The case of the People v. Superman has arrived at Yale Law School.
In the exhibit “Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books,” which opened this month at the Lillian Goldman Law Library, “The People v. Superman” is one of the 23 comic books on display. The exhibit examines the roles that lawyers, and law in general, have played in the world of comic books — whether in the form of fictional crusaders of justice or as real-life decision-makers who have shaped the industry.
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Mark Widener, the Law Library’s rare book librarian, worked with a Washington, D.C., lawyer to curate the exhibit, which they hope will be a colorful way for the public to learn about law.
“Society has a general interest in law,” Widener said. “Look at the TV schedule: It’s full of courtroom dramas like ‘Boston Legal’ or ‘Law and Order.’ Even Shakespeare used court scenes.”
Widener said he has always had an interest in illustrated law books, such as those available in the Law School Library’s Juvenile Jurisprudence Collection. But it was not until a July 2009 session of the American Association of Law Libraries examined the use of comic books to teach legal research that Widener came up with the idea of creating the exhibit.
After speaking with numerous members of the legal community, Widener got in touch with Mark Zaid, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who specializes in litigation relating to national security and who also happens to be an avid comic book enthusiast. Together, they worked to organize the exhibit. Zaid, who has been assembling his personal collection for more than 30 years, provided several comics, such as a 1964 issue of “Batman” and a 1972 issue of “The Incredible Hulk.”
One of the exhibit’s strengths, Zaid said, is that it conveys the extent of the law’s influence on the comic book industry. From Two-Face’s abuse of the legal system to free the Joker in the “Batman” comics to the extensive litigation surrounding the various copyright violations of “Superman,” Zaid said, comics and the law have an intricate relationship.
But overall, he said, he thinks comics have succeeded in painting a positive image of the legal profession.
“While [lawyers] are often heroes or villains in real life, [they] simply aren’t superheroes or supervillains, as they may be in the comic book universe,” Zaid said.
Quirky exhibits like “Superheroes in Court!” are common within the Law School Library, law students said.
“The exhibit gave me the impression that every corner of the Law School is staffed by people who are deeply passionate about what they do,” said Ivy Wang ’06 LAW ’13.
Recalling a previous exhibit that featured bobbleheads of Supreme Court justices, one law student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said such amusing exhibits are often a welcome respite from the rigors of law school, though they do not typically attract large crowds of viewers.
The exhibit will run through Dec. 16, and may be viewed free of charge during regular library hours. Zaid will give an exhibition talk at 1 p.m. Sept. 30 in Sterling Law Building room 129.