Minis Monday: So Buttons

Posted by on February 28th, 2011 at 2:46 PM

So Buttons #3; Written by Jonathan Baylis with art by various hands; Color and black and white; 28 pp.
Self-published; $5

So Buttons Holiday Special #1; Written by Jonathan Baylis with art by various celebrants; Black and white; 8 pp.; Self-published; $2

The latest pair of comics from writer Jonathan Baylis come themed. The more substantive is the third issue of his series, So Buttons, subtitled So Horror-ble. Accordingly, scary is the watchword, beginning with a Danny Hellman cover paying homage to spooky EC titles. The image, that of an encrusted skeleton arm reaching out to choke the male of a seaside couple, ties into the lead story. “In Need of a Hand – or – So I went to L.A.” is an eight-pager with art by Thomas Boatwright. Looking at the larger scheme of things, Baylis finds the tale fits “perfectly as a transition from my usual auto-bio stories into the horror fiction.”

The mood struck by word and picture is quite perfect, too. Speech is conversational and plausible, the action nicely composed and framed. It feels natural enough to be, at bottom, an autobiographical incident with added authorial wrinkles, including Baylis’ stretch into the purple prose of vintage EC (spoiler alert: liberties have been taken with that boney strangling hand). It’s in color and Boatwright does a good job keeping both the mundane and the weird alive and in close company.

David Beyer Jr. takes over for two stories of more concerted horror featuring genre staples. Set in an alternative world where vampires have lived beside humans for a hundred years, “In the … Old Fashioned Way” posits that the predators have found an alternative food source. Or so they maintain. The zombie tale that follows, “In the Head Please!” is “sick” enough to earn a disclaimer from Baylis: “This is not what typically goes on in my brain, people.” I’m no connoisseur but the narrative does ooze a few surprises.

Both offerings are eight-pagers done in black and white. The vampires get a cleaner, lighter, more open look from Beyer, as befitting the more “civilized” tone to their story. The zombies, meanwhile, are given a funkier, clotted rendering. Both efforts are comparatively humorless.

…unlike “In the Heat of Battle,” a three-page coda in color with art by T.J. Kirsch. Think of the chess match from The Seventh Seal with a zombie in place of Death with running movie commentary and situationally appropriate stakes.

The So Buttons Holiday Special leads off with a quick recollection of childhood Thanksgivings, festivals that center around King Kong rather than turkey. Through its two pages Boatwright keeps things light afoot with substantive efficiency. Ophira Eisenberg, Baylis’ wife, provides the basis for the concluding five-pager, a “Christmukkah Story,” as adapted by her husband and drawn by Kirsch. It goes a long way over familiar territory for its joke, but at least it’s Canadian territory with all its foreign exoticism. In the select company reviewed here, the story is something of an anomaly, extravagantly simple where Baylis’ other material is economically kinked.

Holiday bonus: On the back cover, Kong, in yarmulke and prayer shawl, sends a punched-out giant Santa reeling back onto a church, crushing it, as a beak-nosed Fay Wray figure cheers and a distant Godzilla looks confused. It is perhaps the oddest single image — a fusion of religion, aggression and iconic figures — that I can recall from the tenure of this column.

Such an expansive summary pronouncement reflects a bit of nostalgia as, with this installment, Minis Monday folds its tent and steals away into the electromagnetic ether. Nonetheless, I’ll still be ahead for the unstinting torrent of your self-published, low-to-the-ground, irrepressible expressions of idiosyncratic intelligent design with undiminished anticipation and, no doubt, pleasure. Om Shakti Om, baby!

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