Marine Park-bred illustrator who cut his teeth at Brooklyn Paper dead at 65

Marine Park-bred illustrator who cut his teeth at Brooklyn Paper dead at 65
Photo by Colin Mixson

A legendary Brooklyn-born comic artist — who got his start doodling strips for the Brooklyn Paper — died on Saturday at 65-years-old, following a two-year battle with brain cancer.

Batton Lash, born on Oct. 29, 1953 and raised in Marine Park, joined the Paper’s staff as a young delivery man, dropping issues off at Court Street law offices shortly after it debuted in 1978.

The characters and architecture Lash encountered on that delivery route served as the inspiration for his spooky, courtroom comic “Wolff and Byrd: Counselors of the Macabre,” which he would draw for much of his decades-long career, according to his one-time boss.

“He went into each building and delivered papers to law offices, and that’s how he got the idea of a doing a strip about lawyers … for dead people and super-natural characters,” said Brooklyn Paper Publisher Emeritus Ed Weintrob.

Lash’s stars of “Wolff and Byrd” — attorneys Alanna Wolff and Jeffrey Sutton Byrd’s, whose zany legal adventures included defending vampire dentists, astral-projecting philanderers, and vandal giants — made their first appearance in the Paper’s pages the year after he joined the team, in September 1979.

Years later, the strip found a more prominent home at the National Law Journal in 1983, but Lash continued drawing comics for the weekly broadsheet, balancing out its news coverage with his sharp, comedic illustrations through the mid ‘90s.

Weintrob remembered Lash as an unusually dapper fellow, whose skills with a sketch pad were rivaled only by his ability to light up a room.

“From the day he came to work at Brooklyn Paper, through all the years I knew Lash, that was the thing about him, he made everybody happy,” Weintrob said.

Lash, who studied cartooning at New York City’s School of Visual Arts, moved to San Diego in 1993 to marry Jackie Estrada, a veteran organizer of that city’s Comic-Con convention — and the only woman the artist dated “who actually read comics,” she said.

“I had some original artwork from [Spider Man co-creator] Steve Ditko, so that blew his mind,” said Estrada.

Together, the couple founded Exhibit A Press in 1994, through which they self-published “Wolff and Byrd” — or “Supernatural Law,” as it was later called — in both strip and comic-book form ever since.

Lash, who also drew and wrote extensively for “The Simpsons” and Archie Comics, is also well-remembered amongst fans for penning the near-mythical crossover “Archie meets the Punisher.”

The artist is survived by his wife, brother William Marangi, and sisters Irene Marangi, Nancy Rorke, and Mary Andresakis.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixs[email protected]glocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Drew inspiration: Brooklyn Paper Publisher Emeritus Ed Weintrob, far left, said Lash, center right in bow tie, “made everybody happy.”