'Law and the Multiverse:' Alumnus Creates Blog Based on Superheroes' Legal Quandaries
- Jen Vaughn
St. Louis attorney and law school alumnus James Daily, MS '07, JD '08, has transformed his musing about the legal dilemmas of superheroes into a blog, a co-authored book, and a TV and film deal. Drawing from the plot lines of popular comic books, Daily’s blog covers everything from superheroes’ immigration issues to the rights of mutants to intellectual property law implications for their gadgets to property damage issues created in the wake of their hot pursuit of villains.
When asked about the blog’s popularity, Daily says that unlike the entertaining and action-packed format of comic books, many legal educational materials can be “dense and boring, especially for non-lawyers.”
“Comic books give us a rich, varied set of characters and compelling stories that we can turn into engaging legal hypotheticals,” he adds. “People want to understand the law, and we try to make it accessible and interesting for them. One of the great things about the blog has been the discussions and questions we get from our readers, including attorneys, law students, and law professors.”
Several months ago, Daily was having dinner with his wife, Jennifer Beasley, BA '07, and some friends, also Washington University alumni, when he began to joke about the myriad legal issues involved in comic book scenarios. The group—Daily, Beasley, Maia Elkana, BA '07, MSW '09, and Paul Bender, BA '07, MA '08—agreed that it would be a great topic for a blog.
Soon thereafter, Daily launched Law and the Multiverse. The site is now averaging 10,000 to 15,000 visitors per week and includes some humorous, yet fairly in-depth discussions of legal issues as applied to comic book scenarios. The first person to comment on the blog was Ryan Davidson, an attorney in Fort Wayne, Indiana, who now co-authors the blog. Daily’s and collaborator Davidson’s blog also quickly attracted the attention of Slashdot, Boing Boing, The New York Times, ABA Journal, and NPR’s All Things Considered, as well as St. Louis Magazine.
From the blog, Daily and Davidson decided to co-author a book, which Gotham Books, a subsidiary of Penguin Group, will be releasing in 2012. The two also recently signed a television and film rights deal with Sony.
Daily explains that Law and the Multiverse serves as an online archive for the hypothetical legal ramifications of comic book tropes, characters, and powers. Blog entries ponder the legal plights of Batman, The Thing, The Incredible Hulk, Captain Marvel, and Galactus, to name a few. Using legal doctrine, Daily and Davidson have tackled such issues as the immigration status of Krypton-born Clark Kent; whether or not mutants are a protected class; who should pay when a superhero damages property while fighting a villain; jurisdictional issues for leash laws related to animal sidekicks; workers compensation for injuries; and whether or not people are responsible for the violent actions of their alter egos.
Daily says the blog has been successful because the “compelling stories” of the comics put the legal issues into an imaginative context.
At the same time, he notes, the fictitious places are grounded in reality—that is, worlds such as Gotham City and Metropolis are “more or less the U.S. as we know it,” rather than fantastic places such as the Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth or the universe in Star Trek. On the other hand, he observes, such magical or futuristic scenarios have their own fictional laws. “The really interesting stuff,” he says, “comes from applying real law to the fictional facts found in comic books.”