July 25, 2017

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All-Ages or Small-Ages #37 (Weirdy by AP Quach)

See all of the past entries of All-Ages or Small-Ages here.

There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as these, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

Words have power - that’s an undeniable aspect of any language. Media usually strips away words to create the impression of its absence, to allow you to see remains when one of the most basic components of life is taken away. Weirdy continues along that trend and removes the words to highlight the strength and the power of what remains: the art.

July 24, 2017

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Shifting One Degree with Jason's On The Camino


As part of his mid-life crisis, Norwegian cartoonist Jason walked in the footsteps of history. After his 50th birthday, he began a 500-mile pilgrimage by walking The Camino de Santiago, a series of trails throughout Europe that all lead to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Northeastern Spain. When asked why he’s walking the Camino, Jason answers “It was either this or buying a Porsche!” It’s half a joke but Jason is obviously looking for something on this journey; enlightenment, spirituality, answers or maybe even just the right questions to ask.

If you broke down the book panel-for-panel it would be:
  1. Jason begins walking
  2. Jason has an awkward interaction with others on the trail.
  3. Jason finds a hostel to stay at for the night
  4. Jason tries to have a meaningful encounter with his environment.
  5. Goto 1.

That’s a very simplistic view of On the Camino but it’s not that far from the truth. Compared to past books like I Killed Adolf Hitler, The Werewolves of Montpellier (reviewed for Popdose a long time ago here) or The Last Musketeer, books that went off in peculiar flights of fancy, Jason’s new book seems almost mundane. Yes, his characters are still very human-like cats and dogs but his story is much more grounded and smaller than most of his previous stories have been. Where in those stories, Jason likes to find his weirdness in the ways he juxtaposes fantasy and reality. In On The Camino, he’s finding the strangeness in the way that he’s removed himself from his own normal, everyday reality in an effort to find something.

The question of what he’s hoping to find hangs in the background of his story. Even Jason doesn’t seem to know what he wants from this journey other than that he wants something. Anything. He expects some kind of change even if he doesn’t know what that change is going to be. “It was either this or buying a Porsche,” a joke he many times on this walk, is filled with half-truths and half-lies. Having turned 50 years old, Jason wants to find some new meaning or truth that he feels has eluded him for the first five decades of his life.

Jason’s recounting of this trip is fairly regulated and staid. Told in unshifting 4-panel pages, his pilgrimage is a series of days and encounters that lack any kind of general or specific revelation. Even in Jason’s art, there’s no sense of the grandiose vistas or grueling days on the trail. There’s only the sense of the walk and the people on page after page. Even at stops where Jason visits churches and cathedrals, he goes through the motions of the experiences. At some of these, his emotional state seems open to having what could be called a spiritual experience but that only lasts within the moments of the physical experience and the next day is just another quest to find something again.

Often on this journey, Jason wonders if this pilgrimage is going to change him in some way. Even toward the end of the book, he struggles with what this whole thing was for. In the last encounter Jason shows with someone else, a police officer who patrols the trail, Jason admits that he’s not too sure what he gained from the journey. “But I don’t know if it has changed my life. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen on the Camino, like Martin Sheen in that movie?” The Camino cop responds, “Nobody walks the Camino and changes 180 degrees. You talked to a nun. You started conversations. Isn’t that one degree, at least? One degree is still a change.”

And this book is a testament to that one-degree change. It’s Jason’s first autobiographical work and it asks questions that his other books barely contemplated. While his comics have always tried to put order to a crazy world, this book tries to find optimism internally to the cartoonist himself. As he’s questioning his perceived lack of change, it’s evident in just how this comic stands amid his vast catalog. With the path that he was on, On The Camino isn’t something that he would have written and drawn in the past. It’s a degree of navel-gazing that was completely missing from his storytelling and this book demonstrates the awareness of that even while the cartoonist may not be completely aware of or even finished with an even one-degree transformation.

July 21, 2017

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So whatcha doin' tonight? (Weekend Pattering for July 21st, 2017)

Really?  Any plans?  Anything going on this weekend?  Or tonight specifically?

Me?  I'm probably hitting Valerian with my son.

So with Rob at Comicon, James getting back from assignments overseas, Mark probably reading more Zelda and me actually avoiding doing any real writing, we're going to keep this one short, sweet and to the SDCC point today.

