Batman v. Superman and Import Licenses

(Lawrence M. Friedman is a partner at Barnes, Richardson & Colburn, LLP and an adjunct professor at the John Marshall Law School’s Center for International Law.  He is also the author of the Customs Law Blog and a previous guest poster here at Law and the Multiverse.)

Heading into Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I had some trepidation mixed with anticipation. You’ll have to judge the movie for yourself. My short review is that it is filled with great fan service and universe building, but continues to mistreat Superman as a character. To make up for that, Wonder Woman is great and Ben Affleck is perfectly good in the cowl and cape. That’s all I will say on the quality of the movie. What about the legal issues?

Very early in the movie, it becomes clear that Lex Luther and Lexcorp could use my professional help. Explaining why requires at least a minor spoiler. Consider yourself warned.

Following the events of Man of Steel, it becomes obvious to Lex Luther that kryptonite might be a useful tool to combat Superman and potentially other Kryptonians. One of his scientific henchmen, listed in the credits as Emmet Vale, finds a sizeable chunk in the Indian Ocean. As a side note, the existence of a potential “Professor Vale” in this universe is not good news for Superman. As a plot device, Luther realizes that he needs an import license and begins lobbying a Senator played by Holly Hunter for permission to import the kryptonite.

As a customs and trade lawyer, I may have been the only person in the theater to sit up just a little when I heard that. I lost the next couple minutes wondering to myself whether that would, in fact be true. Would Lexcorp, or any other legally compliant importer, need any kind of license to import a chunk of Kryptonite?

There are not too many products that are completely inadmissible into the United States. Customs and Border Protection draws the distinction between prohibited merchandise, which can never be legally imported, and restricted merchandise, which can be imported if the proper process is followed. Prohibited merchandise includes products made of dog and cat fur, 19 USC § 1308, switchblade knives, 15 USC § 1242, products of convicts or forced labor, 19 USC § 1307, and other items.

Restricted merchandise is a much broader category of products. Often, restricted merchandise is subject to the regulation of other agencies and Customs’ role is limited to enforcing those laws and regulations at the border.

What about a large chunk of kryptonite?

Section 13 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regulates the importation of chemicals. To import chemicals, an importer must certify either that the product is not subject to TSCA or complies with the law. Exceptions to TSCA include food, drugs, cosmetics, chemicals included in larger articles, and pesticides. Although Lex Luther might say kryptonite is a pesticide, Kryptonite does not appear to fall into one of these categories. As a result, Lexcorp would need to certify that the importation complies with TSCA. Given that it is very unlikely that kryptonite is already in the EPA’s TSCA inventory of chemicals, Lexcorp is going to have to find an exception under which it can certify the product as complying with the law. Given the size of the chunk of kryptonite shown in BvS, it seems unlikely that the low volume, low release exceptions will apply.

Lexcorp’s best option might be the research and development exception of 40 CFR § 720.36. This still requires that the amount imported be small and it also requires notice to employees of the risks associated with the chemical. Given that kryptonite has no apparent negative consequences for humans, that appears possible. But, at the point in time depicted in the movie, it is not clear that the full consequences of human exposure to kryptonite are known. Lexcorp should be careful about that.

On a related front, if Lexcorp is able to import kryptonite, it may have to contend with the Hazardous Substance Act, which regulates, among other things, the labeling and packaging of hazardous materials. Again, based on what we see in this movie and 75 years of Superman lore, it appears that kryptonite may not be hazardous to humans. So, this may not be an issue.

A bigger problem for Lexcorp may be that it appears kryptonite is radioactive. Many sources of radiation including uranium, thorium, and plutonium are subject to regulation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Importing these products requires a license. See 10 CFR Part 110. The NRC regulations require import licenses for “source material” and “special nuclear material.” A source material is natural or depleted uranium or thorium or ores containing concentrations of uranium or thorium. So, that does not seem to be a problem. Special nuclear material includes plutonium, uranium-233 or uranium enriched above 0.711 percent by weight in the isotope uranium-235. Still not a problem for kryptonite.

