The law and … comic books?

March 21, 2011 | By | 5 Replies More

On my way home today, I heard on All Things Considered a piece about how Japan Disaster Strikes Home Among Anime Fans.One Philadelphia conventioneer this past weekend said,

“We’re not just worried about our anime being cut off,” he said firmly. “We’re actually concerned for the people there.”

The latter sentiment is obvious and welcome. But I can’t wrap my ahead around the anime part. I happen to be not just anime-averse, but moved to the point of actually passing judgment on fans and applying more than salty adjectives to the medium. But Japanimation aside, NPR followed that segment with one just as interesting.

Melissa Block spoke with blog authors (and attorneys) James Daily and Ryan Davidson about their blog Law and the Multiverse. The two turn their

attention to the hypothetical legal ramifications of comic book tropes, characters, and powers.

Sidebar: I only watch one sitcom on television – The Big Bang Theory – in which the nerdy characters talk occasionally about comic book character. I laugh because the writing and acting are quite funny, but never having developed any interest in comic books past the age of maybe 12, I can’t relate to Sheldon Cooper et al on that particular recurring thread.

Nor can I relate to the nerdy lawyers on NPR and their musings on how the law would affect the statute of limitations and time traveling super heroes.

Or can I?

I recall a discussion in high school (I actually only observed and didn’t participate …that time) in which friends were debating the merits of a phaser (Star Trek’s Starfleet issue, Type-2) over a Space 1999 stun gun (this would have been around 1977, pre-Star Wars and definitely before Battlestar Galactica ). The back-and-forth went on for a while before someone mentally slapped his forehead and blurted out, “Guys! We’re arguing about fictional weapons. They’re not real!”

Collage by Erich Vieth (using some of his own comic books)

I don’t recall having a what-if conversation about fictional characters or fictional items at any time since that incident. I think that sealed how silly the whole idea was to me. A cynic was born that is trying to come out again as I creep toward curmudgeon age. I’ll try to beat him back with a stick. Or set phasers on stun.

[To be fair to the attorneys, from the NPR article]:

But is there any practical side to this? Yes, says Daily. The blog lets them “educate people about the law.” And, adds Davidson, they can use “rich, detailed stories” when doing it.


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Category: Cartoons, Humor, Law, Whimsy

About the Author ()

Jim is a husband of more than 27 years, father of four home-schooled sons (26, 23, 16 and 14), engineer delighting in virtually all things technical, with more than a passing interest in history, religions, arts, most sciences (particularly physics) and skepticism.

Comments (5)

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  1. Jim Razinha says:

    (sotto voce) I must admit, while the comic books are not my thing, I can relate to quite a bit of The Big Bang Theory. Originally a physics major before Navy nuclear reactor operator before turning engineer and then more Navy.

    And still a Star Trek fan…without the conventions.

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:


    You would probably enjoy the documentary "How William Shatner Changed the World". It's an entertaining and informative look at how many of the futuristic gizmos the the writers, cast and crew of Star Trek just "made up" for the show inspired engineers and inventors to develop similar technology in real life. Two of the more obvious Star Trek inspired gizmos are cell phones and medical scanners (think MRI,CAT and Pet scans).

    I grew up reading comic books. At 5 years of age, I was given an Iron man comic by one of the neighbors. I became a life long fan of Marvel comics. The Marvel comics line up even included "Dare-devil, the man without fear" who was a lawyer by day, and a crime fighter by night (and he was blind).

    The Marvel comics superheroes were not all powerful, their super-villains were not pure evil, and their herioc and villainous characteristics were born out of internal psychological conflicts. They were fighting their own "demons" as much as they were fighting each other.

    By contrast, most other comic book superheroes had their powers as the result of being born on another planet, or by some mystical means. Notable exceptions being "The Phantom" and "Batman".

  3. Jim Razinha says:

    Niklaus, I have the book "I'm Working on That: A Trek From Science Fiction to Science Fact", but I haven't watched the docu.

    I use both the communicator and medical bay as the examples you cite when I give career day talks to middle schoolers on how engineering creates the things we saw as fiction when we were young. I also have a pic of Uhura with her "bluetooth".

    I think it was in "The World of Star Trek" that David Gerrold told the story of a retail strip mall developer that approached the production staff of Star Trek for the secret to the automatic doors of the Enterprise, only to learn that it was a stage hand pulling on a rope (leading to all those great, if grainy, bloopers).

    That curmudgeon I hinted at comes out particularly strong when I watch a movie adaptation of pretty much any Marvel comic – I am pretty harsh on virtually all of them. Hopefully "Thor" will redeem the trademark. Okay, in my eyes…my sons and many friends tell me they like the Spidermen and most of the Stan Lee creations (I'm in the minority in thinking The Dark Knight was not a good movie.)

  4. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I just relized that the IPad is a Star Trek inspired gizmo. Think of the thin, flat tablet like thing Yeoman Rand (The cute blond with a crush on the captain) delivered to Kirk on the bridge in many episodes.

    AS for the Batman movies, I really liked "Batman Begins" over all others. It was almost a wushu film. It always seemed to me that the DC superheroes (Batman excepted, but then again he really didn't have superpowers) were lacking in depth of character. Likewise, the DC supervillians were also a bit flat.

    The marvel lineup, had heroes and villians with serious psychological hangups in their normal lives, from Peter Parker's total nerdiness, to Matt Murdoch's (Daredevil) blindness and Dr Xavier's partial paralysis. In the marvel comics, the super hero is the alter ego, not the otherway around. I think it make for better drama.

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