Brainiac On Banjo #046: Getting Mad For The Last Time?

Brainiac On Banjo #046: Getting Mad For The Last Time?

That Mad Magazine cover shot to your left (well, it’s to my left) with the old-timey Harvey Kurtzman logo is on what purports to be their final mostly new-content issue. If it looks familiar and you haven’t been to the supermarket in the past five days, you may have noticed it in Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

The movie is set in 1969 and it’s about a nearly washed-up television actor best known (in the storyline) for his headlining a black and white western show the decade before. That’s the movie actor Leo DiCaprio playing television actor Rick Dalton there on the cover; the movie also stars Brad Pitt as Dalton’s stuntman/best friend, and Harley Quinn’s Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate. Comics fans might be amused to know that it also costars the 1970s Spider-Man, Nicholas Hammond, as well as Riverdale’s Luke Perry in what is, if I’m not mistaken, his final performance. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #046: Getting Mad For The Last Time?”

Brainiac On Banjo #043: We’re Not Getting Mad…

Brainiac On Banjo #043: We’re Not Getting Mad…

All your children are poor unfortunate victims of lies you believe / A plague upon your ignorance that keeps the young from the truth they deserve. – Frank Zappa, “What’s The Ugliest Part of Your Body?”

For those who have been following the long and lingering death of Mad Magazine, a couple days ago things took another turn for the worse when it was announced that after two more inventory-burning issues, the legendary publication would stop running new material.

That’s sad. 67 years ago Mad changed the nature of our culture, being the first comic book to confront our nation’s culture and its many foibles head-on. It was an important part of a vital movement in the 1950s spawned by innovators such as Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, Second City, Ernie Kovacs and Moms Mabley. Mad was all the more important by being the first specifically oriented to those not yet old enough to vote. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #043: We’re Not Getting Mad…”

Brainiac On Banjo #022: Life, Hope, and Funny Books, by Mike Gold

Brainiac On Banjo #022: Life, Hope, and Funny Books, by Mike Gold

Batton

I am reminded of a conversation I had with Batton Lash several years ago. We were at one of those massive comics conventions – after 51 years they now all blur together into one unending conflation of backpacks, unpassable aisles, and excessive body heat. As you may know, Batton died this weekend and our obituary speaks for itself.

That conversation probably started out with several insulting but vaguely clever comments and then went on to my trying to get him to do another Munden’s Bar story. That’s me as an editor on autopilot: I see great talent and I think of it as a piece of birthday cake. But there’s at least one difference between people and birthday cake – the former might engage me in conversation. And, of course, that’s one of the great pleasures of my job. I prefer the sugar buzz from conversation.

Harvey

Somehow our discussion evolved into my desire to do a contemporary funny book, by which I really mean “funny.” In a medium that calls itself “comic” but is largely full of violent conflict, I feel the need to be specific. Anyway, the challenge is to create a project worthy of the 21st century reader’s time but without any obvious nod to Harvey Kurtzman and Mad Comics.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #022: Life, Hope, and Funny Books, by Mike Gold”

Batton Lash, 1953 – 2019

Batton Lash, 1953 – 2019

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