Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Retro-View: Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre #5

Beware the creatures of the night - - they have lawyers!

Wolff and Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre has been a comic strip, comic book and currently a web comic series written and illustrated by Batton Lash since 1979. The series features the law practice of Alanna Wolff and Jeff Byrd, who specialize in serving the legal needs of monsters and other supernatural beings, or those who find themselves in conflict with such beings. Wolff and Byrd themselves are human, as is their secretary Mavis.

"Wolff and Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre" first appeared in The Brooklyn Paper in 1979. From 1983 to 1997 The National Law Journal ran the weekly strip. The characters have also made occasional appearances in other creator's comic books over the years (Mr. Monster, Munden's Bar Special, Satan's Six).

In May 1994 an ongoing comic book series was launched by publisher Exhibit A Press, however the title was changed to Supernatural Law beginning with issue #24, in part to avoid readers' confusion over how to pronounce "macabre," and also to bring it in line with a planned title for a motion picture adaptation.

Issue #5's, 'That Model Client' begins with the plight of a top fashion model called Dawn Devine, who has grown increasingly dissatisfied with her agency representation and who has decided to approach Wolff & Byrd after receiving threats against her from the agency's owner. Unfortunately the beauteous Dawn's unannounced visit to the protagonists law offices coincides with the arrival of one of their "fearsome" clients, Sodd (a bit of a bog-monster), and the frightened model faints dead away.

After Wolff & Byrd revive the poor dear and depose her, their case is quickly scheduled for a court appearance, but oops; Dawn doesn't actually show up, leading the Greatbody Agency's own legal counsel, Ms. Sully (looking suspiciously hotter and more stacked than readers were shown a few panels before) to secure a dismissal.

Hustling on back to their offices Alanna and Jeff are startled to discover that Dawn has become terribly obese, and are stunned even further when she reveals that this is her actual appearance from when she was first recruited by the Greatbody Agency honcho, Jake Panache.

Presenting the "new/old" Dawn to the court, Wolff & Byrd make their case against the scheming Panache for his use of magic over his clients. Even the sitting judge, gets into the act relating how the opposing counsel's own physical appearance has mysteriously been altered recently. With evidence mounting against the Greatbody Modeling Agency, Panache is forced to reveal that he has a gnome at his beck and call, after having inadvertently captured the little guy in an animal trap. Alanna and Jeff win their case, with the added bonus of freeing the gnome after the judge declares his servitude contract null and void. The grateful gnome permanently returns Dawn to her beautiful appearance and as the issue ends it is shown that the gnome has turned Jake Panache into his own personal ceramic lawn ornament.

The storytelling by Batton Lash is pretty straight forward stuff, and it helps that he has the ongoing advice of a real attorney to help with the legal angles in his stories. His black & white artwork is fairly plebeian, simply constructed with decent layouts, but really only serving to get across the story beats. There is a lot in his overall Supernatural Law premise that would make a great film, or even better, a cool weekly television series.

I picked this copy up in the cheap bins at a local comic shops monthly sale day, and while I wouldn't be opposed to reading further adventures of Wolff & Byrd, it would have to be at that kind of price (8 books for a buck).

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