The Lawyer as Superhero: How Marvel Comics' Daredevil Depicts the American Court System and Legal Practice

Author:Louis Michael Rosen
Position:Reference Librarian and Associate Professor of Law Library at Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida
Pages:197-251
THE LAWYER AS SUPERHERO: HOW MARVEL COMICS
DAREDEVIL DEPICTS THE AMERICAN COURT SYSTEM AND
LEGAL PRACTICE
LOUIS MICHAEL ROSEN*
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................. 380
II. BACKGROUND: POPULAR CULTURE AND THE LAW THEORIES ....... 387
III. DAREDEVIL––THE STORY SO FAR ............................................... 391
A. Daredevil in the Sights of Frank Miller ....................................... 391
B. Daredevil Through the Eyes of Brian Michael Bendis ................ 395
C. Daredevil’s Journey to Redemption by David Hine .................... 402
D. Daredevil Goes Public, by Mark Waid ........................................ 406
IV. DAREDEVILS FRESH START AND BIGGEST CASE EVER, BY
CHARLES SOULE ...................................................................................... 417
V. CONCLUSION .................................................................................... 430
Copyright © 2019, Louis Michael Rosen.
* Louis Michael Rosen is a Reference Librarian and Associate Professor of Law Library
at Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida. He would like to thank Profess or
Taylor Simpson-Wood, his mentor , ally, advocate, cheerleader, and ever-patient editor as he
wrote this article. She invites him into her Popular Culture and the Law class every
semester to present a guest lecture on Superheroes and the Law, which formed the genesis
of this article. He would also like to thank Associate Dean of Information Services Glen-
Peter Ahlers, Associate Dire ctor and Head of Public S ervices Whitney Curtis, fellow
Reference Librarians Diana Botluk and Jason Murray, and fellow nerd Justo Fajardo for
their support, and Barry Law student Nicholas Walls for his inspiration. Finally, he must
thank his brilliant wife, Dr. Stacey Coffman-Rosen, for everything.
380 CAPITAL UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [47:379
I. INTRODUCTION
For the last twenty years, superheroes have been enjoying a crest of
popularity due to a seemingly never-ending series of movies and television
shows that mine decades of comic book source material for action and
drama. While these fictional characters are firmly entrenched in the
American cultural consciousness, the endless volumes of their cross-media
adventures also treat global audiences to a form of modern-day American
mythology, thrilling and inspiring viewers around the world. Despite
declining comic book sales,
1
mainstream culture is more familiar with
these iconic characters than ever before due to the broad exposure given to
the genre by film and television.
2
This has resulted in new fans becoming
familiar with more than just the iconic A-list heroes (like Batman,
Superman, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man), but embracing all kinds of
superheroes once only known by the geekiest and most committed
collectors.
3
One of the many superheroes who has overcome decades of obscurity
to become a multimedia superstar is Marvel Comics’ Daredevil. Unlike all
the superheroes who are government super -soldiers, benevolent aliens,
crusading journalists, and perhaps most unrealistic of all, billionaire
1
See Milton Griepp, Comics and Graphic Novel Sales Down 6.5% in 2017, ICV2 (July
13, 2018, 6:21 AM), https://icv2.com/articles/news/view/40845/comics-graphic-novel-
sales-down-6-5-2017 [https://perma.cc/BJ62-MKPX]. See also Shannon O’Leary, Comics
Retailers Hope to Rebound in 2018, PUBLISHERS WKLY. (Feb. 9, 2018), https://www.
publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/comics/article/76031-comics-retailers-
hope-to-rebound-in-2018.html [https://perma.cc/AW9Z-LZX5].
2
Marvel Comics (own ed by the Walt Disney Company) owns our subject Daredevil, as
well as Spider-Man, Captain America, the Hul k, Iron Man, Thor, Wol verine, Deadpool, the
X-Men, the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and all their villains and supporting
characters. See A to Z in Marvel Comic Characters, MARVEL, https://www.marvel.com/
comics/characters [https://perma.cc/H6X2-K66S] (for a catalogue of Marvel characters).
