bonding Adamantium to bones was invented by a Japanese supervillain called Lord Dark Wind whose daughter became Lady Deathstrike, a cyborg enemy of Wolverine. Her beef with Logan was specifically that the process was stolen from her father by the Weapon X program and she intends to kill him to restore the family honour.

      Would she or her family be entitled to any compensation ?

  7. Re: Wolverine and Canadian military. As a presumably retired veteran, he would be covered for all medical services required from injuries during service (and if he lived in Canada, by the healthcare system as well) when a vet is given any prosthesis or implant (think tooth filling, pacemaker or steel plate) it is the vet’s. Plus, if he had issues with military implant in the future, he could go back to Veteran’s Affairs for them to cover the repairs if it isn’t already covered by provincial health insurance.

    The Canadian Constitution also allows for protection from harm of the human body from birth onward, which would prohibit a forced medical procedure. The exception to this would be if he was a serving member of the military where he can be ordered to do something which may result in his own bodily harm (up go and including death) and could be considered a legal order only if it is deemed for the greater good (I.e. 1 death could save more than 1 life)

  8. I have what I think is a straight forward answer here, especially given the Canadian jurisdiction. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms would be invoked, it applies retroactively, and it applies to soldiers.

    Specifically Section 7 for security of the person, which has been very broadly interpreted by the Supreme Court. In full the section reads:

    7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

    Blencoe v. B.C. (Human Rights Commission), 2000 SCC 44 (CanLII), [2000] 2 S.C.R. 307, 2000 SCC 44 makes it clear that State imposed psychological stress fall within Section 7.

    Jackson v. Disciplinary Tribunal, [1990] 3 F.C. 55 (F.C.T.D.) goes so far as to state that inmates cannot be compelled to provide urine samples to test for drugs.

    Also Section 12:

    12. Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

    Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

    Overview of Section 7 of The Charter

    As it stands Logan, or more properly James Howlett, is looking a pretty substantial judgement being issued in his favour. Vancouver (City) v. Ward, 2010 SCC 27, [2010] 2 SCR 28, Ward wins a settlement of $5,000 for a four and half hour vehicle seizure and a strip search. I can’t imagine what brainwashing and everything else would get you.

    All that being said, I can’t find anything about medical devices and ownership in Canada.

    • James Pollock

      Is Wolverine a Canadian citizen? Yes, he was born there, but has he transferred his citizenship to, say, Madripoor (or even the U.S.)? I understand that he is or has been an Avenger… do they require American citizenship of their members? (Thor isn’t, but in his original continuity, he was Dr. what’s-‘is-name, who presumably was established as an American citizen. I’m trying to think of anyone else who’s been an Avenger who WASN’T American, but, not being an Avengers fan particularly, their membership rolls don’t come immediately to mind. Was Black Panther an Avenger?)

      • He wears half of a Canadian dog tag in the movies (implying he was declared dead as the bottom half is broken off as proof of identity, I believe). Unless he has officially declined his citizenship a la Conrad Black, (and even that may not change his veteran status), he would be considered a citizen.

      • James Pollock

        Well, we know he tends to travel under false identities, but, somewhere along the line, he may have had occasion to change his citizenship (particularly, as, for a very long time, he had no idea what his actual identity was/is).

      • Black Panther was an Avenger, yes. He replaced Captain America as a full member. If memory serves, Black Widow (Russian) was also a full member at one point. Black Knight was a full member, but I don’t thing Dane Whitman was actually British, though his evil uncle was, I think. Interesting color theme here, though.

        Silverclaw? Was she a member? I’m not even going to start on aliens.

      • I doesn’t matter that much given the way The Charter works. It actually says everybody, which has been to taken to mean every human being inside of Canada, and any citizen outside of it.

        Omar Khadr started a Charter challenge against the Prime Minister in 2008 and the Supreme Court sided with him, even though he was then detained in Guantonamo Bay.

      • Mark Biggar

        The Black Panther as the ruler of his own country can’t be a US citizen. The Black Widow is usually stated as being Russian trained by the KGB. QuickSliver and the Scarlet Witch are likely not US citizens.

      • I seem to recall Black Panther either being deposed or abdicating (it’s still irritating to me). I don’t know if U.S. law has any specific provisions for former heads of states but I suppose they might be able to either join the Avengers as a volunteer, they could be seconded to the U.S. military, they could be there as a foreign observer or they might be able to apply for citizenship. Of course considering that the Black Panther apparently refused point blank to trade the cure for cancer to the outside world I don’t think the U.S. would be too pleased to have him on any team that works for the U.S.

      • Dan Blackaby

        Wolverine, according to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, is a Canadian citizen, but a permanent legal resident of the United States. The Canadian government has been known in the past to call upon his services, usually through requests via “Department H” or their super-hero group, Alpha Flight.