Previously on Panel Patter

Cover of the Next Week

I've read a handful of the Henry & Glenn comics and, while I've passed on some of the other collections of this, I really hope that I remembered to order this new collection from my LCS.  According to the Microcosm website, Rob Halford is even writing an introduction to the book.  

And if reading about the love of Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig wasn't enough, you can also add color to that love with the Henry & Glenn Adult Activity and Coloring Book.

This and That

** Rob's at San Diego Comicon this week. You can follow their adventure on the Panel Patter Twitter feed but here's their first day or two at the con.

Current Mood

July 19, 2017

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San Diego Comic-Con: Ten Comics Types to See

In an ideal world, this would be full of color, plentry of links, and so on. And longer.

But I am writing this at 4:15am on about 90 minutes of sleep at the airport, so....not so much.

For the first time, a member of the Panel Patter team, yours truly, will be at Comic-Con. Plenty of attention will go to the media areas, but what about comics? Is Comic-Con a good place for fans of images on paper or screen?

I'll know more in about 15 hours. But a few weeks of scanning the lists snd talking to publishers and creators has convinced me there's plenty of comics to be had, and some that are really exciting to me!

Here's a small sample as I wait to board. Please excuse typos. I am sleep deprived!

Hometown Oni Press will have their booth, along with creators including Colleen Coover (Small Favors), Zander Cannon (Kaijumax), and Bryan Lee O'Malley (Scott Pilgrim) among others, plus book specials.

European Comics is a combination of several presses across the Atlantic Ocean who are bringing their comics to the English market in translation. Scott and I are big fans of European comics and I can't wait to see what they have to offer.

Action Lab/Danger Zone has a booth, as do several of their creators. Associated people to see include Jamal Igle (Molly Danger), Damon Clark (The Circle), Dave Dwonch (Infinite 7), David Pepose (Spencer and Locke), and more.

Kel McDonald (Misfits of Avalon), Jen Vaughn (Cartozia Tales), and Rachel Dukes (Frankie Comics) are all Panel Pals and can be found in the booths. Make sure you see all three of them!

First Second is one of my favorite publishers. Two highlights from their stable of creators this year include proud papa Box Brown (Tetris) and the amazingly talented Tillie Walden (On a Sunbeam). If you want all ages comics, look no further.

Fantagraphics is at the show, of course, with 2017 debut books from Noah Van Sciver and others. Signings include the Hernandez Brothers (Love and Rockets) and Liz Suburbia (Sacred Heart).

No one talks enough about the quality of Bongo Comics, which is a shame. Love the Simpsons, Futurama, and Spongebob? Please go try their comics. Now. Guarantee you will dig them.

Northwest Press and Prism team up to provide premiere queer content to SDCC. You'll find Tony Breed (Muddlers Beat), Dylan Edwards (Valley of the Silk Sky) and others, along with great comics by top talents in the LGBT community.

Mini-Comic, zine scene, and outsider types need to go to Silver Sprocket, who are appropriately enough, located near Fanta. Lots of new comics from them to be had, from a publisher of Liz Prince among others.

Let's close this list with Fanfare. A small publisher with amazing taste, they are how I got into the late  Jiro Taniguchi, aka one of the five best Japanese creators I've read. (He also bore a strong resemblance to my father, which is kinda cool. I think it was the moustache.) If you have never read Taniguchi, you simply must. Stephen will hook you up, and make sure he knows I sent you.

Okay, almost time to board. Sorry there isn't more, but here's a great starting point. Watch Panel Patter's Twitter for more, as I use it to highlight comics at the show.

And if you are at SDCC, please try to find me and say Hi!

July 18, 2017

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All-Ages or Small-Ages #36 (The Power of the Dark Crystal by Simon Spurrier, Kelly Matthews and Nichole Matthews)

See all of the past entries of All-Ages or Small-Ages here.

There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as these, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

When existing franchises spin-off into other media, it’s often very difficult to translate the nuance that made the source material have such sustainability. Couple that with new creators at the helm and it becomes a balancing act between maintaining the spirit of the original without becoming an unrelenting slave to it.

The Dark Crystal was a fantasy movie that was released in 1982 - written and directed by the one and only Jim Henson - to moderate success. However, in the years since, it has attained something of a cult status, with the novelisation providing an even greater lore that whet the audiences appetites for more. The planned sequel, The Power of the Dark Crystal, meandered in production limbo for upwards of twelve years. With the original movie's 25th anniversary landing this year,  Archaia took the script and.gave the fans everything that they could have possibly dreamed of.

