Set Twenty Minutes into the Future
, Marshal Law is the story of Joe Gilmore, aka Marshal Law. A violent anti-hero super-hero cop, Marshal Law's job is to arrest super-heroes and other super-powered criminals, most of which got their powers from the US Government.
A biting satire of super-hero comics, the series was published by Marvel Comics Epic line before being moved onto a variety of other publishers. The series was famous for its satirical look at super-heroes and the public's love of them, while exploring the seedy underbelly of what it means to have absolute power. It also offered a rather scathing attack on American foreign policy under Reagan in the 1980s, as Reagan's war against communism in the Central America serves as the backdrop of Marshal Law's origin.
The series was created by Pat Mills, drawn by Kevin O'Neill. The series itself was a minor hit but has only recently had the rights sorted out; DC Comics printed a hardcover collection of the core books in 2013 (although unfortunately some important bits of character development took place in crossovers with other characters that aren't collected in the edition). However, its impact can be felt on both The Boys
and the "Team Achilles" incarnation of Stormwatch.
Also, whatever you do, do not mistake this character as the resident Bruce Lee Clone
of Tekken Marshall Law
. Or mistake this series for the late-nineties TV series Martial Law
. Or, of course, the governing tactic of the same name.
This series demonstrates the following tropes:
- Abusive Parents: Private Eye's parents.
- Anti-Hero: Marshal Law himself.
- Awesome McCoolname
- Badass Normal: Law himself. He thinks that heroes with actual powers are phonies because they're never in any real danger.
- Well, he's more of Super Soldier, as he was subjected to the same Super Serum treatment that produced all supers, just failed to draw the best ticket at the Superpower Lottery.
Law came out of the procedure with moderately superhuman strength, speed and durability as well as a low level Healing Factor. Due to his opinion on supers he's not big on bragging about it... but it is mentioned in his narration.
- Beware the Superman
- The Blank: As a teenager, Private Eye was forced to wear a hood over his face for over a year that left him blind, all as part of a sick experiment his father conducted to see how his son would cope if he was blind.
- One of Private Eye's replacement sidekicks is also like this, wearing a featureless mask whenever we see him on panel (adding to the creepiness when Marshal Law finds him dissected).
- Body Horror: At virtually every opportunity.
- Bondage Is Bad: A recurring visual motif is the overuse of leather and BDSM-style costumes.
- The Big Guy: Kiloton.
- Captain Ersatz: Public Spirit (Superman), Private Eye (Batman) and The Persecutor (The Punisher) all appear, but in a twisted fashion, emphasizing the sadistic or tragic aspects of the characters.
- Besides The Persecutor, Marshal Law Takes Manhattan features parody versions of several other Marvel superheroes, including Mr. Fantastic, Thor, Spider-Man, Captain America, Namor, Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, The Human Torch, Ant-Man, and Daredevil.
- Later we are introduced to the Golden Age Jesus Society of America (JSA), the predecessor to the Jesus League of America, featuring Public Spirit (here being more like Captain America), Private Dick (Bucky/Robin), Miss Victory (Wonder Woman), Tomcat (Wildcat), the Blue Battery (Green Lantern), the Lightning Streaker (The Flash), Hyperman (Hourman), G-Man (Starman), and a bunch of other nameless ones. And where the more modern heroes are Darker and Edgier, these guys are incompetent, condescending, and anything but heroic.
- Similarly, Secret Tribunal combines elements of the Legion of Super-Heroes and the X-Men.
- Catch Phrase: "I'm a Hero Hunter. I hunt heroes. Haven't found any yet."
- Character Filibuster: The excerpt from Lynn's thesis on the evil of her universe's "heroes", which is also a metafictional denunciation of the superhero genre, laid in as text boxes over the climactic fight between Law and the Public Spirit at the end of the original "Fear and Loathing" story.
- Crapsack World: San Futuro, though the rest of the world doesn't seem any better.
- Cross Over: Marshal Law has had a couple of these, mainly with Savage Dragon. He has also met The Mask and the main Cenobite from Hellraiser.
- Dead Sidekick: Marshal Law hasn't had the best luck with sidekicks, what with Danny turning out to be a psychotic serial killer and murdering Law's girlfriend, and Kiloton getting murdered by the Private Eye.
- Deconstruction: More like outright demolition.
