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>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Charles Loupot, <i>Les Cigarettes Mekka,</i> 1919. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Plinio Codognato, <i>Cicli Fiat,</i> circa 1910. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> L.N. Britton, <i>Warning! Consider the Possible Consequences,</i> c. 1917. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Leonardo Bistolfi, <i>Première Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs Modernes,</i> 1902. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Paquet Pernot / Biscuits Pernot,</i> 1910. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jul 15:</b> Jessie Tarbox Beals, archive of signed photographs, 15 silver prints, c. 1930. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Francesco Nonni, <i>Font Meo / Acqua Minerale Naturale,</i> 1924. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Frederick Winthrop Ramsdell, <i>American Crescent Cycles,</i> 1899. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> <i>Be a Tight Wad! Own Something!</i> designer unknown, 1925. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Candido Aragonese de Faria, <i>Chamonix–Mont–Blanc,</i> c. 1910. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> W.E.J., <i>Irishmen Avenge the Lusitania,</i> c. 1915. $2,000 to $3,000.
  • <center><b>Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books<br>Fine Art<br>Antique Engravings & Lithographs<br>Works on Paper<br>Accepting bids until August 7</b>
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Maitres Affiches by MUCHA - Papier a cigarettes Job. 202. $5,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> De Bry - Map of the West Indies (including Florida, Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas, Parts of Central & South America, Sea Monsters, Ships). $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gould - Short-billed Toucan (Ramphastos Brevicarinatus). $5,000 to $8,000.
    <center><b>Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books<br>Fine Art<br>Antique Engravings & Lithographs<br>Works on Paper<br>Accepting bids until August 7</b>
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Redoute, Folio - Pale Iris - Iris flavescens. 375. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gillray - Light Expelling Darkness or The Sun of the Constitution. $200 to $500.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gerard - Wild Hemp or Weed, Cannabis. 708. $150 to $450.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Shaw & Nodder - Head of The Dodo. 165. $100 to $300.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Your Own Sylvia:<br>Sylvia Plath’s letters to Ted Hughes and other items,<br>Property of Frieda Hughes<br>9 to 21 July 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Family photograph album ("The Hughes family Album"), 1957-1962. £30,000 to £50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Typed letter signed, to Ted Hughes, on "my own private doctrine", with a poem, 5 October 1956. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Pen and ink portrait of Ted Hughes, [1956]. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Your Own Sylvia:<br>Sylvia Plath’s letters to Ted Hughes and other items,<br>Property of Frieda Hughes<br>9 to 21 July 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Joint autograph letter signed, to William and Edith Hughes, March 1960. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Photographic portrait by David Bailey, inscribed by Plath, 1961, and another press photo. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Tarot de Marseille. Deck of cards owned by Sylvia Plath. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Pair of gold wedding rings. £6,000 to £8,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions