“So Buttons” #11 : — And Just Like That, All Is Right With The World

In art, as in life, timing is everything, and in that respect the release of issue #11 of Jonathan Baylis’ long-running autiobio anthology series, So Buttons (the first to be published in conjunction with Tinto Press), couldn’t be more — errr — timely, given that reminders that there really is a “normal” to return to (even if we’re not sure what that is yet) are very welcome indeed as so many of slowly emerge from our COVID-engendered bunkers. Granted, most of the contents of this ish were written and drawn smack-dab during some of the most dangerous and harrowing days of the pandemic, but it’s not strictly a “pandemic comic” per se. It’s referenced here and there — how could it not be? — but by and large this latest collection of stories is what we’ve come to expect from Baylis and his artistic cohorts, namely : fun, charming, occasionally informative, and sometimes even thought-provoking vignettes culled from the author’s life, tangentially related to it, or both. And talking of artistic cohorts —

As has become his custom, Baylis enlists a “murder’s row” of talented cartoonists to illustrate his ‘zine, beginning with Jim Rugg’s sublime Basil Wolverton homage cover and continuing through the interiors where we’re treated to the visual stylings of November Garcia, A.T. Pratt, B. Mure, Garrett Gilchrist, Andy Rash, Phil Elliott, T.J. Kirsch, Fred Hembeck, Jeff Zapata, Rick Parker (who provides letters on one story, art on another), Maria and Peter Hoey, Miss Lasko Gross, colorist Adam Walmsely and, last but certainly not least, one Lucas Eisenberg-Baylis, whose particular relation to our “host” will be readily apparent to even the newest readers of this series. Everyone brings their own look and style to the party, obviously, and while some of the artists are a more natural fit for Baylis’ relaxed, conversational approach to storytelling than others, it’s fair to say that there are no fish out of water here, and everyone turns in really nice-looking work.

So, yeah, we’re most definitely in “what’s not to love?” territory here, and that feels damn good. Sure, the dour might be able to advance an argument that stories about Scotch, Topps trading cards, John Cleese, Carol Channing, and early-’90s British comics might feel a bit “slight” under present circumstances, but art’s capacity to endure under even the most trying of conditions is one of the most remarkable things about it, and if you can’t get at least a little bit giddy at the thought of Fred Hembeck doing a pin-up featuring characters from the short-lived Topps “Kirbyverse,” then I’ve got no time for your cynical ass, anyway.

Which, in a very real sense, offers us a convenient segue into one of the best things not just about this issue, but about Baylis’ series in general : it’s utterly devoid of cynicism. It’s a comic about a guy who likes reading comics (among other hobbies and interests) that’s written by a guy who likes making comics with his friends, and whaddya know? They’re both the same guy. There’s a kind of, if you’ll forgive the term, purity to that approach that would stand out in today’s careerist-dominated comics landscape even if the stories on offer weren’t as uniformly enjoyable as they are — so the fact that they are is, as the saying goes, an awfully nice plus.

In more “big picture” terms, it’s probably inevitable that comparisons to earlier autobio trailblazers like Dennis Eichhorn and, of course, Harvey Pekar will persist for as long as Baylis adheres to making his comics in the way that he makes them, but I’ve noticed a marked decline in their frequency and volume over the years, and for good reason : Baylis has a singular authorial “voice” unique unto himself, and has lived and continues to live a life that’s plenty interesting on its own terms. Besides, there’s nothing inherently wrong with having your comic mentioned alongside the likes of American Splendor, and as the years go by Baylis has managed, by dint of his consistency and creativity (no, the two are not mutually exclusive), to transform this series from curious, maybe even derivative, upstart to a welcome annual guest in the homes and lives of its readers. You can only pull that off if you’re doing something that’s got plenty of brains and heart at its core.

As is likely to be painfully obvious by now, one of those readers who views this comic as a welcome annual guest in their home and life is yours truly, and after this past year and change, a new issue felt more welcome than ever. Barring any further calamity, our next meeting with Baylis and co. will likely be under more pleasant — or at least predictable — circumstances, but you know what? I feel safe in assuming in advance that it’ll be a “feel-good” occasion then, as well.

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So Buttons #11 is available for $5.00 from the Tinto Press website at https://tintopress.com/product/so-buttons-11/

Review wrist check – Yema “Navygraf Maxi Dial” on bracelet. Because classic never goes out of style.

2 thoughts on ““So Buttons” #11 : — And Just Like That, All Is Right With The World

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