Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Law and Making Your Comic More Realistic

Comic book law usually falls into two different camps: based of actual law and laws created to deal with specific issues. One word of advice: If you are doing any serious writing, eventually you are going to find that you need to know at least how the law works in real life, and that Introduction to Law class can be a great thing. Also, make sure you do your research when it comes to the law; nothing trips you up like not knowing something that should be obvious to anyone in the know.

That said, only create new laws for your universe as you need them. With a little finangling most current laws fit a lot or weird situations. Offensive powers, for example, can be handled by most weapon and assualt laws. Evidence gained by divinatory abilities, such as scrying and telepathy, are probably going to be inadmissible in court as they utilize abilities that while the effects can be proven the method cannot by their very nature. Morphing into someone else is likely to be handled as identity theft. An excellent treatise on the subject would be Trinity Field Report: Psi Law. The Shadowrun "Grimoire" supplement also has an excellent section on how magic and its effects are handled under the law.

However, this is not to say that you won't need some laws for some situations that come up only in comics...well, usually. In a society where werewolves are commonplace, for example, how they deal with those who intentionally obtain the disease would be an interesting situation. For those with traditional vampires, revoked invitations would make for some interesting problems, especially if they led to the death of a vampire who should have had legal right to the domicile. It may suck to be a knight depending on how nasty the Good Samaritan laws are. Heck, supers may even have to register their powers, creating a power registry that can be used for mandatory service or identifying a person from the power used.

Keep in mind that you want to try and avoid creating laws just for story purposes as it may lead to other problems down the road. When editors sought to eliminate Barbara Gordon (Batgirl), they introduced a law that allowed her to become a US Representative; although it worked okay for her, there are a lot of movies that show just how badly that law could have been abused ("Wild In The Streets", for example, as well as The Prez from DC Comics). There is also the issue that a new law can interact with an old law for some nasty ramifications; the "vampire invitation revocation" law could force landlords to register as deadly weapons if worded wrong, potentially limiting the pool of landlords.

The law can be a tricky beast, and so don't give it a chance to mess around. Keep your laws simple and to the point and you should be fine. By the same token, you can get away with some broad interpretations of the law as long as you don't get too broad. It may seem like a simple thing to deal with, after all you set the rules, right? but for some people making them suspend disbelief a bit too much by getting a detail wrong can snap them out of the story, and that is something that you want to avoid as much as possible. The reader can be lost if the details are wrong, so avoid that by getting them right as much as possible, and this can be one of those details that needs to be researched. 

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