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Baylis, Jonathan (with Various Artists) – So Buttons #13

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So Buttons #13

What’s this? Am I attempting to sneak in another Karl Christian Krumpholz book under a different name? No, you silly things, he just did the cover and a story for Jonathan’s comic. This time around the theme is (more or less) Hollywood, his time in it, and Harvey Pekar (and his time interacting with Harvey). Mostly, anyway, as he always has room for random stories. Topics in this one deal with him discovering Alan Moore as a young comics kid and how it shaped him (it also mentions that Alan drew a strip for Harvey Pekar in 1990, which I now have to locate) (art by Tony Wolf), his time working for the Sundance Channel and how it eventually ended up with him sitting directly behind Harvey Pekar for the premiere of Harvey’s movie (art by Joe Zabel), a solid choice for a midnight movie experience (art by Bernie Mireault), his time going to school with Eli Roth and his joy at watching him shoot Hitler in Inglorious Bastards (art by Gary Dumm), an entirely too detailed depiction of his having to get his Lasik eye surgery adjusted (art by Maria and Peter Hoey), his love of a good Ennio Morricone soundtrack (art by Rick Parker), a well-earned love letter to Tallulah Bankhead (art by Michael T. Gilbert), Nolan Ryan’s disgusting trick to toughen up his fingers to pitch a baseball (art by T. J. Kirsch), and of course the story with Karl Christian Krumpholz with the odd bit of synchronicity of them talking about The Friends of Eddie Coyle when I just watched that movie a few weeks ago. Coincidence? I mean, obviously. Still, it’s an obscure enough movie that I’m tickled by it being mentioned. Obviously there are few more stories I’m leaving as a total surprise for the reader (I mean, I didn’t even mention Whit Taylor’s piece), but even compared to his already solid body of work, this issue is a shining example of what Jonathan can do with a solid cast of artists and when everybody is firing on all cylinders. What does that mean exactly? Probably a car thing. Anyway, heck yeah you should check this one out. $10

Baylis, Jonathan – Live From New York It’s So Buttons!

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Live From New York It’s So Buttons!

So at the recent talk that Dan Clowes gave at CXC this year, he mentioned a few times the unreliability of memory. It had been on his mind because his mother and brother had both passed away within a month of each other, leaving him nobody else from that time to confirm or correct his memories. As such, everything he had left from that time was roughly “a memory of a memory.” I say all this to point out that it feels like the main story in this one came out of another issue of his series… but it might just seem familiar to me because I’ve read the story before, just in a different format. Anyway! This is the l’il comic that came with the next issue of So Buttons; I’ll review it soon, I just couldn’t pass this one up. It has two stories, and they’re doozies, drawn by J.T. Yost and Jeremy Nguyen respectively. The first, the one that triggered my memories, is the story of when the punk band Fear played on Saturday Night Live. The powers that be really wanted John Belushi to keep appearing on the show and they offered to let him pick the musical act (they also wanted an audience of legit punks). Things got ugly, stuff was smashed, and it was the first and only time SNL has had dead air. The story was recounted by Ian MacKaye of Fugazi, who was one of the punks in attendance (he actually got his voice on the air after a mic stand was knocked into the crowd). The other story recounts the story of how Lorne Michaels managed to get seats for his show and the story of Jonathan’s favorite baseball team, sort of. Based on where he was born, he went a little rogue with it. It’s another couple of solid stories from the story making machine that is Jonathan Baylis (and his artist friends). This one is new enough that it’s not listed in his store yet, but I’ll bet if you ask him about them that he has a few copies available. $5

Baylis, Jonathan – So Buttons #12

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So Buttons #12

Jonathan has never been nominated for an Ignatz award? Seriously? That seems like an absurd oversight to me. Oh hi, did I already get distracted from my review? Sorry about that, but he mentions that fact a couple of times in here, and it’s ridiculous. But hey, maybe this issue will get nominated next year, because it’s packed to the gills (a phrase I’ve never understood, but never mind that) with winners. First up is the tale of how he settled on his facial hair, how it ties in to Ethan Hawke and what happened when they met (Rachelle Meyer). Next is his memories of sitting with Tom Spurgeon and Carol Tyler at the aftermath of an SPX, which I really have to get to next year (Lance Ward). Then there’s a page by Carol freaking Tyler herself, which is all her, as she agreed to let Jonathan publish one of roughly 100 unpublished pages she found recently. If you were wondering whether or not Kerry Washington was a mensch, does Jonathan (and Ben Passmore) have a story for you! Next up is his story about Grant Morrison, and I have to take a minute here, because it’s about an original page of art he bought from All Star Superman years ago and his debate about whether or not he should sell it, as times were tough during the pandemic. I read All Star Superman literally last week (not for the first time, but in the fancypants “Absolute” edition) and he’s right, it’s the best Superman story ever told, and the only one I’ve seen where the Clark/Superman difference was actually portrayed as big enough to fool people. He also mentioned something I’ve noticed, where I’m roughly 50/50 on Grant’s work, but the 50 on the positive side is VERY positive. But he did this over his own talking head, so now I’m thinking our lists don’t coincide. Doom Patrol in the “bad” pile? Madness (art by Tony Wolf). Josh Bayer draws a true and necessary story about Johnny Rotten, and how inexcusable it was that he ended up a Trump supporter. “The Monkees of punk” was dead on, and if anything maybe a little unfair to The Monkees. Next is the story of a real punk band, Fugazi, his meeting Ian MacKaye and Ian’s story of his time in the crowd at SNL when Belushi wouldn’t go on stage unless a punk band was the musical guest (J.T. Yost). The quality didn’t dip a bit for the last few stories (how could it when Josh Pettinger, Noah Van Sciver and Miss Lasko-Gross were involved, among others) but it’s best to leave a few surprises for y’all, right? Also, I’m going out on a limb here and saying this was my favorite issue of the series so far. Have I said that before? Maybe! But this is the latest issue, so if I have ever said it before, this is the NEW favorite. Pretty good sign when somebody can keep topping themselves like this, huh? Give it a shot, why don’t you? $8

Baylis, Jonathan – So Buttons! #11

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So Buttons #11

I guess I shouldn’t be amazed that Jonathan managed to put this together during a global pandemic, but I am honestly a little surprised. Sure, it’s not much different from normal, I imagine: Jonathan writes the stories, asks his various artist buddies if they can draw the stories, and the comics magic happens. Still… kudos! If you’ve never read an issue of this series before, these are autobiographical tales taken from Jonathan’s life, sometimes drawn by entirely new artists, sometimes drawn by a few favorites that he’s used in multiple issues. Also I noticed that every past issue of his series is currently in print (including the collected edition), so if you’re intrigued, get caught up! The man can tell one hell of a tale. Just wanted to get that out there in case I got distracted in the middle of the review. So what’s in this comic that was produced during a global pandemic? Would you believe only one story involves the pandemic, and even then only briefly (and tangentially)? It’s true! For everybody that remembers and appreciates Basil Wolverton’s work, Jim Rugg’s cover art is goddamn amazing. Subjects in this issue include the mythical Laphroaig 15 year scotch and the lengths he went to to try and get it (before it was eventually released as an anniversary edition), his work as a “make a wish” escort and the time he met John Cleese (this one takes you on some twists and turns, as there’s some serious danger that John’s going to end up being an asshole to this kid), his time at school abroad in London and how the comic shop he discovered there led him to small press books, visiting his old Waldenbooks job after it had been turned into a bank, his grandmother’s obsession with Bazooka Joe gum and how that eventually (kind of sort of) led to a job as a Topps intern and finally his tribute to Carol Channing (who shares a birthday with him). There are also a few more wordless pages, but I have to leave something as a surprise. And his bios of the artists tell you a lot about them and why he specifically picked each one for each piece. It’s a steal for $5 and I’m always happy to see a quality series like this make it to double digits while showing no sign of slowing down. Give it a shot if you’ve never tried his stuff before, and if you’re already a fan I guess all I had to say was “hey everybody, a new issue of ‘So Buttons’ is out!” $5

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 & 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