Meet Ryan Davidson: attorney, comics aficionado, superhero fan, and this year’s Regional Gathering keynote speaker! Ryan’s talk will be called This Is Not the Worst Thing You’ve Caught Me Doing: Iron Man, Comics, and the Law. Serious about your Iron Man lore? You’ll definitely want to catch the film that just came out because there will be a few spoilers!
We asked Ryan to chat with us – about comics, the law, his fabulous book, and his outrageously popular blog.
Which came first: comics or the law?
I did not grow up reading comics, unlike my coauthor. But I have always been enough of a geek to be aware of them and the major storylines. I first started getting into graphic novels after college, before law school, and really got into them during my 2L year. So the answer is contemporaneously. I was a practicing attorney before I got involved with my coauthor, James, and we started the blog.
How would you describe your blog or your book?
We do legal analysis of comic book story elements, whether they are character features or plot devices. We look at comic book events and subject them to real world legal analysis.
How did your work get started?
The idea for the blog was my co-author’s. James was having dinner with his wife and some friends, when one suggested James might write a blog about comic books and the law. So he thought, “OK, I’ll give it a shot.” He thought it might last two or three months and then he’d get bored with it and move on. James and I are both members of MetaFilter and had come across each other before because we’re both attorneys. James posted a link to the blog, which had two or three posts at that point, on the Projects section of MetaFilter. I got the link almost right away and was the first person to comment on the posts. I said, “This looks awesome, do you want to collaborate?” and he said, “Sure!” I formally joined the blog on the same day that James launched it publicly.
Did you know James in real life too?
We met for the first time in May of 2011 after we had retained an agent and signed a contract for the book. We have since met several times, but we were writing together for almost six months before that happened.
What’s the best law and the multiverse question you’ve received?
There have been so many, I’m going to have to answer indirectly. I would say there are really two types of posts we do. The first type is to come up with a particular legal issue and write about that using comics as examples. The other thing we do is set out to read a particular work, and talk about whatever issues come up in that work. It’s hard to tease out which issues are the most fun to write about, the stories that are the most fun to engage with.
In terms of issues, I’ve always been a legal history fan. I did a post on the common law sentence of outlawery, which was a lot of fun. As for stories, probably a four post series on Marvel’s Civil War Event. It was really interesting to get involved in and there was so much going on there.
Who is your partner in crime/ co-creator?
James has a master’s in computer science and a law degree. He is licensed to practice in front of the US Patent and Trade office. He does a lot of Intellectual Property (IP) stuff. Right now he works for the Stanford University Hoover Institution’s Project on Commercializing Innovation.
What kind of law do you actually practice?
I’ve done work in insurance, both in-house and litigation. At the moment I’m self-employed, and moving to get closer to family because we’re expecting our first child, so I’m kind of between employers at the moment.
Have you ever met any of the comic book creators?
Yes. We have met several of the authors at various conventions. We have an interview with Mark Waid, who is a writer for Daredevil. We met him at both NY Comicon and at WonderCon. We also met Dan Slott. He has written for both She-Hulk and Spider-Man. There are also a number of more independent creators that we’ve interacted with over the past few years, including the husband-wife team that writes The Uniques.
Who is your favorite superhero?
I’m partial to Iron Man. I like his style and the fact that his superpowers are mostly technological.
I think Mensans would like some of the earlier posts on our blog. Is Batman a state actor? That’s one of the first things we talked about. For something more philosophical, I think Mensans would like our series on non-human intelligences as we discussed in multiple posts. How would the law treat those if they happened to present themselves?
Want more? You’ll be able to buy Ryan’s book at the RG as well. Thanks, Ryan – we’ll see you soon!