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"This is obviously an example of vigilantism at its worst."

"I'd call it vigilantism at its best!"
The Tick has trouble in court

Heroes can get away with everything... unless they're in a comedic setting. A lawyer can sooner or later bring the Big Damn Heroes to court for blowing up the villain's fortress (destruction of property), killing his henchmen (numerous cases of murder) and stealing the Ancient Long-Lost Powerful Mysterious Thingie of the Ancients (thievery. What? It was stolen by the villain in the first place? Well, prove it.) The heroes will try to explain the heroic nature of those crimes, but such arguments will quickly and inevitably get ignored by the lawyer. No Hero Insurance for them.

Occasionally, villains can get in trouble too, e.g. for attacking the president (assassination attempt), playing football with people's most prized possessions (destruction of property), and imitating Darth Vader's voice (copyright infringement, and Hilarity Ensues).

Played straight in a number of places, especially in the Dark Age or against a Villain with Good Publicity. Several Elseworld series are based on this; badly written, it comes with the Family-Unfriendly Aesop that "superheroes are so valuable that the damages they do are acceptable losses, no matter what."

Will occasionally involve the Weird Trade Union.

Frivolous Lawsuit is a subset of this.

Not a comedic Mary Sue, though such things do exist.

Examples of Hilarity Sues include:


Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • The new She Hulk series likes to play with this one too, with Jennifer Walters (AKA the She-Hulk) being a lawyer for a firm that specializes in superhero cases.
  • Played with earlier in the Damage Control series.
  • The entire Marvel Universe has taken on this attitude recently, what with their apparent anger at all the superheroes for not letting supervillians kill them and steal their stuff (whats up with that, so mean?), and their anger at stopping Normal Osborn from ruling the world and trying to kill everyone...

Film

  • If X-Men Origins: Wolverine is to be believed, Wolvie is partially responsible for the Three Mile Island leak, which set back nuclear power.
  • On a less humorous note, at the start of The Incredibles, Mr Incredible is sued by a man who was trying to commit suicide and who got whiplash when Mr Incredible saved him. This catalyzes a chain reaction which results in all superheroes being seen as a liability and forced into retirement.
  • On a more humorous note, Ghostbusters 2.
  • In The Return of Captain Invincible, the titular hero retired and crawled inside a bottle as a result of such a lawsuit. Among the crimes listed were his Underwear of Power.

Literature

  • In the Discworld novel The Wee Free Men, the titular tiny, blue people ("Pictsies! Feegle wha' hae!", and not tiny little woad-covered Glaswegians at all) are afraid of nothing except for lawyers. They never give anyone their true names, in fear of getting arrested for their pranks and crimes. Near the end of the book, the villain uses lawyers to render them helpless. At this point, the toad they carry around with them suddenly remembers his past and files a counterargument -- he was a lawyer himself. The Nac Mac Feegle are awed at the concept of defense attorneys: "We got a cheap lawyer, and we're no' afraid to use 'im!"
    • In fairness, any lawsuit against the Feegle would be totally justified. Don't bother nailing things down; all that means is that they'll rob you of some nails too.
  • Lampshaded in the Discworld novel Hogfather, where Susan retells Jack and the Beanstalk by listing all the crimes Jack committed, and then adds which proves you can get away with anything if you are a hero.
  • Kitty Takes a Holiday has a dramatic example after a guy in a Badass Longcoat blows half of an evil skinwalker's face off to put it out of its misery, after it was already mortally wounded. This saves the pretty heroine, her lover, a police officer, and a couple civilians. Traditional end to a werewolf story, right? We're only two-thirds through the book; the Badass has just been arrested for murder because the final bullet constituted excessive force. (Not so much Hollywood Law as a combination of Dirty Cop, Amoral Attorney, and Fantastic Racism.)
    • Played for laughs in the previous book, where a tape of Kitty being forced to transform in a prison cell after being kidnapped gets her fined by the FCC because her breasts were briefly visible mid-transformation. Talk about your screwed-up priorities...
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry is repeatedly being sued by talk show host Larry Fowler for allegedly damaging his studio during an interview. Fortunately, the suit never really gets anywhere, as not only does Harry have a good lawyer (thanks to the fact that he found the lawyer's daughter's lost pet), but the argument that "the wizard fried my studio's electronics via magic by being near them" likely earned a few stern glares from the judge. Sometimes, the Extra-Strength Masquerade is useful.
    • Unfortunately, Fowler just keeps trying, book after book. Even when Harry doesn't lose the case, all the court fees pile up.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Get Fuzzy, Bucky sues Fungo for knocking out two of his teeth. However, he was trying to catch Fungo in a snare trap at the time, so Judge Judy ruled in the favor of the defendant.

