March 8, 2021

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True War Stories: Interview with Alex de Campi & Khai Krumbhaar

Cover of True War Stories. Art by Richard Johnson

Back in September of last year I was part of the successful Kickstarter campaign run by Alex de Campi and Khai Krumbhaar by way of Z2 Comics and it gave the latter half of a pandemic year something to be proud of. The overwhelming support that the campaign received validated the passion project for it's two coordinators, and gave me something to look forward to.

Fast forward a few months, with book now in hand, and I’ve read through the war stories a few times already. These stories are not what you’d necessarily expect at face value from a book sporting a tank on it’s cover while calling itself True War Stories.

This is an anthology book at heart. It is a collection of memories of actual war veterans, told by war veterans, and illustrated by some of the comic industries top talents. Unfortunately, the chance to earn bragging rights for being an early adopter through Kickstarter have long passed. But you can now get a copy at your local bookstore, as well as online. As I learned during the interview, the charities benefiting from the sales of the book receive the most money if purchased direct from the Z2 Comics web store online. You can do so by following the link here.

I had the pleasure of participating in a brief conversation with Alex and Khai, the editors of True War Stories, and they were kind enough to share some behind-the-scenes action as well as some possible future plans for the book.

Sean: So, Alex and Khai, did you know each other before this collaboration and where’d this great idea for compiling a war story anthology come from?

Khai: We met at a friend’s house, where we were both staying during San Diego Comic Con. I don’t usually trot out war stories around civilians, but we got to talking and for some reason I told her the story that would eventually become “Rebels of Macadamia” [in the book]. She [Alex] had always wanted to do a war book. I assumed she was just throwing out ideas, but a while later she emailed and said, “Hey, for real though, let’s make this happen.”

Alex: The book took forever to make! I mean, that was probably 2015 or 2016 when we met in San Diego. It was a really slow process, mostly because we were absolutely determined that both the writers and the artists would get paid a decent rate for their work, which a lot of publishers weren’t willing to do. All the book’s profits go to veterans’ charities, but that doesn’t mean the people working on the book should work for free. The contributors needed to be treated with respect. I was really worried Khai would think I was a flake or unable to get the book together, like, here I am, this weirdo friend-of-a-friend showing up and going “hey, tell me your story, and we should get more stories like this.” We were super lucky to get Z2 Comics on board because not only did they give us page rates for the artists and writers, they said, “as soon as the book covers its costs, let’s give all the profits to charity,” and that was amazing. So we had our writers pick five veterans’ charities they liked, and all the book’s moneys go to that. 

Sean: That's pretty amazing that Z2 Comics went in the same direction with proceeds as you were intending without any nudge whatsoever! But, tell me, why do you think these aren't the stories that end up getting told to non-military people? I feel like these are the ones that transcend any preconceived stance on war in general. I mean.. even a pacifist can come away from reading this with enjoyment so why hold back, you know?

Khai: Well.. when the opening for a war story comes up people are looking for a certain kind. Their reaction when you tell the one you want (instead of the one they expect) can shut you right down. It sucks to share what you think is a really good story and be met with confusion, disappointment, or even contempt. That happens a few times and you learn to just tell the "safe" ones. Then no one gets to hear the real ones. Which is a shame, because those are the best stories.

Sean: Absolutely, they are the best ones! I can attest to that as having read this collection already. In retrospect (and to confirm what you just said) I noticed that all the stories in the book are literally not what you’d expect from someone telling a war story. Some are sad and others are quirky, but they all have a charm to them that make them feel intimate and personal; as if you’re having a beer with the one telling it while sitting with them in their living room. How’d you track down all of these veterans to tell such vulnerable stories?

Khai: For this book, it really came down to personal connections. Again, these aren’t the stories we usually tell non-military people, so it took a certain level of vulnerability for our contributors to share these with us. We had some personal ties to all our contributors, and they knew there was a veteran on the team, so they trusted us enough to believe we weren’t going to spin this somehow when they were done. They really took a leap of faith on us, and I think it paid off.

Alex: Yeah, this was definitely friends and friends-of-friends. And we told everyone “tell the story you think about most”, and that was it. Every writer chose what story of theirs they wanted to share. And one of the reasons this book exists is these are the stories you hear if you have friends and family in the military. Books of autobiographical military stories are so often heavily filtered through a propaganda lens (and a ghostwriter), focusing on moments of Great Heroism and… nobody actually tells those tales to their friends. It’s bragging. We wanted to show just the diversity of everyday experience on deployment, and some of it’s hilarious, some of it’s sad, some of it’s very philosophical. I do feel like we failed a little, in that we didn’t have a poop story. (Every soldier has a poop story; google “Rip-It Ranger” and be warned.)

Sean: Were there any stories that didn’t get included due to time or money constraints? If yea, throw me a bone and give me the gist of each one of your favorites..

Khai: We had one author drop out for real world reasons. I really wish we’d gotten her story, and I hope we can entice her back if we do another volume. Also, somehow we don’t have one single poop story in here. Everyone who’s deployed has a story about the time they pooped their pants (or the time their friend pooped their pants, but you know it’s really them). One of our authors has one that makes me cry laughing. It was a stretch goal to add that one, but we didn’t quite hit it. You can bet it will be there next time.

Alex: Yea, I do feel like we failed a little, in that we didn’t have a poop story. (Every soldier has a poop story; google “Rip-It Ranger” and be warned.) But, yeah, we actually had a couple of folks who didn’t end up being able to finish their stories, and I’m hoping they’ll be willing to be involved for Volume 2. Our door is always open. And, Tyson’s story about winning hearts and minds via drinking unpasteurized milk and the, uh, explosive gastrointestinal results…

Sean: [bookmarking Rip-It Ranger Google results on my phone], I really enjoyed the range of stories you included. Nearly every emotion on the spectrum is involved here. The one that made me curl up in laughter was “Overboard”. That one felt like a story Grandpa would tell as soon as Grandma left the room. At what point did you realize you were making a book for the coffee table rather than the relic room?

