Writer / artist Batton Lash died Saturday of complications from a “very aggressive” form of brain cancer. Whereas he was fighting the disease for several years, according to his widow Jackie Estrada it recurred two months ago.

A one-time assistant to Howard Chaykin, the Brooklyn native was a graduate of the School of Visual Arts, where he learned his craft from teachers that included Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman. He created Wolff & Byrd – Counselors of the Macabre in 1979 where it ran in The Brooklyn Paper as well as in The National Law Journal. From there Wolff & Byrd appeared in a wide variety of comics, including a rather stellar story in the Munden’s Bar feature in GrimJack (I’m not taking any credit here; the story was edited by the gifted Anina Bennett). Several years later, the series was published on its own as Supernatural Law by Exhibit A Press, an outfit established by Batton and Jackie.

Batton racked up quite a number of assignments, including The Big Book series from Paradox/DC Comics, the Eisner Award-winning Radioactive Man for Bongo (a Simpson’s spin-off title), and one of my personal favorites – the story is as good as the concept – Archie Meets The Punisher for Archie Comics. Recently, he produced The First Gentleman of the Apocalypse for David Lloyd’s Aces Weekly.

One of his classiest acts was having his studio, which he shared with artist Bob Smith, at the one-time home to EC Comics, 225 Lafayette Street. He racked up a sizable number of awards nominations and was the recipient of the 2009 Independent Book Publishers Association’s Benjamin Franklin Award for Graphic Novels.

Batton made no secret of his political views and worked with James D. Hudnall on an anti-Obama feature for Andrew Breitbart. He endured some criticism, and I should point out that he counted among his friends any number of left-leaning members of the comics community, as well as at least one outright radical.

Jackie, of course, was the long-time organization provocateur of the San Diego Comic-Con and past president of the Friends of Lulu. She will be continuing the publishing program at Exhibit A that she and her husband had established.

And, no, Batton was not a lawyer. He was one of the greats of the independent comic book field. His go-to attorney was Mitch Berger, a comics fan and a former member of DC’s legal team.

Memorials are being planned in both San Diego and New York City.

Batton was 65. He was one of the best.

– Mike Gold

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