Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Batton Lash - Cartoonist Survey #189

Batton Lash is a cartoonist and comic book creator who was born in Brooklyn, New York. He studied cartooning and graphic arts under the tutelage of Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Fresh out of school, he started working for an ad agency doing paste-ups and also spent some time assisting comic book artist Howard Chaykin. He then started doing freelance illustration, drawing for the book Rock & Roll Confidential, Garbage magazine and many other projects. He was approached by Brooklyn Paper Publications in 1979 and was asked to create a comic strip. Batton came up with Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre. This weekly humor/horror strip ran in The Brooklyn Paper until 1996 and in The National Law Journal from 1983 to 1997. Wolf and Byrd stories also ran in many other publications and comic books such as Monster Scene, American Fantasy, Mr. Monster, Frankie's Frightmare, The Big Bigfoot Book and Panorama. In 1994 Wolff & Byrd was renamed Supernatural Law and became a full-length bi-monthly comic book published by Exhibit A Press, which is owned by Batton and his wife, Jackie Estrada. There have been over 50 comics published by Exhibit A Press including Mavis, a spin-off of Supernatural Law that features Wolff and Byrd’s secretary.

Batton is also a well established comic book writer whose work includes: the 1994 crossover between Archie Comics and Marvel Comics, Archie Meets The Punisher ; the 3-part Archie story, "The House of Riverdale;" the 5-part "Archie Freshman Year" for the flagship Archie title; and was the regular writer on Radioactive Man for Bongo Comics. Radioactive Man went on to win an Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication in 2002. Speaking of awards, last year The Soddyssey, And Other Tales of Supernatural Law, a collection of Wolff and Byrd stories, won the Independent Book Publishers Association's Benjamin Franklin Award. This collection includes guest art by Jeff Smith, Steve Bissette, Bernie Wrightson, Phil Hester, Charles Vess and Shawn McManus. Be sure to visit Batton and his wife Jackie’s
Exhibit A Press website. You can read many of the Supernatural Law stories here online and you can purchase the comics and some really neat looking t-shirts here.

What is your favorite pen to use?
It varies from time to time, but currently I enjoy inking with a Japanese pen-brush. The point is soft, yet firm enough to for a heavy hand like mine!

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
I always sketch in a drawing in pencil. I use a mechanical pencil. I prefer the thick HB leads (1.3).

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
I use standard acrylics.

What type of paper do you use?
For the webcomic, I’ve been using pre-ruled 1 ply paper that’s been marketed as “Manga paper”. I use it not only because it has a good finish but also because it fits exactly on the scanner! For the printed comic, I use a 2 ply Bristol board.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Cars! Always difficult for me.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
All of the above. Lately, though, I’ve found interesting supplies at small art supply booths exhibiting at comic conventions.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
I enjoy listening to classical music. Lately, I’ve been inking while listening to talk radio.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I did read comics as a kid and had a lot of favorites! If I had to narrow it down, it would have to be a tossup between the early 60’s Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. Also liked Infantino’s Flash a lot.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Mary Perkins, On Stage.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
I used to love something called “Homer Price” - - I think it was about a boy genius. I recall reading it over and over and asking the teacher in my grammar school if there were any more in the series. The illustrations were good, too. Interestingly, there was a snarky parody of Superman in one of the stories, kind of anti-comic book, if I remember correctly. But did that stop me? No! I enjoyed “Homer” anyway. Alas, I do not have it any more. Now you’ve given me the itch to search e-bay . . .

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I attended and graduated the School of Visual Arts.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
Definitely a blessing!

Did either of your parents draw?

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
I was blessed with two people: when I was a child, it was my aunt (who was also my godmother) and in my adult life, my constant support is my wonderful wife Jackie.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I gave some “chalk talks” but never actually taught from day-to- day. I did enjoy explaining the nuts and bolts of creating a comic, but I’m never sure if I’m enlightening the listeners or confusing them!

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
I always believed that artists are compelled to create. Talent is important, but it’s the passion that fuels the art. I think there are a lot of people who are very skilled in drawing, which is quite different than being talented. Do you have a perspective or spin on a story that your reader might have never before considered? It's important to have something to say! People get better as they go along . . . but you’ve got to get out there to show the world what you have. If you’re passionate about your work, you can weather the criticism and keep moving forward.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
Not really. I will occasionally pick up a Bride of Frankenstein Tchotchke (love The Bride!), but I don’t collect anything.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Mr. Peabody.

Are you a righty or lefty?

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
Frankly, I’d have no trade! I'd probably be a messenger, a waiter or the world’s oldest stock boy. I wasn’t really interested in anything outside of the creative mediums.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
It’s like that old W.C. Fields movie where he has an incredibly messy desk, but knows exactly where everything he needs is located at any given moment!

Do you play any musical instruments?
No, much to my regret.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
If drawing is what you enjoy and it gives you immense pleasure, don’t allow anyone to discourage you.

Who is your favorite artist?

Steve Ditko.

Thanks again Batton and Happy Belated Birthday!

Up next is cartoonist Jerry King.

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