Are the X-Men human? Purists might like to debate that for a while, but the U.S. Court of International Trade went ahead and decided on Jan. 3, 2003: They’re not.
Why force a decision? Because there are two kinds of action figures: human figures are “dolls,” and nonhuman creatures are “toys.” And dolls carry a higher tariff, for some reason. Toy Biz, Marvel’s gaily named subsidiary, argued that its action figures were toys, and after examining more than 60 action figures, Judge Judith Barzilay agreed.
That saved Marvel some money, but it sent a thunderclap through the comics world, where the doughty mutants had been struggling for years to prove their humanity. After an awkward silence, Marvel grinned nervously, tugged at its collar, and said, “Our heroes are living, breathing human beings — but humans who have extraordinary abilities. … A decision that the X-Men figures indeed do have ‘nonhuman’ characteristics further proves our characters have special, out-of-this world powers.” Spun like a pro.