Rare Books Blog

September 27, 2010

The Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School Invites you to an exhibition talk…

SUPERHEROES IN COURT! LAWYERS, LAW AND COMIC BOOKS

By Mark S. Zaid, Esq., Guest Curator

Thursday, September 30, 2010

1:00 - 2:00 p.m.

Room 129, Sterling Law Building

127 Wall Street

By day, Mark S. Zaid, a Washington, D.C. attorney, is a nationally recognized expert on national security law and freedom of information issues. He has made hundreds of appearances as a guest commentator on TV and radio, and testified before Congress. Like his comic-book heroes, Zaid has an alter-ego as a comic book collector and dealer. He is also an advisor to the Overstreet Comic Book Price & Grading Guides and a co-founder of the Comic Book Collecting Association.

Almost all the items in the Law Library’s current exhibition, “Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books,” are from Zaid’s personal collection. The exhibition was recently featured in the New York Times, and is on display until December 16 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

MIKE WIDENER

Rare Book Librarian

 

September 18, 2010

From the exhibit, “Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books”, curated by Mark S. Zaid, Esq., and on display Sept. 4-Dec, 16, 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

In the early days of comics, publishers sought to secure trademark protection for their titles through “ashcans”. Only a few examples would be created with the title’s logo, some existing cover art and possibly some interior pages, and a copy would be submitted to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for registration. These two rare examples of Flash Comics reflect the importance of timing as DC Comics fended off its rival by just one month thereby forcing Fawcett Publications to have its flagship character “Captain Marvel” star in Whiz Comics.

 

Flash Comics no. 1 (DC Comics, Dec. 1939). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

Flash Comics no. 1 (Fawcett, Jan. 1940). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

Most publishers properly sought copyright protection for their respective works. Unlike “ashcans”, which were specially created and not meant to survive, one example of a published comic, such as this Clown Comics Book no. 1 (1945), would be filed with and stamped by the Library of Congress’ Copyright Office. Though the Library still retains most of†these “Copyright Deposit Copies,” some copies were discarded as excess or even stolen over the years.

Clown Comic Book no. 1 (1945). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

September 17, 2010

From the exhibit, “Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books”, curated by Mark S. Zaid, Esq., and on display Sept. 4-Dec, 16, 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

The successful appearance of a new type of comic book character by Detective Comics, Inc. (now D.C. Comics) – a “Superman” – in Action Comics no. 1 (June 1938) sparked the dawn of the Golden Age of comic books. It also spawned copycat creations by competitors such as Bruns Publication, Inc. which published Wonder Comics no. 1 featuring “Wonderman” in May 1939. An injunctive victory for copyright infringement ensured “Wonderman” would never appear again. Detective Comics, Inc., v. Bruns Publications, Inc., 28 F.Supp. 399 (S.D.N.Y 1939), aff’d, 111 F.2d 432 (2d Cir. 1940). This copy of Action Comics no. 5 (Oct. 1938) was used in the litigation to prove “Wonderman” had infringed upon the Man of Steel.

 

Action Comics no. 5 (Oct. 1938). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

This telegram from Jack Liebowitz, owner of Detective Comics, Inc., instructed Jerome “Jerry” Siegel, the co-creator of “Superman”, to be present in New York to testify in the “Wonderman” infringement trial. This telegram has a dual legal significance as the top markings also denote it as a defendant’s trial exhibit in the 1947 lawsuit in which Siegel challenged D.C.’s ownership of “Superman” and “Superboy.” Although Siegel entered into a settlement in 1948, he sued again in 1969 in federal court and lost. Due to changes in the Copyright Act which allowed creators and their heirs/estates to recapture creations under certain circumstances, regardless of whether the rights were signed away in prior agreements, Siegel’s heirs sued in 2004 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and in decisions issued in 2008 and 2009 regained some of the rights. The litigation continues today more than 60 years after it began.

Telegram, Jack Liebowitz to Jerry Siegel, 3 Apr. 1939, From a private collection.

Now operating as National Comics Publications, Inc., D.C. found itself squaring off with Fawcett Publications, Inc. in a 1941 lawsuit challenging publication of “Captain Marvel” (now known as “Shazam”). It took several court decisions, a 1948 trial and 13 years of litigation before “Superman” ultimately prevailed in 1954 when Fawcett agreed to settle amidst a decision to leave the comic book business altogether. This copy of Whiz no. 91 (Nov. 1947) was one of many exhibits introduced during the trial.

