(Image courtesy of Bill Sienkiewicz)
Writing obituaries are never an easy task and it becomes especially difficult when you personally know them. Such is the case with my friend Batton Lash. I had met Batton and his lovely wife Jackie Estrada over the years at San Diego Comic Con and other conventions and events. I had been a fan of his Supernatural Law and Wolff & Byrd comics from the mid 1990’s with his self published comic from Exhibit A Press. One of my favorite stories from that period appeared in Grimjack’s Munden’s Bar that would feature many independent creators and their characters to visit the Grimjack universe and mix the characters together for a short story.
But for most mainstream readers at the time he would be best known for his writing of the Archie Meets the Punisher that was the first ever crossover with Archie and Marvel Comics and was a huge hit both in and outside the comic industry.
(Photo courtesy of Jackie Estrada)
He continued to not only to deliver new Wolff & Byrd stories over the years by not only doing a web comic but he had a good enough of a following that allowed him to do print versions of both new and older collections on Kickstarter.
Over the past four years I became closer to both Batton and Jackie helping them promote their projects (Wolff & Byrd for Batton and Comic Book people for Jackie) and then was lucky enough to start volunteering to help at the SDCC Eisner Awards for Jackie. To say it was an honor to help with the awards that have been called the Oscars of the comic book industry is an understatement.
The biggest debt that I owe Batton is the very name of this website that was name by him on March 18th 2012 at WonderCon in Anaheim in a post on his Facebook page that said “With pop culture maven Steve Howearth”. At the time I had been laid off from Warner Bros. and not knowing what to do a friend of mine who designed websites encouraged me to start one and he would design it. I asked Batton if I could use the name that he coined for the website and he said that he would be honored.
The best thing about Batton was not only was he always the best dressed person in the room no matter what the occasion but was also one of the nicest and nurturing man I have ever met. To say that he was well-respected in the industry is an understatement with the outpouring of love and sympathy over his passing goes to show how much he was admired and loved. The other thing that he always did was encourage new creators to help them navigate the industry and to help them hone their craft.
At SDCC Batton and Jackie at the Exhibit A Press booth were always a welcome stop during a busy day to catch your breath and talk comics and old monster and science fiction films with Batton that was one of my favorite things to do. We could go on for hours waxing over the greats like Ditko, Kirby, Eisner and then start talking about cheesy science fiction films like Astounding She-Monster, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and Robot Monster without missing a beat.
The last time I would see Batton was at 2108 SDCC and that is what hurts the most is that even though I knew that he had health issues (I didn’t really know how serious it was) he was really in good spirits and looked a lot better than he has the previous year. I was asked to be an Eisner Judge for this years SDCC and to say that is an honor is a total understatement. What I was looking forward to was this spring all of the judges will go to San Diego for the weekend to help shape the nominees in each category and not only will Jackie be there but Batton was always there to help and give support to her and all of the judges. The worst part of it now is that I won’t get to share that with him and it really breaks my heart.
Batton really loved comics and to know someone who loves then as much if not more than you do is a really rare friendship in this industry and Batton was really one of the good ones to share that with because he was one of those few creators left that came from the old school of comics because he studies under Will Eisner and Harvey Kurztman and so to hear his stories of those days were simply priceless and he loved to share them and that is what I will miss so much.
Writing this is one of the hardest things I have ever done here because I was lucky enough to call both Batton and Jackie friends and losing a good friend is very hard and it will be very difficult this year at SDCC knowing that I will never get to see my friend again.
The one thing that I do know is that Batton would want the show to go on and that is what I and others will have to do. What I can say is that I have learned from this is never forget that our time on this planet is limited and make sure that you tell the people in your life how much they mean to you because they may not be here tomorrow.
Also make sure that if you like a comic creators work make sure that you not only support them but help spread the word of their work and share you love of comics. Batton loved comics and he always shared it to others.
If you’re not familiar with Batton’s work please visit the Exhibit A Press website to see his work and you might just want to buy one of his great books because they really are that good.
Goodbye Batton and thank you for the great memories, friendship and helping me give this little website the best name on the planet. I will truly miss you my friend.
I’ll leave you with more photos from Batton that were taken by myself and friends that shows that is was the most dapper and kindest person you would ever meet.
(photo courtesy of Mark Habegger)
(photo courtesy of Richard Starkings)
(photo courtesy of Don Simpson)
(photos courtesy of John Berry)
(photos courtesy of Jackie Estrada)