The Law of Superheroes by James Daily and Ryan Davidson

Comic book fans will be well acquainted with the setup for this book. Imagine a discussion over the latest issue of Batman where the Joker is captured and remanded back into custody at Arkham Asylum because he’s legally insane, and therefore incapable of standing trial. Or perhaps there is an argument over gift taxes regarding the diamond that Superman shaped and gave to Lana Lang in Superman III. Exactly who’s liable for the mission that turned the Fantastic Four into superpowered heroes and the Hulk into a living engine of destruction? Perhaps we should talk about insurance and the swaths of disaster cut by the average superbattle? And just how far can the Mutant Registration Act or similar such laws extend? For non-fans, it sounds ridiculous, and there are even some fans who will claim as much and still get sucked into such discussion, but for the rest of us (and we all know who we are), this book is a veritable gold mine.

The authors of this book are lawyers and self-described comic book geeks who bring their legal minds to questions that I have heard since the moment I first encountered other fans… and admittedly some of them were asked by me. Geeks love trivia, and in the comics world, the more pedantic the trivia, the better it gets. This book is 100% legal pedantry, wherein many, many, MANY examples of comic book conduct crosses into the real world. Dare I say it, this might be the most awesome way to learn about the U.S. legal system. Stuff like this is what makes geeks seem smart when they unleash their newfound knowledge upon their unsuspecting audiences. After all, knowledge is power, and with great power comes great responsibility (yes, I had to say it) to crush the ego of that one unrelenting know-it-all that every fan knows. Incidentally, if you don’t instantly know who that is in your group… it’s probably you.

I won’t say that this book is all-encompassing, but I think anyone would be hard-pressed to figure out what might have been left out. Go for it, my fellow geeks, and get back to me on this one. I’ll also say that there are a couple of points where I’m wondering if the authors actually read the comic they reference because, well, I’m a geek, and I spot these things where the story in question is much beloved. But for the most part, they do a great job, and for those interested in further reading, the actual case reference numbers are there for you to look up.

The narrator for the audio version does a good job as well, but again, I’m a geek and being pedantic is the name of the game with this book, so I’m going to just call this outright. Rā’s al Ghūl is not pronounced as it is in the Dark Knight movies. Seriously, it’s written with punctuation marks to help you out in nearly every comic book you can find for 30 years before Nolan ever got there. Reference Batman: The Animated Series to get it right if you need to hear it. Also, other pronunciations such as J’Onn J’Onnz and Xavier are called into question. If you can let these slide without nerd rage (good luck with that), then this narrator will work well for you.

One last thing I’ll point out, because I can. Nearly everyone I talk to in the past couple of decades seems to think that ultra-realism is better than merely having fun when it comes to superhero stories. After this book, you might be rethinking your stance on that. Pretty much every character you can name would be required to go back to the drawing board or spend life behind bars. Yes, even Superman. Maybe not Wonder Woman or Aquaman, assuming they have diplomatic immunity, but probably international wars would be inevitable. Eh, you get the idea. Get this book, and prepare to have your mind blown.

4 stars

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