It was the book ‘Superman And Philosophy’ last month that got me pondering on this particular problem of just how legal and lawful are super-heroes? I mean that beyond being vigilantes and working outside of the law, although that will be examined as well.
So perhaps it would be best to start with the Man of Steel himself. To the public, Superman is seen as a super-hero but on an official level he is not only an illegal alien, but one from another world with no legal rights. Should we be grateful that he did not bring any invulnerable viruses with him nor is there any knowledge that he has had any inoculations against our diseases but that’s only a minor issue compared to the rest he is guilty of.
Superman doesn’t have any legal status on this planet. In fact, it would be possible to go further. He doesn’t have a home, a job or pay taxes and at best, one set of clothes. In effect, Superman fits the profile of a vagrant. Worse, he’s also an extremely powerful vagrant whose only saving grace is obeying some laws and apprehending those who don’t than rather than declaring himself a despot and ruling the world. Yet, he also still breaks other laws at the same time himself.
One could argue that Superman never buys anything so does not have to pay taxes or would come up with a clean slate if he was ever tax audited. As he also does much of his ‘crime-fighting’ from the United States of America, he can hardly claim citizenship for any other country. In that respect, they, too, are pleased to claim he belongs to them, despite his obvious law-breaking. Oddly, when he has claimed his ‘Fortress of Solitude’, it is indicated that it is in the Antarctic on neutral territory, although few have actually seen it and since when does anyone call a home a ‘fortress’?
In the matter of preserving his ‘private’ life, he could hardly admit to having a home so when he isn’t fighting super-villains, he’s just hanging or floating around. Whether he masquerades as a human has never been officially proven. As he also flies at various heights and potentially could be seen as a danger to conventional aircraft. Superman might claim that he is fast enough to avoid any collision but could the same be said of the pilots? After all, these aircraft are flown by humans not meta-humans, although there is a rumour that Wonder Woman flies an invisible aeroplane which makes even more hazardous to air traffic because it can’t be seen. He also has a variety of intrusive sensory abilities like the so-called x-ray and telescopic vision which would infringe the lives of ordinary people by simply looking around. His heat vision would certainly cause untold damage to the unwary.
Added to this is the physical damage to the streets of Metropolis or any other city he is visiting when he fights super-villains. Although not all damage is entirely his fault, one would have to ask who do people claim damages from for their repairs? Would insurance companies familiar with Superman or any other vigilante activities in Metropolis have a clause in their contracts to get out of paying damages when he is stopping super or normal criminals, let alone the results of conventional disasters like earthquakes and traffic accidents? Considering how often this happens, this is understandable. Insurance companies claim themselves that they do not have deep pockets to pay everyone off and certainly city premises premiums must surely be astronomical. So what about the damage? Does the city council or federal agencies cover damages, believing things would be worse without Superman’s intervention? If their budget can be extended that much, what public amenities have to be stemmed to pay for the damage? It also says little for Metropolis police force or the judicial system who cannot keep those apprehended ‘super-villains’ imprisoned for their complete sentences.
Even worse, without so much as a court appearance, some of these ‘super-villains’ have also been taken away and imprisoned by Superman himself. Some, as reported, are in a limbo place called the Phantom Zone, having no means of appeal their time served or means to eat and drink or wardens to see to their well-being. Granted many of these people are certainly guilty of many crimes but under American law, they are still entitled to their day in court. Appropriate punishment can be determined afterwards.
It has been noted that Superman has instated some city repairs himself. Under American law, he does not have the union card or training to re-enforce this activity and is in fact taking work away from American citizens who would otherwise be doing such activity.
The same would apply to all known super-powered aliens on any Earth based on our reality with the added super plus. As Superman is the most well-known alien, he therefore makes the most credible example. With the likes of the Martian Manhunter, who has similar abilities to Superman, and a known shape-shifter and therefore can effectively disguise his off-world appearance and intrude on people’s lives without them knowing it, we also have a covert alien presence on Earth as well.
