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An exegesis of superheroes' interrogations of law

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22 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines concepts of authority, law, and justice in the genre of superhero comics. Despite the common view that comic book superheroes do not warrant (and have not received) significant academic attention except as art form (rather than social/legal commentary), they do, in fact, present a locus in which visions of law and its relationship with society are played out with a degree of intellectual and jurisprudential sophistication. This is because superheroes reflect perceptions of failed or deficient law. They are therefore another vehicle for thinking discursively about law because of what they can say about society and its perceptions of the effectiveness of law, in the context of their manifesting a pre-modern, sacralised, view of embodied justice as opposed to modern constructs of law. Using a typology of pre-modern, modern, and postmodern justice, the paper briefly explores the characteristics of justice found in superhero comics. The post-modern superhero is characterized in terms of a relation to rationality (they exist in opposition to it); in relation to law (they supplement its failures); and in terms of action (they are proactive). Finally some ways of relating these accounts of justice are exemplified in the superhero figure of Matt Murdock and Daredevil. Law, Culture and the Humanities 2007; 3: 455-476.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-476
Number of pages22
JournalLaw, Culture and the Humanities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


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