Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2010 Issue

Superheroes Face the Law at the Yale Law Library

Yalelawcomics

Not even Batman, Superman and the Hulk are above the law.


By Michael Stillman

The courtroom is ordinarily a dull place. Lawyers argue over motions, defendants plea bargain, delay is followed by delay, and incomprehensible legalese replaces intelligible thought. There is little excitement in the everyday business that goes on in court. Then, suddenly, a spectacular case rivets the public attention. A major celebrity finds himself on trial, and the people follow every word. It may be O.J. or Bernie Madoff, Superman or Batman, we can't take our eyes off... Wait! Superman? Batman? Have we pierced the veil between reality and fantasy? While certainly much of what is said in court emanates from the world of fantasy, the Yale Law School has moved a step beyond with an exhibit now on display: Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books.

From now through December 16, the Lillian Goldman Law Library at the Yale University Law School will be hosting a display of comic books, mainly from the collection of attorney and comic collector Mark S. Zaid. Zaid is also a dealer in comics as well as a co-founder of the Comic Book Collecting Association. His specialty is the connection between comics and the law. Mostly, this concerns the adventures of superheroes, and ordinary comic characters in court.

Generally, these episodes end in Perry Mason-like dramatic events, outbursts in court, tearful confessions, or outright violence, such as displayed by the Hulk when he was placed on trial. We are not sure why the local District Attorney was so foolish as to attempt to put this beast on trial, but a quick look at the cover of this 1972 comic, with the Hulk breaking free from his chains, shows that green gentleman was not pleased. And, while his words may not have been intelligible, it is evident that he did not choose to exercise his right to remain silent. Of course, not all the celebrity defendants were quite so irrational, with more "normal" superheroes, such as Superman and Batman, also being dragged before a jury of... their peers?

While superheroes graced the covers of some of these legalistic comics, others involved more regular types of people, detectives, or those involved in romance and some of the sordid activities that accompany this institution. Then there are the horror comics where various ghoulish creatures make their appearance in court. It is perhaps the staid, proper image that courts hold in the public eye that makes the appearance of bizarre creatures in their midst so fascinating to us.

The exhibition also contains items related to the more mundane side of the law. There are documents related to copyright issues, the legal right to Superman, and 1950s battles over free speech and censorship of comics. As recent events have shown (such as the sale of a Superman comic for $1.5 million), this form of art/communication/information/entertainment has developed a wildly devoted following over the past few decades. The law, at least in the cartoonish form of Judge Judy and Nancy Grace, has its loyal following as well. Now these forces have come together, like Batman and Robin. You may view them at the Yale Law Library in New Haven, Connecticut, now through December 16. For hours and directions, visit www.law.yale.edu/library.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions