Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Superheroes and Paternity Lawsuits

It has recently occurred to me that superheroes have been discovering long-lost children for quite a while. Batman found that his genes had been used to make a rather irate Damian al Ghul. Wolverine found out the baby he thought had died had become the murderous Daken. Cable was revealed as Scott Summers' time-lost son, Nathan Summers. Nightcrawler was revealed as the child of Azazel (a demon lord of limbo) and Mystique. The Incredible Hulk was recently introduced to Skaar. Hidden familial relationships have been popping up in comics for quite a while. Wolverine even has at least one other child he doesn't know about (does anyone remember the "Wolverine: The Jungle Adventure" special by Simonson and Mignola?).

Further complicating these revelations is that these superhero dads frequently have tumultuous and often negative relationships with their children. Damian tried to murder Robin (Tim Drake) a few hours after being brought into the bat-cave. Daken has slit Wolverine's throat more times than even Daniel Way could count. These are not relationships that are likely to culminate in father-son picnics or games of catch.

In light of the fact that there are so many strained father/child relationships in comic books, it makes me wonder why there aren't many more lawsuits aimed at these unwitting deadbeat dads. After all, in all of these relationships, the father has not contributed to child-rearing. Neither financial nor emotional support was given to these children during their development.

Granted each of these cases is very complex and is not analogous to most paternal situations. Can Scott Summers be expected to pay back child support for a son who was raised in the future? Regardless of moral obligation, I would be hard pressed to find a legal precedent to support any litigation against Cyclops. But though these father/child relations are strange, does that mean that the comic book dads involved are excused from the obligations that are placed upon normal fathers? I'm not sure that's fair. I don't think Scott Summers should be allowed to abandon his clone wife and his son to hang out with X-Factor, only to help kill his clone wife, regain custody of his son, get his baby infected with the T-O virus, and send him into the future. I think we need more accountability than that.

Clearly the lack of paternal interaction has caused some anger issues in these long lost children. Damian al Ghul is quasi psychotic and at the very least has severe anger issues. Nightcrawler became a priest (if that's not rebelling against being sired by a demon, i don't know what is). Daken is a mass murderer with a particular love for cutting pieces off of his father. Cable just shoots lots of things, period. These children act out, in part because of the lack of support provided by their fathers.

But if these children really want retribution against their parents, wouldn't the path of legal recourse be more satisfying (and significantly less likely to result in bodily harm)? And if these wayward children don't take legal recourse against their estranged fathers, does it encourage comic book dads to send their children into the future (or another dimension, continent, etc.) to avoid their financial and parental obligations? Is that the message we want to send? We need to encourage men like Reed Richards (arrogant and emotionally distant though he may be) who stick around and support their children.

It's just the right thing to do.


Anonymous said...

Maybe, just maybe Stark Industries or Wayne Tech could get the Male Pill going in their universes. If all else fails I would think that Reed Richards could develop a condom that is stretchy and strong enough for all comers.

Michael T said...

"Can Scott Summers be expected to pay back child support for a son who was raised in the future? Regardless of moral obligation, I would be hard pressed to find a legal precedent to support any litigation against Cyclops."

Actually I believe most jurisdictions would find that Scott has violated child support statutes. The moral obligation - you fathered the kid, you owe him/her something - is what informs the legal obligation. The court assesses what the father (parent, actually but even today that is usually father) can pay based on income, previous earning power, future expectations and allocates an amount hopefully equal to what would have been paid if the family had stayed together.

I don't know the Cyclops/Cable story, but presumably if Nathan had stayed with Scott, or if Scott had accompanied him to the future, Scott would have contributed something to his upbringing. That is what he should be paying now, including retroactive payments for the time he was unaware of the connection.

SF said...

Actually, the time travel thing raises an interesting question. If Scott does owe Nathan/Cable child support, from what perspective is it calculated? Was it "accumulating interest" between the time Nathan was sent forward and the actual time Nathan grew up? Doesn't time travel make an absolute hash of many standard econ assumptions?

Tom said...

Not only that, but time travel introduces different complications depending on the universe you're travelling in (DC/Marvel/Wildstorm/etc). Is everyone travelling in the same time stream? Does each instance of time create a new parallel dimension? If that's the case, is the deadbeat the father from the original dimension, or the father from the dimension the child currently inhabits?

Also, the direction of time travel is important. Were Cyclops to skip forward in time I think it's an easy case to make, he should have been around while the kid was growing up, he was "away" and owes. But, with Cable travelling back to before his own conception/birth/childhood it becomes trickier. I imagine future Cyclops would owe, but would have no way of paying (and if he could send dinero back through the time stream we also open up a disturbingly complex problem of currency trading, inflation, speculation, etc) and if future Cyclops should but can't pay, does that mean present Cyclops has to bear the brunt, but be entitled to renumberation at some point in the future (his - Cable's past)?


Mark said...

Also confusing is the fact that currency could change drastically between different timelines. I don't remember what the currency in Cable's future is, but I'm sure its not of equivalent value to the 2009 (or 1990) US dollar. So would Scott owe the living expenses for the time Cable grew up in or the living expenses for the time period Scott is from.

Will said...

The Cable scenario is probably most akin to adoption where the biological parental obligations are rescinded and fully adopted by the adoptive parents. The aliens who raised Cable clearly took on that duty and I think Cyclops would have a very strong argument that there was no expectation of continued duty once Cable was taken into the future.

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