Comics and Law – A Merging of Passions

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Mark S. Zaid, Esq has two key interests. By day, his passion is national security law where he represents his Washington DC based law firm, the Law Office of Mark S. Zaid, P.C. and outside of the courtroom he is a collector of investment-grade comic books. For the next 3 months, Zaid has combined his two passions by guest-curating an exhibit at Yale Law School, entitled Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books.

The exhibit celebrates the role that lawyers have played in fictional and real-life roles in the 80-year history of the comic book industry.

“There are about 28 items in the exhibit,” explains Zaid. Most of the pieces come from his personal collection.

The exhibit includes legal documentation detailing the tumultuous ongoing litigation of Jerry Siegel vs DC Comics over ownership of Superman and Superboy. First Amendment battles during comics’ infancy are available for viewing such as Comic Books and Juvenile Delinquency, a 1955 report submitted to the United States Senate.

Beyond items of an inherently historical context, there are also some famous comic books depicting superheroes in the courtroom such as the Neal Adams cover art to Action Comics issue 359, The Case of The People Vs. Superman.

Attendees will see comic art featuring Superboy receiving a court order for new foster parents, and a handcuffed Batman & Robin being tried by a Joker-faced jury with the Joker as the assigned Judge.
The law is no stranger to superhero comic book fiction. By definition most costumed heroes are considered vigilantes, unsanctioned entities engaging in crime fighting activities. Marvel’s Civil War event was predicated on the Superhero Registration Act, legally requiring super powered American citizens to register their names with the US government.

While a significant piece of his personal collection consists of comics paraphernalia containing a legal theme, his overall interests are more expansive. Zaid’s hobby has translated into an online business venture, Esquire Comics (www.esquirecomics.com). To date, the most expensive comic transaction for the site was the sale of an Action Comics #1 CGC 4.0 for $195,000.

“A record price at the time but now viewed as great investment,” says Zaid.

Always on the hunt for new additions to his collection, Zaid expands on his procurement strategy.  “My comics are acquired through many different mediums. I would probably state that most are now obtained through auctions, and then others through conventions and private transactions.”

His passion for comics permeates into other facets of the hobby, including being an advisor to the Overstreet Comic Book Price & Grading Guides a co-founder of the Comic Book Collecting Association and a founding member of the Network of Disclosure, the leading consumer protection entity in world of comics collecting.

What’s the response of colleagues when they discover that he’s a comics collector who’s been in the hobby for over 30 years?

“There are probably three main reactions from colleagues: One, they smirk and say something like ‘really?’ and I say ‘yes and my comics sometimes cost $50,000.’ The smirk vanishes.  “Two, they respond, ‘I used to collect comics and my mother threw them out.’

“Or third, they tell me they still collect or like comics. In fact, I once met two of my adversaries at the Justice Department at the San Diego Comic Con,” explains Zaid.

Has he ever had occasion to leverage something from the world of comic books into his day job?
“I can’t think of an instance where I used comic book references or experiences in court, but I did once speak of Kryptonite when I was interviewed by Keith Olberman on MSNBC!”

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. Additionally, Zaid will be giving an exhibition lecture on September 30th at 1 pm at the Yale Law School.