Laws Unto Themselves?

I first ran into Daily and Davidson (they even sound like a law firm) when I was doing research for my first novel, Wearing the Cape. Their website, Law and the Multiverse, acquainted me with the facts about state actors and why superheroes who worked closely with law-enforcement could easily mess up a case when it came to trial. After reading their posts on state actors, secret identities, and superhero insurance, I decided the traditional freelance vigilante model just wasn’t going to work in my story (I was striving for realism, an interesting goal for a piece of superhero fiction).

So naturally, when I saw that The Law of Superheroes was finally available, I snatched it up, and I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Two groups of readers will read it cover-to-cover, highlight it, dog-ear it, pass it around, and have to get a second copy when their first wears out: first, and obviously, writers chronicling the adventures of superheroes (in comic-books or prose–a growing fiction-genre), and second, and more widely, anyone who referees a gaming group playing one of the many excellent superhero role-playing-games (Champions, Mutants & Masterminds, etc), The Law of Superheroes is an invaluable resource.

Why? Because in any work of fiction–especially science-fiction and fantasy–realism matters. Verisimilitude allows the reader or player to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the experience, and, oddly enough, while we will agree to stipulate superheroes as “real”, we will object to the law–and our law-enforcement agencies–acting in a fantastical manner.

What do I mean? The obvious example from Wearing the Cape is the chapter-heading paragraph referencing a controversial Supreme Court decision allowing masked superheroes to testify in court–in fact, this was one legal issue I lifted directly from Law and the Multiverse. Other fantasy genres can get away with ignoring or skating over issues like the ones Daily and Davidson cover because they are either set elsewhere or their supernatural elements are mostly underground; superhero fiction on the other hand, takes place mostly in the here and now, and superheroes are open and out there and have an intimate relationship with law and order.

Which means writers need to get it right.

And if you’re one of those gamers I mentioned? It’s been a long time since I last sat down with pencil, paper, rulebook, and dice, but my last gaming days were superhero days (I both refereed and played an early incarnation of Blackstone), and I found out quickly that nothing kept the heroes in line like humorless police detectives (and judges) and an intrusive media. I wish I had had this book then. It would have lent me some much-needed authority–and my players would have loved it.

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