Khai: I think we always knew we wanted this to be a book that was read and reread and shared. War stories- the real kind, not the shiny Hollywood ones- are something we tell over and over amongst ourselves. A new guy shows up to the unit and everyone wants Sergeant Sachs to tell the story about the mule, that kind of thing. So that’s intentional.

Alex: Oh yeah, from the beginning we wanted like Humans of New York, but military. And honestly, if you’re friends with someone who deployed and you’re sitting around having a beer and you ask them to tell you a story, it’s probably going to be something funny and absurd. Or a poop story. This book’s about people, not institutions.

Sean: Hoe was the experience of doing this as a Kickstarter with Z2 Comics like for you both compared to just doing it traditionally?

Khai: Real talk, my main interest in the Kickstarter was covering as many costs as we could so there would be more profit from the retail sales for our charities. I know it was a good publicity move too, but anything that helps us raise more [money] makes me happy.

Alex: Yeah, same. Doing a Kickstarter in the middle of a pandemic when stuff has been a nightmare to get stuff from the printer and ship out has been an experience, but most folks have been really patient. The USPS has been losing so many books, like fully 10% of our books were lost or destroyed in the postal system.

Sean: Yikes! Mine came on time and in great shape. So no complaints here.

Alex: Great! But if you like engaging with people, and you’re super organized, Kickstarters are great. I just like the book earning out before it even comes out in shops. That’s crucial for me. And honestly right now? Anything to get books in people’s hands. You can’t rely on shops because a lot of folks still aren’t going to any. (Speaking of which, if you want to buy True War Stories and also want to maximize the amount of money from your purchase that goes to the five veterans charities our writers picked out, buy it from the Z2 web store. More than double the money goes to charity than if you buy it through Amazon.)

Sean: Good to know. I'll remember that for future also. Let's switch gears and talk the creative process for a minute. How did you handle pairing war veteran authors with the different artists? Did they choose or did you? 

Khai: Finding artists was all Alex! She asked some people she’d worked with before, and also put up an advertisement for the book. Then we’d match the artist to the story, introduce them to the author, and see how everyone felt. We did have to switch someone out at one point because it just wasn’t fitting the story, but overall, everyone seemed really happy with their team. The artists were very patient about endless “wait that patch is wrong, the incoming unit had THESE patches” edits.

Alex: Yes, I’m lucky enough to know a lot of great artists and since the longest story is only 26 pages long, we could grab a little space here and there in people’s schedules even though our page rate wasn’t, like, a Marvel or DC rate. The true hero of the book is Kelly Fitzpatrick, though, who coloured about 75% of the stories and managed to choose a different, unique colour style for each one. And also Peter Krause, for stepping in at the last minute to draw a second story when the original artist was unable to complete it.
Page from "Rebels of Macadamia" by Khai Krumbhaar, Jeff McComsey & Dee Cunniffe
Sean: So.. Khai.. was your rat story intentionally put in the three spot? Because where I come from that is the track listing for the hit single! Seriously though, how hard was it to navigate the reading experience? I don’t find it coincidental that the book begins with a quick heavy hitter and ends with a tear-jerker that’ll make you want to phone home.

Khai: We did go over the story order a few times to get the pacing right. I’m lucky to have had Alex’s experience for this part. She wanted “Roadside” at the end for that sense of closure. I think it worked out better than ending on a laugh, which was my first impulse.

Alex: Wait, I thought you suggested "Roadside" for the end? I was thinking about "Brothers" but then you said "Roadside" was better because it brings our soldier home from deployment, and you were right! The story listing was like making a mixtape. We wrote all the titles down and then we stared at it. Some of it was predetermined, like we didn’t want the two Vietnam stories right next to each other, and we wanted to spread out the branches of service represented so there wasn’t like four Army stories to start out, or a big bunch of Marines stories together, et cetera. We also needed to spread out engagements so it was clear that this wasn’t just a bunch of Afghanistan stories or Iraq stories. We put Motorpool first because it’s the sort of story everyone thinks the book will be about (the author also has a really funny poop story, by the way), and then go the other way with the rather more freewheeling "My Vietnam Blast" which is both dramatic and funny and was an Air Force story, then Khai’s story because again, we wanted to make sure one of our two women veterans’ stories was up front… there were a lot of considerations in placement.

Sean: Since you brought up mixtapes, I gotta ask.. in the editor’s room, was there a preferred background noise? Kim Gordan, Tom Petty, Dave Grohl.. or do you prefer splicing panels in silence?

Khai: Uh-oh. If I try to be cool about this, anyone I served with will rat me out in a second. My musical tastes have been described as “weird or relentlessly cheerful, plus classic rock”. So you’re as likely to hear me bopping along to Gogol Bordello as belting out “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You”. In my defense I was raised in Florida and Disney runs in our blood there.

Alex: There’s a panel where two Scout Snipers in Haiti are singing Madonna in their nest and it’s one of those Very True panels. I lettered the book mostly in silence because my 2008 (!!) Macbook Pro was thiiis close to dying the entire time and if I even THOUGHT about opening another application or asking it to stream something it would have been Game Over. (I finally bought a new secondhand one in November; it’s from 2019!).

Sean: Alex, I could be way off base here, but I felt like this was more than a business proposition for you. During the whole Kickstarter campaign I could almost feel the energy that suggested it a passion project for you, and not just selling comics. Who’s the veteran in your family?

Alex: My dad; he was Navy. We had a lot of cool family stuff happen around the book — both our Vietnam stories were father/daughter partnerships; the artist on "My Vietnam Blast", Dave Acosta, wants to get a story from HIS dad’s Vietnam tour if we do a Volume 2. Telling these stories started a lot of positive discussions among families.