Its longtime rival, DC Comics (owned by Warner Bros.), owns Superman, Batman, Wonder
Woman, The Flas h, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Aq uaman, the Justice League, and a ll
their villains and supporting characters. See Character s, DCCOMICS, https://
www.dccomics.com/characters [https://perma.cc/W55E-HRCP] (for a catalogue of DC
characters). When I introduce legal research concepts to 1L students, I tell them to think of
Westlaw and LexisNexis as the Marvel and DC Comics of legal research databases.
Sometimes it gets a nervous chuckle or two.
3
I have been a superhero fan my whole life, learning to read from comic books,
collecting comics and action figures, and loving the movies and television shows that
adapted these heroes for larger audiences. As a child in the 1980s, and especially as a
teenager in the 1990s, I felt like part of a special club, as most characters weren’t exactly
household names. I always gravitated toward the underdogs and cult favorites anyway,
rather than the most popular characters.
2019] THE LAWYER AS SUPERHERO 381
captains of industry with a social conscience, Daredevil just happens to be
an attorney, one of relatively few comic book characters who leads this
particular double life.
4
The monthly Daredevil comic book series
5
and
recent streaming television show on Netflix
6
offer unique opportunities to
tell allegorical stories about a well-intentioned lawyer navigating the legal
profession, acting heroically, and occasionally making major mistakes.
They offer commentary and teaching moments about the law to audiences
who largely acquire their limited legal knowledge through other popular
culture sources.
A case can also be made for using Daredevil comics as a teaching tool
for law students to demonstrate legal issues in areas such as criminal law
and procedure, constitutional law, and professional responsibility, among
others.
7
Consequently, this article will focus on the portrayals of
Daredevil’s secret identity, attorney Matthew Murdock, and the legal
system in Daredevil comic books, and the lessons that readers and
television audiences may be absorbing as they consume various writers’
interpretations of Daredevil.
Daredevil first appeared in 1964, in Marvel Comics’ Daredevil #1, a
co-creation of prolific writer Stan Lee and artist Bill Everett.
8
The
4
See generally William A. Hilyerd, Hi Superman, I’m a Lawyer: A Guide to Attor neys
(and Other Legal Professionals) Portrayed in American Comic Books: 19102007, 15
WIDENER L. REV. 159 (2009) (for a brief history of attorney characters in comic books).
5
Marvel Comics publishes Daredevil almost continuously since the character’s creation
in 1964, in five separate series, each starting with a new #1 issue. Volume 1 was published
from 19641998, Volume 2 from 19982010, Volume 3 from 20112014, Volume 4 from
20142015, and Volume 5 from 2015 to the present. See Comics, MANWITHOUTFEAR.COM,
http://www.manwithoutfear.com/daredevil-comics.shtml [https://p erma.cc/SB25-RXRF].
6
Season 1 of Daredevil debuted on the Netflix streaming service in April 2015,
followed by Season 2 in March 2016, and Season 3 in October 2018. See Daredevil Episode
List, IMDB, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3322312/episodes?season=3 [https://perma.cc/
7XDZ-CHDW] (Select a season number from the “Season” dropdown to view a list of
episodes organized by airdate from that season).
7
See Thomas Giddens, Comics, Law, and Aesthet ics: Towards the Use of Graphic
Fiction in Legal Studies, 6 L. & HUMAN. 85, 87 (2012) (suggesti ng that comics have the
potential to promote narrative discourse on issues of law and justice in a humanities-based
approach to interdisciplinary legal studies).
8
Marvel Comics, one of the “big two” comic book p ublishers alongside older rival DC
Comics, debuted its first superhero comic, Stan Lee an d artist Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four
#1, in 1961; quickly following it with Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, the X-Men,
the Avengers, and our Dare devil––all co-created by Lee and his artist collaborators, and all
beloved, enduring character s to this day. See Stan Lee Biography, BIOGRAPHY,
https://www.biography.com/people/stan-lee-21101093 [https://perma.cc/475R-W869].

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