Jackie Estrada, comics-convention empressaria and wife of cartoonist Batton Lash, announced recently that her husband’s on-going comic-book series Supernatural Law is making the leap from the printed page to the World Wide Web, making Batton the third established artist (that I know of) to make this move.
Batton and Jackie share two qualities which makes them dear to our hearts — a love of the comics medium and a pro-liberty political sensibility strongly influenced by Ayn Rand. Jackie was one of the prime movers of the San Diego Comic-Con, which has grown into the world’s biggest and bestest comic-book convention. Batton is a commercial artist from New York now working in San Diego who spends a significant chunk of studio time drawing his qwirky comic-book. They are both wonderful, warm, charming people.
(And it just tickles me pink that they both said they enjoyed The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel.)
Supernatural Law (Exhibit “A” Press) concerns the adventures of a New York law firm, Wolff & Byrd, which specializes in providing legal services for “things that go bump in the night” — everyone and thing from vampires and warewolves to zombies, witches, ghosts, goblins, demons, and, in one story, a mobster whose brutish personality caused him to metamorphosize into a literal gorilla.
Some SL stories are short-form, others comprise story arcs filling almost 200 pages. They are by turns funny, sad, droll, wistful, and downright silly. And occasionally, a source of some world-class puns. By and large I would not call them “great comics literature” (in the sense that I think Finder is — even though the “Son of a Witch” story arc has a poignancy which brings it close) but they are always an enjoyable read. If you find a copy, buy it, you won’t be disappointed. You can also find most of the trade-paperback collections on Amazon.com.
Batton does not write explicitly political stories, but there is definitely a libertarian undercurrent to them. Authority figures are consistently portrayed as ordinary human beings with human foibles; an ethic of personal responsibility for one’s actions is nearly always advanced; and — here’s what I really like — the protagonists, attorneys Alanna Wolff and Jeff Byrd, are no altruists. While they usually pick deserving clients and thereby serve justice, they are in business to make money, they collect their fees, and make no apologies for it.
This is quite a departure from the usual “money is the root of evil” ethic infusing nearly all other comics stories. There is no shame in doing well by doing good, so long as you are doing good, and I find this attitude in Batton’s stories refreshing.
There is one other difference to Supernatural Law, compared with the other series that are moving to the Web — Estrada and Lash say they will continue to serialize their stories in printed pamphlets, as they have been doing for years, and then collect them into trade paperbacks. Unlike Finder, Girl Genius, and Big Head Press’s offerings to come, Web-publishing for Exhibit “A” Press is not a replacement for the hoary old 32-page pamphlet format, but an addition.
I suppose this must make sense for Estrada and Lash. They have built an established following which, they figure, want to keep buying 3-dollar funny-books. More power to ‘em, but I’m predicting that within a year or two they’ll reconsider, or perhaps move their printed serializations to an on-demand-printing outfit such as Lulu.
As it is I like to buy the trade-paperbacks, which are reasonably priced and danged difficult to put down.