9/17/10

Superhero Lawyers: They're All Big... But They're Not All BigLaw

When I heard about the Yale Law Library's "Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books," it got me thinking about superheroes that are lawyers as their day job (obviously their night-job is fighting super villains). I was a huge collector of comics when I was a kid, so immediately I could think of two names right off the top of my head, but I knew there had to be more. So, after a little (very little) bit of research, and a few hints from some Twitter followers, I came up with a quick list of superheroes who also happen to be attorneys when they are not wearing their underwear over their pants. I also decided to expand the list to include television and movie superheroes that were lawyers, mainly because there usually is some cross-connection between comic books and big/little screen superheroes.

The superhero/lawyer concept seems to take on the thread of either "Justice for the less fortunate," or "I'm tired of all these criminals getting away with it, so I'll kick their butts at night."  Very few are BigLaw attorneys (but, there is at least one that I found that seems to fit that category). Some even work as government lawyers... usually in the tracking down of aliens or super criminal agencies.

Here's a list of eleven superhero/lawyers that I found, along with a short bio for each one.


Daredevil - The Man Without Fear - Though he has no superhuman physical attributes beyond an enhanced sense of balance, Daredevil is a master of martial arts, despite the fact that he is totally blind. In his civilian identity, Matt Murdock, he is a skilled and respected attorney with an encyclopedic knowledge of law, especially New York statutes. In the comic universe, Daredevil is usually seen as one of the darkest superheroes (especially during the Gene Colon and Frank Miller periods) and probably shouldn't have suffered the fate of having Ben Affleck play him in the movie version.


She-Hulk - Jennifer Walters (AKA She-Hulk) has been a member of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Heroes For Hire, Defenders, Fantastic Force, and S.H.I.E.L.D. A highly skilled lawyer, she has served as legal counsel to various superheroes on numerous occasions. Her cousin is Bruce Banner, better known as The Incredible Hulk.
This description from Wikipedia makes it sound like she'd be a superhero just from her lawyering skills:
As a generally idealistic lawyer, the character has a history of defending the rights of minorities, the mentally ill, civil liberties, including the right for criminals to not be unduly mistreated and get a proper defense, or individuals to not be victimised by certain less ethical corporations, but also a belief in the necessity of law and order. These priorities have sometimes made her personally conflicted, such as reversing her stance regarding the "Superhuman Registration Act"; and being disillusioned when her more famous cousin (whom she considers as a brother) was shot into space without due process, or when what she thought to be a torturer and murderer of children was cleared from all charges."

Those were the two off the top of my "Marvel Comics" memory (I wasn't a big fan of DC comics other than Teen Titans).  But, there are more. Like...



Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law - Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law features ex-superhero Harvey T. Birdman of Birdman and the Galaxy Trio as an attorney working for a law firm alongside other cartoon stars from 1960s and 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoon series. Similarly, Harvey's clients are also primarily composed of characters taken from Hanna-Barbera cartoon series of the same era. Many of Birdman's nemeses featured in his former cartoon series also became attorneys, often representing the opposing side of a given case.
My biggest interaction with Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law is explaining to my kids that, although it is a cartoon, and there are characters they recognize from Boomerang, that it is not appropriate viewing for children.

Nathan Petrelli (Heroes TV show) - He is a New York lawyer-turned-senator with the power of self-propelled flight. Ambitious and pragmatic, Nathan has a decidedly anti-hero streak, which exacerbates his complex relationship with his brother, Peter Petrelli.  He was a lawyer working with the District Attorney's office. The District Attorney wanted to expose the Mafia connections of his father's client, Daniel Linderman. As he was driving his wife home from a party in a convertible, another vehicle attempted to run them off the road. Nathan inadvertently flew from his car, causing the car to lose control and veer off the freeway. 
I like this character's signature "O" ring that appears when he takes flight and suddenly shoots off at a 90 degree angle.  Very cool!!


Icon - With this superhero, we may actually have ourselves a BigLaw attorney with an interesting (and long) history.  In 1839, an alien starliner malfunctioned and exploded, and a jettisoned lifepod crashed in the middle of a cotton field in the American South.  Augustus Freeman IV (AKA Icon) has extensive knowledge of the Cooperative legal system as well as decades of experience in his chosen field. Icon is an equally adept corporate lawyer due to his mediator background and a century’s worth of experience in American law.
Icon is also a formidable combatant, whose fighting skills rival those of Superman. Icon is well trained in unarmed and armed combat, having fought in major conflicts ranging from the Civil War to World War II. Some opponents underestimate Icon’s abilities since he tries to peacefully settle disputes before pummeling his foes.
Icon is fluent in English and Galactic Standard, the native language of the Cooperative (which I'm assuming is the code language that Corporate Lawyers speak.)