Coming into this franchise as a complete newbie, I was astounded at how resolutely this book stands alone. The history of the world remains critical, but Spurrier immediately lets readers know that there’s still so much more to unfold in this world; it manages to retain the lore that will please long-term fans while also providing a very clear path in for new readers.

Spurrier is a writer that is generally known for his freneticism. Often, that applies to the speech patterns of characters like Doctor Nemesis, but that can also apply to the barrelling nature of his plots. What makes The Power of the Dark Crystal stand apart from his existing body of work is the sudden replacement of that quick-witted patter with a very different, but still engrossing, kind of rhythm.

Spurrier’s repetition of certain phrases in the caption boxes that frame the issue push the tone of its narrative into a very specific direction. It creates the impression that this is a story being read from a musty tome, plucked from the highest shelf by some robed tutor to a gathered group of children. Small storytelling decisions lead to a greater narrative and this is a comic that absolutely understands that.

While this is a comic that is entrenched in the lore of its predecessor, the team add to the world, taking the mysterious girl made of fire from the sequel's concept art and making this universe feel expansive and well-worn. The race of fire-folk are stunning, thanks to the splendid art from Kelly and Nichole Matthews. From the first appearance of the ambassador, whenever the creatures are on panel they consume it; the dynamism of the flame jumps from panel to panel, guiding the eye and making the page feel truly alive.

This reaches its peak in the one-page origin story of this race that is absolutely consumed by an intensity of colour. The oranges, reds and whites blend together to create the sense of an inferno, but the retention of the earthy browns remind us that within all of this supposedly destructive flame, there is the story of a dying race desperately struggling to survive.

However, while there is a tragic undercurrent driving the main plot forwards, there are moments of genuine amusement that keep the tone from becoming overbearing. The ambassador of the Fire Kingdom has a weakness that no-one could have anticipated: wood. This discovery pushes the narrative forwards while also providing moments of levity in what could otherwise be a weighty story.

One of the signs of a good artist is knowing where to position the so-called “panel camera”. The art team of Matthews and Matthews begin the story with an expansive shot of the palace, providing a global context, before zooming in for an intimate view of the effects that the events of this world have on the little people. It’s a combination that works extraordinarily well at setting up both the world and the human cost of this civilisation.

This is a creative team in perfect synchronisation, weaving a story that manages to feel grandiose in its setting and style of storytelling, while not losing sight of the intimacy and innocence that makes worlds like these pop. They’ve taken an existing story and truly made it their own. Existing fans of the franchise will get the sequel that they always dreamed of, but new converts like myself have the chance to ignite their passion.

Let me know if there's a comic that you think I should be checking out. I'm always on the look-out for some more hidden All-Ages gold. Contact me at mcdickson101@gmail.com or head over to check out the podcast that I co-host You Know What I Like...? on SoundCloud.

July 17, 2017

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A Study in Legends #6 (Phantom Hourglass by Akira Himekawa)

See all past instances of this column here

With the new release, Breath of the Wild, receiving all manner of accolade from the most unexpected of sources, The Legend of Zelda franchise has been revitalised and has never been more in vogue.

For the few who weren’t fortunate enough to grow up in the 90s saturated in video games, The Legend of Zelda is a franchise that is steeped in complex continuity, interweaving between worlds and throughout time. What remains constant, however, is a protagonist named Link that strives to save the titular heroine, Zelda.

Back in 1998, a staggering 19 years ago for those of you who want a reminder of your age, Nintendo commissioned the legendary manga duo Akira Himekawa (with pen names A. Honda and S. Nagano) to adapt their most popular game to date, Ocarina of Time, into a serialised manga. As is discussed in the afterword to the first collected volume, Akira Himekawa jumped at the chance to work on a game that they themselves were hotly anticipating.

Akira Himekawa would soon go on to adapt eight of the games in turn, putting their own little spin on each independent universe, which were released to wild acclaim in Japan and even found some success overseas. Fortunately for those of us who were unlucky enough not to have access to the material at the time of its initial release, Viz Media have been gradually re-releasing collected versions of the material in so-called “Legendary Editions”.

These editions include a limited portion of coloured pages at the beginning of each volume, while also bundling in supplementary material such as accompanying magazine interviews and bonus stories that hint at a world even broader than that seen in the games themselves. This column will cover each of these five collected “Legendary” volumes, analysing their commitment to the original source material and whether or not they can be judged on their own merits.

NOTE: All images in this article should be read from right to left, in the original manga style

Previous "Legendary Edition" volumes have followed one overall story; even though they sometimes contained two separate adventures; this third entry into the series contains two distinct stories. Although they are from the same video game era, they each require their own analysis; if you haven't read the first half yet, you can find that here.

With each successive Zelda manga that I consume, the traits that correlate with a successful adaptation have begun to coalesce. One key quality that continues to rank highest is originality. Himekawa know that direct adaptations are unnecessary, as you can simply play the original game and consume it in its intended format. The most outstanding story so far, A Link to the Past, stood out because it was unafraid to use the foundation of the game’s plot as a springboard for something far greater. Unfortunately, Phantom Hourglass is the series' first major misstep, reaching in so many directions that it never quite attains any.
Each of the previous entries into this column have identified what makes each of the individual stories unique; whether this means a new version of Link, unique perspective on the timeline or another component, there has always been something to point to and say why each was worthy of the adaptation. It’s difficult to say why Akira Himekawa decided to put the effort into adapting this game. Phantom Hourglass is the direct sequel to the hit game The Wind Waker, making the slight step down from Gamecube to the Nintendo DS in 2007. It follows a Link that travels the seas with his pirate companion Tetra (this generation’s version of Princess Zelda), but is swept up into yet another adventure with the cowardly sailor, Linebeck, and the amnesiac fairy, Ciela.

It was a game that relied heavily on the fans of its successor to make the transition between consoles for the continuing story. Its release was met with the now customary success, but is definitely one of the more forgettable in the franchise. One of the main criticisms for the game was its very casual nature; it lacked the bite and the excitement that had previously made the franchise so popular.
This lack of enthusiasm translates immediately into the tone of this story; there is no agency or buoyancy to the story motivating you forwards to the next page. Disregarding the need for an impactful plot, as The Minish Cap was able to do very successfully, it still never manages to be a fun adventure. The only reason driving this adaptation appears to have been a need to capture Link's recent recreational sailing without a consideration as to the need to tell this story.

However, there are a few moments when you begin to get a hint at what Himekawa were reaching for with this half of the volume. Link will occasionally emote to the panel-camera in a fun, fourth-wall breaking way. Due to the inherent cartoonish exaggeration of the cell-shaded aesthetic, it feels like a natural leap for Himekawa to make and the humour lands very neatly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t permeate through enough of the story and only makes you resent the moments where its presence cannot be felt. There is still an inherent magnification of emotion that you would expect from something with this aesthetic, but it never quite feels like enough.

On that same vein, Link's role in Phantom Hourglass is very difficult to pinpoint. Without the strong narrative cohesion that slots the rest of the games into something resembling a timeline, he serves as any other plug and play protagonist in a fantasy story. Even his relationship with Tetra suffers in the adaptation, with Himekawa turning her solely into an overbearing captain, removing any of the nuance to their interactions.
One character that does well in the conversion is Link’s companion, Ciela. She takes the role that was unfortunately discarded by Himekawa in their adaptation of the fairy Navi in Ocarina of Time, serving as Link’s moral compass - his partner in everything but name - and introduces a strong sense of comradery to the adventure. She epitomises why this role is important for this franchise: when the blandness of the protagonist permeates, the companion brings back the conversation.

A brand new character for this instalment that gets significantly fleshed out, as Himekawa are wont to do, is the reluctant scoundrel with a heart-of-gold pirate, Linebeck. Although his primarily function in the plot is the Han Soloiest, the backstory that we see for the first time in this manga gives him an intensely tragic backstory, shining a greater light onto his initial cowardice and ultimately making him a more engaging character. As much as Himekawa do great work with this adaptation, it feels as though the foundational game on which their story was based didn’t provide them with enough material to put their own unique spin on. It is unlikely that you will come away from this feeling cheated, as there is some genuine enjoyment to be gained from this story, but it’s difficult to not feel slightly cheated when each entry preceding it has felt worthwhile. You should buy this volume for the more engaging adaptation of The Minish Cap that fills the first half, allowing you to enjoy this story for what it is: a slightly predictable nautical adventure with unfulfilled potential.

July 14, 2017

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Testing 1, 2 3 (Weekend Pattering for July 14th, 2017)

Let's see if I can remember how to do this...

Previously on Panel Patter

Cover of the Next Week 

I have no idea what this Antarctic Press comic by David Hutchison actually is but if it's anything like the cover, I want to read it for any number of reasons, the least of which is seeing Kellyanne Conway showing up more in that ridiculous outfit in a Mad Max wasteland.  
The Great Emancipator, Time Lincoln, faces an all-new threat to existence - from within his homeland! Just when he thought it was safe to go back in time, he discovers part of reality has been replaced by Alternate Reality, where what was once fact is now a matter of alternate choice. Now the Travelers Team must defeat the mastermind, Final Trump, before he blows... the cosmic budget on a wall to keep his Alt-Reality safe!
I wonder if Honest Abe grunts as articulately as Tom Hardy does?


** Interview: Raina Telgemeier on ‘Drama’ (Good Comics For Kids)-- Brigid Alverson talks to one of the best-selling cartoonists working right now.
I feel like my response is just the general observation that a lot of people have had, that we apply heteronormative romance to babies. We pair up toddlers and say things like “They are going to get married someday,” and that’s unfair if we can’t also say the same for gay children. Sexuality is a part of your identity that doesn’t necessarily apply to what you are doing with other people when you are eight or nine years old, but it’s still a part of you. The identity and the actions are not necessarily one and the same, and if a chaste heterosexual kiss had happened in Drama no one would have batted an eye, but because it was two boys, suddenly I was “pushing my liberal agenda on people.” I don’t even have an agenda. My agenda is love and friendship. People will make of it what they will and I can’t let that sway the things I believe and the things I write about.

** BAM Interview: Marjorie Liu on Writing Comics, the Eisners, and Monstress (Books-A-Million)-- This interview with Marjorie Liu just reminds me that I've barely read any Monstress, something that I need to correct while it's still summer.  When asked about why she likes fantasy as a storytelling genre, Liu answers;
Fantasy is a great estrangement from very difficult ideas. For example, Maus is non-fiction, but by having cats and mice as the main actors, it adds just enough fantasy that those who might otherwise avoid a memoir about the holocaust could find themselves reading — and benefiting greatly — from it. And it’s not just readers who benefit from this estrangement, either. As a writer, there are some ideas that are still too difficult for me to approach directly. Creatively, I need to take a circuitous path to them, and fantasy is one way of doing that.

This and That

** The Complete Strange Growths: 1991-1997 (The Comics Journal)-- Rob Kirby reviews the new collection of Jenny Zervakis' comics from the 1990s.  
Strange Growths has been credited as a groundbreaking comics zine for its quietude, and focus on the quotidian—or, as Tom Hart’s back cover blurb aptly states, “on thought and mood.” It’s easy to see why John P. has acknowledged Zervakis as a major influence on his work, and fitting that he has published this collection. Zervakis’ comics record her experiences, memories and contemplations of the moment with an aesthetic that is personable yet detached, intelligent but fun-loving, and observant of small details while never losing focus on their larger significance, and never sinking into preciousness or sentimentality.

** Marvel Legacy’s latest variants- 60’s T-Shirt Art! (The Beat)-- Man, I couldn't care any less about Legacy.  That is, I couldn't care less until Marvel announced these variants.  And I don't even want the comics, I just want these t-shirts!!!
Continuing its celebration of the vast and expansive history of the Marvel Universe, Marvel is excited to announce the release of 1960’s T-SHIRT VARIANT COVERS for select Legacy titles this fall. A blast from Marvel’s past, these images feature your favorite heroes as they appeared in original 1960’s art from Marvel legends Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

Current Mood

July 11, 2017

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The Legend of Old Men-- thoughts on Matt Wagner's Mage: The Hero Denied #0

Mage: The Hero Denied #0
Written and drawn by Matt Wagner
Colored by Brennan Wagner
Lettered by Dave Lanphear
Published by Image Comics

I don’t know if I can be the calm, cool, objective critic of Matt Wagner’s Mage: The Hero Denied #0. Now I can’t say I was there from the beginning in 1984 but I was there for the end of the beginning in 1986 when Kevin Matchstick learned his first important lessons about responsibility and guilt and I’ve been following his creator Matt Wagner ever since. From Grendel to Sandman Mystery Theater to various Batman and Shadow stories, Wagner has operated in the shadows of pulp and noir. But we’ve seen him step out of the darkness before with the two previous Mage stories and are about to see it again with Mage: The Hero Denied. With a zero issue out this week, Wagner shows that he’s not going to take being one of the “old timers” of comics laying down.

“Third Interlude” mirrors the second one that started the last series. In that story 20 years ago (was it really out in July 1997?,) Wagner told a story of Kevin Matchstick meeting his contemporary heroes and adventurers. Told only eleven years following the first Mage series, Matchstick was still kind of impulsive, brash and arrogant, even with heroes that were his equals. In Mage: The Hero Denied #0, Wagner puts Matchstick in the position of being the wise, old hero, watching a new generation of impulsive, brash and arrogant adventurers have their day in the sun. Sound familiar at all? And remember that a large part of the Mage series is autobiographical.

Wagner’s story shows a Kevin Matchstick who is still maybe that proud and slightly arrogant hero but he’s also not looking for every opportunity to prove himself. As The Steeze, a braggart of the new generation of heroes, takes every possible opening he has to prove to Matchstick that he’s just as good as, if not better than, the “old man,” Matchstick sits back, watches the show, knowing that some mistakes have to be experienced to be learned. It’s the mythic hero version of tough love. But even hanging back, Matchstick takes the time to make sure that the job is done completely and any monsters, big or little, are properly dealt with. With great responsibility must come great patience in dealing with the upcoming generation of would-be world savers.

It’s great how Wagner shows the over-eagerness of The Steeze and the cool confidence of Matchstick. The prancing young hero is only too happy to strike a hero pose as he whizzes around on his mystic skateboard to blast little, creepy monsters. Meanwhile, Matchstick leans against some crates, watching even as he knows that the little nasties are only a distraction. “Let the youngblood take care of the easy targets,” his smirk says even as he offers just enough assistance to keep The Steeze from doing any serious damage to himself. 

Brennan Wagner’s rich colors and Dave Lanphear’s descriptive lettering emphasize Wagner’s storytelling, providing highlights to the speech and actions of these two heroes while also showing just what the difference is between them. These complementary visual elements all work together to use the language of comics to tell the story. It seems like such a simple thing but Lanphear’s sound effects feel like something out of a 1980’s comic, maybe even leaning into some of the autobiographical elements of Wagner’s story. When so many modern comics try to play down the lettering into an “invisible art,” Lanphear makes the lettering here bold and visually part of the story being told.

After almost 20 years, Matt Wagner is back and ready to begin the final part of his trilogy. So far, the hero has been discovered and defined but now he’s being set up to be denied. “Third Interlude” shows us where Kevin Matchstick is today and give us a hint at his role in this world. Wagner’s storytelling either eases us back into this world or it may be an introduction, depending on your experience with Kevin Matchstick’s story. But like his character who is cool and confident, Wagner uses this comic to show that while there have been a lot of comics and creators who have been the “next big thing” over the years, Wagner is still one of the best cartoonists around.
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All-Ages or Small-Ages #35 (Hero Cats: Midnight Over Stellar City by Kyle Puttkammer and Alex Ogle)

See all of the past entries of All-Ages or Small-Ages here.

There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as these, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

July 10, 2017

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The Ringo Awards Celebrate Comics, Popular Creator

Ten years ago, comics lost one of its popular creators far too soon. Mike Wieringo passed away, leaving a legacy on two popular comics (The Flash and Fantastic Four) along with numerous other projects and the co-created series Tellos. His style, which often featured large feet (making him the anti-Liefeld, perhaps?), was extremely distinctive and his "Ringo" signature made it easy to spot his work on a cover, back when covers related more closely to the inside plot.

In honor of Mike's legacy, a new award has been created in his name, in the tenth anniversary of his passing. And before you say, "Another award?" keep in mind that this one has a very unique feature--the nominations are a combined process of open nomination and also jury selection. And the open nomination isn't just for industry figures, either--it's open to all in the comics community.

Here's the breakdown on the nomination process, taken from the site:
Two nominees will be selected by an open, online nomination process. The remaining three nominees will be selected by a jury of comics industry professionals. A tie among the jury’s choices may result in more than five nominees in a category. Nominees will be listed in the ballot alphabetically with no distinction made between open- and jury-selected nominees. Nomination voting opens June 27, 2017 and will close July 18, 2017. Nominees are targeted to be announced July 26, 2017. The comics creative community will vote online from July 26, 2017 to August 16, 2017 to select the winning recipient in each of these categories. 
It's a neat idea, letting fans in, but not letting the ballot get stuffed completely, as can happen when there's completely open voting. Additionally, you must have an e-mail address linked to your nomination, reducing the amount of multi-voting that can be done. No system is perfect, but I really like how they've handled this.

