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Marvel’s lawyers toy with humanity of mutants

Marvel’s lawyers want you to know that the publisher’s merry mutants are in no way human — at least when it comes to toys.

According to a recent Radiolab Podcast, in order to get a 5.2-percent tax cut on Marvel’s imported action figures, the company’s lawyers successfully argued the toys represent “animals or other non-human creatures (for example, robots and monsters)” as defined by the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, a tome that determines tariff classifications for all goods imported into the United States.

Confused? There’s a lot of legalese involved, so here’s the way it breaks down: There’s a distinction between two categories of products imported into the U.S. “Dolls” are toys representing humans, whereas “toys” represent non-humans. While dolls are taxed at 12.8 percent, toys are taxed at just 6.8 percent. Two shrewd trade attorneys noticed the distinction and successfully argued to U.S. Customs officials that Marvel’s licensed products don’t represent human beings.

“We actually went down there. We had a meeting and brought samples of all the figures,” trade lawyer Sherry Singer told Radiolab. “We had 60 or 80 figures. We tried to convince them that these figures [did not represent human beings].”

The court cases, which began in 1993, went on for 10 years. Apparently a large part of the legal argument had to do with the X-Men not being, strictly by tariff classification, human. Oddly, the fictional governments of the Marvel Universe are usually the ones to claim mutants aren’t human — but in the real world, the government was the one defending the humanity of mutants while Marvel was opposed to the idea.

Even X-Men director Bryan Singer weighed in on the mutants versus humans issue during the podcast. “In the X-Men universe, humans are very often out to get the mutants, dismissive of mutants, fearful of the mutants, liquidating them, experimenting on them,” he said.

The judge’s ruling actually stated that all Marvel heroes were actually classified as non-human, not just the X-Men. I guess that means Super-Soldiers, gamma-irradiated scientists, billionaire philanthropists/playboys and thunder gods will all get a tax break when the bulk of The Avengers merchandise hits the U.S.



*insert money related Marvel joke here*

Marvel doesn’t care about Mutant people.

10 years arguing if something is a doll or a toy? Did I read that correctly?

That’s a precedent if there if ever was one.

Now that the toys are cheaper what can we do about the comics? C’mon Marvel, tempt me to start reading your books again.

Lawyers… what would we do without them?

that is brilliant, take that Barbie you flatscan!

I think Brian Cronin did a story about this for his CSBG ‘Comic Book Legends Revealed’ awhile back

Well, this would only really work if every character was a mutant. But what about characters that are human like Punisher, Daredevil, Mary Jane, etc?

Mutants used are often used as an allegory for racism and homophobia…
Courts decide mutants aren’t human…


Tbh, what I’m taking away from this is utter confusion over the fact that “animals or other non-human creatures (for example, robots and monsters)” get a 5.2% tax cut over toys which represent human beings (dolls). Why? Just… why?

It is apparent that in times like these, what we really need, to protect us all, is a Mutant Action Figure Registration Act.


everyone talking about lawyers, but what about those crazy lawmakers or goverment officials that created the distinction between ‘dolls’ and ‘toys’ !?!?!


Yet another good reason why Marvel needs to start licensing action figures of the Pet Avengers. And Hellcow, so they have somebody to fight.

@Fabricio Neves; I bet it was lawyers who wrote those laws and created the distinction. (A lot of lawmakers are trained lawyers.) Maybe they distinguished dolls from toys because they were more popular at the time the legislation was written so they increased the tax on them. The whole situation is pretty hilarious.

guess under the ruling spider man can be considered a real mutant spider and doc octopus a real octopuss with a degree wonder where cap and black widow and nick fury fit into the ruling

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