Shadowhawk - This is a storyline straight out of the early 1990's where Paul Johnstone (AKA Shadowhawk) is a lawyer and district attorney. While his life was going so well, his half brother Hojo had taken his success in college, moved to Wall Street and developed a coke and crack addiction. Using Hojo, some gangsters tried to leverage Paul into letting their men off, but Paul refused. Soon after he ended up the target of an assault intended to serve as an example to others who got in the way of these mobsters. This incident culminated in his attackers injecting him with HIV-infected blood. 
Initially Shadowhawk was an extremely violent vigilante, but over time softened to become a not-as-violent-vigilante.  In his final act as ShadowHawk, Johnstone would rescue his mother from being attacked by Hawk's Shadow. The aftermath of the fight would leave Johnstone in a weakened state and unable to elude the pursuit of the police. He was remanded into custody and transported to a hospital where AIDS eventually took its toll and ended his life.  
Geez... glad I didn't read this storyline... it's depressing!!

Manhunter (Mark Shaw) -  Mark Shaw was a public defender, unhappy about how easily criminals manipulated the system and got off without punishment. Shaw's uncle Desmond introduced him to an ancient sect of crime fighters called the Manhunters. Shaw contacted the Grand Master, the sect's leader, through a magical lion medallion. Shortly, he assumed the Manhunter name and costume from a previous Manhunter.  Somehow Shaw is duped by the other Manhunters and they mess with the Green Lantern and eventually Shaw is discovered and spends some time in jail for his actions.
I haven't read this one, but (yawn) it doesn't seem to be the greatest of story lines out there.



Manhunter (Kate Spencer) - Kate Spencer, like Mark Shaw, is a lawyer, but instead works as a prosecutor. Outraged by the ability of supercriminals to escape justice, Spencer assembled a costume from a variety of devices left over from various heroes and villains. A Darkstar costume and Azrael's Batman gloves give Spencer enhanced strength, agility and resistance to injury while Mark Shaw's power staff allows her to fire bolts of energy. Spencer has taken on several minor league supervillains including Copperhead and the Shadow Thief. 
Kate Spencer's Manhunter is now working out of Gotham City as the new District Attorney. Her more recent adventures can be found in the new monthly comic Batman: Streets of Gotham.
I wonder is she uses the Gotham Public Library... which is run by former Bat Girl / Oracle superhero turned librarian, Barbara Gordon??  Also... what's up with that picture??


Two-Gun Kid - Matt "Hawk" Liebowicz (now apparently just Matt Hawkins) was a lawyer from Boston, Massachusetts who was inspired to fight evil as a masked crimefighter of the 19th Century American West by the stories of the fictional "Two-Gun Kid", Clay Harder. After being trained in combat by the gunfighter Ben Dancer, Liebowicz assumed the dual identities of "Matt Hawk" and the Two-Gun Kid. With his horse Cyclone, his partner "Boom Boom" Brown, and a pair of pistols, he became one of the West's most prolific heroes, often teaming up with the Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt or the Phantom Rider. In one of his first adventures he fought an alien, and in other early outings he fought criminals who could only be called supervillains. During one adventure, he was brought to the present day via time travel and joined the superhero team of The Avengers. He fought alongside them before leaving to wander America alongside his teammate Hawkeye, and eventually returned to his own time, occasionally making a cameo appearance in other Western tales or stories of time travel.
I think the name changes of this character are funny enough. So, make up your own commentary on this one.