Khai: Not directed at me, but as a fun note I have a family full of veterans. Father, mother, stepfather (my dad), grandparents, sister, uncles… it’s one of the "Officially Approved Vocations" in my family.

Sean: That's so awesome that the making of the book brought real life families together like that! Khai-- it was your first time as editor of a book, right ? You up for some more? I’d be down for part two of whatever you got kicking around up there, more rats or whatever else you got.

Khai: I had so much fun with this, and I learned a lot. The hardest part is wanting to go back to the first story (my own) and pick it apart at the end, but I think it holds up. I’m hoping we get to do another volume after this one. And- well, the rats really did stop coming for us, but I do have other stories. A really sad one about a cat, a funny potty humor one, and one that’s Very Good Stuff but I would probably need to check with S2 (security) about it before I told it.

Alex: I really want this book to sell well so we can persuade Z2 to do a Volume 2. And Khai was an amazing co-editor. We took stories in any form the authors gave us — sometimes a comic script, sometimes a ramble in an email, sometimes a highly organized PDF with photo references. And [Khai] fully adapted half those stories to comic script, which kept me from going insane while I did the other half, and lettered the book. And she was the eye for military detail, along with our authors, who had approvals every step of the way.

Sean: I definitely see an opportunity here for an ongoing passion project; Volume 2 and beyond. You both have hinted already at the desire for Volume 2 or something similar. What’s that look like for both of you? I’m sure there’s thousands of war stories worth telling, and I’m sure plenty of people interested in reading them.

Khai: The dream would be we do one every year, and that year’s authors choose the charities.

Alex: Yep! But like I said, we need Volume 1 to be a success. I’d like to pay the creators more next time, too.

Sean: Great! So basically keep telling people to hit up Z2 at their web store to buy the book. Say no more. Well.. this has been great. Thank you both for spending the time to do this. I wish you the best and I hope these stories bring a smile to everyone’s face as big as the one it gave me. /it really is a good read! Let’s end things by fantasy casting your own war story.. who draws, who colors, and who letters your comic?

Alex: Oh wow. I did a fictional story for the BATTLE annual in the UK this year with Glenn Fabry, who I love. Keith Burns painted cover… It’s hard to say, I got to work with so many of my favourite artists on TRUE WAR STORIES… Tonci Zonjic, I guess. I’d letter it myself, Tonci does his own colours

Khai: For me.. I doubt they’d do a war book because they mainly do fantasy work, but it would be fun to use Kendra Wells for a lighter story. They have a real humor to their art that I think would be unexpected. Also, I liked working with Dee Cunniffe on colors… but I’d like to try Kelly Fitzpatrick who did “Airman Jennings The Impaler.”
True War Stories is out now and available at all retail and online places where books are sold. Maximize proceeds benefiting war veteran chosen non-profits by visiting the Z2 Comics webstore at

Page from "Airman Jennings the Impaler" by Brandon Davis Jennings, PJ Holden & Kelly Fitzpatrick


March 4, 2021

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Shadow Doctor #1 by Peter Calloway and Georges Jeanty

Shadow Doctor #1
Written by Peter Calloway
Art by Georges Jeanty
Color by Juancho!
Lettering and Backmatter Design by Charles Pritchett
Published by AfterShock Comics

Shadow Doctor, is based on the true story of writer Peter Calloway’s grandfather Nathaniel Calloway. Nathaniel is a Black man who worked with the mob in Chicago during Prohibition and the Great Depression. Nathaniel is narrating his story from his hospital bed in 1979 to his son David. After surviving an ambush while helping to run whiskey, Nathaniel vows to go to medical school and become a doctor so that he might make a better life for himself. The problem is no hospital would hire him and no bank would loan him money to start a clinic. There’s no question that this is because he’s Black. The hiring managers and loan officers, each of whom is a white man, tell Nathaniel that it isn’t personal, they’re just following the rules. Eventually, it becomes clear to him that his only chance is to turn to the mob for help.

March 3, 2021

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Check This Out: 2021 Publications from Birdcage Bottom Books Kickstarter

Today we bring attention toward a Kickstarter from Birdcage Bottom Books. It just started last weekend and before the weekend was up it nearly hit the 40% funded mark. Publications from the Birdcage brand are a house favorite among the Panel Patter crew and we are always excited to see their new lineups each year.

Kickstarter link >> 2021 Birdcage Bottom Books

At the beginning of each year the Birdcage crew join forces to bring us top notch comic content and give readers the chance to crowdfund the year’s publications. This year is no different. Here is your chance to find this years titles.

The comics this year from Birdcage include a punk rock anthology, the initial volume of an unlikely superhero, and a handful of mini-comics that’ve come to be what we expect from the folks at Birdcage Bottom Books.

Their publications this year include:

TOO TOUGH TO DIE: An Aging Punx Anthology

This punk anthology has a whole host of creators coming together to tell personal stories as told through various perspectives of an aging punk rocker. The underground music scene and the underground comics scene have always had their crossing, and this anthology pays tribute to it. With a top-tier cast of creators I anticipate this being a contender for anthology of the year.

6” x 9”, 260+ pages.
Full-color covers with b+w interior. Perfect-bound.

"Everything Is Super" by Captain Rottsteak

Here is a book for those of us who are hungry for more superhero stories.. but want our superheroes to be.. mis-adventurous. Lloyd the Human Hemorrhoid Herman is one such hero and this collects issues 1-4.

6” x 9”, 120 pages.
Full-color covers and interior. Perfect-bound.

"Comfort Creatures" by Robert H. Stevenson

Haunting, dripping, messy monsters... made from things that we.. love? Sounds intriguing. I must know what this transforms into.

5.5” x 8.5”, 24 pages.
Black cardstock with white ink covers with b+w interior.