I'm eagerly awaiting the results, and I urge all Panel Patter readers to go over and nominate. And yes, I'm a participant:

Come get your cool badge! You can visit the Ringo Awards here. But hurry, the nominations end July 18th!

July 9, 2017

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We're Still Here Kickstarter Gives Loud Voice to Trans Creators

There are so many good Kickstarter projects out there, and if I did nothing else but write about Kickstarters, I'm not sure I'd have time to get through them all. But when I get a chance to do so, I'm always happy to write something up.

And when the project in question is an anthology with all-trans creators, including Panel Pals Dylan Edwards, Mel Gillman, and L. Nichols, I wanted to make sure our readers heard about this one. Of course, there's a good chance you did, because We're Still Here already blew past its initial $17,000 goal and is well into its stretch goals (which aren't even up yet, because Holy Crap, this thing funded fast), which are loosely planned to primarily benefit the creators, aka Rob's favorite kind of stretch goal. (Stickers are cool; more $$ to the creators is always better.)

So what is We're Still Here? It's a collection of short stories featuring a wide variety of content. Rather than having a specific theme, like Beyond (Sci Fi/Fantasy) or the recent Queer Tarot anthology, the point of We're Still Here is to show off the talents of trans creators, doing what they individually or collectively do best. Here's a quote from the project page:
WE’RE STILL HERE, edited by Tara Avery and Jeanne Thornton, contains fifty-five stories by fifty-five different creators (or creative teams), all of us trans, and all of us telling stories that range from fiction to nonfiction, escapist fantasy to slice-of-life memoir and back again. Here you'll find all the hit trans content you crave: the weird stuff, the stuff that goes to uncomfortable places, the stuff that highlights little-known kinks and contradictions in the trans experience, and most importantly, the stories about trans people having a good, maybe sad time. 
It's an approach that was used for Womanthology, which was also widely successful but had some controversy attached. So far, this project seems far more drama free. The editors offered a few hints of the types of stories that have been put together so far. Again, from the project page:
 Big talk! But what does it mean in practice? Here's a sampling of the stories in We're Still Here:
An evening discussing the terrors of Donald Trump at a Japanese bar for trans men
A trans woman uses MDMA (with complex results)
A trans woman visits her grandmother for Christmas (with complex results)
Visual essay on sex work, trans masculinity, and testosterone 
A practical guide to using paganism to navigate workplace terror 
Trans women pilot giant robots with impeccable synch ratios 
Toxic masculinity haunts a friendship between a butch lesbian and trans man 
A devotional essay about angels beyond gender or understanding 
Two trans women named Sweetness and Lightning blow up a car, watch Akira, and live happily ever after
They even joke that if those stories don't appeal to you, there will be plenty of others, in close to 300 pages of total content. One of the things I appreciated most about this Kickstarter is the lovely, jovial tone of the entire thing. We even got an old-timey rube asking questions, like so:

The cantankerous questioner appears throughout, providing a really entertaining read through their introduction, creator snippets, and rewards.

I will fully admit that I'm not super-familiar with most of the creators involved, other than some of my "regulars" like Dylan. However, I trust the editorial team to find quality content, and they've provided plenty of panel samples on the Kickstarter page, like these:

Kai Egener

Althea Solis
There's plenty more at the KS page, as well as a greyscale ashcan to help you decide.

We're Still Here also features something I'd never seen before on a Kickstarter project--instead of doing limited time rewards as a total number (like the first X backers pay $20, all else pay $25), they've set the tiers up so that lower prices are available to anyone who backs early, then they go away. If Kickstarter is already a pre-order system, this is a pre-pre-order concept that I really like. As a person who works all day and lives on the West Coast, I rarely if ever get to pick up those Early Birds. Great job, and I wish more KS would do this.

So what are the rewards? Pretty standard, but that's okay. $15 gets you the PDF, which is a bit steep, but the 300 pages of content offsets that. $25 plus shipping nets you the book, and if you hustle, you can get the book and a totebag for $40, which goes up to $50 after the early bird expires. There's also a color book option, sketches from the creators, and more, at the higher levels.

