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.

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 13, 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.

Crime Detective Comics no. 8 (Jay-June 1949). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.


Crime Exposed no. 2 (Feb. 1951). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

September 10, 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.

Comic books have been around in modern form now for nearly 80 years and throughout their existence the influence of lawyers, laws and courts has been significant in the development and continuation of the industry. While oftentimes operating behind the scenes, whether as characters in comic book stories or in reality helping craft decisions that lead to the rise or fall of publishing companies, lawyers have repeatedly been recognized as part of this community, as seen in these varied examples of court-room covers published during the 1940s – 1970s.

Action Comics no. 263 (Apr. 1960). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

Adventure Comics no. 281 (Feb. 1961). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

Batman no. 163 (May 1964). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

Blackhawk no. 208 (May 1965). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

Detective Comics no. 281 (July 1960). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

Incredible Hulk no. 153 (July 1972). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

September 8, 2010


Lawyers have played both fictional and real-life roles in the 80-year history of the comic book industry. Their story is told in an exhibition, “Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books,” now on display in the Yale Law School’s Lillian Goldman Law Library.

The guest curator for the exhibition is Mark S. Zaid, Esq., a Washington, D.C. attorney who specializes in national security law. Much 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 of the items on display come from Zaid’s personal collection. The comics covers show Superman on trial for murder, and one of the earliest comic books to feature a lawyer on the cover (“Mr. District Attorney”, 1942). Other items document the legal battle over rights to Superman, efforts to censor comic books in the 1950s, and copyright issues.

The exhibition is on display Sept. 6 to Dec. 16, 2010, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, located on Level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library in the Yale Law School (127 Wall St., New Haven CT). The exhibition is open to the public. Highlights of the exhibition will appear in installments here in the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog.

In addition, Mark Zaid will give an exhibition talk on Sept. 30 at 1:00pm in the Yale Law School.

Action Comics no. 359 (Feb. 1968).

Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.



July 28, 2010

The “Justicie atque iniusticie” gallery in the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site now contains all of the illustrations from our copies of Guillaume Le Rouillé’s Justicie atque iniusticie. We own the first edition of this intriguing work (Paris: Claude Chevallon, 1520). In addition, we own the 1549 Lyon edition of the 18-volume Tractatus Universi Iuris; volume 1 contains Le Rouillé’s essay with different renderings of the illustrations. “Justicie atque iniusticie” also appears in our 1584 Venice edition of Tractatus Universi Iuris, but without illustrations.

Guillaume Le Rouillé (1494-ca. 1550) was a French jurist, public official, historian, publisher, bookseller, merchant, and poet. “Justicie atque Iniusticie” was his first published work; other editions include Lyon 1529, Lyon 1530, Lyon 1531, and Paris 1534. Other legal works that he published included Le grand coutumier de Normandie (Paris 1539), and Le grand coutumier de Maine (Paris 1535).

Below is the “beast of injustice” from the 1520 edition, gobbling up the innocent. The beast’s twelve legs are labeled to represent those who support or promote injustice, including disobedient youths, iniquitous princes, negligent bishops, immodest women, and undisciplined commoners.

Thanks to Nicholas Makarov, a junior in Yale College, for providing biographical information on Le Rouillé.

Rare Book Librarian

Charles du Moulin, Consilia quatuor (1552)
July 28, 2010


Another provenance puzzle solved! I was intrigued by the inscription on the title page of Charles du Moulin’s Consilia quatuor (Paris, 1552), because I had remembered seeing the same inscription on a law dictionary I had purchased when I was at the Tarlton Law Library, University of Texas at Austin: Jakob Spiegel’s Lexicon Iuris Civilis (1554).

The colleague who took my place at Tarlton, Elizabeth Haluska-Rausch (Rare Books Librarian and Archivist) was kind enough to decipher the inscription, and provided considerable detail on the book’s early owner.

The inscription reads “Bibliotheca Slakoverdensis Scholarum Piarum”, i.e. the library of the Piarist college in Schlackenwerth, the modern day Ostrov, Czech Republic. The Piarists are a monastic order dedicated to education. The order’s official name is Order of Poor Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools (Ordo Clericorum Regularium Pauperum Matris Dei Scholarum Piarum).

In an email to me, Elizabeth explained that the order “was founded by Saint Joseph Calasanz, and recognized by Pope Paul V in 1617. In 1622, Gregory XV approved the Constitutions, and conferred the privileges of the mendicant orders upon the order. In 1666, Anna Magdalena Duchess von Sachsen-Lauenburg founded a Piarist college in what was then Schlackenwerth. The complex was consecrated in 1674. The community disbanded in 1876. Major donations to the library included the collection of Princess Maria Piccolomini. In 1910 the library was sold by the last owner – the municipality of Ostrov - to a Viennese second-hand bookshop. There are still quite a few books from this library for sale. For more information, see Wenzl Sommer, Kurze Geschichte der Stadt Schlackenwerth in Verbindung mit dem Piaristen-collegium: Nebst Anhang: Der grosse Brand am 9. Mai 1866 (Selbstverlag des Verfassers, 1866), available in Google Books.”

Thanks to Elizabeth Haluska-Rausch for solving this puzzle for me. An image of Tarlton’s Lexicon Iuris Civilis, with the inscription “Bibliotheca Slakoverdensis Scholarum Piarum”, can be seen on Tarlton’s website, announcing their current exhibit, “Rare Law Dictionaries at Tarlton Law Library.” If you’re in the Austin area, this exhibit is well worth a visit.


Rare Book Librarian



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