"Flop Sweat #2, #3, & #4" by Lance Ward

The ongoing serialization of Lance Ward gains traction this year as 3 more issues of his autobiographical comic series is published by Birdcage Bottom Books. (Issue 1 was printed last year by Birdcage and it is so easy to add that I was able to do it by just a click of a button).

5.5” x 8.5”, 28 pages each issue.
Full-color covers and interior.

Kickstarter link >> 2021 Birdcage Bottom Books

Now. Since this is a Kickstarter. There’s the inevitable (and coveted) reward options. And this Kickstarter has got tons of punk rock rewards to be had. There’s original art from the Too Tough To Die anthology, there’s mock-up show flyer commissions options, there’s punk album cover art recreations, and punk self (or pet) portraits, ska-sona portraits, and even some coveted Lance Ward original artwork from the Flop Sweat series. There’s even a limited-edition comic option from Kyle Bravo.

If you dig indie comics and you’re looking for some new comic loot and rewards then I highly recommend checking out and backing this Kickstarter campaign. Birdcage Bottoms Books comes with a Kickstarter reputation that upholds itself as one to settle in as a repeat customer.

Do as I did and head over to Kickstarter to find the campaign level that best suits you.

(I picked the Yost punk portrait and personally I cannot wait for him to turn me into a train hopping skate punk rocker.)

Kickstarter link >> 2021 Birdcage Bottom Books

March 2, 2021

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Catch It at the Comic Shop March 3rd, 2021

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

Beth's Picks:

Girlsplaining: A (Sorta) Memoir, by Katja Klengel, published by Archaia, division of a BOOM! Studios
This graphic novel from German cartoonist Katja Klengel will most certainly resonate with a female audience, and it should be read by any human interested in what it feels like to navigate the world as a woman. Klengel jokingly says near the beginning that her goal is to be the “Carrie Bradshaw of the comics scene,” but she surpasses that with her extremely realistic and relatable writing. As someone who has often wondered what idiot first decided it was attractive for women to be hairless like dolphins, “The Ghost of the Rusty Razor Blades” particularly resonated with me. The page where she tells off a boyfriend who complains about her leg hair — “My body, my business! Now change the channel, ‘Sailor Moon’ is on.” — is one of my new all-time favorites.

March 1, 2021

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The Wonder Women of Future State

Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman
by Becky Cloonan, Jen Bartel, Pat Brosseau, L.L. McKinney, 
Alitha Martinez, Mark Morales, Emilio Lopez and Becca Carey
published by DC Comics

One of my pandemic projects has been sorting through years of accumulated comics. It showed me how enthusiastically I’ve bought into — with my dollars, if not always my heart — DC’s special events.

February 25, 2021

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Quick Hit: Dungeons and Dragons: Infernal Tides from Zub and Dunbar

 *Editor's Note - Welcome aboard, Rachel! This is her debut piece for the website, and we're incredibly happy to have her aboard.

Dungeon & Dragons: Infernal Tides 
Written by Jim Zub, art by Max Dunbar, colors by Sebastian Cheng, additional colors by David Garcia Cruz, letters by Neil Uyetake

Published by IDW
After reading and giving up on a couple of other comics, I saw that IDW had a Dungeons & Dragons comic out, and I thought, “why not?” I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did, which shows how snooty I was being. Just because a comic is based on an existing property doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, exciting, and gorgeous. And any comic that includes a line of dialogue like, “My hamster senses great danger!” is automatically worth a read in my opinion.

The party featured in this story is made up of the massive, fearless-bordering-on-stupid human ranger Minsc (and his hamster Boo); sorceress moon elf Delina, who has to deal with occasional magical flareups; Nerys a human cleric who makes great use of the spiritual weapon spell; Shandie, a halfling rogue who knows how the world works and is able to think several steps ahead; and Krydle a half-elf, half-human rogue who likes to call both himself and Shandie urban scouts and, much to Krydle’s dismay, has a fondness for puns. They meet up with Aubree Lucent, a young human woman who is a paladin in training. She was on a mission with her father Alistair to retrieve a box that was stolen from the leader of their city of Elturel. When we meet the pair, Haruman, knight of the devil Zariel, is in literal hot pursuit of them on his fiery mount. Zariel is able to spirit away Alistair, but Aubree still has the box. Without giving any spoilers, all you need to know is that a big part of the plot revolves around the seemingly endless war between devils and demons.

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Panel Patter Celebrates Black History Month - 2021

We at Panel Patter are always out looking for the next big up-and-coming creator, and with this month being Black History Month I thought it’d be in good faith to highlight a few Black creators. Some in this list are on the rise, some are writing mainstream titles (and making waves doing it), while others are so new that you may not have even heard of them yet.

By no means is this list meant to be all-inclusive for it is instead meant to be a reminder that white men in their 30s are not the only ones out there making phenomenal comics. Gender and race often unfairly determine legitimacy, and this is an attempt to speak directly to that injustice by naming a few Black creators who we love.

Use these names as a springboard into your own journey and discover someone new in your search for the creator today that everyone will be talking about tomorrow.

In no particular order, in honor of Black History Month, here are some of Panel Patters go-to content creators:

Christopher Priest

You could arguably make the case that we never see the version of Black Panther within the MCU that we have come to take for granted if it were not for Priest and his iconic run with the character. Spanning from late 1998 to 2003 Christopher Priest was quietly refurbishing a character in real time and no one was noticing. Today people look back on it as the run that defines the character. As impressive as this is in itself, Priest elevates himself into legendary status when you realize that his writing Black Panther as the main writer marked the first time a Black writer did such a thing for Marvel (or DC); in turn breaking the color barrier in comics. He spent time writing comics for characters such as Spider-Man, Batman, Deadpool, and Powerman & Iron Fist, but none of these compare to his classic run with the King himself, T'Challa.