- Golden age heroes: Homophobic, sexist, glory-seeking assholes, who don't deserve any of the fame they get, and their example only leads those who look up to them to ruin their lives. However, they're also tortured over the fact that they must always be perfect, an image which is impossible to keep up for any human.
- Dark age heroes: Violent, brutal, and psyotic murderers who aren't that different from the villains they fight. Also, their violent ways even serve to inspire more villains. However, they're acknowledged as psychologically scarred humans who can even portray themselves, and their victims, as sympathetic. It's even pointed out that Marhsal Law's barbed wire can be seen as a symbol of penance for his actions.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: The members of the Jesus Society of America can hardly see an Asian person or hear a German word without coming to the conclusion that they've become stranded in a parallel universe where the Axis won World War II. Marshal Law sets the record straight that these guys were legitimately not real heroes by any stretch of the imagination.
- Detective Mole: Danny/Sleepman
- During the War
- Friendly Enemy: Marshal Law and Suicida, in an incredibly twisted way. Due to being Not So Different and both being Too Kinky to Torture.
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke
- Growing Muscles Sequence: As some superheroes "pump ions" to gain bulk
- Hollywood California: Subverted, mainly because after Twenty Minutes into the Future, San Francisco has been hit by a huge earthquake which largely destroyed the city, leaving miles of it still in ruins years afterward.
- I Can Live With That
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: As stated in one story, when you first look at him he appears to be a brutal thug. But when you look under his tough exterior, you see that he's really... a brutal thug.
- Judge, Jury, and Executioner: In the purview of people with superpowers, Marshal Law has unlimited jurisdiction and is licensed to kill in any situation he feels necessary. And he feels it's necessary a lot.
- Legacy Character: The American Spirit has Golden Age, modern, and outer space incarnations that have all run afoul of Marshall Law.
- A Lighter Shade of Black: Marshall Law initially has some positive feelings towards the Private Eye, given that he's a brutal, sadistic, vigilante and that the only thing that makes him any worse than Law is that the Eye's targets aren't usually as able to fight back. Then Kiloton finds out that the Eye is using his sidekicks as organ donors, the Eye kills him, and Law decides that Even Evil Has Standards.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Doctor Shocc, a Nazi Scientist largely responsible for the superpowers in the book.
- Nineties Anti-Hero: Marshal Law himself, and in The Eighties no less. Wearing full bondage gear and with a
barbed wire tattoo actual barbed wire along his arm...
- Also the Secret Tribunal, which is a parody of the X-Men.
- Once an Episode: At least once an issue, Marshal Law says his catchphrase
- Putting on the Reich: As the Golden Age heroes note, Marshall Law's costume resembles that of a Super-Nazi.
- Satire/Parody/Pastiche: Marshall Law combines attributes of all three.
- Save the Villain: Parodied with Private Eye's death.
- Self-Parody: Marshal Law Takes Manhattan features ruthless parody versions of popular Marvel superheroes, and it was published Epic Comics, a Marvel Comics imprint.
- Sex Is Evil: The world of Marshal Law is not a pretty one, and the rampant sexual imagery reinforces it.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Most of the cast, including Marshal Law himself.
- Super Serum (and its counterpart, Psycho Serum): Hyperman, a parody of Hourman, who used pills to get his powers, snuffs a mysterious powder and injects a dodgy liquid into his arm to get his.
- The book reveals early on most superpowers are the direct result of this.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Played with by Private Eye, a Batman expy. He absolutely forbids killing his enemies. He states he will "main, mutiliate, electrocute, gas, or burn them." But he'll never kill them.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: A recent gravestone says it's 2020, and America is still fighting off the Soviet Threat, nearly 30 years after it ended in Real Life.
- Unbuilt Trope: Of the Nineties Anti-Hero and the Deconstruction of superheroes that would be common in comics in the late 1980s-1990s. It's worth noting that while the series takes a dim look at super "heroes", anti-heroes of Marshal Law's ilk don't exactly escape condemnation either.
- Your Eyes Can Deceive You: This is a huge part of Private Eye's origin: His Mad Scientist father forced him to wear a hood over his face for months if not years, engendering in him an eerie affinity for the dark.
- What Could Have Been: A movie was proposed but nothing came of it.
- Suicida was supposed to have his own mini series.