Live Action TV

  • In the same vein, the boys from Supernatural have quite the rap sheet. Murder, grave desecration, theft, evading the law, breaking out of custody, assault, breaking and entering, etc. etc... All in the course of fighting the supernatural; demons don't mind dirty tricks, after all.
    • To be fair, the murder, kidnapping and armed robbery are Not What It Looks Like. The credit card fraud, grave desecration and impersonating federal agents... OK, those they're actually guilty of. Although the grave desecration is often self defense or defense of another. Hard to argue that in court, though.
    • This does get addressed in one episode when the Winchesters get arrested, then defend the police station when it's assaulted by demons. The police thank them by making use of a helicopter crash during the episode to legally kill the boys, taking away some of the heat.
  • At one point in Heroes, Peter Petrelli is sued by a man who claims that Peter injured him while saving him from a bus crash. However, the man drops the lawsuit as soon as he's accomplished his real objective: meeting Peter.
  • Probably the best episode of the live action adaptation of The Tick involved the titular character having a nuclear weapon removed as evidence against Destroyo because he took it without a warrant.

Video Games

  • In Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge: LeChuck's Revenge, Guybrush is wanted for numerous crimes, all of which are his heroic deeds or puzzle solutions; the list of crimes on his "Wanted" poster grows as the game progresses.
  • In Disgaea 2 Cursed Memories, characters often get subpoenaed to the Dark Court for such mundane things as having too high a level or overkill on a bad guy (Tink is charged and convicted with the crime of existing. No, really). With the subversion that, since this is the demon world, felonies are good, and the court that convicts you of them doesn't hand you a sentence but a reward.

Web Comics

  • Order of the Stick pulled this off; our heroes are hunted down for accidentally destroying a seal holding back Sealed Evil in a Can, and eventually end up getting put on trial.
    • Additionally, two villains (a mind flayer, and Drizz't Do'Urden knock-off Zz'dtri) are pulled away from the comic by lawyers for violating copyrights.
    • And Belkar used it to great effect against the Jerkass Paladin Miko in this strip
    • Subverted by Windstriker's restraining order, however...
  • In this strip from Sluggy Freelance, Torg tries to pull one of these on Bun-Bun to get the Comedic Sociopath to answer for his abusive behavior. Bun-Bun turns it around on Torg thanks to some lawyers and the race card.
  • Its Walky is a rare dramatic example of the heroes being sued for their actions, as the entire SEMME team (though in the end, just Joyce) are dogged by the media.
  • The entire premise of Jailhouse Blues is that Dr. Wily hired a lawyer and had criminal charges filed against Megaman for the destruction of his fortress oh so many times, which ends up landing Megaman in jail.
  • Darkmoons Silly Web Comic has lawsuits and courts of law in its comedic jumble concerning Dracula's public relations.
  • Van Von Hunter is arrested and put on trial early on for murdering a local vampire. The maiden Von Hunter tried to rescue is also arrested, as an accomplice. It is, of course, a Kangaroo Court.
  • Finn from Deverish Also accidentally activated a Cool Gate which sucked him and everything else nearby into another world. Meaning he vanished, along with a company van and a whole bunch of warehouse inventory, and the warehouse itself was leveled. The Earth police and company staff aren't exactly pleased with him.

Western Animation

  • Part of the basic concept of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
  • Reversed with Transformers Animated. After the Headmaster commits Grand Theft Me with Sentinel Prime the police are all ready to arrest him -- until Powell arrives and points out that Autobots have no legal rights, the "crime" was committed in international waters (Lake Erie), and any damage done was to his own company's boat. Therefore, the police couldn't charge him with anything. This did not endear him to Captain Fanzone in later episodes...
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Krabs vs. Plankton", Plankton sues Mr. Krabs after Plankton slips on a wet floor without any signs to warn him. The reparation Plankton seeks? Everything Krabs owns, including the secret Krabby Patty formula. In Plankton's defense, instead of Krabs helping him up or offering to call 911, all he does is basically sit there and verbally abuse Plankton for getting injured. In Krabs' defense, the floor is wet because it is on the bottom of the ocean. In Plankton's defense, this is SpongeBob, which doesn't follow the normal rules of what water is, and there's water underwater and water is air and... well, it's confusing. In Krabs' defense, Plankton wasn't all that seriously injured anyway, he was just faking it to try to win the lawsuit.
  • In an episode of Yin Yang Yo, Carl The Evil Cockroach Wizard stages injury received from Yin and Yang while the two were in the midst of training which leads to a kangaroo court case. Naturally, the jury, witnesses and judge are all their past villains.

Notes

  1. Under the influence of a brainhack that the Major has done on him
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