Fantastic Kirby Law

Marvel Comics is celebrating “Kirby Week” to honor the King of Comics, Jack Kirby. August 28, 2016 would have been “King Kirby’s” 99th Birthday. There are many activities to honor one of the most creative people in comic history, from “Kirby 4 Heroes,” which is organized by his granddaughter, to podcasts, and interviews.

Let’s review some of the legal lessons we have from the Fantastic Four to celebrate Kirby’s birthday.

No Written Disclosure of Risks

There are MANY legal issues with the Richards’ flight. Reed Richards led Susan Storm, Ben Grimm, and Johnny Storm on an unauthorized space flight to beat the Soviets into space. Richards wanted to go to the Moon or Mars, varying between FF issues 1 and 2. Regardless, the flight ends with the crew being bombarded by cosmic rays, and crashing back on Earth.

Susan Storm demanded to go because she was Reed’s fiancé. Johnny went because his sister was on the flight. Neither reason should be an excuse to not have required astronaut training. At best, the Storms were “space flight participants.”

FF_Trespassing

Not the Right [Legal] Stuff

Under current Federal law, the operator of a spacecraft must inform space flight participants in writing about the risks of launch and reentry. 14 C.F.R. § 460.45(a). This writing must also include the safety record of the vehicle. The warning must also include:

(1) For each mission, each known hazard and risk that could result in a serious injury, death, disability, or total or partial loss of physical and mental function;

(2) That there are hazards that are not known; and

(3) That participation in space flight may result in death, serious injury, or total or partial loss of physical or mental function.

460.45(a)(1)-(3).

There was no serious discussion about the risks of space flight. Ben Grimm raised the issue of cosmic rays, only to be called a coward Susan Storm. It is ironic the person most concerned about safety was turned into The Thing. Moreover, if test flights had been conducted with chimps, perhaps written warnings would have included the risk of being turned into a rock monster or bursting in flames.

Not the Best Way to Seek Informed Consent.

Not the Best Reason to Waive Unknown Risks. 

Trespassing on Government Property

The Fantastic Four’s flight was more than unauthorized: they broke into the base to launch the rocket. Whoever enters a military base without authorization can be fined, imprisoned for up to six months, or both. 18 U.S.C.S. § 1382.

Yes, Reed Richards did build the rocket. However, Richards was not authorized to launch the rocket on a mission to the Moon (or Mars). Moreover, neither Storm should have been on the base. Arguably all were trespassing.

Fantastic Lawyers

Jack Kirby did not draw comics of lawyers deposing expert witnesses coming off the page. Let’s be honest, that would not be very exciting to the entire population. Instead Kirby brought new worlds to life with the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Captain America, Thor, and other comics from the Age of Marvel. To the great legend and all of those honoring Jack Kirby, Happy Birthday.

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Josh Gilliland
Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.