Today, Abnormal Use continues its series, “Abnormal Interviews,” in which this site will conduct interviews with law professors, practitioners and makers of legal themed popular culture. For the latest installment, we turn to Ryan Ferrier, creator of the comic book series Tiger Lawyer, in which a tiger establishes a successful career as a courtroom litigator. Take a look at the panels above – which Mr. Ferrier mentions below in response to one of our questions – and you’ll get a good feel for the character and his series. On a number of occasions, we’ve mentioned this fateful character (here, here, here, here, and here.) Last week, Mr. Ferrier was kind enough to submit to an interview with our site. Without further ado, the interview is as follows:
1) How did you first come up with the idea of Tiger Lawyer?
This is one question I get asked quite often, and it kills me that I can’t really remember the catalyst for the concept. I do remember it was December of 2011 when I tweeted something very quick along the lines of “my next comic will be about a Tiger who’s a lawyer LOL,” meaning it only as a joke. That one tweet got some pretty good traction and I was encouraged to actually write the script that became the first half of issue one—Matt McCray’s story—over the course of a cold Calgary weekend. From there the whole thing just kept growing, and once Vic Malhotra joined the team, it turned into the comic series we have today. I wish I had a more interesting story on exactly how I came up with the concept itself, but alas, I do not. It was just a blip in the brain. I may have been on the treadmill. Or in the shower. I’m afraid of all the crazy things that pop in my brain that I don’t follow through with.
2) Why a tiger?
It’s funny, I don’t really have much of an affinity for tigers, to be honest. They’re not my favorite animals or anything. I give credit to my subconscious on that one. It very easily could have been Walrus Lawyer, or Horse Lawyer. I admit there is something appealing and accessible about a tiger, though. I think it certainly works with the character’s charm and confidence. His presence. Tigers are pretty awesome though, when I really think about it.
3) What is in store for the future of the character?
Oh, we’re certainly not done with the character yet, not by a longshot! We—myself and artists Matt McCray and Vic Malhotra—are currently working on Tiger Lawyer #4. It’s the best issue yet, in my opinion. Matt and I are doing something very unique to the previous issues, but very funny. Vic and I are working on the more serious half, which is going to be fantastic. We’re really excited to take the character on a new journey, especially after how the noir arc ended in issue #3. We don’t have a release date for issue four yet, as we’re taking our time to make it the best possible book we can, but it’ll be in the not too distant future, that’s for sure.I’ve also got plans for a spin-off Tiger Lawyer one-shot. It won’t be called Tiger Lawyer #5, but instead something totally different, but still revolving around the character.
4) What has been the reaction from lawyer readers? What about non-lawyers?
I do get a ton of comments and kindness from lawyers, and I really love it. It’s fantastic. I used to get nervous about it, as everything I know about law, I learned from episodes of “Night Court” and Hollywood films. But now I just give in to it and embrace it. I know there’s a ton of legal inaccuracies, and that’s what makes it fun. How else should a comic about a talking tiger play out? I’ve received a lot of great feedback from people in the legal field, and I’ve heard stories of people giving copies out at firm Christmas parties and stuff like that. It’s great. I feel like there aren’t many law-related things, so I’m happy to fill that void for now.
The reaction from non-lawyers has been simply amazing. I honestly cannot believe it’s gone this far, and been received so well. I give all that credit to the artists, Matt McCray and Vic Malhotra. They are the ones who have brought the character to life. The title of the book is pretty catchy, I admit, and does really well at cons, and hooking someones eyes, but it’s Matt and Vic that have been able to ground our stories and make them special. I did the sizzle, they did the steak. But it’s really been great; we sell out of books at a lot of cons, and the reaction from my peers has been really inspiring and I’m so grateful for it.
5) Where do you get the ideas for your legal story lines?
Like I mentioned before, I really only know about law from television, movies, and pop-culture. I draw a lot from that, especially those big, media spectacle trials, like the O.J. Simpson case, and things like that. While I don’t mean to minimize the often macabre, very real circumstances that surround those cases, it’s the spectacle of the cases that attracts me to them. With a character like Tiger Lawyer, it’s got to be big and sensational.
With issue #3, though, I wanted to shift the focus onto the character instead of the trial, which is why we made it a prequel, showing Tiger’s time at Harvard law. I think there’s still so much we can do with the character without re-treading familiar waters, and issue #4 will continue that, while providing some big courtroom laughs at the same time.
6) Obviously, we’re talking about a lawyer who is a tiger. But do you make any effort otherwise to depict the legal world realistically?
I think I make an effort not to, honestly. I mean that, however, with the utmost respect and appreciation of the legal world and those who work in and around it. It’s Hollywood law, and I aim to satire just that. I think there’s a very tongue-in-cheek feeling with the series, and as nutty as it sounds, it’s my goal to have the reader think “hey, this writer doesn’t really know a lot about how actual law works.” There’s humor in that. It’s like how television news doesn’t play out in real life how it did in the film Anchorman, for example. But, I do understand how many people wouldn’t get it. Early on in the series, I heard someone complain about how Tiger objects during the prosecutor’s opening statement (which I now understand isn’t a thing that happens). This person was actually pretty cut up about it, but I laughed. It’s a cartoon world, with cartoon rules, and a talking tiger.
That’s my defense, anyways.
1) Who is your favorite fictitious lawyer?
Great question! It’s a tie between Dan Fielding (the amazing John Larroquette in “Night Court”) and Saul Goodman (the incredible Bob Odenkirk in “Breaking Bad”).
2) What is your favorite comic blog?
There are many great comic blogs, and I hate to single any out. But I will. Multiversity.com, Comicosity.com, and ComicsAlliance.com are all worthy of a daily visit.
BIOGRAPHY: Ryan Ferrier is a Canadian comic book writer and letterer. He currently writes Tiger Lawyer and The Brothers James for Challenger Comics, a self-publishing comic collective he runs with artist Brian Level. Ryan also letters Robocop: Last Stand for Boom Studios, as well as Skybreaker and Theremin for Monkeybrain comics. He can be found on Twitter at @ryanwriter.