Shopping Links: Barnes & Noblebookshop.orgAmazon

Kwanza Osajyefo

There have been a handful of attempts at writing stories where superpowers are defined and distributed based on race, but none have had the lasting success that Kwanza Osajyefo’s Black has experienced. Largely considered as his biggest accomplishment to comics thus far with momentum only solidifying that as true. What started as a Kickstarter campaign blew up to eventually be a Black Mask Studios staple as more stories began pouring out adding to the already expansive universe. The second installment of a planned trilogy of stories, entitled White, is planned for an April 2021 release date and is expected to be a quick sell. Physical copy enthusiasts should set their alarms and get over to the Black Mask website as near to its release as you can. Or just do as I did and place a pre-order. 

Follow his Twitter @kwanzer and check him out at the Humanoids website.

Whit Taylor

Whit Taylor, a friend and past contributor to the site, is an award winning cartoonist and currently a contributing editor for The Nib. She has self published several of her own comics as well as having had her work published by Radiator Comics, Ninth Art Press, and Sparkplug Books among others. Most recently, her series Fizzle was nominated in the 2020 Ignatz Awards for best series and won. (Hooray!!) Radiator Comics currently has the series available for purchase on their website. She is a self-proclaimed enthusiast for public health and social science and enjoys pairing it with her love for making comics.

Visit Taylor's website at
Follow her on the web @WhitTaylorComix and @whitltaylor
Check out the Ignatz award winning series Fizzle by shopping at Radiator Comics.
Read her stuff at The Nib.

Christina “Steenz” Stewart

Steenz has been a very active member in comics behind the scenes and in front of them since 2017. In just 4 short years she has managed to succeed in being the cartoonist, writer, as well as an award winner, instructor, and editor; an ever expansive resumé that is destined to continue growing. Currently editing titles for Mad Cave Studios, after having spent time as editor with Lion Forge she works earnestly to get diversity on the pages of comic books. Hard at work she doesn’t forget to also create stories of her own with Archival Quality, the winner of the 5th Annual Dwayne McDuffie Award For Diversity in Comics in 2019. In May of last year she took over writing and illustrating the syndicated strip Heart of the City, an ongoing story of a middle-school student and his experiences in everyday life. Currently, we can look forward to the upcoming release of a graphic novel depicting the history of tabletop role player gaming as co-creator and illustrator. Lots of stuff upcoming from this powerhouse editor and content creator.

Follow Steenz on the web @oheysteenz(twitter) and @oheysteenz(instagram).
For all things Steenz visit
Read all the latest strips from Heart of the City at
Go check out Mad Cave Studios at
Purchase the award winning story Archival Quality at

Daniel Barnes

A recent Panel Patter favorite, The Black Mage, was co-created by Barnes with fellow Black comic creator and illustrator D.J. Kirkland. Solicited as Harry Potter meets Final Fantasy, this story of breaking the color barrier in wizardry is a story every kid should read. We look forward to what these creators have in store for us, collectively and on their own, and we see nothing but a bright future for both.

Follow Barnes on the web at @Danny8bit.
Visit his website at
Purchase The Black Mage at or at Amazon and comiXology

Vita Ayala

Hailing from the flagship Marvel title of Morbius, and now currently on the team writing Future State: the Next Batman, Ayala is positioning themself as one of the fiercest writers in comics. Not only are they breaking down glass ceilings of gender, but barriers of race is also being broken down. With a whole onslaught of titles to chose from, I pick the Vault miniseries from a couple years ago titled Submerged to share as something not to miss by Ayala. It’s a story of complicated family dynamics while it delves deep into the underworld within the subway tunnels of New York City. Backdrop to the story is a catastrophic storm that traps characters in the maze underground and the only way out is to tackle the inner demons that plague the past that she was unaware of before. Rising superstar and a name that everyone should be aware of is Vita Ayala. There will be many more quality stories coming from them in the future. 

Follow Vita on the web at @definitelyvita.
Check out Vita's work at
Buy Submerged at Barnes &

Joel Christian Gill

Another friend of the site, Joel Christian Gill, has been creating comics that positively impact his readership for years. As a cartoonist and historian he uses his stories to capture the audience and not let them go until they have fully realized the reason for the story. His award winning graphic novel series Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History is one we would recommend as a first dive into his work. Another would be his 2020 graphic memoir, Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence from Oni Press. The former would be choice for those seeking graphic history, whereas the latter is a fictional memoir about how children are faced with the pressures and unavoidable truths of abuse, trauma and violence. Gill’s TED talk of the subject matter is also worth a look and so are any of his other titles from his body of work.

Check out Joel's website at
Follow him on the web at @jcg007(twitter) and @joelchristiangill(instagram).
Support by shopping at Barnes & NobleAmazon or
Watch his TED talk here: TEDtalk

Rodney Barnes

Some guys get all of the things, and Rodney Barnes is one such guy. As a veteran award-winning producer and screen writer, he also lends his knack for dialogue to comics. With books such as Killadelphia, Lando: Double or Nothing, and Falcon we could definitely benefit from some more stories in comics from the long-standing Hollywood pillar for content that centers on Black voices.

Visit Rodney's website at
Follow him on twitter at @TheRodneyBarnes.
Support by shopping at Amazon or

Bianca Xunise

A 2018 Ignatz Award winner in the “Promising New Talent” category for her self-published book Say Her Name was what turned the cartoons onto a profession. Now, as the second Black woman to be nationally syndicated in a daily strip, she has become a member of the Six Chix. With still a lot to be said in the thread of racial and gender inequality look for more comics to be coming out by following her twitter page and frequenting her store. I anticipate many more great things from them.

Visit Bianca's website at
Follow her on the web at @biancaxunise(twitter) and @biancaxunise(instagram).
Check out her work at The Nib and Six Chix.
Support her work by shopping at Gumroad.

