So Buttons #4

Written by Jonathan Baylis
Illustrated by Various Artists, including Fred Hembeck and Noah Van Sciver

Jonathan Baylis gets help from nine artists in this autobiographic comic that covers moments in his life and his relationships with movies.  See him do everything from get frustrated at missing the same part of King Kong every year to telling a king in the comics field that there's an error in his work to why he's not automatically a Yankees fan.

A combination of themes and ideas blend together, stitched together like a series of, well, buttons, Baylis's writings are both concise and entertaining.  They're helped quite a bit by a quality roster of talent including Hembeck on the Marvel story and Van Sciver on another short vignette.  The other artists are pretty good, too, with each one having a style that, while not flashy, gets the story across in a manner that adds to Baylis's narration.

A lot of these stories relate to film, part of an idea the author had for a theme that didn't quite work as he planned.  I love his appreciation for older films, so it was easy to hook me into the narrative, though I'd argue that Field of Dreams is in fact the best baseball movie ever made.  The tone of the stories is all conversational, as though Bayliss was in your study, chatting with you about his experiences while someone drew you visuals to go along with them.  I found the pacing nice and relaxed.

Unlike most autobiographical works I've read, Bayliss doesn't dwell on the negative.  There are certainly some awkward moments described here, but the focus is on the positive.  That won't appeal to every reader, especially those that thrive on the angst of their cartoonist subjects.  I thought it was cool to have a person tell me about the things he likes rather than what he doesn't, and do it in a way that isn't boring, the main danger of relating happy moments in time.

I liked So Buttons #4, which reads somewhat like an illustrated zine at times.  Bayliss is working in the same tradition of Harvey Pekar (though their outlook could not be more different), telling his stories through the vision of others.  You don't see that a lot in non-fiction comics, which makes this notable in and of itself.  I think you might need to be a fan of old movies, the idea of sports rivalries, and possibly even be over thirty to appreciate this comic fully, but that's okay.  So Buttons #4 is a nice addition to my collection of autobiographic comics, and I'd definitely read more from the author in the future.    You can find a copy for yourself by checking out Baylis' website.