OK, boys and girls. Here’s today’s comic book question:
Are the X-Men human or not? How about the Fantastic Four? Spiderman? Is exposure to gamma rays enough to cause expulsion from the race of Homo Sapiens? Genetic mutation? Spider bite?
The question’s not from some fanboy bull session at a comixcon. No, it’s from the U.S. Court of International Trade, and there’s a fair amount of money attached. If the characters are human, their dolls — ahem, action figures — are dutiable at 12 percent. If they aren’t, the figures are dutiable at 6.8 percent.
The dispute gives legal weight to the great underlying question that Stan Lee understood underlies all Marvel Comics: at what point do exceptional people with exceptional powers stop being people and become freaks?
Poor Judge Barzilay, that she should have to decide questions of such emotional weight. Read her decision. (Hint: if you really want to cut to the chase, start reading at page 20 of 32.)