What might be a problem is that the NRC also requires a license for the importation of “nuclear byproducts.” These are defined as:

Any discrete source of naturally occurring radioactive material, other than source material, that—

(i)  The Commission, in consultation with the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the head of any other appropriate Federal agency, determines would pose a threat similar to the threat posed by a discrete source of radium-226 to the public health and safety or the common defense and security; and

(ii)  Before, on, or after August 8, 2005 is extracted or converted after extraction for use in a commercial, medical, or research activity.

Given that Lexcorp wants the kryptonite for research purposes, this might require a license if there is a risk associated with it that is on par with the risk of exposure to radium-226. As far as we know, this is not the case for humans, though it is the case for Kryptonians. Assuming the U.S. government regulates for human public safety and not for the safety of one (or possibly a few) Kryptonians, there still does not appear to be any need for an import license.

That brings us to the fact that Lex Luthor wants this material to build a weapon to fight Superman. Arms, ammunition, explosives, and implements of war are prohibited importations unless licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. As a general rule, ATFE licenses the permanent importation of products and materials that are specially designed or modified for military applications and that fall into the categories defined in the United States Munitions List. Scanning the list, it is hard to find a category into which raw kryptonite would fall.

Based on this analysis, I might be willing to write Lexcorp an opinion letter stating that it does not need a license to import the kryptonite, though it appears it will need to comply with TSCA. As far as we can tell, raw kryptonite is not harmful to humans and would, therefore, be regulated similarly to other benign minerals, once it is added to the EPA’s TSCA inventory. For importers, that means it is likely classified in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule as an “other mineral” not elsewhere specific. The classification would be 2530.90.8050 and it would be duty free. I’m sure Lexcorp would consider that to be good news.

45 responses to “Batman v. Superman and Import Licenses

  1. [spoiler, I guess] The government should have blocked his license to manufacture wheelchairs out of Explodium.

  2. This analysis seems to ignore that kryptonite is a known carcinogen, though I suppose the “known” part wouldn’t be the case in BvS. However, in both the comics and the animated series, prolonged exposure causes cancer, though whether it’s from radiation or from kryptonite poisoning varies from storyline to storyline. It’s enough of a danger in the AU, for example, that a statue made of kryptonite was said to be cursed because all past owners of it ended up dying due to exposure.

    In real life, analysis would probably have it classified as an IARC Group 1 substance; were this to be determined, does this impact the analysis any?

  3. Although I’m not aware of it coming up in the comics themselves, in the DC Animated Universe, kryptonite is definitely radioactive in the traditional sense, and long-term exposure can cause all the usual effects thereof in humans. That said, we’re talking LONG-term exposure; it takes Lex carrying around a chunk almost non-stop for well over a year before he develops cancer (kicking off a fun subplot), so I think that rates rather below radium-226.

  4. So what about Bruce Wayne importing source material for his reactor in the Dark Knight Rises? The material was said to be radioactive (according to a news report) and it could be made into a bomb albeit only by a specialist. This was discussed in an earlier post. As you say, “Many sources of radiation including uranium, thorium, and plutonium are subject to regulation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Importing these products requires a license.” Lets assume that the source material was thorium (as it is radioactive but it would be very difficult to make a thorium bomb). I seem to recall that it was concluded that Bruce Wayne would have had to have broken the law by bringing the material to Gotham. Do you concur?

      • James Pollock

        “Of course, the movie screws up the science, since it’s essentially impossible to turn a fusion reactor into a bomb (and nearly impossible to turn a fission reactor into one, for that matter):”

        In the movie, there’s only one guy who can turn it into a bomb.
        The only reason it’s essentially impossible to turn a fusion reactor into a bomb is because we haven’t built a fusion reactor yet that releases more energy than it takes to start it.

        “There’s also the total stupidity of Bruce’s refusal to give the world clean energy because he’s afraid the technology would be used to make bombs. After all, we’ve already got nuclear bombs — more than enough to destroy all life on Earth multiple times over. So, really, how would things have gotten any worse if Bruce had distributed the reactor technology?”

