So Buttons #6

Another SPX, another issue of So Buttons by Jonathan Baylis! It’s always interesting to see which artists he’s lined up to illustrate his autobiographical stories in this minicomic series. Ed previously wrote about issue #4 and the first three issues, but since he’s no longer reviewing, I’ll tackle the two more recent issues.

So Buttons #6 cover

So Buttons #6 debuts at SPX this coming weekend. Under this cover by Jay Lynch, there are 24 pages of comics for $5. I didn’t care for the style of the bookends by Victor Kerlow, which are done in a arty, color-splashed style with wiggly lettering, but it’s a neat way to talk about art history in NYC and the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Even though it’s not an artistic approach I normally care for, it’s a good choice to match the material, giving me new appreciation for the style. (I unfortunately can’t say the same about the final piece by Josh Bayer, which I found nearly unreadable.)

The next story, by Becky Hawkins, tells of Baylis getting laid off and using severance money to go to Spain. The cleaner and more cartoony style gives the piece a sense of fun that plays into his attitude at the time. Baylis points out in the story that he’s not making a sensible choice, and the art backs up the appeal of the trip for him while making that clear.

Sam Spina follows up with a piece on revenge based on an unexpected chance meeting with someone who passed Baylis up for a dream job. (Trust me, working for a corporate comic company isn’t really as great as you think it is.) The next section, by T.J. Kirsch, departs from the theme of work and art to tell a somewhat out-of-place story about a gift request from Dad, before Fred Hembeck illustrates a meeting from Baylis’ time interning at Marvel. It’s a touching, sentimental piece, about history and being affected by those who came before, so the long-running Hembeck is a great choice, bringing another layer of memory to comic readers.

As always, Baylis’ glimpses leave me wanting more. I’d really like to see a whole book (a long one, with a spine) of his work in and around comics, with the references here suggesting a bunch more tales to come. I had no idea he’d worked at the various companies he cites, including some no longer with us, and I think a less jumpy, more substantial history would be informative to read. With the story choices (for the most part) about being affected by visual art and creators, this is a great choice to bring to an artist-focused comic show. If you won’t be there, this issue can be ordered from Baylis’ website soon. He’s also posted sample stories there.

If you’d like a cheaper way to try out the series, last year’s issue #5 is 12 color pages for $2, with a Kirby-inspired cover by Tom Scioli. The stories vary more widely in subject matter, with a pet visit to the vet (illustrated by Paul Westover), a coffee search (Thomas Boatwright), a movie visit (Noah van Sciver), and a recipe from mom (Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg). These are much more traditional autobiographical topics, just slice-of-life incidents that might entertain or reassure readers. With all his stories, the more you can relate — whether it’s craving the perfect cup of java or loving Kirby’s superheroes or questioning your parents’ advice — the more you’ll get out of them. (The author provided review copies.)

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