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Baylis, Jonathan & Various Artists – So Buttons: Man of, Like, a Dozen Faces

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So Buttons: Man Of, Like, A Dozen Faces

One sign that I’m reading an amazing book? When I pick about a dozen pages in my head to be my sample page, then realize when I’m done that I could really use just about any page. An embarrassment of riches, I believe it’s called. If you’ve been living under a rock (like me) and have somehow never heard of “So Buttons” even though you already know almost all of the artists involved, you’re in luck! This book collects stories (possibly all of the stories? It’s not clear) from the first 7 issues of his comic series. He uses several different artists, with a few names popping up several times. These strips are all autobiographical, and (this is important for people thinking about making an autobio comic) each of them had something to say. Even the ones about mundane aspects of his life; it’s clear that the guy has seen a lot and/or known people who have seen a lot, which is when it’s advisable to make an autobio comic. Not to name any names of people who make autobio comics for years with seemingly little to nothing to say. Ahem. Anyway, this one starts off with a comic about Jonathan’s first day working for Marvel in 1994, which happened to be the day that Jack Kirby died. He was there when John Romita Sr. did the tribute art for Jack, and he was the one who had to tell him to improve his Thor drawing. Which was a little intimidating, to put it mildly; if you’re not familiar with comics history, those were two legends and it was his first day. This story was also drawn by Fred Hembeck, which is not a name that I’d ever thought would be on my website because he’s a Marvel guy through and through, but here he is. There’s a real danger of my saying either too much or too little about the remaining stories, but I’ll give it a shot. Subjects include taking a trip to take in some art, overdoing it on the Halloween makeup before getting into an auto accident, his kinda sorta connection to R. Crumb, the dangers of meeting your heroes (in this case Robert Redford), meeting Jackie Mason, the perfect joke after seeing Schindler’s List, trying to find the secret to the perfect brisket, how he manages to love both New York baseball teams, how we went from bully to bullied in one word, his Annie tryout in grade school, his unfortunate reaction to the news that John Lennon had been killed, hanging out with his dad and learning that the guy wasn’t as predictable as he thought, bringing out a traumatic memory of the war from his uncle, and almost meeting Jim Jarmusch. There is also almost an entire half of the book that I didn’t mention at all, so obviously there’s a lot here to love. The artists do amazing work with the material they’ve been given and Jonathan is an incredibly gifted writer. Yeah, I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this one. Check it out! $20

Bayer, Josh – Theth

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Theth

I rarely outsource my reviews, but the comparison by Robert Clough Gary Panter and the Kirbyesque energy of the comic on the back cover blurb was too good not to pass along. Succinct too, but I’m going to go ahead and write a bunch of words about this comic regardless. This is set in 1980, right when John Lennon was assassinated. On a surface level it’s about a kid (who is always in a full spacesuit) who sneaks out to the corner store to read comics when he says he’s going to the library, but is mostly forced to read them in the store because he doesn’t have the money to buy them. Along the way we see him in school, trying desperately to entertain himself while he’s bored, using a unique method of knocking on the inside of his desk while his head is laid down on top of it. His mom can’t seem to stand him, most of his classmates make fun of him (his name is actually Seth but they all call him Theth, hence the title), and the store owners are growing increasingly impatient with him doing nothing but reading in their store all the time. But under the surface there’s all kinds of stuff going on, and it’s damned near impossible to encapsulate here, which is where the Kirby/Panter comparisons become helpful. Every panel is packed with detail, but it’s a dirty, immediate kind of detail, which lends everything a slightly grimy tone. You can read this as a straight up tale of some awkward family and school days, all leading up to ______ (no spoilers as always), but this is one of those comics where it’s worth your time to go back through it again and just look at the artwork. I’m doing that now and catching more than a few things in the background that I missed initially. Josh got an impressive list of people to write blurbs on the back of this book, and it’s easy to see why they love his work so much. If you’ve never heard of him until now, you should absolutely fix that and check out some of his books. $10

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