        Well, there’s the fact that, at present, fission bombs are amazingly expensive and time-consuming to construct, and fission bombs are required to make fusion bombs. What do you think happens if, instead of a device that costs hundreds of millions of dollars and several years to make, you could make fusion bomb out of bits you could buy at Best Buy and Home Depot?

    • Wayne’s reactor in TDKR was a fusion reactor, not a fission reactor, so its source material would’ve probably been deuterium, tritium, or helium-3. Of those, only tritium is even mildly radioactive, and only harmful if ingested or inhaled.

      Of course, the movie screws up the science, since it’s essentially impossible to turn a fusion reactor into a bomb (and nearly impossible to turn a fission reactor into one, for that matter):

      http://www.anl.gov/articles/science-behind-fiction-dark-knight-rises-2012

      There’s also the total stupidity of Bruce’s refusal to give the world clean energy because he’s afraid the technology would be used to make bombs. After all, we’ve already got nuclear bombs — more than enough to destroy all life on Earth multiple times over. So, really, how would things have gotten any worse if Bruce had distributed the reactor technology? He deprived the world of something very beneficial and positive in order to avoid the creation of a threat that was already created nearly 70 years ago! Which is simply an indefensible moral calculus.

      • Martin Phipps

        Well he did say that the writers had fission and fusion confused. Watching the movie I dismissed the idea that it was a fusion reactor for all the reasons described in the article. So it was an experimental fission reactor and it could be made into a bomb. And then the question is whether or not Bruce Wayne got permission to build the reactor in Gotham City. I would imagine he didn’t.

  5. But is it a natural substances or would the government saz that it is the remains of an extraterrestial spacecraft?

  6. Pre-crisis green kryptonite had no effect on humans (except one time Metallo altered his power source so that it would work as a death-ray on anyone). Post-crisis, as noted above, it has a slow-acting effect.
    Neat post. But sounds like Luthor’s kind of pathetic—pre- or post-crisis, the comics Luthor (or the AU) wouldn’t have worried about being legal.

    • Well, he’s arguably pathetic for other reasons, but in the film the legal thing was just an excuse so that he could meet with her and someone from the Department of Defence in order to get them on board and, further, to gain access to the wreckage of Zod’s ship (which was now government property). If she HAD agreed then it probably would look better for everyone if he followed legal procedures since these are the people he’s going to be working with; since she doesn’t, he opts to smuggle it into the country anyway, a Plan B he’d already set up.

  7. Morgan Walter Champion

    And in Smallville Green Kryptonite was a dangerous mutagen- not only were many of the mutations dangerous in themselves, but they tended to adversely affect the minds of the “meteor freaks”. I doubt the coach started off helping his football players cheat on tests- but after he got exposed to the Kryptonite rocks in his steam bath, he became obsessed with his legacy, even when what he was doing would end it.

  8. Great comments. I was not aware that in the DCAU it is established that kryptonite is a slow carcinogen. That’s interesting, but lots of carcinogens are imported. The question is whether they are properly packaged, labeled and declared. Also, a customs broker has pointed out to me that US Customs and Border Protection has not flagged HTSUS item 2530.90.8050 as subject to TSCA. So, if my classification of kryptonite as a mineral is correct, on entry into the commerce of the United States, it is entirely possible that CBP would release the sample without so much as a TSCA certificate.

  9. If Green K is outlawed, only outlaws will have kryptonite!

  10. I know this is a longshot, but would the 1967 “outer space” treaty come into play? The goal was to avoid the weaponization of Earth orbit, and I didn’t look up the text. But making weapons out of space objects would seem to be contrary to the spirit of the treaty.

    Also, I believe that it is the policy of the United States that no private entity may own moon rocks, although a quick Google search didn’t find any specific statute.

    Finally, can’t Superman claim ownership of any Kryptonite found on Earth? He is, after all, the “last son of Krypton”… hasn’t he inherited all of Krypton as a result of the death of everyone with a superior claim?

