I’m heartbroken over the loss of Batton Lash.
Bat created the delightful series Wolff and Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre, later known as Supernatural Law. Bat’s wife and collaborator Jackie Estrada announced
his passing in January at 65 after a battle with brain cancer, and Facebook was immediately flooded with tributes. I didn’t share thoughts here at the time for a variety of reasons, but I want to post more in general and this can’t go unsaid. His nattily attired figure was a highlight of any convention; American comics in the ’90s, let alone my personal world of comics, would’ve been much the poorer without him.
An unbelievable number of years ago now, I first saw Chris Staros use the phrase
“your friend thru comics” when signing off in a letter or editorial in The Staros Report — he does so these days in E-mail as publisher of Top Shelf Productions — and it immediately felt it so… right. I’d bonded with friends over reading, collecting, and even studying comics over my life, but at that time my comics world had recently exploded and was continuing to expand — I had joined a comics apa, participated in online comics forums, attended conventions, wrote for an increasing number of publications about comics, and was prepping my own magazine. Among the pros who encouraged my work most was Batton Lash.
Bat launched Wolff and Byrd as a comic strip before publishing it as a comic-book series and most recently as a series of original graphic albums, scrappily adapting to every market change the decades brought. He wrote several Archie stories, 2008’s “Freshman Year” and the infamous 1994 Archie Meets the Punisher crossover among them, as well as Simpsons comics for Bongo. Wolff and Byrd, however, about lawyers who defend fantastic creatures amidst heaps of puns and parody, defined his career. The name change to Supernatural Law was I think at least in part the result of a desire for a hookier title to hang on a never-realized film adaptation.
Jackie and Bat met through comics, as she told The San Diego Union-Tribune. My deepest condolences go out to her and the many friends who knew him far better than I. Although I’m on the outermost possible circle of grief, I feel a true loss, knowing that should I ever get to another convention the potential sight of Batton around any corner is off the board.
He was just a singular guy, even more beloved than I knew based on all the memories and testimonials that poured onto Facebook. Given how insular the comics market has become since the heyday of spinner racks, despite the current mainstream boom of diversity and multimedia exposure for select properties, it’s understandable that even readers of other independently produced niche material might not know his work. Bat himself was passionate about old comics, new comics, and especially your comics or whatever else you wanted to create. The fact that I’ll never see him again in this life
has me so damn sad.