Rare Books Blog

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.

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 Defenders was a popular television courtroom drama series which aired from 1961–1965. It starred E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed (later of Brady Bunch fame) as father-and-son defense attorneys who handled complex cases. The series addressed topics that still resonate for attorneys nearly a half-century later including capital punishment, custody rights of adoptive parents, the insanity defense, immigration quotas, and visa restrictions. Dell Publishing produced only these two issues of a comic book adaption of the same title in 1962-1963.

The Defenders no. 2 (Feb.-Apr. 1963). 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 Young Lawyers was yet another comic book television adaptation issued by Dell Publishing. This two-issue title from 1971 was based on the Golden Globe nominated ABC drama series that aired 24 episodes over one season in 1970-71. The story featured a group of young and idealistic law students in Boston who ran the “Neighborhood Law Office” in an effort to represent the poor, apparently as a forerunner of today’s legal clinics. Since as law students they were obviously not yet admitted to the bar, an established Boston lawyer served as their mentor.

Young Lawyers no. 2 (Apr. 1971). 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.

Alanna Wolff and Jeff Byrd began taking on their macabre clients in a weekly strip in The Brooklyn Paper in 1979. Creator Batton Lash took his inspiration from the gothic law offices along Brooklyn’s Court Street, the hub of The Brooklyn Paper’s readership. From 1983 to 1997 the Wolff & Byrd strip ran in The National Law Journal, and the firm got their very own comic book in 1994, with story titles like “It Stalks the Public Domain,” “Juristic Park,” and “Lawyers in Hell,” where Wolff and Byrd literally met a client in hell. Exhibit A Press still publishes the comic today under the title Supernatural Law, along with 16 compilations and an ongoing web comic. The Lillian Goldman Law Library has a complete collection of Wolff & Byrd comics.

Wolff & Byrd: Counselors of the Macabre no. 3 (Sept.1994). Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

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.

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