Beyond the Law: What is so “Super” About Superheroes and Supervillains?

Jason Bainbridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Both the superhero and the supervillain operate outside the law. The former replaces law with a form of substantive justice while the latter seeks to invert or overturn the law in favour of a new grundnorm (or anti grundnorm) that best serves their vision for how society should operate. In this paper I consider what this prefix “super” really means in relation to these two classes, drawing on Nietzsche’s original definition of the ubermensch (superman) and its relationship to legal concepts such as the state of exception, sovereign power and substantive justice. These relationships will be mapped across a number of examples from the Marvel Studios films—paying particular attention to the antagonists in these movies, both the state and the supervillains, arguing that it is these antagonists who are most illustrative of these concepts in play.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-388
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal for the Semiotics of Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes


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