Danny Lore

Danny Lore is a comic writer and editor with a handfuls of works to mention. They have contributed works for several publishers, including Vault, comiXology and Black Mask Studios. Mostly written in worlds of contemporary fiction, fantasy and science fiction, they also have the title of editor to be proud of as they are esteemed as the acquiring editor for FIYAH Literary Magazine. Additionally, Lore has also helped co-write some issues of Ironheart 2020 with Vita Ayala for Marvel. The Vault title, Queen of Bad Dreams was heard talked about in the halls of Panel Patter and was what initially brought our attention to their work. Expect lots of engaging stories from them in the coming years.

Visit Danny's website at
Follow them on the web at @weredawgz(twitter) and @weredawgz(instagram).
Support their work by shopping at or at
Check out the work at FIYAH at

Jamal Campbell

Campbell is probably most known for drawing Far Sector with writer N.K. Jemisin for DC. He has also done other incredible work for DC in the Naomi series with David F. Walker as well as a number of Marvel titles including The Prowler. Jamal’s fresh and clean illustrating style will definitely keep him high on the list of sought after artists by major publishers looking for something that packs a comic book punch.

Visit Jamal's website at
Follow him on the web at @_pryce14(twitter) and @pryce14(instagram) and
Support his work by shopping at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and comiXology.

Charlie “Spike” Trotman

Being the voice for the voiceless; that is what Spike does for the underrepresented in comics with the publishing company she founded and owns: Iron Circus Comics. As a cartoonist notably known for the webcomic Templar, Arizona, she uses her passion to promote the unprompted to assist others and fills the world with highly acclaimed and award-winning comics. As a similar mantra to those of us here at Panel Patter, we find solidarity in this mission. 

Follow Spike on the web on twitter at @Iron_Spike.
Support her work by checking out and shopping at or Amazon.
Read Templar, Arizona at

Jamal Igle

Another Panel Patter friend that we are pleased to introduce is Jamal Igle. Who are we kidding? You all know this guy. He’s the illustrator for such things as The Wrong Earth from Ahoy Comics, and Black Mask StudiosBlack. He is also the writer, artist, and creator for the Action Lab series Molly Danger and co-creator of VENTURE. In 2011 he won the Inkpot Award for outstanding achievement in comic art and his nearly 3 decades of experience in the industry have no signs of slowing down. Look for more of his work with Ahoy, as The Wrong Earth continues being a hit for the publisher. Also, he has the follow up to Black later this year when the second piece to the planned trilogy hits stores called White.

Visit Jamal's website at
Follow him on the web at @JAMALIGLE(twitter) and @jamal_igle_artist(instagram).
Support his work by shopping at or Amazon
Treat yourself to some original art drawn by Jamal over at Cadence Comic Art.

David F. Walker

Critically acclaimed and award-winning comic book writer, author, journalist filmmaker and educator, Walker spends most of his time in comic creation these days alongside Sanford Greene and Chuck Brown making the hit Image book Bitter Root. Also an educator at Portland State University, Walker uses his vast knowledge of African-American cinema to infuse today’s youth with gems in black culture from the past. With handfuls of titles to his name, the aforementioned Bitter Root, Marvel’s Power Man and Iron Fist, and Naomi with Jamal Campbell & Bendis are ones to seek out.. just to name a few.

Visit David's website at
Follow him on the web at @DavidWalker1201(twitter) and @davidf.walker(instagram).
Support his work by shopping at and comiXology and Amazon.

Ebony Flowers

Eisner, Ignatz and YALSA award winning Ebony Flowers is a well-versed and educated PhD of the arts. Her short story, Hot Combs, garnered notable attention and won her the 2020 Eisner award for Best Short Story. This achievement made her the first Black woman the Eisner for that particular category! The list of nominations Flowers holds is seemingly endless, and with her recent acknowledgement through subsequent awards it seems safe to assume that the best is yet to come from a rising black voice. She is setting down feet for a journey all her own. Educating readers and listeners everywhere the importance of self-worth and esteem while creating stories impactful for those that look like her as well as administering a learning curve of which we should live by for those of us who do not.

Visit Ebony's website at
Follow her on twitter at @ebonydraws.
Support her work by purchasing Hot Combs at Bookshop.orgAmazon or direct from D&Q here.

Brandon Thomas

Although I have not personally read Excellence from Image Comics, I know plenty of folk who have and they always have the same reaction. And it is something similar to: "What?! You need to get on this series, like now!". In it, Thomas and series artist, Khary Randolph, are mapping a story about secret societies and Black magicians that is proving to be one of the must reads from Image these days. Aside from this seies, Thomas has also written another Image series titled Horizon, and is also currently writing Future State: Aquaman for DC.

Visit Brandon's website at
Follow him on twitter at @bwrites247.
Support him by shopping at Bookshop.orgAmazon or comiXology.

Ben Passmore

With titles such as Your Black Friend, Bttm Fdrs, and last years one shot, Sports is Hell, Ben Passmore finds his place comfortably as a cartoonist and a social and political activist. The latter finds itself represented often within the former and readers have become to expect the blunt and honest renditions of truth in his work. If just learning about Passmore then Your Black Friend is where I would call “a good place to start” would be. It’s an anthology of brief moments all pieced together by Passmore with a single mission to illustrate what it means to be a Black man in a White world.

Follow Ben on the web at @daygloayhole(twitter) and @daygloayhole(instagram).
Support his work by becoming a member to his Patreon and by shopping for his books at, directly from the publishers, or all in one place at Silver Sprocket.

Johnnie Christmas

The New York Times best-selling graphic novelist, Johnnie Christmas, is on quite the upward trend currently with his ongoing Image title Tartarus, and the ComiXology Original from last year, Crema. Also known for his adaptation of William Gibson’s lost Alien 3 screenplay into graphic novel of the same name all on the heels of his critically acclaimed co-created series Angel-Catbird. With such a long list of acclaimed titles to his name we are excited to learn that he has three middle-grade graphic novels currently in the works for for the HarperAlley imprint of HarperCollins. Look for those in the coming years.

