This weekend is the much beloved Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland! Many many many folks who make comics that Forbidden Planet NYC carries will be here, including your humble author (table H12, the one that’s mostly all red). Also tabling will be one Jonathan Baylis, who will be premiering his new comics anthology So Buttons #4. He was kind enough to send me a digital preview copy to review in the lead-up to the big show, so without further ado:
So Buttons #4 is the latest autobio/antho (or “autobantho”) from series writer Jonathan Baylis. In it is a collection of short comics from his life, drawn by a range of talented artists. Both in content and in method, this book takes inspiration from Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor. In one piece Baylis talks about the influence Borscht Belt Jewish stand-up comics had on him in his youth, and to a large degree that influence is felt in this collection. Whereas Pekar’s work tends to run more “a day in the life,” Baylis’ comics have a one-man-show vibe to them. He appears in the comics frequently, but not as another character as with Pekar, rather as a sort of Rod Serling-type cutaway narrator.
The stories themselves are very stream of consciousness. The benefit to this type of storytelling is that it can lead the reader in some unexpected places. The challenge is that the stories can wind up ending abruptly and leave the reader unfulfilled. For the most part, the stories of So Buttons fall into the former category, providing the reader with many fun and engaging vignettes (usually relating to film and filmic influences). That said, Baylis could use a little more structure to his narrative. So… Loyal, for example, ends very abruptly. So…Stranger Than Parrot Eyes feels like it has finished its thought a page early. But as I said, those are minor complaints. Most of the stories work well. So… Folded and So… Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One Is My Favorite War Movie are moving and poignant, and are two of the strongest stories in the book.
The artwork in this collection runs a wide range, but all of the artists are very strong. Each artist brings a unique style and layout to the table that keeps the book feeling fresh. Standouts in my mind include Thomas A. Boatwright on So… Chalk It Up To Konglateral Damage and So… Stranger Than Parrot Eyes, Eric Kim on So… Folded, and T. J. Kirsch on So/undance.
So Buttons is a very interesting idea for an anthology series. Issue #4 is a very strong offering and well worth your attention. If you’re going to be in the DC/Bethesda area this weekend, swing by the Bethesda North Marriott Convention Center and stop by Jonathan Baylis’ table! And while you’re there, check out some of the OTHER amazing comics available.