|Will Eisner Changed My Life|
|I dont remember specifically when I originally met Will Eisner, but I do know exactly when I met my husband, Batton Lash. Nevertheless, the two are inextricably intertwined.
| I know that I first saw Eisner at the San Diego Comic-Con back in the mid-1970s (I have photographic proofhe was smoking a pipe and looked like Commissioner Dolan!). As editor of the Cons souvenir book, I was in touch with many top pros in the late 1970s and thus had an opportunity to correspond with Will about contributing pinups to the book. In the 1980s, Will and his wife Ann became more frequent visitors to the show, so I dealt with them in my role as pro liaison as well has program book editor.
Because 1990 marked the 50th anniversary of The Spirit, Will was both a guest and the subject of a special section in the program book. I was deluged with art tributes to Will and The Spirit, from both lumanaries and lesser-knowns, all influenced greatly by the man. It was a thrill to open each package (hey, we didnt have electronic files back then!), since I had been an Eisner fan going back to the Harvey Spirit reprints. And as was my practice, I sent postcards to all the contributors letting them know that I had received their drawings and that they would be in the book, which would be given to all attendees at that summers Comic-Con.
Cut to the July 4th weekend. Fae Desmond, the Comic-Cons general manager, had given me the opportunity to travel with her to the Chicago Comic-Con, which for us was the proverbial busmans holiday. This was pre-WizardWorld days, when DC had a tradition of throwing a private party for pros at Chicago, and we managed to get invited. I enjoyed the food, the live music (from Max Collins 60s band), and talking to a lot of interesting folks at my table. At one point I felt a tap on my shoulder. When I turned around, a handsome young man was leaning down to me.
"Are you Jackie Estrada?"
"Hi, Im Batton Lash. I just wanted to thank you for sending me that postcard."
And he went on to tell me how thrilled he was to be included in the book.
Over the course of the weekend we ran into each other a few more times and had a chance to chat about comics and other interests that we seemed to have in common. It turned out that he would be coming to San Diego in a few weeks for the big show. That gave me an excuse to call him several times in the intervening period. Naive fellow that he was, he thought I was just being "friendly."
Now cut to the end of July, the week of the San Diego Con. Bat and his friends arrived a few days early to enjoy the city before all the excitement began. I threw a barbeque at my house for them and several other comics folks who had arrived in town early (including Denis Kitchen, Wills longtime publisher and agent). By the time the convention started on Thursday, we were already a couple.
I learned from Bat that he knew Will from having been one of the great mans students at the School of Visual Arts. So Will knew both of us, but from different worlds. On the first night of the Con, Kitchen held a Spirit 50th party on the top floor of what is now the Bristol Hotel (it was called the Executive back then). When we arrived at the soirée (where the party favors were Spirit masks), we headed straight for Will. When he saw us together, he seemed to immediately grasp that something had happened between us, and he greeted us effusively. He took my face in his hands and said, "Do you look this good in the morning?" and gave Bat a little wink.
And speaking of mornings, the next morning I had breakfast with Will, Denis, and Fae at the Westgate, Will and Anns favorite place to stay in San Diego. Denis and Will proposed that the San Diego Con take the Eisners under its nonprofit umbrella, and Will asked if I would be the administrator.
My life changed that week. Indirectly because of Will Eisner, I hooked up with the love of my life. After all, if Bat hadnt been a student (and fan) of Wills and sent in the drawing for the program book, would he have made a point of meeting me in Chicago? And because Will asked me, I took on the task of running the awards given in his name, which Ive been doing for the past 14 years.
Administering the awards has given me a great opportunity to carry out what has always been an important goal to me, and a main reason that I got involved with Comic-Con International over 30 years ago: promoting comics as a medium and an art form. But more important, the Eisner Awards gave me the opportunity to work with Will. I treasure my memories of our many talks on the phone, the breakfasts each year in San Diego, the chats at other conventions and parties, and our two visits to Will and Anns Florida home.
I can only reiterate what hundreds of others have said about this man: He was not only one of the true giants of the comics mediuman innovator, a tireless promoter of the artform, and an educator and mentorbut an exemplary human being. He was kind, thoughtful, self-deprecating, funny, smart, insightful, and full of energy and life. He treated everyone with equal respect and courtesy.
I could go on and on about Willhis astute analyses of the comics industry, his finger-on-the-pulse knowledge of trends in business and publishing, his undying 70-year commitment to graphic storytelling for a multitude purposes (many still untapped), his always fresh outlookand just what a an all-around great guy he was. But for now, just let me say thanks, Willfor changing my life in ways youll never even know and that I will forever appreciate.
All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce without written consent.