Visit Johnnie's website at
Follow him on the web at @j_xmas(twitter) and @johnniexmas(instagram) and jchristmas.tumblr.
Support him by purchasing his work at Bookshop.orgcomiXology and Amazon.
Treat yourself to some of his original art by checking out what is for sale at Comiconart.

Melody Cooper

As no stranger to creating stories, Melody Cooper is a playwright, and tv and film writer/director with many projects to list. Currently she is developing an HBO tv pilot and is a story editor for NBC’s Law & Order: SVU. Cooper adds to an already impressive resume by being added to the Humanoid series to write the second volume of Omni, because when you need to further impress a fan base—- then, comics. As a genre writer raised by activists and educators who excels at bringing social issues and female protagonists to the forefront, Cooper pens a voice in comics that is fresh, dense, and exciting.

Visit Melody's website at
Follow her on the web at @melodyMcooper(twitter) and @melodycooperfilm(instagram).
Read about her addition to Omni at

Dwayne McDuffie

Last, but most definitely not least, we have the man that paved the way for those to follow, Dwayne McDuffie. McDuffie is a legend. He was the iconic voice for the voiceless. Beginning his career as an assistant to an editor, he worked himself toward cofounding Milestone Media as a place for multicultural sensibility. McDuffie went on to to create and co-create several characters with this DC imprint. His first major work was a comic series about a fictitious company who appeared after the hustle and bustle that seemingly follows every caped and cowled persona in comics and thus proceeded to clean up after them. Do some homework of your own if you haven’t already and find out why there is a highly sought after award named after him. There’s a lot to be said about what’s worth reading and what’s worth passing by, let this name in comics history be one you sit with for awhile. His impact for all the creators mentioned prior (and those not mentioned, but still successfully creating content) is massive and not something to take for granted. 

Read about the McDuffie Award here.
Check out his personal twitter page @Dwayne_McDuffie and the memorial one @dmcduffiepage.
Educate yourself about the life of McDuffie on the AALBC website at or at the African American Registry website at
Browse around and maybe make a purchase or two over at

February 23, 2021

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Catch It at the Comic Shop February 24th, 2021

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

James' Picks:

Department of Truth Vol. 1 TP by James Tynion IV, Martin Simmonds and Aditya Bidikar, published by Image Comics

Department of Truth feels like a comic that has captured the zeitgeist better than just about anything else right now, and it's a book I absolutely love (my full review here).  The idea behind the comic is that belief influences reality in a tangible, meaningful way, and that belief can be manipulated in order to change reality. This is causing conspiracies to come true.  the Department of Truth is a government agency that is tasked with keeping reality real.  It's a really smart, intense, engaging book, that's not always an easy read because of the subject matter.  I absolutely loved this book, and so much of that comes from the stunning, next-level work done by Martin Simmonds on art and Aditya Bidikar on letters. I've always enjoyed Simmonds' work but his pages in Department of Truth are a revelation. 

February 22, 2021

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The Carelessness of Desire- a look at K. Woodman-Maynard's The Great Gatsby

Too often, The Great Gatsby gets reduced to the realms of English term papers and students trying to wrestle with lives that they have yet to live.  The green lights of East Egg or the billboard eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg become what we take out of the book because those are the surface and easy parts of the mystery of Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, Nick, and Jordan.  So many school-day essays have been written trying to glean some insight into these characters through these artifacts of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original novel.  It’s the New York City around these characters that Fitzgerald depicted which becomes an extension of the characters and their states.  The green light “means” something because it means something to Gatsby.  The eyes on an optometrist’s billboard “mean” something because it means something to NIck as he sees the billboard on a train trip into the city, watching over the actions of all of these people.  So it is these symbols in the book that we remember because we had to decipher them, make guesses about what they could mean, and then get graded on those guesses.  We were asked falsely to put ourselves in Fitzgerald’s position, trying to his intentions behind these symbols and the book’s meaning instead of listening to it, listening to these characters, and trying to hear what they were trying to tell us about love, about desire, and about carelessness.

In adapting this almost 100-year old novel, cartoonist K. Woodman-Maynard includes most of the details of Fitzgerald’s novel but her adaptation regrounds the story in the characters.  She allows the characters to reclaim the importance of this narrative over the symbolism of it.  By making The Great Gatsby a visual story, she takes the original text and makes it a more immersive experience. Her cartooning restores the vibrancy of this story, a vibrancy that became somewhat tarnished and staid after decades of scholarship and other adaptations (mostly cinematic) that never quite captured the spirit of the novel.  The Great Gatsby has become a symbol of some historical jazz age and the character have morphed into its avatars instead of existing as living, breathing characters who speak to us now as they did to their original audience. 

So this story about love (and maybe that should be “desire” instead of “love’) in the time of jazz and parties shows it not as a kind, benevolent force but as a destructive storm.  It begins innocently enough, as midwestern Nick moves to New York City, more specifically Long Island, to begin a job of numbers and finance. It’s a safe choice for a man of his age and his background  It’s the beginning of summer and its long night which allows Nick’s neighbor to throw even longer parties.  In Long Island, he finds old acquaintances- his school chum Tom and Tom’s wife Daisy (who’s also Nick’s second cousin.)  The should be a connection to Nick’s past, a continuation of it but Nick calls them “old friends whom I scarcely knew at all.”  They’re a part of his past but a tenuous one.  Tom is more than a bit of a jock, a bully, and a racist.  Daisy, the wife, and the cousin, is a flighty personality, both in love and not in love with her husband. These aren’t people that Nick sought out and they were not looking for him.  It is fate and circumstance that brought them together.    

