February 3, 2018

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Celebrating Black Creators Day 3: Joel Christian Gill

As much as I can, I always try to make sure that Panel Patter is a site where we cover creators of all kinds, with a special focus on those creators who don't always get the appreciation they deserve. Given all that is happening, both in comics and in the wider nature of our country, I wanted to sit down and talk a bit about a different black creator that I dig each day this month.

This isn't meant as a review or an overview so much as a, "Hey, this creator is really cool!" My goal is to do this as many years as I can without repeating a single person.

I'd love it if I never ran out.


If you want to learn about the parts of Black History they don't teach you in school, Joel Christian Gill is the person to talk to. I first met him years ago at SPX, picking up the mini-comic version of what later became Strange Fruit Volume 1 (the good one, not that monstrosity Boom! put out). I thought it was great, and was excited to learn about his collection of the stories (which I reviewed here). Strange Fruit II is out now and I can't wait to read it.

Joel's work as a historian is top-notch. His comics are well-researched and aren't afraid to go straight at the most difficult parts of their subjects. After all, African Americans have had to struggle through almost unimaginable horrors, and if you're going to talk about this properly, you have to show it. Gill understands this, yet it never feels like he's being lurid. Like the best of the non-fiction comic creators (Andy Warner, Sarah Glidden), he also knows how to balance necessary textural information with the visuals. This is, after all, a comic, and no matter how interesting or unique the subject, if Joel can't draw it, no one's going to read it. That's certainly not a problem at all, however!

Over time, I've come to know Joel a bit, and he's not afraid to continue the activism of his comics into the real world. Joel is the founder of #28DaysIsNotEnough, in which people stress the fact that we can't just toss black people in a corner as soon as the calendar turns to March. (Speaking as a former teacher, it killed me when my kids once asked, "Why are you talking about Dr. King today? It's not February yet?")

In addition to his own comics, Gill periodically does spot pieces, but he's mostly been working on Strange Fruit Vol 2, which debuted this month. I'm greatly looking forward to seeing what new stories he has to tell me. Even though I consider myself to be better educated on "hidden" history than most, there's always something new to learn. Educate yourself with some Joel Christian Gill comics if you haven't already. You'll be glad you did.