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Baylis, Jonathan & Various Artists – So Buttons: Slice of Cake

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So Buttons: Slice of Cake

It’s a convention compilation! What that means is that a number of these stories appeared in previous issues. Maybe all of them, although at least a couple of the artist names were new to me. This is all just a warning to say I’ve reviewed several of these stories already, and if my opinion has changed in the meantime, it should be a good reminder that you’re reading reviews from a mush brain. I thought they would all be about food, but it about the CAKE convention in Chicago, not literally cake. Still, about 2/3 of the stories are about food. Most of the rest of it is the various stories (drawn by Marvel legend Fred Hembeck) dealing with his time as a Marvel intern, the time he met Joe Simon, and his time working for Valiant comics. The food stories deal with his struggles with pork (I definitely reviewed that story very recently), his OCD M & M habits, the grey roast beef, the secret to the brisket, and finding the perfect coffee blend. But wait, there are still two more stories! One deals with Jonathan coming up with the perfect comeback after it’s too late to matter, and the other is his vague connection to the greeting card work of Robert Crumb. So if you have all of his comics already, maybe these are all in other comics? Unclear. But if you’re looking to get all your Hembeck stories in one place, or all of his food stories, this is a really solid collection of tales. $10

Baylis, Jonathan – So Buttons #8

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So Buttons #8

To those of you who read these reviews in order, yes, I did review a collection of the first 8 issues of this series already. And I wrote a review of #9. But he was also nice enough to send along a copy of #8 for review, and roughly half of the stories in here weren’t included in the collection, so it’s kind of like new! To those of you who don’t care at all about such minutiae, my apologies. I’ll treat it like a regular old comic and won’t even mention which of these stories were in the collection, how about that? Partially because my memory is garbage and I’m not completely sure without looking back at the book. Stories in this collection include (after the American Splendor homage cover by Noah Van Sciver) his struggle with pork (he’s Jewish) and the best dumplings in New York, his early years experimenting with gory special effects (and the time he got into a fender bender while wearing gory face makeup), what almost turned out to be the perfect day, and the story of his history with pets, up to an including the tragic story of the first dog he adopted. So if you were curious if just getting the collection would cover you for the first 8 issues worth of stories, sorry! That was merely a “best of” collection. Plenty of great stories still around in these individual issues! $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