Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The other night I drifted off to sleep thinking about the business structures of super hero groups, an area that seems ripe for academic exposition. The Avengers is what started this reverie-- the group, founded by The Wasp, Ant-Man, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk, operates under a charter which limits its membership, and appears to receive its principal funding from the Maria Stark Foundation. I assume that the Avengers are organized as a Not-For-Profit, but other groups may have different setups. The Fantastic Four, for example, may be a straight C corp. Reed Richards owns a number of valuable intellectual properties, and there might be significant tax advantages to Richards if the group could offset its earnings from the sale of costumes made of unstable molecules to other superheros by way of deducting losses from battles with Galactus.

Over on the DC side things seem like they might be more complicated. Consider the line-up of the original Justice League of America: Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Wonder Woman. Notwithstanding their name, four of the seven may well be out of status immigrants. Possibly Supes is naturalized-- he may have been legally adopted by the Kents. Maybe Wonder Woman is a citizen by reason of her military service as Diana Prince, her alter-ego. J'onn J'onzz might be able to claim refugee status, but it is not clear that he has ever done so. Aquaman, of course, is king of Atlantis. Subsequent members Hawkman and Hawkwoman are from Thanagar, and are pretty clearly in the US illegally. It is likely that they are also guilty of identity theft. Under the circumstances it would make sense to counsel the JSA to avoid taking on a formal organizational structure, in order to avoid potential liability.

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