San Diego comic book creator Batton Lash, best known for Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre, passed away on Saturday morning, January 12. "The brain cancer that he had so valiantly fought for the last two years suddenly recurred in November and was very aggressive," his wife Jackie Estrada posted online. "He died in our home accompanied by friends, family, and caregivers. We have no plans for services yet, but at some point we will have celebrations of life in both San Diego and New York."
Lash's Exhibit A Press operated for years out of a college area home, shipping copies of their flagship title Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre and many related titles from the La Mesa post office to points all over the world.
He studied cartooning and graphic arts at Manhattan's the School of Visual Arts, under instructors like revered cartoonists Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman. After working on projects such as the book Rock ‘n’ Roll Confidential, he created Wolff & Byrd for a New York newspaper before spinning it off into its own comic book series (and later a comic strip) in 1994.
Over the course of his career, Lash also contributed to a mainstream series of "stranger than fiction" cartoon books including The Big Book of Death, The Big Book of Weirdos, The Big Book of Urban Legends, and The Big Book of Thugs. He also co-wrote a riddle book for Warner Books, The Penguin’s Putdowns, as well as the 1994 Archie Meets The Punisher comic that earned much press at the time. His Simpsons comics include a run of Radioactive Man stories for Bongo Comics, and he was recently working on The First Gentleman of the Apocalypse, published online by Aces Weekly. He illustrated his Wolff & Byrd characters for the cover of a 2013 CD compilation of San Diego bands, Staring at the Sun XI.
"I met him many times, he was actually a Republican and we shared a common bond in that we were both conservatives in a industry that was overwhelmingly liberal," says illustrator Steven S. Crompton, whose Demi the Demoness comic was first published by Hillcrest-based Revolutionary Comics. "I did a parody cover of his Supernatural Law characters with Demi that he published in one of his comics, and he and I worked on an entire book, which he penciled and I inked, only about 200 copies of that book were even produced. He was a great guy and I'm very sad to hear of his death."
"Batt took comic books very seriously, but he was a funny, clever fellow who loved to laugh," said Flintstones cartoonist and former San Diegan Scott Shaw! on Facebook. "His big influences were Will Eisner and [Spider-Man co-creator] Steve Ditko, and we loved to talk about great comics and the rotten industry that spawned them. Always well-dressed, Batt was a true gentleman and a truly gentle man. Batt worked very hard and therefore, was very prolific. My mom had a crush on him; Batt closely resembled a guy she wanted to marry before she met my father. Fortunately, Jackie Estrada married Batt first. I'm very grateful that I was able to spend an evening with Jackie and Batt a few months ago at D. Z. Aikens in San Diego. He didn't look 100% even then and I knew he'd been battling his returned Enemy, but knowing Batt's gone is tough to wrap my head around."
Exhibit A Press co-publisher Jackie Estrada is also an administrator of the Eisner Awards (known as the Oscars of the comics industry) and chair of Comic-Con International’s guest committee and awards committee. "Bat was well-loved by all who knew him," said Estrada, "and he appreciated all the messages he received from friends and family in all eras of his life, from childhood in Brooklyn to SVA to the Brooklyn Paper and then the comics industry over the past 25 years. I will do my best to make sure that his plans for Supernatural Law/Wolff & Byrd are carried out. He left behind many projects, notes, ideas. His creativity knew no bounds."