I am so very happy to be a backer of this project and I can't wait to see it in my hands. Anytime there's a chance to enhance queer voices, in comics and in life, I want to be there for those struggling to be noticed. As the editors note, sometimes it can be lonely to be different from others. Coming together in a project like this bonds those creators together. Let's support that, and get more made soon! You can back We're Still Here at this link.

July 8, 2017

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First-Ever Prism Award Winners Announced

The First-Ever Prism Comics awards have wrapped up, and we at Panel Patter are happy to list the award-winners and the finalists for each Category! Here they are, with links for you to seek out the great work involved!


Nothing Wrong With Me by Dylan Edwards, originally published on The Nib: https://thenib.com/nothing-wrong-with-me

 by E Jackson http://eshiel.com/ – http://flux.eshiel.com/ 
by Hari Conner http://www.hari-illustration.com/ – https://gumroad.com/l/BtKou#
The Kiss of the Demoness
 by Gillian Pascasio http://7clubs.tumblr.com/ -


Villainette by Scout Tran-Caffe http://strip.villainette.com

With Great Abandon 
by EH MacMillian https://withgreatabandon.tumblr.com/Failing Sky: Ghost Story by Scout Tran-Caffee http://failingsky.com/ghoststory


Short Gay Stories
 by H-P Lehkonen http://hplehkonen.com/

Destiny, NY Volume One: Who I Used to Be
 by Pat Shand (Writer), Manuel Preitano (Artist), Jim Campbell (Letterer), and Shannon Lee (Editor)https://www.storenvy.com/stores/980896-continuity-entertainment 
Active Voice The Comic Collection
 by P. Kristen Enos (writer), Heidi Ho (contributing writer), Casandra Grullon (artist), Derek Chua (artist), Leesamarie Croal (artist), Beth Varni (artist), and Dan Parent (cover art) http://www.pkristenenos.com/avgraphicnovel/


The Backstagers #1
 by James Tynion IV (writer), and Rian Sygh (artist), 2016, from BOOM!Box https://www.comixology.com/The-Backstagers-1-of-8/digital-comic/410464


Supergirl: Being Super #1
 by Mariko Tamaki (writer), Joëlle Jones (pencils), Sandu Florea (inks), Kelly Fitzpatrick (colorist), Saida Temofonte (letters), Jones and Fitzpatrick (cover art), 2016, DC Entertainment https://www.comixology.com/Supergirl-Being-Super-2016-1/digital-comic/431009 
Lumberjanes #17
 by Noelle Stevenson (writer), Shannon Watters (writer), and Brooke Allen (artist), 2015, BOOM!Box https://www.comixology.com/Lumberjanes-17/digital-comic/260036

POWER & MAGIC: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology,
 edited by Joamette Gil, 2016, P&M Press https://gumroad.com/powerandmagicpress  


Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology
 edited by Sfé R. Monster & Taneka Stotts https://www.beyond-press.com/

Food Porn edited by Gina Biggs http://comicorgy.com/print/food-porn-print-edition/
Chainmail Bikini: The Anthology of Women Gamers
 edited by Hazel Newlevant http://chainmail-bikini.com/

I was very fortunate to be a judge for two of these categories, and while I don't want to share which ones, I can tell you that it was very difficult to make final decisions. I'll share here what I just said on Twitter a little bit ago, edited because I don't have a character limit here on the site. ;)

First, congratulations to all of the winners--very well deserved!

If you were a finalist, but didn't win, know that it was VERY hard for us to make final calls among such great work! Even with an awesome guide provided to us as judges, a lot of these decisions were a matter of degree. 

And if you submitted at all? Let me tell you, so many of you lovely queers are doing great work, and a lot of good comics just missed out. I was introduced to so many new voices, and my horizons were expanded, especially those working on comics relating to being asexual, an area of queerness I admit I'm not as familiar with as I should be.

To my entire queer family in comics, and to those I haven't met yet but are seeing this: Keep writing! Keep drawing! Keep showing people WE DESERVE OUR PLACE IN THE COMICS COMMUNITY. 

We aren't going to let the assholes win this one. We are comics and comics are us. And once again, I'm so happy that we here at Panel Patter are doing our best to make sure people get the biggest platform they can for some of the best comics being made today.