Saturday, January 12, 2019

Batton Lash--R.I.P.

Cartoonist Batton Lash died this morning. Along with being the snappiest dresser in the industry, he was also a genius comic writer with a great understanding of the various tropes of different eras and how to use them. The two of us never met in person but he had long been one of my favorite comics people and our stories had actually interacted a number of times. 

I first discovered Batton when the Comics Buyers Guide began reprinting his uniquely entertaining WOLFF AND BYRD, COUNSELORS OF THE MACABRE strip more than 30 years ago. Through the years he also did some hilarious but also ingeniously written stories of RADIOACTIVE MAN for Bongo Comics. After he wrote the infamous ARCHIE MEETS THE PUNISHER, he went on to write some of my all-time favorite Archie stories including the ARCHIE FRESHMAN YEAR arc.

My first contact with Batton was in 2006 when I interviewed him about Jack Benny after one of his Wolff and Byrd stories was clearly inspired by Jack. That interview turned out to be my first non-fiction piece to be published in a book--WELL! REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE AND CAREER OF JACK BENNY, which came out in 2007. Batton was kind enough to send me a handful of signed copies of recent comic books featuring his work. 

That same year, I joined Facebook and Batton and I became FB friends. From time to time he would ask me to promote his Kickstarter campaigns for his new SUPERNATURAL LAW books and I was always happy to do so, even backing them myself in periods where we had money. 

Back when Obama was president, Batton got in some hot water with a cartoon published on the Breitbart site that saw him being taken to task on MSNBC and Huffington Post. Our politics sharply differed but I saw a man being unfairly treated and contacted him to let him know when his home address was made public! I also contacted those who were publicizing it about it. I didn't realize at the time how much Batton would remember this gesture.  

In 2013, when Archie writer George Gladir passed, Batton wrote an eloquent eulogy online. I asked him if I might post that as a guest post on my blog and he agreed. 

In 2014, Jon B. Cooke interviewed Batton for hours and hours for an issue of COMIC BOOK CREATOR that would come out the following year. I was the magazine's main transcriptionist and tackled that interview. I was particularly surprised when Batton recalled my participation in that earlier incident IN the interview, apparently unaware that I was to be the one transcribing it later.


In 2017, Batton allowed another interview, this time for my BACK ISSUE article on ARCHIE MEETS THE PUNISHER, for which he was also kind enough to provide lots of behind teh scenes art and illustrations. 

My last interactions with Batton were in 2018 when he published the latest SUPERNATURAL LAW book. My review of it appeared on Forces of Geek less than two months ago.

On December 31st, I sent a private message to Batton that included a wish for a great New Year for he and his wife, Jackie Estrada. Not expecting an immediate response, I left. I returned to see where Batton had attempted to contact me in a FB video call that I had missed. Never having done one of those before, I figured he'd call back.

Now this. 

Rest in Peace, my friend, and thank you for everything. I'm sorry we never got to meet.  

Then I started hearing the rumors. 


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

About the Author (1976 Version)

In 1976, I decided to write a history of comic books. I didn't KNOW the history all that much, mind you, but I was determined to do it anyway and wrote quite a few two page "chapters'" on individual--mostly Silver Age--comic books. 

This morning I ran across my "About the Author" section, written on the back of the planned Table of Contents. 

As I turn 60 today, it seemed appropriate to revisit this earlier incarnation of me.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

"Thompson is in Trouble"--A GoFundMe Request

My name is Steven Thompson aka Booksteve, and I live in Northern Kentucky with my wife Rene and son David. I'm a writer with a  dozen blogs who has been bylined on more than 28 books and articles in recent years and appeared on television documentaries.  Rene is a genealogist who works as a disabilities advocate and David is a college student, studying to be a teacher. We have two cats--Callie and Hobie--and one dog, Pepper, all rescues. 

We’ve shared a lot of GoFundMe campaigns in the past few years and even created a few for friends in dire circumstances. Guess it’s our turn now.

 We aren’t living beyond our means. We haven’t gone to movies, restaurants, concerts, conventions, or any other events in years. Rene’s smart phone is provided by her job. Neither David nor I have one. Until recently, we’ve gotten along just fine with Rene’s work, David’s tutoring money, and my part time bookstore job and income from writing, proofreading, and transcription.

But then the bookstore job went away and I had to give up the low-paying transcription work due to health and technical issues. My other freelance income slowed to a crawl. Right now, I have half a dozen projects but they’ve either already been paid or will be paid down the line on publication. Still, I should be working on them but I spend much of my days looking for jobs. I’ve applied for several recently that I’ve been extremely qualified for but I keep getting passed over.

So this December finds us a month behind in the mortgage, utility bills, car payment, and more, and borrowed ahead to stay as caught up as we are.

And now David, whose college education has been thankfully handled entirely by scholarships, needs application fees for Grad School and we simply don’t have the money.

On top of that, January has a number of one-off payments such as car taxes and driver’s licenses and now, after a trip to the ER today, medical bills.   

So we swallow our pride and ask if anyone in a position to do so might please help us catch up on our bills as the new year begins and help sponsor David as he continues along his journey to becoming the teacher he’s always wanted to be.  

I'm still looking for regular work and I'm still looking for paid writing, etc. gigs, but a little boost to help ease the anxiety right now would be truly appreciated. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Stan and Ollie

I don't go to movies anymore so I'll have to wait 'til Netflix or Prime or whatever to see STAN AND OLLIE but from what I hear, it's a lovely--if not strictly accurate--tribute that will hopefully introduce a whole new generation to the unique comedic genius of Laurel and Hardy.

When I was a teenager, the concept that Laurel and Hardy would be largely forgotten in just a few decades would have been unthinkable to me. It seemed at the time like there was a new book about them at least once a year and their films were still being re-released on the big screen.

The children's record seen above may have been my first exposure to Stan and Ollie. I never saw the Larry Harmon cartoons but my mother bought me this 45 because SHE knew who they were. I had no idea they were real people or that Stan was, briefly, still alive.

In 1970, I saw Robert Youngson's 1960s compilation documentaries, WHEN COMEDY WAS KING and LAUREL AND HARDY'S LAUGHING 20'S on the big screen. A few years later, I ran across John McCabe's classic 1960s book on the pair and more books followed quickly. Their movies were on television all the time, even the silent ones (on PBS).

But somewhere along the way, as with many aspects of pop culture that my generation just presumed everyone knew and would always know, Stan and Ollie were left behind. Oh, there are still obsessively devoted fans but at best they've become a trivia question to the average person over the age of 40 and I'd be surprised if you can find 50 people younger than that who have ever even seen or heard of them. 

Hopefully that will change now.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

MeRrY ChRiStMaS!

This is art from a Waldenbooks coloring contest flyer that I did in 1986, colorized by me just recently. The original version was posted here twice before, 11 years back and 9 years back. Here's one.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

For Your Consideration--Ms. Molecule

It occurs to me that Netflix, Prime, Hulu, and all those other streaming services love superheroes, If any of you reading this knows anyone connected to any of those services, please suggest this post to them for their consideration. My wife's MS. MOLECULE strip, originally drawn by Sandy Carruthers, hasn't run for a couple of years now but the recent news that MIT has found a way to maintain stability and shrink items incredibly small shows it's timelier than ever. 

And unique! At full-size, our heroine is a college med student in a wheelchair. 

Rene King Thompson can be contacted through this blog.