Jonathan Baylis on AMC’s Comic Book Men

The six-episode season for AMC‘s “Comic Book Men” is over as of Sunday, but for Jonathan Baylis, the effects are still coming. Baylis appeared on the second episode, and not only sold the guys some comic book art but also got them to carry his semi-autobiographical indy comic, “So Buttons.”I caught up with Jonathan to see how things have gone for him and his book after his appearance on the show.

Reid: How has the response been since you were on Comic Book Men?

Jonathan: The response has been really positive and so immediate! I received orders for my So Buttons comics the night of the airing and even more came in over the week. I had no clue Kevin Smith’s fans were so reactive and supportive! I called Secret Stash and they sold out of what I left them, so they asked me to send even more! If any of your readers live near Red Bank, NJ, go visit! And like any narcissistic auto-bio writer, I Googled myself and noticed some reviews that appreciated the appearance of an indie comics guy on the show. I even gained interest from digital comics distributors, and it just went up on Graphicly!

Reid: How did you get hooked up with the show? Did you just show up, or were you aware of what was going on at the Secret Stash?

Jonathan: What they say is true. It’s who you know. My wife’s old roommate was the casting director for the show, and her lasting impressions of me reading graphic novels on the couch paid off. She thought I might have some odd/rare comic book items and she was right! I was a little nervous about the idea of being on reality TV, but if I had the chance to mention So Buttons on camera, I’d take it! I went there to show them some of my original art pages like a Jack Kirby page from DC’s Super Powers, or a couple of pages from Alan Moore’s Miracleman by John Totleben and Rick Veitch, but they were attracted to that Giant Size Man-Thing page, which I have to admit, I completely forgot I had!

Reid: How do you think your appearance on “Comic Book Men” went? Were you happy with the way things appeared?

Jonathan: I think it went in the best way possible. They were respectful to me and I think I came off well, not too goofy, you know? And it’s reality TV, so it totally could’ve gone that way, but I’m so happy it didn’t. It was great meeting those guys.

Reid: So how are the sales on “So Buttons”? Did being on CBM help get you into other comic book stores?

Jonathan: I saw an instant uptick in mail order sales and digital sales. I’m a relative unknown in the universe of indie comics, and was just hoping that this could get the work a little more exposure so I’d move up a rung, you know? But what a pleasure it was to get orders from complete strangers around the country. As far as other stores, my minicomics agent, Tony Shenton, just resolicited my books, so I’m hoping I’ll hear from some new stores soon, that would be great!

Reid: How’d you get the idea to do your own comic? Who were your biggest influences?

Jonathan: One day in New York, I noticed a comics-only local newspaper called Free Comics NYC, and I thought that I’d love to try to contribute to that. I asked a friend to illustrate a short auto-bio story, and it got in! As far as auto-bio comics are concerned, American Splendor’s Harvey Pekar is considered a founding father of the medium and so of course he was a major influence. But before I discovered Harvey, I fell in love with the works of Canadian cartoonists Chester Brown, Seth, and Joe Matt. And even before that, my favorite newspaper comic strip of all time was Lynn Johnston’s semi auto-bio strip, “For Better or For Worse.” Revisiting that strip recently really jolted my memory and I realized how much of an influence that strip really had on me.

Reid: What’s the first comic you remember reading/owning?

Jonathan: I learned how to read through comic books my mom bought me. I’d have to do some Googling to figure out the chronology of which one was first, but I know that among my first books were Captain America #212 (my first Kirby book), Marvel Tales #68 (Spidey unmasked reprint!), Superman #302 (Superman grows!), Flash #245 (weird backup with Green Lantern and a starfish), Marvel Team-up #55 (with early John Byrne!), and The Brave and the Bold #130 (Jim Aparo Batman!)

Reid: What do comics mean to you as an art form?

Jonathan: Comics is easily my favorite artform. And for me, maybe since it’s how I learned how to read, comics is a language. I feel like it’s the only way I can fully communicate the stories I’d like to share about myself. Just saying them out loud, I could never give the listener/reader the visual in my head, but with comics, there’s a magic that happens on the page that I am deeply in love with.