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Baylis, Jonathan & Various Artists – So Buttons #10

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So Buttons #10

It’s the 10th anniversary issue of So Buttons! And no, it’s not quite an issue a year, if you go to his website you’ll see a few more issues here and there. Anyway, this is a hefty issue, with sections involving Birth, Life and Death, so the man covers a lot of ground here. I will just say before I get started that I’m sorry for the loss of his dog Mocha; as somebody who owns a cat who’s been around a little longer than this website (which started in August 2001, so you do the math), the whole pet mortality thing has become very real to me in recent months. Self-indulgent aside over, how’s the comic? The “Birth” section has two stories, one about Norman Mailer (and, oddly, another reminder that I should find a biography of Rip Torn ASAP), and another about how Lorne Michaels got his first literal seats at SNL from George Steinbrenner. Next up was the “Life” section, and it’s probably a good sign that this was the biggest section. Stories in here include his son’s first day of preschool, his idea of what his parents collected, a gone but not forgotten old Manhattan restaurant and how he tracked down a cookbook from the chef years later, and his reaction to the David Cronenberg film Crash. Which, as he makes emphatically clear, is a very different film than the one of the same name that somehow won as Oscar a few years later. Finally there’s “Death”, and in those two stories he talks about how important it is to be a bone marrow donor (if you’re younger than 45, sign up!) and another about the death of his dog. Here’s to 10 more years (or longer) of So Buttons, the man has a natural gift for storytelling. $5

Baylis, Jonathan – So Buttons #9

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So Buttons #9

Hm, this looks like a comic with one writer, a handful of artists and a number of different slice of life stories… it’s a new issue of So Buttons! Since the first thing I read of Jonathan’s was somehow the collected edition of the first 8 issues I was spoiled early, but since he can’t put out a new graphic novel every time one really solid issue will have to do. Stories this time around deal with Jonathan working up the nerve to call Dick Smith (the special effects legend who worked on the original Exorcist movie, among many others), remembering sandwiches past, how his dad’s name was changed on accident (this is also a tribute to Harvey Pekar with Noah Van Sciver doing the art), more details about his time working at Valiant comics in the 90’s, and the time that his kid proved that he “sang” better songs than his old man. Throw in a few illustrations from other artists and there’s your issue! If you were scared off by the price of the collected edition, maybe give this one a shot. It’s $5, it’s a solid demonstration of his skills and it’s full of great stories. What more do you need? $5

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