Beware the creatures of the night. They have lawyers.
That’s the tagline for the stories of Alanna Wolff and Jeff Byrd, lawyers who represent a very specific clientele in the long-running comic strip, book and, finally, webcomic Supernatural Law.
In the introduction to Mr. Negativity and Other Tales of Supernatural Law, Tom DeHaven, say that the “best and most durable of comic strips and movies are those creations with the simplest premises.” The stories in this volume come from the simple premise of “lawyers for things that go bump in the night,” but they’re anything but simple.
They’re wry, funny and sometimes sad.
They’re also legally correct, so far as anything can be when involving zombies, mummies, and ghosts, according to my lawyer husband.
This is a collection from the original issues of Supernatural Law. The lawyers and their staff, especially their office manager, Mavis, take on various clients. The first involves an Egyptian mummy, its curse, and features reincarnation as a way to solve the case. Another story is more of a romp as Mavis is accidentally split into three people by a piece of evidence left by one of the firm’s clients, and there’s also a story about a literal gorilla crime boss which made me want to listen to Warren Zevon’s Gorilla, You’re a Desperado.
It’s the title story, however, that’s the most poignant. Mr. Negativity is a client who’s somehow been transformed into a reflection of his gloomy personality. Despite the efforts of many, no one can help him, even when the lawyers win his case for him. That’s contrasted with the plight of a man who’s been transformed into a zombie and now wants to be relieved of that burden. The bittersweet ending reminded me of the best science fiction short stories I’ve read.
What Kids Will Like About It:
It depends on the child. There’s nothing objectionable in the book, no overt sex or violence, but I suspect many kids simply won’t be that interested in the subject matter. It depends on whether they like combining courtroom drama with the paranormal. I suspect many of them might like their zombies devoid of legal plotlines. Still, they’d probably get a kick out of the gorilla story and Mavis’ adventures as triplets is very amusing.
What Adults Will Like About It:
What I enjoyed most is the wry humor in these stories. They’re not in depth character studies of the lawyers but they are excellent commentary on pop culture, pulp SF and comics. The last story in the book is a trippy one about the writing process in which the lawyers defend horror writer Stephen Gink against one of his own creations. When I say that “Stephen Gink” is in a coma due to being hit by a minivan while walking along a country road, you may connect the dots to Gink’s real-life alter ego.
There’s also an excellent example of sequential art in a story about the monster under the bed that is told entirely without words.
I can’t pick one but I’d go with the entire silent story, “Words Don’t Do It Justice.”
About the Creators:
The comic first appeared as a strip back in 1979 and appeared in the National Law Journal for many years. The creator, Batton Lash, also wrote Radioactive Man for Bongo Comics and cites Steve Ditko and Charlton Comics horror stories as inspiration. He’s married to Jackie Estrada, who edited this and other collections for Exhibit A Press and is a long-time comics fixture for her work with the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards and the Friends of Lulu organization.