If these illegal aliens weren’t bad enough, what about the humans who pose as super-hero vigilantes. Let’s apply what has been said to the so-called Dark Knight, the Batman and known vigilante with the occasional junior side-kick called Robin of Gotham City. An examination of his various cars and flying vehicles strongly suggests he is wealthy under his mask. That being the case, the charge of vagrancy wouldn’t apply as he obviously must have some downtime in his real identity. Unless he keeps his vast fortune in off-shore banking to evade taxes, which would seem unlikely if he believes in the American legal system, he would in fact be paying taxes. Whether he makes any claims for the materials or gadgets he buys isn’t known but isn’t likely as it would immediately identify him. One only has to observe how the authorities can trace people who buy nitrates and other chemicals associated with explosives to realise that the same would also apply to the specialised equipment that he uses. Presumably, also, his so-called Batcave’s utilities of water and electricity are also paid through his real identity’s accounts if not taken illegally, although there is no proof of this.
The Batman does not pay for damages he helps cause to Gotham City but does hand over his so-called rogues’ gallery to the police when he captures them. As many of these are regarded as insane, it has to be considered excessive the amount of violence used to apprehend them to be out of proportion to their deeds. Considering how the likes of the Joker has also committed many murders whenever he has escaped from Arkham Asylum, one would have to consider why more isn’t done to ensure he does not escape and at least periodically sedate him.
The Batman frequently illegally crosses people’s rooftops and must surely do some damage to same when he uses its grapple/harpoon attachment when swinging across the gap between buildings. His apprehension of the people he encounters is often violent, although one could describe it as like for like. However, once captured, he certainly does not read them their Miranda rights although, not being an authorised police officer, perhaps he is not entitled to as posing as a police officer is also a criminal offence. Even so, the Batman, like any unmasked citizen, is entitled to make a citizen’s arrest but also does not declare this at the end of his actions. His pursuit of certain individuals could also be classified as being a stalker, especially against people who have no wanted record or those who are regarded as insane before they have committed a crime. It should also be pointed out that this Batman also does not have a bounty hunting licence or claimed any award for apprehending wanted felons. His motives are therefore unclear. His obsessive use of violence certainly suggest a man of sadistical tendencies.
One should also consider the use of the various vehicles the Batman uses around Gotham City. All unlicensed! The various so-called Batmobiles constantly exceed the speed limit and no doubt jump the traffic lights and ignore other traffic signs. It is a miracle that he hasn’t run any pedestrian over nor ever had a speeding or parking fine. The various so-called Batplanes and Batcopters are also flown at speed and below prescribed heights in the Gotham area without authorisation from the Federal Aviation Administration.
It is also rumoured that this Batman has some sort of relationship or contact with the Commissioner of Police, James Gordon, yet he has never queried him on his own law violations let alone attempted to arrest him for same. This does raise concern about Gordon’s own standards in upholding the law. It is also rumoured that the Gotham City police force is corrupted and Gordon chooses to rely on a masked unauthorised vigilante rather than totally clean up the organisation that he manages.
Added to this is this Batman’s need to bring a teen-ager into his way of life. Considering most of this is late at night into the early hours, one must consider the effects on this boy’s education as well as endangerment as this dark knight is perpetually taking a minor into dangerous situations. It is also rumoured that at least two of these ‘side-kicks’ have been killed in these activities. At no time has this Batman been brought to account on this dangerous activity or even told to stop this endangerment. Indeed, he seems to thrive on the activity. Certainly, this should be a case for child welfare and an injunction placed should he do such things again and arrested.
Using the Batman as a template for human ‘super-heroes’ and multiplied across the various American cities, there is a vast number of laws continually being broken by all these ‘super-heroes’. Some of them also use guns and a few use archery equipment in the presence of civilians and is a miracle none of these have been killed yet. Evidence of some murders has come to light but no action has been taken against these so-called super-heroes.