Gazerbeam - Simon J. Paladino (AKA Gazerbeam) is a super mentioned and briefly seen in The Incredibles. His powers allow him to generate energy blasts from his eyes, provided that he concentrates on the object he wishes to target.
According to his biography on the DVD, Gazerbeam was originally a member of the superhero team The Phantasmics, but rivalry with team leader Everseer led to Gazerbeam's dismissal. When the public began suing superheroes for damages done, Gazerbeam (under the guise of Simon J. Paladino) was a pro-bono lawyer who entered politics to become a long-time advocate for superhero rights.
Gazerbeam appears alive only once in the film—as a guest during Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl's wedding—and is mostly seen in photos or mentioned by others. He was featured in a Super postage stamp collection alongside Frozone, Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible; this is seen among Mr. Incredible's selection of memorabilia. His disappearance (in his civilian identity) was reported in an article in the Metroville Tribune newspaper, which is how Bob first learned of his disappearance. His address is shown to be Traction Avenue, in the financial district of Metroville (the street where Operation Kronos is put into effect).
As events would reveal, Gazerbeam was killed on Nomanisan Island while attempting to disable an Omnidroid. The exact version was not revealed, but it was at least as late as version X4, but prior to X9, the first version later faced by Mr. Incredible. He apparently discovered the reason for his mission—i.e., Operation Kronos—and used his powers to burn the word "KRONOS" into a cavern wall on the island prior to his death.
This story line made me cry a little....

Earth-Two Robin - On Earth-Two, home of the Golden Age version of DC's superheroes, Dick Grayson continued to be Robin even as an adult, having no successors, and even after Batman's death (remember, this is Earth-Two...don't panic). His allies included the All-Star Squadron along with Batwoman and Flamebird. He eventually became a member of the Justice Society of America.
During his later years, he adopted a more Batman-like look for a time, and by the 1960s had become a lawyer and the ambassador to South Africa. Although in semi-retirement, he was called back to active duty when he rejoined the Justice Society during the period when Power Girl and Star-Spangled Kid also assisted them.
This reminds me why I didn't read DC comics as a kid.

Captain Amazing - Mystery Men Movie's Lance Hunt (AKA Captain Amazing) is a legendary superhero who has kept Champion City safe for years, and whose suit displays a number of logos of corporate sponsors. He is disliked by the Mystery Men because he constantly shows them up. 
As the billionaire lawyer Lance Hunt, his sole physical difference with Captain Amazing is a pair of glasses. Mr. Furious at one point guesses at Amazing's true identity, but is dismissed by his comrades: "He takes them off when he transforms—" "That's ridiculous, he wouldn't be able to see!"
I wonder if Kinnear kept this suit after the filming... he looks very natural in leather, metal and spandex.


I'm sure there are more like Power Man & Iron Fists' lawyer, Thunderbolt, or super villains, "Big Ben" Donovan, and  Gotham's District Attorney Two-Face, but this is where my list ends. Let me know if you have any more superhero/lawyers that I missed.

[Note: Props to Robb Farmer at Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law Library for pointing out my forgetting to add in Vigilante (Adrian Chase) to the list.  I'm doubly ashamed to have missed this one because I own a number of Vigilante comics (including Teen Titans Annual #2 with his first appearance).  Robb also put on a great presentation on this topic at AALL where he dressed up as Two-Gun Kid!!]

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7 comments:

Doug Cornelius said...

For a broader look at lawyers in comic books (not just as a super hero), take a look at:

Hi Superman, I'm a Lawyer: A Guide to Attorneys (& Other Legal Professionals) Portrayed in American Comic Books: 1910-2007

by William A. Hilyerd

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1000287

Greg Lambert said...

Doug,

I should have known that you'd be the go to source for other superhero in pop-culture research!

Here's a PDF of that Widener Law Review article. Unfortunately, it doesn't have images of rifle toting women or She-Hulk's bench ad. ;-)

Thanks for pointing this out!!

Jason said...

The Hilyerd article is excellent, and even goes into a bit of the history of the comics code and Frederic Wertham.

I highly recommend it.

Greg Lambert said...

The whole Comic Code Authority and Frederic Wertham saga (kind of like the McCarthism for comics) is a very strange tale. I know as a collector that I loved it when a comic didn't get CCA approval (like Daredevil 200) because we knew it would be more valuable later!

Jason said...

For whatever reason, about ten years ago I got into reading all of Wertham's books and books about him. What shocked me was finding out that his research on segregation effects was used in Brown v. Board of Education.

http://superherolegacy.com said...

Daredevil has got to be the best. And I know he's not a hero, but how about Harvey Dent (Two-Face)?

Vanessa Verduga said...

Here's another superhero lawyer for your list: Assistant District Attorney Sofia Escala by day, and Justice Woman superhero by night. You can check out her web miniseries when it comes out Summer 2012 at http://www.JusticeWoman.com - in the meantime, check her out on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JusticeWomanSeries

 

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