For a love story, The Great Gatsby spends a lot of time with characters who are both in love and not in love with one another. Nick’s neighbor, the titular Jay Gatsby is a man from Daisy’s past well before she met Tom, and the two of them had the greatest love of all time.  Or at least that’s how they both want it to be.  As you look at what these characters are doing and what they’re saying, the story becomes about trying to force these things, to try to impose our will on something as almost random as falling in love with a person.  Love makes all of these characters careless and that’s what brings all of these people together; their carelessness and unintentional meanness that comes out of infatuation.  The Great Gatsby is definitely not a book to model any kind of healthy relationship on. Fitzgerald seems suspicious of “true love” in this book, instead showing these people treating it as something that they have control over instead of the desire that totally consumes their lives.

K. Woodman-Maynard bathes this story in these lightly applied watercolors.  The beginning is bright and lively, like an early summer lazy day.  Sunlight glimmers through the atmosphere in her paintings.  This seems like a dreamlike world full of potential and possibility.  The art invites us into this seemingly endless and carefree summer.  Fitzgerald’s novel practically defined the jazz age but what Woodman-Maynard gives it is a warmth of these days and nights where you can begin to believe that these characters are bigger than life.  Even the way that Woodman-Maynard weaves the words into the visuals, whether it’s Daisy’s lilting dialogue or the exposition that finds nooks and crevices to be in, she imbues an airiness into the story.  

Gatsby is the personification of this airiness but also the corrupting agent in it.  If it wasn’t for Gatsby, Nick could have had a nice, flirty summer with his old chums and their friends.  It could have been a taste of the good life for Nick instead of what it turned out to be.  But Gatsby, for all of his pretentiousness and his “old sport” affectations, is the person who doesn’t really belong in this world.  Gatsby is such a product of what he thinks that Daisy wants that all his big, empty mansion becomes the perfect symbol for him (see, there is more symbolism-- right up there with the green lights and eyes on a billboard.)  Gatsby has created this life, this wealth, this artifice in the hopes of giving Daisy what he thinks she wants but his understanding of her is only a surface-level and shallow reading of her that demonstrates just how little he understands her or other people.

Even though Nick and Jordan are carrying on some kind of affair, Daisy is the center of these mens’ lives.  Through Daisy, Tom, Nick, and Gatsby are brought together on this collision course, where each of them has their own unhealthy infatuation with Daisy.  She is the center who cannot hold the weight of this summer together.  There’s her marriage, her daughter (unceremoniously mentioned and then forgotten by the characters and the book,) and her own inability to be able to have any kind of agency in her story.  She is perfectly content with the life of being Tom’s wife until Gatsby shows up again, unbalancing this precarious little domestic life that Daisy thinks she has.  Her innocence in this story only goes so far, having this choice thrust upon her instead of it being a choice that she accepts.  But her inability to decide turns into one of the greatest sins in the book.  

Bringing out a deeper reading of these characters in The Great Gatsby, K. Woodman-Maynard takes this story of life 100 years ago (just think about that for a minute-- the novel originally came out in 19245!) and shows the timelessness of it.  This doesn’t read like a story of our great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents lost years.  Maybe it says something about our society that people’s carelessness of 2021 is the same carelessness of 1925 but Woodman-Maynard’s concentration on how these characters interact shows us how this recklessness in relationships is such a part of us.  Fitzgerald recognized this when he wrote the novel and Woodman-Maynard gives it a renewed life in her adaptation.  So much of who we are today is still defined by the early 20th century.  Fitzgerald was a prophet of his age that way.  

The Great Gatsby
Written and Drawn by K. Woodman-Maynard
Based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published by Candlewick Press

February 18, 2021

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Around the Timestream in 180 Pages: Backtrack from Oni Press

Written by Brian Joines
Line Art by Jake Elphick
Color Art by Doug Garbark
Letters by Jim Campbell
Published by Oni Press

Despite the fact that I never had a desire to personally own or drive a race car, I love stories about car races or high-speed chases, the sillier the better. From Cannonball Run to Baby Driver to The Fast and the Furious, anytime there's a movie about people getting into hijinks in their Honda, I'm all about giving it a try. When I was a kid, I'd make my Matchbox cars race and even kept statistics about who was better. Ironically, though, I never really got into NASCAR, with the Indy 500 being the only real race I ever watched semi-regularly.

February 17, 2021

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Mermaid Saga (Ningyo Shirīzu) Vol. 2 by Rumiko Takahashi

Mermaid Saga (Ningyo Shirīzu) Vol. 2
Written and Illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi
Published by Viz Media

Takahashi fans rejoice. Viz has reissued Rumiko Takahashi’s Mermaid Saga and volume 2 drops this week. Fans of Takahashi might be surprised to discover that she wrote a horror manga; actually she wrote two. A year before writing Mermaid Saga, she penned the one shot The Laughing Target, a short story about the doomed arranged marriage between two cousins.

February 16, 2021

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Catch It at the Comic Shop February 17th, 2021

 Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

Rob's Picks:

Chobits 20th Anniversary Edition Vol 1 by CLAMP, published by Kodansha
Sexy computer personal assistants in humanoid form dominate the landscape, but if you're a poor young man, it's unlikely for you to get one, let alone a mysterious model capable of anything. But hey, what's a certain style of manga without an unlikely schlub surrounded by hot women and humanoids? This was one of the first manga I remember reading and while I admit some of my picking this one is nostalgia, the story itself is still a classic of the comedic sex farce, if a bit creepy along the edges. The main draw, as always with this art studio, is the stunningly gorgeous art by the CLAMP collective. Their pages are almost all works of art suitable to put up on the wall, thin and achingly beautiful. I'm really happy to see that publishers like Kodansha and Viz are following their western cousins' tradition of keeping classics in print.