Do the Silly Walk with Jonathan Baylis's So Buttons #11

Jonathan Baylis’s So Buttons! #11 reminds you just how nice life can be. In a small handful of stories, the writer recounts moments and thoughts from his life, from a touching recounting of a Make-A-WIsh encounter with the great John Cleese to the nostalgia of entering a bank that once used to be a bookstore that he worked at. Through these stories, Baylis looks for connections whether they be to people, to events, or to memories. With several artistic collaborators to bring these stories to life, Baylis finds reminders of joy in life and joy in comics.

Opening with a fun, somewhat rambling fantasy about getting to try a rare Scotch, Baylis shows us not to take this book too seriously because he isn’t all that serious. Drawn by November Garcia, this opening piece is a bit of a thought experiment, trying to figure out how to get a taste of a Scotch that is supposedly Prince Charles’s favorite. Baylis plays a bit of seven degrees and tries to figure out how he could get to the prince to get a sip of the “sweet, sweet forbidden nectar” and his best connection is the late great Joan Rivers. Garcia’s graphic approach makes all of the right links between the steps of Baylis’s fantasy.

Artist B. Mure uses a light, appropriately comedic touch on Baylis’s second story “So… Cheesy,” a story about a Make-A-Wish lunch that he helped facilitate for a boy who wanted to meet John Cleese. Mure’s flowing line and vibrant water-color hues cast a warm feeling over this story that allows you to see the little connections which can mean so much. If the first story imagined a connection to British royalty, Baylis’s second story shows the humanity behind British comedy. It’s just a heartwarming little story that maybe helps restore at least a smidge of faith in humanity. This is the story where you can really encounter an optimism that things may turn out alright after all.

The second half of the comic is largely made up of two stories related to the world of comics. Up first is a story drawn by the legendary Phil Elliott, a mainstay of the British small-press scene where Baylis recounts a semester studying in London and the people he found in a comic shop there. It’s a story where from the artists to the people Baylis got to know in the shop, you see a microcosmic history of both American and British comics. The second four-pager, illustrated by Jeff Zapata, looks at a small portion of the history that Topps trading cards and Topps Comics played in Baylis’s personal history.

These stories as well as a couple of one-page illustrations and strips (featuring a range of artists from A.T. Pratt to T.J. Kirsch, Fred Hembeck, and others all carry on this optimism and Baylis’s goal of entertaining his readers. The stories and illustrations are easy and light but that doesn’t mean that they’re not revealing and thought-provoking. He carries these themes of connections even between the stories and illustrations, having the stories flanked by one-page drawings that build on and support the stories that they bookend. It’s like he’s always looking for these connections, even between his own work.

Right now, we’re in a moment in comics where there are a lot of great autobiographical comics that center on some kind of inciting event, mostly related to the past five or six years. Through those comics, the cartoonists provide some great reflections on how current events are affecting so many men and women. Baylis’s stories feel a bit out of place with the current zeitgeist as they’re not angry or sad or struggling. What they are is hopeful, showing us that there is at least a bit of care and hope in the world. It’s in the connections that Baylis has to these memories where he and his artists remind us that there’s some light out there.

Under a great Jim Rugg Basil Wolverton homage cover, So Buttons! #11 is a feel-good comic of the summer. Baylis’s stories, particularly the John Cleese one, invite you to just sit back and forget the outside world for a moment and join in remembering some good times.

So Buttons #11
Written by Jonathan Baylis
Drawn by November Garcia, A.T. Pratt, B. Bure, Garrett Gilchrist, Andy Rash, Phil Elliott, T.J. Kirsch, Fred Hembeck, Jeff Zapata, Rick Parker, Maria & Peter Hoey, Lucas Eisenberg-Baylis, Miss Lasko Gross
Published by Tinto Press