Mobile Menu

From The Scoop: Comics As History - Mark Zaid

From the May 6 issue of Gemstone Publishing's The Scoop:

Mark S. Zaid was born in 1967, in Manhasset on New York's Long Island. He grew up first in Flushing, Queens in the shadow of Shea Stadium, and then in Jericho (also on Long Island), where he stayed until adulthood. Back in his first grade days, approximately 1974, he was bitten by the comic book bug. By sixth grade he was bringing backpacks full of comic books to school to sell and trade. He remained active in comics until he went away to college. After graduating and establishing a thriving legal practice in the nation's capital, his childhood passion re-emerged in a serious way, leading him to launch his company, online at Scoop asked Zaid to talk about how he got started and how he collects today.

I was fortunate enough to have two local stationary stores within about ¾ mile in each direction, just close enough to be allowed to ride my bicycle to visit after school. From 1974-1983, I probably made weekly trips in search of new comics. I still remember those metal racks containing the comics. By the time I was eight years old, I was a collector of many different things including comics, stamps, coins, and baseball cards. I was even president of my second grade's "Stamp Club," which had weekly meetings at my house (but don't tell anyone that now).

The answer to the normal "What else did you collect?" question is the same for my childhood and adulthood - What didn't I collect! Many of my collecting interests from childhood remain actively, or at least passively, with me today. These include stamps, baseball cards, historical memorabilia (especially early 20th Century trans-Atlantic liners), postcards, animation art, books (particularly Americana and legal history). I started collecting at such an early age that my memories simply do not go back far enough.

My family was at least passively supportive, although from my mother's perspective that was conditioned on keeping my floor clear of comics. I fondly recall my parents taking me to stamp and comic shows throughout New York City and Long Island during the 1970s and 1980s. When I first started selling comics at shows on Long Island in 1985 with a high school classmate, my parents were quite eager that I had embarked upon an effort to minimize the number of long comic boxes stored around the house. Needless to say they were repeatedly disappointed each month when I arrived home from the show to find that I had spent all my profits on more comics!

My brother, four years my junior, like many younger siblings often engaged in the same hobbies I did, at least with respect to comics and baseball cards. However, he never developed the serious interest that I did. It was more something that allowed him to join in activities with me.

When I left to attend the University of Rochester in 1985, my collecting habits were essentially put on hold for the most part. I did miss it though. So much so that when I entered law school at Albany Law School in 1989, I embarked upon a second very brief foray into comic dealing.

After that stint, I again retreated from the world of comics, particularly to develop my law practice after moving to Washington, D.C. in 1993. I essentially was completely out of comics until my discovery of the Internet in 1996 and soon thereafter finding the most unbelievable site ever created - eBay! Those early days of eBay were so fantastic that for at least a year I would never mention the site to anyone else for fear they would start using it and compete with me. Back then very few, if any, dealers were using eBay. It was truly your average person with absolutely no comic book knowledge who were taking their books from their closets and attics and just posting them for sale without a clue as to what they had. This was in the days before pictures were widely available to post. There were some great deals to be had in those early years. But then, sigh, the other collectors and dealers found out about my secret site and, while it is still a buyer's world, eBay is not quite the same.

Anyway, throughout approximately 1996-2002, I sporadically engaged in buying comics. I rarely purchased new comics. Candidly, I have little interest in them. I still remain committed to Golden and Silver Age books.

I have been a practicing attorney since 1992, and primarily specialize in cases involving national security/intelligence, governmental openness and Constitutional challenges under the First and Fifth Amendments. I also serve as the Executive Director of The James Madison Project ( which seeks to educate the public on issues relating to national security, intelligence and governmental openness.

Additionally, I spend a great of time writing articles and books. I often publish op-ed pieces in newspapers such as the Washington Post and Washington Times, or online at I had a book published last year entitled The GI's Rabbi: World War II Letters of David Max Eichhorn (University Press of Kansas), which is about my maternal grandfather.

I am currently working on two other non-fiction books on governmental secrecy and Robert Todd Lincoln, the only son of President Lincoln who survived to adulthood and who in his own right had a distinguished governmental and legal career.

Many of my clients are well-known, and a great number of my cases have been very high-profile. For example, I filed the first civil lawsuit against the Government of Libya for the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. I helped author the legislation that allowed victims of terrorism to sue certain foreign countries and this led to the $2.7 billion dollar settlement between the Flight 103 families and Libya.

I am probably the only attorney who has ever litigated both the assassinations of President Lincoln (when I represented the relatives of John Wilkes Booth in an effort to exhume his alleged remains) and President Kennedy (not only did I represent several of his former Secret Service Agents, including one accused of "accidentally" killing him, but also JFK's mistress and many authors of assassination books).

