In Marvel comics, the X-Men struggle to have their humanity recognised. But in real life, the United States Court of International Trade ruled that the X-Men are not human.

Pat Loika / CC BY

The X-Men comics have long used their mutant characters as a way to explore themes such as xenophobia, racism, and homophobia. The X-Men’s antagonists or the public at large don’t see them as fully human, and act accordingly, and that drives much of the conflict and tension in the comics. Unfortunately, a subsidiary of Marvel Comics once made the argument – in a court of law – that the X-Men were not human.

Why did they do this? For the money, of course. According a 1994 tariff code, dolls and toys had different tariffs imposed when they were imported into the United States.

In the tariff code, dolls were classified as “representing only
human beings and parts and accessories thereof” and were taxed at 12%. Toys were defined as “representing animals or other non-human creatures (for example, robots and monsters) and parts and accessories thereof” and were taxed at 6.8%. X-Men action figures were manufactured in China and imported to the United States. If they’re dolls, that incurs a 12% tariff. If they’re toys, it’s only 6.8%

So Toy Biz, the Marvel toy subsidiary, went to the US Court of International Trade in 2003 and argued that the X-Men were not human. And if they were not human, Toy Biz would have to pay less money. The findings from that court case are amazing, a really hilarious read. It includes serious legal descriptions of X-Men:

“Storm” (a tall and thin figure with white mane-like hair and dark skin) in assortment 4900 K has a lightening bolt as an accessory, reflecting the character’s power to summon storms at will.

Discussions of the definition of “mutant”:

a “mutant” is someone (possibly originally belonging to human species) who has undergone change and become something other than human. Especially, in science fiction, a “mutant” is someone with an extraordinary appearance or abilities, such as the figures at issue here.

And, finally, the legal finding that the X-Men were not human. Marvel won the case and the right to pay the lower tariff. Professor X would be so disappointed.

[Thanks to an anonymous reader for suggesting this topic.]

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