    • There is no specific statute for that, but all materials retrieved by the Apollo missions and brought back to Earth are considered government property by the Federal government unless given to other bodies. The one actual legal case involving it, United States of America v. One Lucite Ball Containing Lunar Material (One Moon Rock) and One Ten Inch by Fourteen Inch Wooden Plaque, forfeiture was demanded under 19 U.S.C. 1595a(c)(1)(A) on the grounds that the moon rock in question was stolen from the government of Honduras. That legal justification doesn’t apply for fallen Kryptonite, I would think.

      Nor would the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, as anything on Earth is by definition not a celestial body regardless of its source; otherwise everything on the Earth would fall under it considering that anything was formed of material whose origin was outside the Earth, after all.

      • James Pollock

        OK, but how about my last idea?

        I’d think Superman would have the best legal claim to ownership of any part of Krypton, for any time between the explosion that destroyed the planet and any pieces happened to find their way to Earth. So… do we apply the common-law of mislaid property? (It’s his, but he doesn’t know where it is.) It’s not a treasure trove, because that would require someone burying the valuable materials. Or is the closest analogy lands that are eroded by a flood, which then deposits the sediments on someone else’s property? (Within my lifetime, several hundred feet of a local mountain was redistributed over a fairly large area. Nobody claimed that the people who had owned the land on top of the mountain now owned the volcanic ash spread over the valley floor…. but then again, Kryptonite is distinguishable from the simple rock that Earthly land is made of.

      • I’d think Superman would have the best legal claim to ownership of any part of Krypton, for any time between the explosion that destroyed the planet and any pieces happened to find their way to Earth.

        He’s got a bunch of legal hurdles.

        First, he has to somehow prove his story is true. He has very little evidence that his planet exploded, much less than those are pieces of it.

        Second, we have no idea how private property worked on Krypton, or if it even existed.

        Third, while he has an obvious moral claim to ownership of any bits of Krypton left over, it actually seems odd that, for example, a random piece of property would *legally* be his. Even if we pretend that no Kryptons had still-living members of other alien species in their wills (In this universe, I don’t think we’ve seen any others), are we operating off the assumption that Superman is the closest living relative of everyone? Who made that determination? Superman himself?

        And what about the parts of the planet that were not privately owned. Assuming it’s anything like Earth, no one actually owns any of the land under the oceans, at minimum.

        Or should we consider Superman the ‘government in exile’ of Krypton, so he can decide that everything is, in fact, his personal property? (Sounds sort of fascist, but if you’re literally the only person, you probably *should* dissolve the government.)

        Oddly enough, under various treaties, Superman possibly could get the *ships*, although he would have to declare himself the ruler of Krypton (Or, if he’d rather, he could hold an election and elect himself.), which would be super-awkward considering that Krypton apparently just declared war on earth. Maybe he can spin it that he is the legit government and they were a bunch of criminals that stole their prison ship…that second part is literally true. Or alternately, while they were the government, he opposed the war and defeated them in a coup and now the new government of Krypton wishes to sign a peace treaty with…everyone? (Not sure exactly how it works if you declare war on a planet. ‘Krypton’ technically only *attacked* America and India.)

        Once he does that…under various treaties, governments have to give recovered space vessels back to their government, aka, back to Superman. I’m not entirely sure where he could *put* it, though. I guess he’d have to put it back into space. Although I don’t remember if that’s one of the treaties that only covers governments who signed it, though, or if you get back your stuff even if you didn’t if your stuff landed in a country that did. (Although Superman could just sign it, I guess. Probably works retroactively.)

      • James Pollock

        “He’s got a bunch of legal hurdles.”

        Who’s the other party with a superior claim? He should have a default judgment.

        (Assuming he doesn’t just steal a page from another company’s comics and Hulk around until he gets what he wants) Or maybe he goes passive-aggressive, and says “Nope. I’m not going to go up there and smash that asteroid that’s going to fall on us. Good luck with that. Maybe Bruce Willis is available.”

      • Who’s the other party with a superior claim? He should have a default judgment.

        By most state law, at least, anything that is of *natural* extraterrestrial origins (as opposed to things people built that fell from space) is property of the homeowner. Other states have the state themselves be the owner. There is no ‘You get to own it if it’s from a planet you used to live on’ exception to the law.

        So the presumption of any Kryptonite is already that it is someone else’s property! Superman has to overcome that presumption.

        With alien spacecraft, there are two competing legal options:

        One, they are considered spoils of war, and as there wasn’t any peace treaty signed that had them returned to Krypton (Duh), they are now property of whatever government is in control of the area. (Or perhaps, as the war was with ‘the Earth’, they are property of the entire Earth. I dunno. I’m sure other nations will make that argument.)

        Two, the courts know the entire story, and instead of consider them spoils of war, just considered them (stolen) and crashed spacecraft under international treaties. And thus legally the US and India government (both signatories of various space treaties) would have to ‘return’ them if the Kryptonian government asks for them. In which case, Superman somehow has to establish that he is, legally, the Kryptonian government.

        The second option could, in theory, result in Superman gaining the ships. But only *if he can prove facts that he is going to have a very hard time proving*.

        And even so…that’s not really up to the courts anyway. What governments the US recognizes is a *political* decision. The government will surely say ‘We don’t not have diplomatic relations with the Kryptonian government at all. Not as some political posturing…we mean we literally have no idea who that is. They do appear to *exist*, we’ll admit that, some prisoners of theirs stole a ship and attacked us with it! But we are not going to recognize you as a representative of them, much less as a singular head of that state!’

        Superman’s only actual success might be in individual items. If someone drops a personally-owned *book* out of an airplane, and it lands on someone’s property…it’s still the property of them, or their closest relative.

        Superman might successfully argue via a DNA test, that he is clearly the closest relative of any Kryptonian, and the US government should give him their private property, at least until someone else shows up with a better claim. But that doesn’t apply to either the ships *or* the Kryptonite…but it actually might apply to Zod’s body.

      • Let’s put it this way- if I woke up tomorrow and found that everybody in Britain was missing or dead, and all on their relatives who stood to inherit their property abroad, does that make me legally the owner of everything British? Does that make me representative of the government of Britain?

        No, it does not. Same with Kal-El. Krypton was not a hereditary monarchy and Superman wasn’t in line for the throne. He has no legal right to anything from Krypton just because he came from there, and certainly doesn’t have any right to Kryptonite just because it happens to be pieces of rock from the planet in question. Might as well say he has a legal right to anything Zod owned then, even though it was quite firmly established that Zod was an enemy of his and of his family and would not have left anything to him.

        In short, even if the US government DID recognise the Kryptontian government as a legitimate (if deceased) entity, Clark has no legal expectation to be recognised as the government of Krypton just because he’s the sole survivor of the planet, anymore than any average citizen of any Earth-based country would be recognised as the representative of their government if they found themselves in a similar situation as the sole survivor of their nation.

      • Let’s put it this way- if I woke up tomorrow and found that everybody in Britain was missing or dead, and all on their relatives who stood to inherit their property abroad, does that make me legally the owner of everything British? Does that make me representative of the government of Britain?

        Technically, if you can *get to* Britain, and you’re a British citizen, and are the only person there (And no one else is going to show up.), it might, indeed, be possible to ‘bootstrap’ yourself into being the government. Just declare you’re holding an election, and then vote for yourself.

        Sure, that’s not quite proper procedure to become the ruler of the country…but there is no one to object. Think of it as extension of the parliament procedure rule that ‘the assembly is in charge of their own rules’.

        The ‘totality of people’ in a country are in charge of how the country operates, despite what any document says…and if there is literally only one person, that person is in charge. Both in the practical and the legal sense. (Of course…a one-person country is an invitation to being conquered.)

        ‘As a citizen of Britain, I vote myself dictator. Any objections from the queen? The courts? The military? The rest of the government? Other citizens? No? Good, I officially declare that I’m the government.’

        The problem, of course, is that Superman *can’t* get to Krypton, as it does not, in fact, exist.

        In fact, it’s an interesting question if Krypton’s government *can* exist at this point. There is such a thing as a government-in-exile, but that operates on the assumption that they are the rightful rulers of somewhere, and have merely been displaced. But Krypton literally *is not a place anymore*, so it probably can’t even *have* a government. Governments are supposed to control territory, and Krypton’s government (Which doesn’t appear to exist) doesn’t control anything.

        This is almost some weird philosophical point: If a government has no people in it, and controls no territory, does it exist? It’s like….does the Confederacy exist? It doesn’t have a government, it doesn’t control any territory, so is it still any sort of legal entity? And the answer is: Probably not.

        But even if Krypton can have a government-in-exile…Superman is not that to start with, and it’s hard to see how he can *become* the government without going there and saying ‘As a citizen of Krypton, I vote myself dictator.’, which he can’t do.

      • James Pollock

        “Let’s put it this way- if I woke up tomorrow and found that everybody in Britain was missing or dead, and all on their relatives who stood to inherit their property abroad, does that make me legally the owner of everything British? Does that make me representative of the government of Britain?”

        Try again, this time… if every other human being is dead, has been miniaturized (Kandor) or has been exiled to the Phantom Zone, are you the ruler of the planet? Does everything on the planet now belong to you?

        Who, exactly, has a superior claim to yours?

        Now, there’s a case to be made that the law of inheritance is not the proper body of law to apply. Maybe Krypton is more like a shipwreck, and the remnants of Krypton belong to the person who salvages them. It’s not at all clear that the issue would even be solved by the rule of law… it might be a case of waiting to see whether Kal-El or Zod wins the fight, and recognizing the winner and the representative of Krypton.

        Kal-El has a good-faith belief that he is the only surviving Kryptonian when he arrives. So he calls an election, nominates himself, and wins the election in a landslide (This doesn’t change even when other Kryptonians start to show up. Kara isn’t old enough to vote yet, and even if she was would give the job to him; Zod’s a convicted felon and thus ineligible to vote.)

      • James Pollock

        “The problem, of course, is that Superman *can’t* get to Krypton, as it does not, in fact, exist. ”

        He doesn’t have to get to Krypton. He just needs the governments he interacts with to recognize him as the government of Krypton, which can happen regardless of what else is happening. Look at how the various American and Africa territories were claimed by Europeans. They certainly didn’t walk on every square meter of land they claimed for King and Country. What mattered was that the other European powers respected the claims. (or didn’t as was the case with Spanish and Portuguese claims.) Then along came President Monroe…

        There’s any number of dodges. First off, Krypton seems to coming to him, one little bit at a time. So he takes a bit of some form of Kryptonite doesn’t harm him too severely, pulverizes it and mixes it in with some ordinary rocks and dirt, and stands on it.

        Or he declares that the Fortress of Solitude is his embassy to Earth, and is considered sovereign soil by the people of Krypton.

        Or he can create some new land by building an island in the middle of the ocean, and claim it in the name of Krypton.

        Or he can just come right out and say that Krypton is a government of people, not land.

        Or he can apply for refugee status in the U.S. He can’t be a citizen of the U.S. and hold any title of nobility from a foreign government, but I’m pretty sure he can still be a lawful resident.

      • James Pollock

        And yes, thank you, I AM having fun with this. But enough wall o’ text for now.

        I’ll save the arguments Kal-El can make as, not the political leader of the survirors of Krypton, but as the religious leader. Sneak Peak: Are lumps of Kryptonite religious relics from an indiginous people?

  11. Here is a separate but related question for our guest author.

    What about importing the technology inherent in the ships that brought Kal-El and Kara Jor-El to the United States? The Kents concealed Clark’s spaceship, which they knew came from outside the United States… doesn’t this make them, at a minimum, accessories to smuggling? (In addition to being complicit in the importation of an invasive species.)

    And a separate and only tangentially-related question for our host:
    Does Kryptonian prior art invalidate a bunch of patents? I mean, sure not much of the Kryptonian art was ever published in America, but, for example, in Supergirl, the DEO has physical possession of her spacecraft and theoretically has information about the alien prison… presumably they have some artifacts, as well.

    • Not a lawyer, but doesn’t “prior art” have to be “available to the public”? It sounds like the DEO has mere private possession of partially disclosed trade secrets.

      Possible related law student exercise: What would be the status if Doctor Tom Morrow filed for a patent based on reverse-engineering of a private prototype lost by Professor Ivo, who had planned to rely on trade secret protection? (Consider both instances where the prototype is and where the prototype is not sentient and seeking legal recognition and representation as a party to the case.)

  12. I seem to recall a couple mentions in the DC Universe of the potential for Kryptonite-based fission bombs. This might change the 10CFR110 status.

    • In the Supergirl series, the currently-evolving storyline seems to involve using a “Kryptonite-dirty” bomb to defeat Kryptonians who have seized control of “National City”, which seems to be on the west coast.

  13. I pretty literally sat up this morning with this thought…

    My understanding is that the current Superman films follow on after Superman and Superman II, and ignore Superman III and IV. If this is not the case, then stop now, never mind.

    If Lex Luthor is out and about, he has a good lawyer… he or she somehow managed to convince the judge to make the sentences for all 20,000,000 counts of attempted murder run concurrently.

    And, a comics-but-not-legal-issue question… have they ever explained why various Kryptonian items (Superman’s costume, the ships that Kal-El and Kara Jor-El arrived on, Kandor) don’t affect Superman the way various flavors of Kryptonite* do?

    *I never followed Superman much, so I know that there are lots of varieties with lots of specialized effects, but I don’t actually know any of them specifically.

    • James, kryptonite exists because the massive internal chain reaction that blew up Krypton converted almost all the debris into that deadly radioactive form (primarily green, plus a little gold and white k; blue and red kryptonite are green k transformed some time later). A Kryptonian object that wasn’t caught in the blast, such as Superman’s rocket and his blankets, won’t have any radioactive effect.
      I agree with you about reboots, though that doesn’t drive me as nuts as retelling the origin. Anyone who doesn’t know how Superman, Batman and Spider-Man came to be is unlikely to be catching the film.

      • James Pollock

        But according to the new Supergirl show (my only meaningful exposure to the character) Kara’s spaceship WAS caught in the blast.

        (And, I know, the answer is “comic-book physics”, but you can only elements up to 26 (iron) from the intense energy levels of an exploding mainline star… elements higher than 26 require a supernova. So, what you’d get from an exploding planet… would be rubble consisting mostly of oxygen and silicon.)

        I have another only-sort-of-legal question for comics-knowledgeable… was Krypton an interstellar civilization? Because if they were, why aren’t there a lot more Kryptonians who were off-planet, and why didn’t they discover the awesomeness of living near a yellow star before Kal-El. If they weren’t, how come there are so many aliens (neither human nor Kryptonian) in the Kryptonian prison system?
        To make it a legal question… can any surviving Kryptonians apply for environmental refugee status, in the United States or, say, the EU? What if they claim to be the government-in-exile? Would the United States want to recognize a government of Kryptonians, and give them the task of suppressing Zod?

  14. “My understanding is that the current Superman films follow on after Superman and Superman II, and ignore Superman III and IV. If this is not the case, then stop now, never mind.”

    It is not, I’m afraid; that was the case for Superman Returns, but Man of Steel was a reboot and BvS follows up on Man of Steel.

    • fie on the “reboot”. James Bond went 40 years, and was recast like 7 times, without needing one. How come superheroes need a reboot every fourth movie?

      • Martin Phipps

        Iron Man hasn’t been rebooted after eight years. Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine for 16 years.

      • James Pollock

        Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine for 16 years, and has done so through 3, count ’em, 3 reboots of the X-Men.

        First, they re-invented his origin story in X-Men: Origins.

        Then, they rebooted the X-Men with X-Men: First Class

        Then, they rebooted AGAIN with X-Men: Days of Future Past

      • X-Men: Origins doesn’t really contradict the origin story presented in the first two movies.

        X-Men: First Class is not a reboot; it is a prequel.

        X-Men: Days of Future Past is a cosmic retcon- they changed the story via time-travel.

        A reboot is starting a new series with the same character(s). The X-Men movies are all set in the same universe, just with parallel timelines. There are lots of little retcons, plot holes / questions etc., but it is still the same series with a mostly consistent internal timeline.

  15. “was Krypton an interstellar civilization? Because if they were, why aren’t there a lot more Kryptonians who were off-planet, and why didn’t they discover the awesomeness of living near a yellow star before Kal-El.”

    Krypton pre-Crisis had just colonized its own moon (didn’t go well, the criminal Jax-Ur blew it up), no further. It did receive occasional space visitors. After Jor-El proposed leaving the planet, however, the Science Council decided this was some scheme to take over so they banned spaceflight research and arrested alien visitors.

    Post-Crisis Krypton was somewhat xenophobic and stuck to its homeworld. Movie/Supergirl Krypton? That’s a good question (Lois and Clark also had a large contingent of survivors).

    As far as Supergirl’s rocket turning to kryptonite, it looked like she was caught in the blast, and not in the chain reaction. Which yes, doesn’t make sense in our physics but the DCU obviously does work differently.

  16. For Mr. Pollack. While trying to make long running series’, either TV or films, fit into one coherent universe are doomed to failure, if one looks hard enough, it is my impression that the Daniel Craig Bond films pretty much are their own story universe, and not related to any prior films. IOW, a reboot in all practical terms.
    As to Krypton and and it’s space faring capabilities, as there have been several reboots throughout the comics history of Superman, and that no movie or TV versions connect to any others (Other than, as mentioned, that Superman Returns took Superman I and II to be it’s canon), trying to find the one True Continuity is also doomed to failure. In the MoS story universe, we seem to have a Krypton that had little such capability. But, as Kal-El knew pretty much nothing on that score prior to the arrival of Zod’s ship, and that it is now destroyed, we have no way to know more, at this point.

  17. “it is my impression that the Daniel Craig Bond films pretty much are their own story universe, and not related to any prior films. IOW, a reboot in all practical terms.”

    It is everyone’s impression that the Daniel Craig Bond films are a reboot, because they are a reboot. This is neither a secret nor a revelation. I said that “James Bond went 40 years, and was recast like 7 times, without needing one.” The first Bond film was Dr. No, released in 1962. Casino Royale, the first of the Bond reboot films, was released in 2008. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to identify all the recastings of the role in that interval.

    • I agree with you the reboot wasn’t needed. It’s not as if Bond has decades of tangled continuity to unravel—he’s a spy with a license to kill and a sex machine to all the chicks (sorry Shaft!), what more does anyone need to figure him out?

  18. Considering the many issues Lex had (building Doomsday, for starters) I’m surprised he went through the trouble of trying to manipulate that one senator into getting him an import license. He could have easily brought it in on his (Or a friend’s) private yacht and no one would have noticed.

    Would a senator’s letter even work? I know they have influence but can they order the ATF and say “this guy I know needs to bring in 40 kg of a dangerous substance. Don’t worry man he good. Hook me up.” ?

    • He DID bring it in in his private yacht and no-one noticed (‘cept Batman, but he’s Batman). The point of contacting the senator was more or less an excuse to see if she and the other guy she was with (representing the Department of Defence) would be interested in weaponising something that can kill Superman, and in turn to gain access to Zod’s ship which gave him the ability to create Doomsday in the first place. Doomsday was probably Plan B (or C, or D etc.); ideally the government would have co-operated further and they could make a kryptonite arsenal. Later, since Batman stole the kryptonite, he resorted to Doomsday in case Batman failed.

      And as to whether the Senator’s letter would work, the article concludes that the letter might not even have been necessary since kryptonite isn’t classified as dangerous yet. Again, most plausible explanation is that he was hoping she would be interested in teaming up, but he was ready if she wasn’t.

  19. I’m a bit late to this part, but it is established in MoS that Kryptonians had been involved in space exploration and colonization other planets. This is an important plot point, in fact, as the “scout ship” that is in MoS/BvS is what draws Zod to Earth. Also, the giant machine that is destroying Metropolis and its counterpart in the Indian Ocean are meant to terraform a planet for Kryptonian habitation.

    As for the comics, post-Crisis Krypton did have a space faring culture, but, for events I can’t recall at the moment, they ceased extra planetary operations and cut contact with their colonies. This is the origin of Mon-El, who is a Daxamite from the planet Daxam, a Kryptonian colony world.

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