Much of the excitement I derive currently comes from the historical value and significance of the Platinum through Atom Age comic books. For example, a recent discussion I had with other Golden Age collectors analyzed how the comic industry dealt with the horrors of Nazism and Japanese imperialism during the 1930s and pre-Pearl Harbor days. As superhero stories began to emerge, particularly with the issuance of Action #1 in 1938, the comic writers actually took us to war long before the U.S. Government was willing to do so.

As a general rule, comic books from certainly the early 1940s - and the time of World War II - through the late 1950s - when we were witnessing the true paranoia of the Cold War - really did serve as social gauges to the concerns and interests of the American people. When I read or look at a comic from those time periods so long ago, I feel like I am looking through a portal in time, and I find that fascinating. I honestly do not know how it is today, but I get the sense that aside from perhaps specific titles, typically less mainstream, that doesn't really exist anymore. But perhaps five decades from now those who read books from today will feel the same.

Because of my love of history, I really enjoy collecting the late Platinum, or pre-hero Golden Age books issued during 1935-1939. Owning a 70 year old comic book in high grade is just a great feeling, particularly knowing the enjoyment it must have given some small child decades earlier. But I am particularly a Golden Age fan, and focus primarily on the years 1938-1945. I have also developed a passion for collecting Anti-Communism/Cold War focused-books.

At the moment, I would have to say the prizes of my collection are my More Fun #52 5.5 (first appearance of the Spectre, Rockford pedigree), Batman #2 9.2 (highest graded copy), All-American #16 4.5 (first appearance of the Green Lantern and virtually impossible to find unrestored), Green Lantern #1 9.0 (highest graded), MAD #1 9.8 (Gaines file copy, highest graded), and Showcase #4 9.2 (first Silver Age Flash). I am also partial, due to the historical value, to my 9.0 copy of Famous Funnies: Carnival of Comics from 1933, and my 8.0 New Book of Comics from 1937.

My primary focus is on securing a complete run of New Fun/More Fun Comics. I am only about 12% of the way, but of those copies I own 2/3 are from the Lost Valley and Edgar Church (Mile High) pedigree collections. It ran for 127 issues from 1935 to 1947. It was the initial publication for what became DC Comics and revolutionized the comic industry. At a time when other "comic books" contained only newspaper reprints, this title included original stories about spies and superheroes.

The series witnessed a host of impressive firsts welcoming into existence Dr. Occult (issue #6), The Spectre (issue #52), Dr. Fate (#56), Johnny Quick (#71), Aquaman (#73) and Superboy (#101). Eight books from this title are listed in Overstreet's Top 100 Golden Age Books (though technically several are actually from the Platinum Age). The last two dozen or so issues featured animal stories as interest shifted from the WWII superhero craze. Many of the early books are virtually impossible to find in high grade, and even the low grade copies are scarce.

In addition to comics, I have several fascinating, at least to me, historical collections. I am particularly interested in the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy. I have hundreds of books on the subjects and many different items of memorabilia. Part of what makes a large number of these books very special is that I have personally known many of the authors, and I even find myself listed in the index or acknowledgments sometimes for legal work or research I have undertaken!

In addition to books, I have been collecting Carte de Vistes (CDVs) and other types of early photographs of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln. In fact, I seek out items relating to his entire family, which was hands-down the most famous family of American actors back in the 19th Century. I also collect every postcard ever issued concerning Ford's Theatre and the "House Where Lincoln Died."

In fact, postcards make up a significant part of my non-comic collection. I am in the process of collecting every postcard regarding the RMS Titanic (both pre and post sinking), and I am actually co-writing a book on the history of the University of Rochester, my alma mata, as portrayed through postcards. I have amassed a collection of more than 200 such cards dating from 1904 to the present.

I would be remiss not to mention some of my other RMS Titanic items. I have been fascinated with this ship since I was a small child, and spent several years in the 1990s as a board member of the Titanic International Society. The most prominent items in my collection would have to be the two medals that were originally presented to the crew of the RMS Carpathia for rescuing the survivors of ill-fated Titanic. Approximately 300 medals were issued but only a small handful of them are known to exist today. Additionally, I own some of the original Marconigrams that were transmitted between the Titanic and her sister ship the RMS Olympic, as well as the Carpathia, in the minutes and hours following the collision with the iceberg and the eventual sinking.

Finally, historical legal documents have become my latest passion, particularly those that have a relationship to famous attorneys or jurists. For example, I recently obtained an 1852 legal document authored by Abraham Lincoln, as well as legal filings drafted by Presidents William McKinley and William Howard Taft, but at a time when they were just another lawyer like me. As with my comics, the only way I can continue to truly enjoy this type of collectible is by buying and selling.

Produced for the benefit of all who enjoy the hobby of collecting, Gemstone Publishing's The Scoop is available free of charge to anyone who wishes to receive it. To view the latest edition, or to sign up, visit The Scoop online by at