Comics Lowdown: Batton Lash, Ron Smith pass away

Plus: News on Grant Morrison, Tintin, Stan Lee and more.

Batton Lash, the creator of the long-running comic-strip-turned-comic-book Wolff and Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre (later re-titled Supernatural Law) passed away Jan. 12 at the age of 65 from brain cancer.

Lash’s comics career began in the late 1970s when Wolff and Byrd began running as a weekly comic strip in The Brooklyn Paper and then later in The National Law Journal. In the 1990s, he and his wife, Jackie Estrada, formed Exhibit A Press, which began publishing Wolff and Byrd comics under the title Supernatural Law. It later migrated to the web. His other works included writing the Archie Meets The Punisher crossover as well as Bongo Comics’ Radioactive Man book, which received an Eisner Award in 2002. He also collaborated with James Hudnall on Obama Nation, a conservative political comic strip that appeared on one of Andrew Breitbart’s websites.

Many of the creators and industry professionals who knew Lash have started to share their remembrances, including Heidi MacDonald and Rob Salkowitz. The Comics Reporter has a round-up of more of them.

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Comics Lowdown: Tom King’s CIA service

Plus: ‘The Arrival’ selected for Hong Kong’s first ‘One City, One Book’ campaign, the obituary Marie Severin should have received, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Phoebe Gloeckner, Diamond Gem awards and more best-of-2018 lists!

Happy New Year from the Smash Pages staff! Coming back from the holiday break, let’s ring out the old and ring in the new with today’s collection of comic book news links.

Let’s start with a weird one: Last week Abhay Khosla, comics critic and past Superman writer, posted about his attempts to confirm with the CIA that Batman and Heroes in Crisis writer Tom King used to work for them. The topic of King’s former employer frequently comes up in interviews related to his Batman work (not to mention King’s Vertigo series The Sheriff of Babylon), and Khosla questioned whether any reporters who interviewed King about it had ever confirmed it. So Khosla sent the CIA a letter back in 2016 asking for confirmation, and the response he received from the agency was inconclusive.

This exchange occurred in 2016, and why Khosla decided to go public with it now isn’t clear. The point of Khosla’s post doesn’t seem to be to call out King as a liar (he starts his post by saying, “I don’t think this is really a story about Tom King”) but is more of a statement about entertainment journalism and fact-checking. He points out similar situations where a past DC writer, Micah Wright, lied about being in the armed services, as well as current Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski pretending to be Japanese early in his career.

The problem isn’t in asking the question — it’s posting about it without an answer or actually asking King about it. Like verifying facts, that’s also journalism 101. After the post went live, King was quick to respond on Twitter, showing proof that he was, indeed, in the CIA. Bleeding Cool, The Comics Reporter and Nick Hanover have more commentary on this.

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Comics Lowdown: My Favorite Thing Is Comics

Awards, best of the year, comics journalism comics, and how the shift in retail channels is changing the industry.

The Best of the Year lists are starting to roll out. Katie Green’s Lighter Than My Shadow tops Amazon’s list, which also includes Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer and Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. That book shows up on Publisher’s Weekly’s list as well, but the similarities end there.

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