Monday, March 18, 2013

Supernatural Law week, day 1: what is Supernatural Law?

Comic book creators who self-publish have an uphill battle when it comes to remaining on people's minds. Having to create, publish and promote themselves (practically) solo usually means promotion gets short shrift. Being bound to Image guarantees some coattails to latch upon, but it's a small wonder so few self-publishers survive; who can produce their most creative work, make the right decisions on how to print it and do right by promoting the work as well?

And yet, Batton Lash's Supernatural Law (sold at Exhibit A Press) has existed in one or more forms since 1979, appearing as a newspaper comic, a National Law Journal cartoon, a comic book (now bound together into trade paperbacks) and a webcomic (which can read here). I'm still a relatively new Supernatural Law fan, but today I'll do my best to summarize the series for you.

The lead characters are Jeff Byrd and Alanna Wolff, occasionally dubbed "Counselors of the Macabre." Their particular expertise lies in cases involving the paranormal - the supernatural, extraterrestrial and otherdimensional . Frequently, they find themselves defending a paranormal client who would normally be the antagonist of a horror story, but through his lawyers, is finally able to give his perspective. Sometimes the clients turn out to deserve whatever scorn has been heaped on them and a suitably "ironic" resolution closes the case. Jeff tends to be good at dealing with the clients, while Alanna is at her best in the courtroom.

I could divide the kind of humour in Supernatural Law into three basic types:

TYPE 1: Monster jokes

Lash's stories use many of the monster types you might expect - vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein-ish monsters and so forth. Often they subvert the usual media tropes (such as in the above image, where the readers are led into thinking the vampire and werewolf are going to fight up until we see them fist-bumping). Other times, the monsters are played fairly straight as they react to our culture - such as when Dracula pays a visit on a Ann Rice expy ("Bad Blood").

TYPE 2: Lawyer jokes

Not being a lawyer, I couldn't tell you how many jokes about the law are contained in the series, but often the jokes seem to be drawn from real life legal cases which are well-known to the public, as in the above story which satirized the Lorena Bobbitt case. Other cases are less specific and refer more generally to types of court cases in the real world, such as when Frankenstein's Monster's impending wedding is used to satirize same-sex marriage ("The Life Partner of Frankenstein").

TYPE 3: Comic book jokes

Finally, there are jokes which come from the comic book medium, usually to allow Lash to show off his incredible talent at mimicking not only popular super hero artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but the likes of Bernie Krigstein or Winsor McCay (above). Lash has indulged in everything from a somewhat affectionate Chris Ware homage ("The Scariest Kid on Earth") to a somewhat unaffectionate Dave Sim homage ("Huberis the Dybbuk"). Lash samples styles from across the medium, truly benefiting those of us readers who appreciate the references.

Tomorrow: beginning a look at Lash's most recent Supernatural Law collection, the Monsters Meet on Court Street!

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