It’s everybody’s nightmare. A shackled Batman sees his judge and jury are all mirror images of arch-nemesis Joker.
“Yes, Batman … I’m giving you a fair trial! Ha-ha-ha!” Judge Joker says.
But the role of lawyers in comic books is no laughing matter to Mark Zaid, a Washington attorney who has a tiny part of his comic collection on display at the University of Miami School of Law.
It’s natural comics would feature attorneys, Zaid said at a lecture Monday, because comics reflect pop culture and lawyers are a big part of that.
The Clock in 1936 became the first masked superhero with a lawyer alter ego, District Attorney Brian O’Brien. The first comic-attorney-turned-villain is Batman foe Twoface, who launched in 1942, followed by the Thinker in 1943.
“Mr. District Attorney,” a comic based on a popular radio show, sold from 1948 to 1958.
“You’re never going to be a real lawyer until you defend the Monkey Man,” Zaid said, showing a “Mr. District Attorney” edition in which the hero does just that. “If you want a copy I can get it for you — $40.”
The audience of 48 consisted of mostly law students and their professors. Also attending was Carl Fornaris, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig in Miami who said he had a “small” comic collection.
Zaid encouraged the students to persevere in their studies.
“You can be a superheroine and a lawyer at the same time,” Zaid said, showing a frame of the She-Hulk in courthouse attire with her skin still green.
Zaid, who trades comics on www.esquirecomics.com, is no fan of technological advances in publishing.
“I don’t like e-books,” he said. “It has changed things. The e-books are worthless from a collecting standpoint.”
The display at the law school’s library includes 40 covers from Zaid’s collection as well as five “ashcans,” comic-book mockups submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to secure the rights to “Flash Comics” and other promising titles.
“Now think hard, Mr. ‘Brains’ Matrix. … Have you ever heard the word ‘schoolhouse’?” a witness on a 1949 “Crime Detective Comics” is asked.
“Objection, your honor,” his attorney interrupts. “The prosecution is trying to confuse my client.”
On an issue of “Betty and Veronica” with comic-book stalwart Archie marked as Exhibit C, Betty points to Veronica. “And I hope to prove conclusively that this girl stole my boyfriend,” she tells the jury.
Also in the exhibit are copies of a 1955 U.S. Senate report linking comic books to juvenile delinquency and the corresponding statement from the American Civil Liberties Union opposing censorship of comic books.
This is only the second time Zaid has exhibited his comic-book covers; the first was at Yale University in 2010. The UM display includes a cover of Daredevil, who becomes attorney Matt Murdock when he takes off his red suit and mask, even though the cover itself doesn’t show the lawyer angle. The New York Times noted the Yale exhibit did not have Daredevil, Zaid said.
Zaid is a national security law specialist who primarily represents current and former federal employees, particularly within the intelligence community in his Washington, D.C., practice. He plans to lecture on comics and lawyers next month in London and said he is trying to interest the National Institutes of Health in showing a selection on comics and doctors.
The exhibit will remain at the UM law library through October.