Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's small press review column
(Josh Self / Orlando Rivera II / Sam Wohl / Jeff Nitzberg / Orlando Rivera II)
Manifest takes as its impetus the idea that the things we imagine can become real. That sounds nice, right, the classic dream of youth? How many of us as young men and women thick with inner lives full of vibrant colors and undulating sounds haven't sat back and thought, if only, if only…
But in the pages of Manifest, writers Josh Self and Orlando Rivera II take our childhood ruminations and put a dark twist on what should be sparkly dreamings.
According to the solicitation, “The story of Manifest chronicles a group called The Hourglass who upon death can manifest their imaginations into reality.” What manifests in Manifest, though, aren't lemon scented cherubs or chimpanzees named Adam who are all ears to your ill-formed feelings of loneliness (long story, that); rather, there's some nasty-ass shit spewing out of people's heads – things big and abominable and vicious. They're kinda like those beasts inhabiting your base squealing fears, only in this book it's like they're made of boardwalk salt-water taffy.
At times there is a face. At times there isn't. It's hard to tell where it starts and where it ends.
This is a confusing comic. As a first issue, I understand that things are developing, more will unfold, and explanations will be provided, but as of now I found the narrative alienating and hard to follow. Characters are introduced as if I should already know who they are, and their motivations for what they do seem so much “Because that's what I do, don't fucking question me.”
It's like I've been invited to a formal dinner party and have shown up wearing no shirt and my khaki jorts, then wonder why nobody is happy to see me. This book hits me in my knees and sends my enjoyment crashing to the floor.
Reading Manifest brought about flashbacks to certain comics I unearthed in the bargain bin some years ago. The thin and runny narrative swirls and spills from the wooden bowl that is Sam Wohl's art, which causes the whole thing to limp along due to his seeming misunderstanding about the basic laws of physics and physiology – laws he probably would want to follow to avoid the art police knocking on his door late at night ready to lock him in a Winsor & Newton Series 7 barred prison. If there is such a thing.
There probably should be.
Maybe with subsequent issues Manifest will gel and improve. There's an interesting conceit at its heart. Hopefully its skin will ripen with age.
You can buy Manifest #1 here.
So Buttons #6
(Jonathan Baylis with Victor Kerlow, Becky Hawkins, Fred Hembeck, Josh Bayer, T.J. Kirsch and Sam Spina)
It's become one of my annual traditions to read the latest issue of Jonathan Baylis's mini-comic So Buttons and review that zine for Comics Bulletin. Baylis's latest has become kind of like that Christmas card from an old friend with whom you don't get a chance to visit much but who always has lots of interesting news and thoughts to share in a note that he includes in the card.
This latest zine is an interesting read for anyone who likes mini-comics, the history of the comics medium, or thoughtful but charming meditations on the power of art to add profound joy to a person's life. The five stories here put Baylis at the center of his tales, but it's fun having him there. He appears from his short stories to be an amiable guy who loves comics history and loves his fine art even more, making all of these pieces a real joy.
So Buttons opens with a three-pager illustrated by Fred Hembeck about Jonathan's meeting with the legendary Joe Simon on the occasion of Jack Kirby's death. Hembeck is the perfect cartoonist for this tale of Baylis doing a small mitzvah for the slightly sad Mr. Simon.
Josh Bayer illustrates the most unusual tale, a surreal exploration of the lengths that Herb Trimpe had to go through to keep employed at Marvel Comics when the Image Comics revolution hit. Drawn in a surreal and cartoonish style that seems to flow from editorial cartooning, this piece packs a surprising punch and power as Trimpe makes the sacrifices necessary to keep working in the medium.
"So… Begrudgingly" is a Harvey Pekar-style tale of petty anger and trifling revenge, drawn in a charmingly loose style by Sam Spina, while "So… This Is Where I Got it From", with art by T.J. Kirsch, is an amusing tale about Jonathan's dad's love for gold toe socks. I love the exaggerated way that Kirsch draws Baylis's reactions to his dad – way over the top and very funny.
The longest piece, and the one that's drawn by two artists, tells the story of
Baylis's trip to Spain in order to visit the Guggenheim Museum there. Baylis's excitement about the museum is completely infectious, as depicted by Victor Kerlow and Becky Hawkins. We watch his head and heart literally filled with the intense joy of consuming beautiful art, but rather than have that joy feel clichéd or preachy, Baylis comes across as a man floating away on the joy that his passions bring him.
Complete with a front cover by Garbage Pail Kids' famous Jay Lynch and a back cover by the always amazing Noah Van Sciver, So Buttons is another wonderful collection of thoughts and strips by Jonathan Baylis. I bet he'd be a lot of fun to share tall tales with over drinks some evening.
Order So Buttons here.
Jason Sacks has never been to Spain and never met Joe Simon, but he likes to tell stories over drinks. Follow him @jasonsacks