When it comes to superhero battles, things often get messy. These titans of power fight to prevent evil from winning the day and destruction to property is likely to be the result. Sometimes worse things can happen. Innocent bystanders can get caught up in the middle of a battle when it erupts at a moment's notice.
If a hero causes destruction or someone is killed as a result of a battle against supervillains, should they be held responsible? Is it their fault when bad things happen due to the decision they made in becoming a superhero?
== TEASER ==
It was the Trial of Captain America where this question came up. This was also the issue that basically sparked the Super Human Registration Act in the Marvel Universe. I did bring up the subject of heroes being responsible for the damage but now I'm talking about legal responsibility. If you're driving and smash into someone's car, you have to pay or you face criminal charges. What happens if a hero smashes a villain into a car? Should they still be held responsible or is it considered an Act of God? (Maybe if Thor is involved in the fight?)
While Bucky Barnes is facing serious charges for his actions while brainwashed as the Winter Soldier (and he's about to face a lot more in the months to come), there is another past incident that immediately comes to mind: the death of Captain George Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #90.
Spider-Man and Doc Ock were fighting on a rooftop. A rooftop in New York City...probably not the best place to fight a nemesis but Spider-Man didn't really have a choice. During the fight, he shoots Ock's tentacles with webbing that had a chemical that jammed the brain impulses to his arms. As the mechanical arms were flailing around, one knocked into a brick chimney, sending rubble to the streets below. Captain Stacy rushed to push a kid that was just standing in the middle or the street. This resulted in his death. Does that make Spider-Man responsible? It may have been Doc Ock's arms that hit the bricks but it was Spider-Man that caused him to lose control of them.
We could try to relate it to police officers. If they're involved in a shoot out, innocent bystanders could get hit by stray bullets. But with police officers, it's their jobs. Superheroes are basically setting themselves above the law with their vigilante acts. Obviously police officers are no match against even someone like Doc Ock. If we didn't have heroes risking their lives on their own, many more lives would be in danger. We could go around in circles trying to figure out what the best solution is.
Going back to the original question, should heroes be forced to follow civilian laws? I'm going to say no. They are not regular civilians and their acts prove how heroic they are. They do a lot of good. As long as they're not out killing the bad guys or going to extreme measures and just being careless. This isn't a way to give them the freedom to do whatever they want or to break all laws. They should be held to different standards. The only problem is how to determine which heroes are deserving to be set above the law without bringing back the Super Human Registration Act.
Heroes are by nature outside our laws, when we accept a hero in a community(Like Gotham) we're say that our state(government) can't protect us sufficiently and we need an authority we grant the right to violence(which we grant to the military and police to protect us) against the threats the state can't handle.
Are Superheroes above the damage they cause? I think the question must become are they being negligent in their attempt to protect people? Does Superman need to slam a Buick into Lex Luthor to stop him or would a fist work just as well? Heat Ray vision? If there's a viable alternative heroes would have to use it or they would be just chaotic tyrants, which is the premise of Kingdom Come no?
I would imagine that heroes that have been effectively "deputized" (such as the Avengers) would no doubt have some of the exemptions extended to other branches of law enforcement, emergency management, military, etc, with the same understanding that they will make every reasonable effort to minimize collateral damage. It would be a another story for "freelance" (read: vigilante) heroes.
Another thing to consider would be the necessity for laws governing the behaviors and responsibilities of super-humans. For example, if I damage my neighbor's car through my own negligence, I am responsible for the damage. However, the laws governing this matter were written with the understanding that I can't accidentally knock my neighbor's car across town by not paying attention to where I'm swinging my arms.
It's not the first time a superhero is involved in something like this - there was the daredevil's trial in the late 90s - and the srguments are the same every time, which doesn't make them less correct.
Superheroes might not violate the "spirit of the law" but, in certain states, they ight still going against it. 99% of the time superheroes operate what the law defines as a "Citizen's Arrest", which is legal in many anglo-saxon countries, but not everywhere. At the same time they use alternate identities, which are illegal in certain states.
Superheroes might not be flagrantly against the law, but surely they are running on a dangerous line.
As for the collateral damage issue... well this is an entire different can of worms. Sometimes property damage seem unavoidable, others it's just gratuitos. On one hand we're talking about people who can benchpress a tank, run fast enough to cause a sonic boom or survive a nuclear blast, as the DCAU pointed out for many of them the world is simply too brittle, too slow or too crowded to move without caqusing damage. On the aother hand this same argument can be used against the superheroes, if they are so amazingly superior, why they can't control themselves better, or do more?
this could be one of the greatest questions you've asked across comicdom.
and one not addressed efficiently enough no matter where you turn for publishers.
My answer would be no.
Force might work on the first level, but it ends up causing even more work to 'enforce'.
The smarter strategy is going to be to try to recruit and analyze where force is required later and then if need be utilize it. Kind of a like a Sun Tzu approach to the whole situation from a 'war' standpoint.
Realistically however, law enforcement and heroism REALLY doesn't mix as much as we've been 'read to believe'. Given todays media environment and what's obviously existed in the 'underground' of information gathering you couldn't have a hero today who wasn't branded a problem to society based on ANY legal system and government hiding behind it.
Superheroes fight Super-villains, because nobody else can. It's not like "oh, the NYPD would have stopped Juggernaut's rampage through the city, but then Spider-man swooped in and destroyed several blocks in a super-powered fight. What a jerk".
And no, forcing super-heroes to work for the government is not a solution. Slavery is abolished, and I for one do not want it back. Everyone has a right to chose their profession.
So what I'm saying is, if you want to put superheroes on trial for friggin' property damage when they risk their lives to save us from super-villains...go ahead. But don't expect them to stick their necks out for you then.
Expect the Fantastic Four family to spend the night in front of the TV with a big bowl of popcorn while Dr.Doom takes over the world. Expect Batman to spend the evening hanging out with a supermodel in his big mansion while the Joker poisons the water supply of Gotham.
If superheroes have to follow civilian laws, then they wouldn't be able to even fight crime! In some issues, the threat is too great for the city or state police to handle! The superheroes have to be able to stop the villians! Really it's the villians fault's for starting the fight and they pay for it by going to jail!
Yes and and no. Should depend on the story. Thats my answer for everything lol. Some characters, stories, writers work better in either context on a deep or superficial level. As a joined universe as a whole, well, depends. Ideally case by case situation. Some stories can avoid and ignore, other stories can delve into more detail. Generally though they shouldn't be above the (or a) law.
I don't know if they should, but Jenny Sparks would probably laugh her ass off, then ask whether you're being serious, then laugh some more and leave.
Depending on the book and character, it may bother me to see a hero break a kid's bike, while I may not flinch if another hero causes terrible mayhem and death. It's difficult to give a definitive, blanket answer.
I think one of the reasons the X-Men are my favourite corner of the Marvel U is that, more than anyone else, they've had to deal with public opinion, "real world" concerns and accountability on a regular basis. And they never, ever get a free pass.
Well, you have to understand....heroes are not perfect. They can't save everyone from random accident. Yes, they are supposed to serve and protect...but there are moments when a hero can't save a person from..for example: a pole that is about to fall on a person's head. It is not easy.
I say blame the villains. There wouldn't be so much destruction if they weren't starting a ruckus everywhere they went, necessitating the intervention of heroes. Make them foot the bill if it's proven that they started it and the hero wasn't being stupid.
Absolutely! Do you have any idea how many times I've wondered who's going to pay for the window that Spider-Man smashed through or the car Superman sneezed on? The big cop out that comic creators seem to come up with is equating superheroes with forces of nature, which makes sense conceptually. But as soon as a nine year old girl gets killed then it's kind of hard to pass of any hero as an act of god (even Thor). And this is what really pissed my off about the Superhuman Registration Act. Tony was right! He had a system in place that would create a widespread network of accountable superheros! There was no reason for Cap to get all Civil War on everybody. Tony's system actually worked and heroes and villains alike would be held accountable for their actions.
I believe if anything, they should obey the law more than the average man. they all have great power, and with great power comes great responsibility, they have to be more than just crime fighters or villain stoppers, they have to be an idea, an idea that justice will prevail, and example that no one is above the law, they have too much power to be running rogue, if they start to think of themselves as above the law they could develop god complexes, they could become corrupt and more frightening, their ideals can become corrupt. If a hero kills someone, they have to be held accountable just as if a citizen or cop would.
Listen, this is what pisses me off about our world... If I shove a guy out of the way of a falling object that will crush him, he hits his head and gets a concussion, he can sue me for damages. That's just messed up. Penalized for saving a person from certain death or a horrible maiming and being punished infinitely more harshly for the bump on their head than if I had just let them die.
Now just think for a second... What kind of damages is a villian going to cause in their scheme unchecked? The destruction of a city? The world? Cataclysmic economical, technological, or biological damges? Think now about a few buildings, cars, and roads getting damaged in the scuffle between the villian and the hero that tries to intervene. How much less are the damages going to be overall because the hero stepped in? And you want to charge them for what you would be paying for yourself (probably much more) if they hadn't stepped in ? You're retarded. Not only that, you're a horrible person. Go jump off a bridge...
On second thought don't. Someone might reach out and catch you, dislocate your arm, and get sued for it...
I agree with the Superhuman Registration Act, so no I don't believe they should be exempt from the laws. No one is ASKING them in most cases to save them. If they are willing to put their lives on the line to save the world and other then they should be willing to put everything on the line, other wise they are just being selfish, basically saying "Yeah i'll help, until it effects my social life then its a no go".
Any laws that they work outside of should be worked out in advance, but Superman is clearly going to break a lot of stuff when he's fighting evil aliens. I don't think that he should be held accountable, and I don't think Metropolis would hold him accountable.
Most superheroes are acting on behalf of the people of whatever city they operate in. Most of the time they are trying to uphold the law when the police can't. In a way they are police officers and wards of the state.
Its really the failing of the (fictional) governments for not publicly recognizing the efforts of citizens to protect themselves and their fellow citizens. They are only vigilantes because of the failing of the city/state to reconize their contributions.
So no they are not be above the law but they should be party to it.
I think most heroes at least attempt to follow the law, and that's the way it should be. Most law enforcement understand what the heroes are putting on the line, and turn a blind eye when laws are bent.
Still, I always find it somewhat troubling when comics depict destruction of property with no mention of the hero "covering it" or there being some kind of superhero insurance that covers it.
isn't it safe to asume that some heroes are above the law? legally speaking i mean, some crimes, like murder, is when a human being kills another human, therefor, superman could not be charged with murder, or any other alien, now if there are any special laws that cover aliens as well i wouldn't know..
As far as the death of Captain Stacy, I think that falls under Good Samaritan Laws. Spiderman's qualifications and good intentions to prevent further harm protects him from being found culpable. A real world example is if you have CPR training and break someone's ribs while performing CPR. Technically, breaking someone's ribs is assault, but your training and intent protect you, in the eyes of the law, so that person can't sue you. I'm pretty sure the villain would be found culpable, his actions forced the hero's if the hero caused the damage.
Think of it this way for the real world: a former Marine is among a group of people taken hostage by an armed gunman. The Marine sees an opening and tackles the gunman, and in the struggle, another hostage gets shot. Is it the Marine's fault, or the hostage takers?
Depends on what universe and what law. The DCU has defended the right for superheroes to operate with a secret identity, as per Ostrander's Suicide Squad. This obviously covers operating with a mask, and would seem to igve the OK to vigilantism, but less obviously, it allows a superhero to give testimony in court under their alias.
Just a small bit of the DCU. I'm sure there are more bits and pieces that say superheroism is legal, to an extent.
I believe one of the biggest reasons for a secret identity is to avoid liability for super heroic actions. They realize that they will have to use very rough treatment and sometimes even extra judicious punishment (even the nice superheroes trap people in other dimensions) that could never fit into the law. Also, other than Batman, none of them could afford to cover the accidental property damage from these encounters. At the same time, I believe most super heroes do what they do because they have a general respect for right and wrong so they follow the law whenever they can and unless they are ridiculously powerful like a Thor or Silver Surfer they need to be sure that law enforcement sees them as useful to maintain their social contract of turning a blind eye.