Oct 23, 2010

Matt's Mentionables: Superheroes and the Law

Matt's Mentionables is a column written by Matt for The Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Superheroes and the Law
by Matt

Recently, Yale University unveiled a collections of comic books that showed the interaction of superheroes and the law (here). It got me thinking, especially because they left out comics characters who were actually lawyers, how have Marvel and DC presented their characters who are lawyers (I was not alone). While there are a few villains who were lawyers (think Two-Face), I want to focus on how heroes are made from this oft maligned profession.

The Famous Ones

Marvel is home to two of the more famous superhero/lawyers, both of which had long (and current) series with them as leads. When you think lawyer and superhero, who else pops up but Daredevil. He is the most prominent lawyer in the comic universes.

Murdock only defends those he knows are innocent (his superior hearing acting as a lie detector) and has defended Ka-Zar, the Hulk (on TV), Peter Parker (also on TV) and Black Widow (who he shacked up with for a while in the 70s). While Daredevil’s adventures focus on him taking on the Kingpin and avenging his father, it is a wonder he didn’t try to prosecute the Kingpin before the 90s.

Our next famous Marvel lawyer is She-Hulk. Jennifer Walters, cousin of Bruce Banner and future receipt of his Hulkifying blood, was already a talented lawyer. As She-Hulk, Jennifer is taller, stronger, more confident, and green.

She-Hulk has done something Daredevil often refrained from, being a prominent superhero/lawyer. Such clients include Morbius, J Jonah Jamison (suing Peter Parker), defending Speedball, suing Tony Stark (major points in my book) and supporting the Superhuman Registration Act (which is how she started suing Spider-Man). .

She-Hulk and Daredevil are the two most prominent examples of superhero lawyers, though since Daredevil isn’t green he can be Matt Murdock, lawyer, without everyone knowing it. The other examples are not as prominent characters, at least not in the main universes.

DC’s Lawyer B Team

While the superhero lawyers in the DC universe are not prominent, title characters, they are (largely) famous names. Helena Wayne (Huntress of Earth-2) and Dick Grayson (Robin of Earth-2) were both lawyers and in fact, part of the same firm.

Earth-2 may not exist anymore (or at least not the Earth-2 these two came from), but in their time, Huntress and Robin were fearsome lawyer/superheroes. The origin of Robin is largely the same, but unlike Nightwing/Batman (or whatever he ends up being), this Dick Grayson didn’t leave school and instead became Gotham’s number 1 crimefighter and even had to prosecute the Justice League (and suppress feelings for the Huntress). Unlike Robin, Huntress began as a lawyer and became a superheroine after her mother was forced to return as Catwoman. It seems the Waynes can’t help but become superheroes. Both characters returned in one of the 52 new Earths, but whether they remain lawyers is anyone’s guess.

DC does maintain one main-universe lawyer, and that is Kate Spencer, also known as Manhunter.

This Manhunter is the newest of the hero/lawyers; however, she wasn’t the first Manhunter to be a lawyer (I just skipped him because he was a public defender and didn’t have particularly high-profile defendants).
Spencer has a superhero legacy (she is Phantom Lady’s daughter) and defended Wonder Woman in the murder trial of Maxwell Lord (which I suppose at this point is moot). Spencer is now the District Attorney for Gotham and her series has been canceled, but I suspect DC will have use for a superhero/lawyer once Brightest Day is completed.

The Rest

One last superhero/lawyer. Now, he doesn’t have a recurring series and the series you might know him from is entirely based on less than stellar interpretations of old cartoon characters, but he is my favorite on the list. I, of course, mean Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. Here he is, in all his courtroom glory.

For those unfamiliar with Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, it was a show run on Adult Swim focused on old Hanna Barbera cartoon characters from the 1960s re-imagined as either lawyers, judges or plantiffs/defendants. Harvey (or Birdman as he was known in the 1960s) is a fairly bumbling lawyer whose clients include Fred Flintstone (mafia don), Boo Boo Bear (terroist bomber) and Dr. Quest (in a custody case with Race Bannon).

Harvey is clearly a superhero (allowing me to include him in this list) and shows the fun side of being a lawyer. The show is highly irreverent, intelligent, and I recommend it for anyone looking for laughs and fond memories of old cartoons gone horribly wrong.

Despite the massive physical damage and occasional collateral damage (it has to happen with all the physical damage), it is surprising that more heroes are not also lawyers, they would certainly get business.


Duy Tano said...

Matt, I just want to add that the new Earth-2 has been established, and Huntress and Robin are in there, but if they're still lawyers, it wasn't explicitly said (as far as I know).

I also want to add that Kate Spencer is the Phantom Lady's daughter, which makes her the original Starman's first cousin once removed (we'll just say niece).

Anonymous said...

Superb blog post, I have book marked this internet site so ideally I’ll see much more on this subject in the foreseeable future!

London Elliott said...

This was a great fun read, Matt!

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