  9. Re: Captain America’s shield

    What if the shield was not issued to him by the army? I don’t remember for sure (but it’s probably true in at least some continuities) if the shield was a one-off item created by Stark specifically for Cap, that would open up the possibility that it was more a gift to “Captain America” in the intention of helping the country rather than an item sold to the army and then officially issued to “Captain Steve Rogers”.
    That would seem similar to the current practice of family members buying body armor and then sending it to a soldier – the body army wouldn’t automatically belong to army just because a soldier used it.

    • The shield was gifted by FDR himself.

      • James Pollock

        Oops. The shield likely wasn’t FDR’s to give away. (Kind of like the kerfuffle over moon rock items given to retiring NASA employees.)

    • That would seem similar to the current practice of family members buying body armor and then sending it to a soldier – the body army wouldn’t automatically belong to army just because a soldier used it.

      It might end up being seized as contraband, however, since Soldiers aren’t permitted to purchase their own armor. I don’t recall what CENTCOM is doing right now re: personnel who do that.

      I’ve personally seized some ammunition that Soldiers brought to theater on their own–some stupid jackwagon didn’t seem to remember that the reason he wasn’t issued hollow points is because using them is a war crime. Honestly, I don’t know if I could legally take them, since I didn’t actually consult with a lawyer on that one, since he never took them outside the wire–I just ran the rounds right down to the amnesty point.

      In general, however, the military doesn’t want you bringing your own weapons or ammunition, since the issued stuff is screened by JAG to ensure it complies with ROE and the Law of Land Warfare. (Not to mention that we like to know all the weapons somebody has in case they start acting funny and we need to take them away, though that’s not much of an issue with Cap.) I doubt that he’d be permitted to bring his own, at least under modern rules.

      As far as the government gifting it to him, that would be very surprising. Not only because it has what is likely classified technology, but due to the probable high dollar value.

      Allowing for “comic book reality,” it might be his, and he might be allowed to carry it, but in “real reality” there’s virtually no way it would be given to him, nor would he be permitted to carry it if it wasn’t US Government property.

      • But don’t US soldiers buy some of their own gear at the PX? I remember going to one as a Canadian military spouse and being surprised at the amount of gear America soldiers could/had to buy (things like gloves, boots, jackets that were all part of the uniform). I think it may have included body Armour too because DH and I discussed why the Canadians didn’t do that. If body armour could be bought, then the shield would have to be considered armour as it is designed as a protective device regardless of its secondary use as anything in a trained soldier’s hands could be considered a weapon.

      • But don’t US soldiers buy some of their own gear at the PX?

        Yes. But the majority of it is issued. I have my clothing receipt in front of me, and I was issued a total of 101 pieces of equipment with a total value of $4,903.03. The largest of that cost is my Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) and plates, which is about 25% of the total value (the record doesn’t give me the individual values, just the total, but I recall a vest and plates being around $1200-$1500 from investigating people who’ve lost theirs). The rest of it is stuff like magazine pouches, sleeping bags, cold and wet weather gear, etc. Soldiers are permitted to purchase items over and above these, like flashlights or shoulder holsters. They can also buy small items to use instead of issued gear (like magazine pouches) as long as it’s not a safety critical item (like body armor), and it doesn’t break uniformity too badly. People who have a tendency to lard up their fighting load with all these extras are generally mocked: http://terminallance.com/2010/06/18/terminal-lance-44-smear-the-gear-queer/ both because your issued stuff is usually good enough, and because lugging all the extra weight around is rarely worth it.

        One reason to not allow people to purchase their own armor is because people might intentionally buy poorer but more comfortable armor, which is a risk that they’re not permitted by regulation to accept on their own authority. Indeed, some units have had to require NCOs to check their people to ensure that they’re actually putting the plates in before going outside the wire, like the Soldier in “Black Hawk Down” who left out his back plate on the theory that he wouldn’t be running away.

        What exactly it’s worth your while to buy depends on your unit SOPs. Some will dictate exactly how you need to have all your gear arranged on your IBA*, and in those cases you pretty much have to use exactly what you’re issued. Others will just require that your first aid kit be on the lower left side (so your buddy can find it when you get shot), and let you arrange the rest as you see fit. For my own part, I really only purchased a flashlight (not issued at all), a shoulder holster for my M9 to use inside the wire, and a holster that clips on the front of my IBA for my sidearm outside the wire (I didn’t care for the holster I was issued). Pretty much everything else was just fine.

        The body armor thing actually goes back to my previous point about Cap being “gifted” his shield. The military doesn’t permit people to keep their body armor for two reasons: 1) they don’t want military-grade armor out there for bank robbers, and 2) you can’t legally go, “Hey, have $1,500 of taxpayer money just because you’re a great guy,” especially if that equipment can be reissued to somebody else. FDR would have had to have an Act of Congress authorizing it somehow. As a general rule, the US Government isn’t going to give a one-of-a-kind piece of equipment away.

        *For military pedants: yes, I recoginze the IOTV is what is usually used downrange nowadays, but that’s irrelevant to this discussion.

  10. Logan hasn’t renounced his Canadian citizenship, so far as I know. He may well have naturalized for US purposes, not unlike real-world science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer among thousands of others, but no renunciation re: Canada so far.

  11. I seem to remember Black Panther trying to make a claim on Cap’s shield, because it was created with illegally 0btained Vibranium. (Can anyone confirm that the Vibranium in Cap’s shield is in fact Wakandan and not Savage Land Vibranium?) I know it’s been treated as US Govt. property in the past, but there could be a claim that it was a personal gift from Professor Erskine to Steve Rogers.

  12. On the topic of soldiers buying their own gear, I think that only applies to officers who have to buy their own uniforms. Which is why many officers have uniforms after they leave the service, since they actually own them.

    • TimothyAWiseman

      Not quite. There are certain items that once issued are transferred to the other person, clothing being the prime example. Incidentally, officers are sometimes issued uniforms, though that is an exception (I was issued four sets of the desert combat uniform before my first deployment as an officer). Also, after the initial issue and certain supplementary issues, most enlisted are left to buy and maintain their own uniforms, although unlike officers they are given a clothing allowance that is supposed to be earmarked for that purpose.

      • James Pollock

        Way back when, I had to buy (and affix) my own rank insignia. I never did put the right number of stripes on all my uniforms… I did all my fatigues but only one set of blues.

      • Derek Lyons


        All of my dress uniforms and dungarees had the right number of stripes, you could get in deep s–t if you didn’t. All my underway uniforms had on them was my name and my dolphins, even though stripes were technically required. (We had a lot of leeway with our underway uniforms.)

  13. Ever since Captain America #332 came out, I’ve been bothered by the opinion that the US Government “issued” Cap the round shield. Instead, I’ve always considered that FDR gave it to Steve as a gift of thanks. If there’s no distinction between the government giving a gift and issuing equipment, does that mean once Elizabeth II dies, the US could call up the UK and say, “hey, remember that sweet engraved iPod that Obama “lent” your queen…?”

    • But there’s a big difference between gifting a small $150 item to a foreign dignitary for diplomatic purposes, and handing over a one-of-a-kind major end item of inestimable value to a subordinate. FDR would need Congressional approval since it’s a disbursement of taxpayer funds, and wouldn’t fit into any FAR or CSDP exemptions that I’m aware of–though to be fair, I’m hardly an acquisition or property expert. However, the shield would almost certainly be considered non-expendable (ARC “N”) and have to be tracked on a property book, and very likely a sensitive item to boot.

      Not to mention, the iPod may have been purchased out of President Obama’s pocket. What the US Government will and will not pay for is really strange at his level. For example, the government will cover the cost of a state dinner with a foreign head of state (i.e., Queen Elizabeth II), but not for the UK Prime Minister (who is not a chief of state)–that comes out of his funds, or probably donations for that purpose. I wish I could find the reference, but it was both a Time magazine story, and “Upstairs at the White House” by J.B. West.

  14. There’s enough ambiguity in whether the shield actually belonged to the Government or Myron MacLain (remember, it was just a material test disc, not intended to be the final project deliverable), how FDR obtained it, and whether he gifted it to Steve or issued it to Captain America. I’ll concede that in Cap 332, Steve simply takes the Government’s word that they own it. But nice guy that he is, he probably never thought about hiring a lawyer to help determine ownership.
    All-in-all, I wish L&M would give this issue more of a treatment than, “So that’s that.”

    • MacLain was working for the government and undoubtedly did not own the physical artifact or the invention (not that it was reproducible anyway). To me, FDR was simply presenting it as a ceremony and it was indeed issued to Captain America, not given to Steve Rogers as a gift. In the same scene in Captain America #255 FDR says, “I see that Army Ordnance has finally made the alterations in your uniform. … I have another little addition to your battle gear.” The implication is that both the shield and the uniform are Army issue.

      As confirmation of this—and as mentioned in the post—Captain America gives the shield back to the government each time he leaves service. Why would he do that if the shield were his personal property? And even if it were his personal property it would become the government’s property at that point anyway unless he reserved the right to reclaim the shield upon returning to service, but there’s no indication of that as far as I know.

    • …it was just a material test disc…

      But where did the material come from? (Legitimate question–I don’t know enough of the comic backstory to know for sure.) If it was furnished by the US Government for research purposes, then there would almost certainly be an agreement that anything that came out of the research would be US Government property, even if it wasn’t the intended deliverable.

  15. That comment by CatCube addressed pretty much the last of my concerns. Yet, in the admittedly unlikely event that the vibranium used in the R&D process was privately secured, that would suggest the test-disc (i.e. the shield) belonged to MacLain. However, even in this case, it’s likely MacLain gave the disc to the Government – scientists were so much more noble back then.

    Still, it’d be interesting to know if there are real-word examples of WWII contractors who developed products for the government, yet retained ownership of spin-off technology or products.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *