FAQ

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about the blog.

Q: How can I contact you if I have a question, comment, or suggestion?

A: I welcome your thoughts! You can email me (James Daily) at
james@lawandthemultiverse.com.  If you have a question about one of Ryan Davidson’s posts, he can be reached at ryan@lawandthemultiverse.com.

Q: Are you looking for guest posts?

A: I occasionally publish articles by guest authors.  If you are a legal professional (e.g. an attorney, judge, or law professor) or a comic book professional (e.g. an author, editor, or illustrator) and  you have an idea for a post that would be a good fit for the blog, feel free to contact us.

Q: Can you help me with a short story, novel, or game I’m writing?

A: If you are creating a work of fiction and have specific legal questions or issues, I’m generally happy to take a look.  I can’t promise that I can help or that I can answer every question you might have, though.

Q: Can you review my short story, novel, or game?

A: I don’t really review books (or comics, for that matter).  I am not a critic, and I leave writing reviews to the experts.  However, if there are scenes or themes in your work that are legally interesting, then I can take a look at  them.  If your work is longer than a typical comic book, please point me to the particular scenes of interest rather than sending me an entire manuscript to review for legal issues (it happens more often than you’d think!).

Q: Can I interview you for my blog, podcast, radio show, newspaper, magazine, etc?  Are you available to speak at my comic book store, comic book convention, law conference, or other event?

A: I welcome interview requests, and I’m happy to give talks, do book signings, and participate in panel discussions at events of all kinds.

Q: Why do you bother applying real law to comics? Surely the laws in those fictional universes are different, so why not imagine what those laws might be?

A: My goal is not to make up the law. I want to apply real law to imagined situations, which is something lawyers, law professors, and law students do all the time, just with less interesting situations and characters. The question is “What would existing law say about this situation?” and very occasionally “How would existing law need to be changed to accommodate these facts?” not “What would a fictional legal system look like given these facts?” So while I may ask what, for example, the state actor doctrine must be like in Batman’s world, I’m not primarily interested in drafting entirely new laws or creating a fictional legal system. I only resort to tweaking existing law when there’s an obvious, impassable contradiction between the real law and the comic book facts.

I take this approach because it lets me teach people about the law and the way it works, and it gives me a chance to learn a bit about unfamiliar areas of the law. Furthermore, if I made up the law and the facts then the analysis would be boring (“Of course what Superman is doing is legal. This law I just invented makes it so.”). And I don’t think many readers would want to read pages and pages of made up statutes and cases; I certainly don’t.

Finally, in the fictional settings I usually write about, the authors seem to imply that the legal system is the same as it is in the real world unless they explicitly say otherwise.  So unless there’s a fictional court case, law, or constitutional amendment to say differently, I feel comfortable analyzing the facts using real-world law.

Q: Why not talk about Middle Earth, Star Wars, Star Trek, or any number of other settings?

A: Comic books and related media are almost always set in what is supposed to be a world very much like this one, with the assumption being that unless something is explicitly changed in the story, it is basically like it exists in the real world. Settings like Grimm, Once Upon a Time, and True Blood are other good examples. But Star Trek and Star Wars? No. The former, like many science fiction settings, is supposed to be our world at some point in the future, but as the legal system is not recognizably our own, it falls beyond the scope of this project. It is not at all apparent that any of the laws currently in force are still applicable in any of the Star Trek series. The latter is simply not set in our world at all, so speculation about how our world’s law would apply to, say, Coruscant, Midkemia, or Middle Earth, does not really admit the same level of analysis. Which is really what Law and the Multiverse is about: legal analysis, not legal fanfic.

Q: So why comic books in particular?

A: There are two reasons. First, they’re fun! But second, the main comic book multiverses—DC and Marvel—have been around for almost a century at this point and have been worked on by hundreds of people creating thousands of stories. This has resulted in settings remarkable both for their depth and their breadth, making them natural candidates for a treatment like this. They are also cultural touchstones which permit a wide variety of readers to immediately engage.  Many other works are less recognizable or don’t offer enough source material to work with, but I may occasionally branch out and discuss other fictional settings.

21 Responses to FAQ

  1. I Love your website, Facsinating. I have always pondered this sort of stuff while reading my issues of Marvel and DC.
    I do have a suggestion for a subject of discussion, and that would be time.

    1. What are the differences between the laws in the 1930’s when Superman and Batman first came on the scene to the laws they are have to contend with now.

    2. Let’s say a supervillian commits a crime in one time period, then escapes to a different time period where that law doesn’t exist. Could a superhero get a warrant to extradite the villian from one time period to another in order to face his crime?

    Again, Congradulations on this web-site I wish you all the best.

  2. So, here’s a question I bet you get asked pretty frequently: when are you guys going to turn this concept into a podcast? You probably wouldn’t want to just recite your written stories, but you could just do some research and preparation and just discuss each issue, covering the same ground. You could even interview experts in each field you discuss eg an aviation law professor or something. I’m sure you get the picture! Keep up the good work,

    Jason

  3. Have you ever thought about critiquing the episode from ST:TNG where Data fighting for his legal rights? I’d love to hear what you think of it.

  4. Enough about Star Trek – what’s your call on doing a podcast?

    • We’ve thought about a podcast, and we’ve really enjoyed our appearances on other people’s podcasts and radio shows, but we don’t think our day jobs give us enough free time to produce a high-quality podcast on top of the blog. It’s something we’ll continue to consider, though.

  5. I have to apologize, again, for bringing in a straight fiction — short story — case into the comic book discussions. Should have read the FAQ first.
    THAT SAID, Nick Velvet would be a great comic.

    Does this site claim venue of first jurisdiction over Doc Savage, The Shadow, the Lone Ranger, Flash Gordon, Space Ghost and other pulp/radio/comic STRIP/movie serial/Saturday Morning TV cartoon heroes who have also happened to appear in comic BOOKS?

    There was a great comic (publisher, Comico) of Jonny Quest in which a social worker decided to investigate whether Dr Quest (and Race Bannon) were providing an adequate family environment for Jonny (not to mention following up on the international adoption of Hadji.) The legal questions immediately got set aside as a super-villain attacked and the unlucky social worker found herself mistaken for another “hero”. .. but the legal issues and CPS self-instigating investigations into unconventional family environments, generally, deserve a little more attention. How DOES the government of India feel about placing one of their orphans in a household of two — unmarried!) adult men?

    Isn’t Tonto, technically, a renegade? Off the reservation, wandering all over the west never checking in with either BIA or tribal authorities? Would a Federal Marshall (Matt Dillon, say) have jurisdiction to detain him and determine his status?

    How does any criminal captured by The Shadow get convicted? Doesn’t the defense raise the argument that all testimony by all prosecution witnesses is tainted — their minds having, at least in theory, been “clouded”? They’ve seen things that aren’t there and they didn’t see things that were there and now we rely on these people as eye-witnesses? O RLY?

    • We don’t limit ourselves to comics. Basically as long as it’s interesting fiction set in a world with a legal system essentially identical to our own, we’re happy to talk about it. We like comics because they tend to be fleshed out enough that we can get into the details. A lot of other media leave out too many important facts, so it can be difficult to come to a solid legal conclusion.

      Also, comics are fun and just about everybody is familiar with the main characters, at least in a general way. With other media we have to balance the interesting legal issues against the accessibility of the setting to a wide audience.

      Regarding your specific suggestions: these are all great sources and issues, and we can go straight to the original source material if we need to.

  6. This blog is fantastic! It’s so educational and enjoyable. I’m hoping to one day write superhero comics, so maybe it will come in handy. :) Also, shout-out to Ryan Davidson from a fellow Hoosier!

    My question is about superhero doctors using their powers to perform medicine. Example: Doctor Stephen Strange is certain that common surgery would not save a dying patient and instead utilizes the mystic arts at a crucial moment that doesn’t allow him to get consent for the procedure. The patient dies anyway; the same outcome as would have been reached without superpowers. Could Doctor Strange be sued for malpractice? As the “Sorcerer Supreme” it seems plausible that he’s as well-trained in arcane healing as he is in normal medicine.

  7. Nice work, guys. I came across this from the metafilter post regarding the NPR interview, congratulations.

    I sent a link to the blog on to my kid, who, along with his partners, are now embarking on making the next Superman movie. I figured it might be a good reference for them.

    Bob

  8. Thank you for this. If only you’d managed to write and implement an entire law-school curriculum while I was a law student. Would have been SO much more interesting and, therefore, more effective. The law against perpetuities and the invincible superhero? Awesome.

  9. how about sexual harrassment by catwoman…ok, maybe its just the outfit but couldn’t one suggest confounding her opponents simply by her provocative dress?

  10. Alien visitors are a common storyline. Suppose a peaceful alien visitor wants to make contact with us and obtain the equivalent of a tourist visa. It doesn’t just want to infiltrate us, but wants to be recognized as the visitor it is. What is the best way for it to make contact (assuming it’s nearby). What are the legalities it will face? Are they any countries that would be better to deal with, or should it try to deal with the UN?

  11. If we have suggestions about possible post topics, how do we send them to you?

  12. Simon Wentworth

    I’m into this superhero RPG called Mutants and Masterminds, and when they did their Freedom City setting book, they talked about the law and how it would apply to supers. These interpretations would be considered common sense in the setting:

    Offensive powers are normally considered weapons, and using such a power against someone is seen as aggravated assault unless the wielder is acting either in self-defence or to prevent a crime from being committed.

    Supers are not required to follow criminal procedures unless they are members of a law-enforcement agency. Among other things, this means superheroes don’t need to read someone their rights when making a “citizen’s arrest.”

    Supers can be charged with “excessive force” if they use more than the minimum force required to disable or restrain opponents (The absolute worst that one can do without breaking the law for certain is to knock someone unconscious). This is most often invoked in the case of vigilantes who kill or maim their opponents.

    Costumed identities are recognised as legal entities, allowing costumed superhumans to engage in commerce, testify in court, or be sued without revealing their alternate identity.

    Superhumans are public figures, subject to the same sort of media coverage as other public figures.

    The use of Super-Senses and powers like Telepathy can be considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against “unreasonable searches.” No one can be forced to submit to a telepathic scan, and evidence acquired solely through extrasensory means is completely inadmissible in court.

    And I have two ideas on the subject:

    It is legal to use railway lines and roads (Even toll roads) to navigate when flying (The precedent was when pilots flying early planes did the same thing).

    It is considered trespassing to land anywhere you cannot legally access on foot without good cause or to fly in restricted airspace (like airports) without permission from the controlling authority.

  13. Beatriz Bugallo

    Congratulations, excellent book, excellent initiative in general!
    Best regards, from an uruguayan lwayer, university professor of IP!

  14. Pingback: Superlaw! » Skepticality

  15. I was interested in knowing what type of organization the Avengers would be legally? I’m talking about the Avengers from the comics, not the film. Are they a private defense organization? A militia? Some other kind of organization? My guess is that the Avengers would be some kind of militia since a militia is a “fighting force that is composed of non-professional fighters… that can be called upon to enter a combat situation, as opposed to a professional force…” In the comics, the Avengers have combated villains that professional military forces would have to face if the Avengers didn’t exist. Also, I don’t know if the Avengers Charter would have anything to do with what kind of legal organization they are. So could help tell me what kind of organization the Avengers are? And how they would legally perform the things they do?

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