Whiz Comics no. 91 (Nov. 1947). Personal collection of Mark Zaid, Esq.

September 17, 2010

From the exhibit, “Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books”, curated by Mark S. Zaid, Esq., and on display Sept. 4-Dec, 16, 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Led by a growing hysteria of anti-comic crusades during the 1940s and 1950s that alleged comic books, particularly those depicting crime and horror, caused juvenile delinquency, and a rash of laws throughout the country such certain comics, the United States Senate began its own investigation. Advocates lined up on both sides to battle, and ultimately the industry, which suffered near collapse, agreed to police its own to stave off government regulation.

U.S. Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, Comic Books and Juvenile Delinquency (1955). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

American Civil Liberties Union, Censorship of Comic Books (1955). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

In response to an increasing outcry for censorship of comic books, the industry created the Comics Code Authority to ensure conformance with self-adopted standards. The Code prohibited comics from promoting “distrust of the forces of law and justice” and, among other things, required “in every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.” Distributors refused to disseminate comics lacking the official seal of approval and hundreds of titles ceased to exist. By the publication of this 20th anniversary booklet in 1974, the Code’s influence had waned significantly, although it remains in effect today.

Americana in Four Colors: Twenty Years of Self-Regulation by the Comics Magazine Industry (New York: Comics Magazine Association of America, 1974). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

When Mad Magazine entered the scene in October 1952 it did not take long for the comic to gain a loyal and large readership. Many enjoyed its parodies of well-known characters in other comic books. It was published by Educational Comics (EC), acompany both applauded and derided for its impact on the comic book community. Led by Bill Gaines, EC epitomized the morality battle over whether comics were destroying the youth of America and its titles, which focused on horror, crime and science fiction, were directly linked to the formation of the Comics Code Authority.  Because the Code banned the use of “horror”, “terror” and “crime” from titles, EC was faced with ceasing publication altogether or ceding to the authority of the Code, neither of which Gaines was willing to do. So that Mad could continue its satire, including of the Code, Gaines modified it from a comic book to magazine format so as to fall outside of the organization’s de facto censorship authority. Mad no. 24 (July 1955) was the first of the new format. The magazine has existed ever since and is now owned by DC Comics.

Mad Magazine no. 24 (July 1955). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

September 17, 2010

From the exhibit, “Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books”, curated by Mark S. Zaid, Esq., and on display Sept. 4-Dec, 16, 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Secrets of Sinister House no. 17 (May 1974). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

The Witching Hour no. 51 (Feb. 1975). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

September 17, 2010

From the exhibit, “Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books”, curated by Mark S. Zaid, Esq., and on display Sept. 4-Dec, 16, 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Teen-Age Temptations no. 5 (Dec. 1953). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

Young Romance no. 196 (Dec. 1973). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

September 17, 2010

From the exhibit, “Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books”, curated by Mark S. Zaid, Esq., and on display Sept. 4-Dec, 16, 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Mr. District Attorney was a popular radio show created by former law student Ed Byron which aired from 1939 to 1952. It featured a crime-fighting crusading D.A. inspired by Thomas E. Dewey’s campaign against racketeering which helped lead to his election as governor of New York. The show’s popularity led to a quick comic book appearance in The Funnies no. 35 (Sept. 1939) and the issuance of one of the few non-funny early issues of Four Color by Dell Publishing in 1942. This issue is also one of the earliest examples of a lawyer gracing a comic book cover. The title was later picked up by D.C. Comics and ran for a respectable 67 issues from 1948 to 1958.

Mr. District Attorney was a popular radio show created by a former law student which aired from 1939 to 1952. It featured a crime-fighting crusading D.A. and the show’s popularity led to a quick comic book appearance in The Funnies #35 (Sept. 1939). This issue of Four Color is one of the earliest examples of a lawyer gracing a comic book cover. The title was later picked up by D.C. Comics and ran for a respectable 67 issues from 1948 to 1958.

 

Four Color Comic no. 13 (1942). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

The storyline of Mr. District Attorney no. 12 began with this introduction:

In this land of ours, under our laws, a person is innocent until proven guilty. And it is my duty as District Attorney not only to prosecute the guilty but to make certain that the innocent go free! And it is my duty, too, to make certain that society shares the guilt and responsibility of a criminal that society, itself, had created! That is why… “I DEFENDED THE MONKEY MAN!”

 

Mr. District Attorney no. 12 (Nov.-Dec. 1949). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

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