Author Archives: Ryan Davidson

Ex Machina: NYC Politics and Police Unions

Ex Machina is the 50-issue series by Brian K. Vaughn and Tony Harris about Mitchell “The Great Machine” Hundred, a superhero who is elected to be the Mayor of the City of New York in the aftermath of September 11. In this post, we’re looking at two things: the stories’ portrayal of New York City’s municipal government, and the possible implications of superheroes on police union contracts. Continue reading

The Wolverine

The Wolverine is the latest X-Man movie from Fox, the sixth in the series overall. It’s set after the events of X-Men III: The Last Stand, and is in continuity with the earlier (admittedly dreadful) X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Unlike that one, this movie is actually okay. It focuses on Wolverine’s connections with Japan, introducing Mariko Yashida (first appearance, Uncanny X-Men # 118, 1979) and several other characters from the comics, including Yukio and Viper.

In this post we’re going to take a look at one of the legal issues, specifically the issue of inheritance, which is actually pretty key to the plot. But we’ll have to do so with a disclaimer: the movie is set in Japan, and neither of us know much if anything about Japanese law, either in general or particularly about estates and inheritance. So we’re forced to analyze it in the context of American law, and we’ll do so in comparison to prevailing opinions, not any particular state’s law.

There are major spoilers inside. Continue reading

Pacific Rim

If you take legendary anime franchise Neon Genesis Evangelion and strip out the pseudo-oedipal pop psychology, crushing angst, fan service, crypto-Judeo-Christian imagery, and enormously surrealistic endings, you can get a pretty good idea of what Pacific Rim is like: ten-story mecha beating up gigantic biological monsters. Good times.

For our purposes, there is a legal issue raised by the movie. We’re going to just sort of hand-wave the Jaeger project as a necessary plot device. But the concept of the “Life Wall,” a massive coastal wall combined with a multi-hundred kilometer safe zone around the Pacific coastline does raise an interesting question about eminent domain and Fifth Amendment takings. Continue reading

Batman: Court of Owls

Batman: The Court of Owls is the first few issues of Batman in the New 52. It concerns a shadowy conspiracy referenced in a child’s nursery rhyme apparently common knowledge in Gotham City. The story itself does have a few things to discuss, but this time we’re going to talk about shadowy conspiracies generally. How realistic is it, legally speaking, for a group of people trying to control Gotham City (or the world for that matter) to pull off something like this? Continue reading

Coverage Opinions

Today’s post is actually another bit of a plug, though it does involve superheroes. I recently did an interview with Randy Maniloff of counsel at White and Williams in Philadelphia, who also publishes Coverage Opinions, a newsletter about insurance coverage issues targeted at coverage counsel. In the interview, we discussed some of the coverage issues pertaining to bat guano, Spider-Man’s webs, and magical perils. The piece is in Volume 2, Issue 14.

The newsletter is actually a pretty informative publication for those who follow developments in coverage law, and but it’s seasoned with enough levity to make for enjoyable reading for the broader legal audience. Non-attorneys and non-insurance professionals will likely find it a bit technical, but if you’re looking at how insurance law really works, it might actually a fairly accessible jumping-off point for a more general audience.

In any case, if you were wondering how Peter Parker might get in even more trouble, angry property owners facing the denial of insurance claims is plausible. Give it a look!

World War Z

So the World War Z movie came out last weekend. It’s got Brad Pitt as the main character in the Max Brooks novel–the second part of the so-called “Brooksverse“–which is kind of odd, as the novel doesn’t have a main character. But whatever. It’s about the zombie apocalypse and the end of the world. No spoilers there, I’m sure.

We generally try to avoid discussing the legal implications of things that happen in a legal vacuum, and the zombie apocalypse is one of the most stereotypical of such vacuums. But on a more granular level, what we’ve got here is an account of the gradual descent into said vacuum. Society may ultimately collapse, or it may not, but it hasn’t done so yet, and it’s still operating on at least the vestiges of institutional inertia. That would necessarily include some version of the current legal system. So it does make sense for us to take a look at how that descent is portrayed. Specifically–again, no real spoilers here–the organization of a UN-led fleet in the North Atlantic. Continue reading

X-Men: Days of Future Past

No, not the upcoming movie, the 1981 X-Men comics storyline in issues # 141-42 (Kindle edition). It’s about an alternate future in which Sentinels are loosed by the federal government to round up mutants. It’s a major component of the X-Men mythos, and it’s been revisited several times in the comics and is apparently at least some inspiration for the next X-Men movie.

There are some spoilers within, so be warned, but honestly: the story is three decades old. It ought to be fair game at this point. Anyway, the story directly involves some legal wrangling, and we’ll take a look at that. Continue reading

Man of Steel

I just got out of Man of Steel, and there’s something of a doozy of a legal question pretty early on. There are some very mild spoilers inside, but no real plot points, so proceed at your discretion. Continue reading

Potter’s Field

Potter’s Field is the 2011 crime noir comic written by the estimable Mark Waid (previously interviewed here!) with art by Paul Azaceta. It stars an anonymous investigator, who uses the apt moniker “John Doe”, who has taken on a mission: identifying the bodies buried in New York City’s Hart Island. The island is the eastern-most part of the Bronx and has been used as, well, a potter’s field, i.e., a burial ground for the indigent and/or unidentified, since the mid-nineteenth century. As with all stories in the crime genre, it brings a number of interesting legal issues to the fore, and we’ll be looking at both the idea of the potter’s field and a rather unusual species of identity theft. Spoilers within. Continue reading

2013 Metropolitan Washington Mensa Regional Gathering

Last Saturday, May 18, I gave the keynote address at the 2013 Metropolitan Washington Mensa’s Regional Gathering. The address was entitled “This Is Not the Worst Thing You’ve Caught Me Doing: Iron Man, Comics, and the Law” and focused on the legal issues related to the Iron Man character, particularly as presented in the recent movies. Topics included weapons regulation, ITAR, the FAA and air traffic control and whether Stark might be liable for a DUI or related offense for using the Iron Man armor whilst drunk.

Pictures of the keynote inside! Continue reading