There are several of them who claim to belong to an intergalactic police organisation called the Green Lantern Corps, although they have no official jurisdiction or recognition on Earth. The same also applies to the seemingly alien two Thangarian Hawkman/woman police officers also operating on Earth. There is also the questionable royalty status and diplomatic infringement by the so-called Aquaman, King of Atlantis, and Wonder Woman, a Princess from Amazonia, who should be called persons non gratis and expelled from the country for similar reasons as neither has diplomatic status in the USA while carrying out their violent activities.
Even worse, many of these ‘super-heroes’ team up to collectively pursue lynch mob-like and battle dangerous people as a ‘Justice League’, with a status either of belonging to America, where most are resident, or International, suggesting they can freely work in any country. It should be pointed out that some countries have rejected their entry into their territory and this has been frequently ignored. The possession of a space station above the Earth also keeps their organisation literally above the law of any country.
Considering at least one of these individual super-heroes alone is enough to usually apprehend one of these super-villains, usually in the act of a crime, although not always, there is sufficient evidence of victimisation and mob violence that would mean whatever crime was being committed would be thrown out of court allowing them to be free again. In effect, super-heroes are not even effectively stopping anyone for long and even the cheapest lawyer could get these super-villains off on a technicality every time.
Just in case this also turns into the rights of the so-called ‘super-villains’, it should also be noted that their activities is no less unacceptable. Again, it also points out the inefficiency of the police forces and national intelligence agencies to apprehend and securely imprison such people that led to the rise of the ‘super-heroes’ in the first place. Some of these people have alleged a desire for world rule. Surely if that was to happen, they would be fighting amongst themselves and likely to wipe each other out without anyone else intervening before this happened and led by one person. If anything, the actions of these super-heroes must surely be prolonging such actions than stopping them. It is of particular note that some agencies have taken it upon themselves to recruit some of these so-called ‘super-villains’ to apprehend other ‘super-villains’. If such activity is allowed, why haven’t they recruited the so-called ‘super-heroes’, at least they do have some sense of morals in their violent activities.
There are also questions relating to alien invasion of the Earth when some diplomatic means could be achieved to have representation here and on their home planets. We would certainly benefit from such arrangements by uniting with worlds who have similar beliefs in freedom to our own. If, as the super-heroes point out that these species want to rule our world, then the same as with human super-villains who have similar desires, they can fight amongst themselves off our world and wipe each other out before landing here.
Over the years, the number of super-hero vigilantes being killed has somewhat escalated and I suspect its only luck that has kept the others alive. Equally puzzling is how some of those murdered are also resurrected as if they had never died at all. Even so, it is hardly an ideal occupation for any of these ‘super-heroes’ to take on as a part-time pursuit, especially without being sufficiently protected. With the so-called ‘super-villains’ having no restriction against killing, the one area where most ‘super-heroes’ would prefer not to do, their lives are always going to be at risk. We should be grateful that none of them have been hospitalised although it would be interesting to see who pays their medical bills.
If anything, it’s rather surprising that the police forces in the various cities where there super-heroes patrol haven’t elected to employ if they don’t arrest them. It would provide them with a regular income and taxes. The fear of identity compromise would also be removed. After all, how many times have any felon sought out the families of active police officers and killed them? Surely the same would apply to super-cops as well?
It’s no wonder these ‘super-heroes’ hide behind masks. They might be good at apprehending dangerous so-called ‘super-villains’ but they themselves are law-breakers and they really should be brought to account for their actions. To do otherwise is to be hypercritical of their law violations they regularly and frequently violate. As such, both heroes and villains are no better than each other and should be outlawed and apprehended at the earliest opportunity.
© GF Willmetts 2013
except the use of Superman, Batman and other © DC characters
It should be pointed out similar violations exist in
the Marvel Universe and other realities where super-heroes exist.
My thanks for a moment of clarity from Jim Alexander
even if I don’t think the people of Metropolis think
Superman has a secret identity.