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Between the Panels: 2020 Special Edition – “Have You Read . . . ?”

As part of the “Between the Panels” interview series, I ask each creator to step into the role of fan and talk about which comics they admire, that spark their own creativity, and that they recommend to others. Below are the picks from our 2020 guest lineup – a wide sampling of works from different genres and time periods that are as varied as the people naming them.   – Kevin Sharp

Ram V / @therightram (writer, Justice League Dark)

I’m going to pick creator-owned projects, because that’s where you get to really see someone’s inner voice. Coffin Bound by Dan Waters; Dan’s a very evocative writer whose work goes to interesting, weird, dark places. Friendo, which demonstrates what [writer] Alex Paknadel does best, taking a societal concept and placing it in a new context to reflect on what that says about us as human beings. Fearscape by Ryan O’Sullivan plays with your perceptions of what a comic book should be; it’s as much a commentary on making comics as it is a story itself.

Read the whole interview here.

Liana Kangas / @lianakangas (artist, She Said Destroy)

Submerged is an amazing self-discovery adventure for anyone who has dealt with family issues. I related to it in a few ways, and Vita and Lisa [Sterle] I am lucky to call my friends. They are so extremely talented, and this story touched me on a very emotional level.

Paper Girls, just because I had this really long conversation with Phillip Sevy about it recently because the entire series is an exact match of a genre that I felt like was made for all of my interests mashed into one book seamlessly.

Number three is I guess one of Chip [Zdarsky’s] books, because I sort of look up to him but honestly I fear to list one because I feel like it will all go to his head. I am fond of his independent work mostly, but Howard the Duck I really liked as a Big Two comic.

Forgotten Home by Erica Schultz, Marika Crest, and Matt Emmons. It’s a new book on ComiXology which is a great mix of a gritty life, paralleled to a fantasy realm and I truly enjoy the team’s work on it.

Last is Dead Beats, and not because I am in it! Joe and Eric Palicki spent a lot of time curating this book, and the anthology works so well together with the adjoining pages like a Black Mirror episode or AHS season. I love music a lot, so the theme was GREAT.

Read the whole interview here.

Jacob Phillips / @jacobr_phillips (artist, That Texas Blood)

I love Jaime Hernandez’s work on Love and Rockets and the way that has evolved with the characters over the years. I think it really shows how comics can be used to tell stories across time in a really unique way. Plus the artwork is beautiful.

Read the whole interview here.

Doc Shaner / @docshaner (artist, Strange Adventures)

I’ll say that my recent obsession, and a large part of my inspiration for [Strange Adventures] is Moebius’ Edena work. I’d long been a fan of Moebius, but only really delved into these stories in the last year, and it was like being struck by lightning.

Obviously there are a ton more — [Darwyn] Cooke’s New Frontier and [David] Mazzucchelli’s work on Batman: Year One come to mind. The first 20 years or so of Schulz’s Peanuts. Naoki Urasawa’s work is another recent discovery for me, and I loved his Pluto series, which I think is just incredible.

Read the whole interview here.

Zoe Thorogood / @zoethorogood (writer/artist, The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott)

The first non-manga comic I fell in love with was Deadly Class by Rick Remender and Wes Craig. I love stories about misfits. Oh, and I recently read Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up with Me which is now my favorite comic ever. I’m so mad about how good it is.

Read the whole interview here.

Abigail Larson / @abigail_larson (artist, The Nightmare Before Christmas tarot)

There are so many, but most recently I’ve been totally enthralled with Colleen Doran’s Snow, Glass, Apples adapted from Neil Gaiman’s short story. It’s so lushly illustrated and has such a great stylization. I just love it. I remember seeing the cover and knowing immediately I had to have it, but after reading it through completely, I was in awe. It’s a masterpiece of storytelling and illustration.

Read the whole interview here.

Adam Gorham / @adamtgorham (artist, Punk Mambo)

The Siegfried trilogy by Alex Alice. I’m submitting this because it really inspired me at a time when I was in great need of inspiration. It’s a simple adventure story, well-told and beautifully illustrated. [Alice] had years to make these books how he wanted to make them — a product of the European way of making comics. It shows the wonderful things one person can do to tell a story when they have time to hone their skills and push themselves.

Read the whole interview here.

Joe Illidge / @josephpillidge (executive editor, Heavy Metal)

If you’re a superhero person, I recommend the Warren Ellis-Declan Shalvey run on Moon Knight. Nothing you watch on Netflix, or in a movie theater, can do what that volume did in the way it did it. That’s an example of something only comics can do.

I’d also say American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. After I read that, I never saw comics the same way again. If you want an introduction to what can be done in the comic book format, I would recommend that to anyone.

I really liked Jeff Lemire’s Sentient, too. That whole team came together and made a haunting, dramatic story that made you feel the desolation of living in space.

Read the whole interview here.

Sweeney Boo / @sweeney_boo (artist, Marvel Action: Captain Marvel)

I am a big fan of Scott Pilgrim, Seconds, Gotham Academy, Blacksad… these books all have a little something that for me makes them unique. The story, the art team, the characters’ relationships, the settings — they represent everything I like.

Read the whole interview here.

Nick Robles / @artofnickrobles (artist, The Dreaming: Waking Hours)
I think I’ll have to go with Hellboy. It took me a long time to appreciate it, and it balances so much. I appreciate that it takes its time and values silence. It’s rare when a comic can make you hear the importance of silence.

Read the whole interview here.

Alanna Smith / @alannawrites (editor, The Magnificent Ms. Marvel)

I’m perpetually impressed with Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, the little comic that could — it’s unreal how long that run went, and how consistently good it was throughout. It’s a testament to editor Wil Moss’ eye for talent that he assembled a team that struck such a chord, and a testament to the talent that they knocked it out of the park every issue. Squirrel Girl — who woulda thought?

Read the whole interview here.

Morgan Beem / @morganbeem (artist, Swamp Thing: Twin Branches)

The first that always comes to mind is Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. When I first finished reading that comic, I took the day to really just think about my own life. And that was the first time it really hit me what comics could do. What they were capable of. It was so amazing and moving. I am always in awe of that comic no matter how many times I read it.

Read the whole interview here.

Chris Ryall / @chris_ryall (former EiC, IDW Publishing)

Not sure I can even limit it to one, but some that have really resonated, and that I re-visit regularly, are Watchmen, Sandman Vol. 1, Persepolis, Will Eisner’s books but mostly A Contract with God, Daredevil: Born Again, The Cowboy Wally Show, Stray Bullets, Lone Wolf & Cub, Daytripper, DC: The New Frontier, Akira, and Batman: Year One.

Read the whole interview here.

Sam Maggs / @sammaggs (writer, Marvel Action: Captain Marvel)

Anything by Marguerite Bennett. She’s such a brilliant writer. The women in her comics have such grace and nuance.

Read the whole interview here.

Alison Sampson / @alis_samp (artist, Sleeping Beauties)

I’m going to have to do a top three. If we’re talking pure craft, first is Swords of Glass illustrated by Laura Zuccheri. She is the most amazing artist. Next is Children of the Sea by Daisuke Igarashi, which is probably an answer a lot of people would give. Incredibly beautiful books, very emotional. Finally, anything by Nate Powell; he’s very consistent.

Read the whole interview here.

Eva Cabrera / @evacabrera (co-founder, Boudika Comics)

I admire too many, but I think that one of the ones that have impacted me the most are all of [the] comics by David Rubin, L’île Sans Sourire by Enrique Fernández, Icarus and the Sun by Gabriel Picolo, Sandman by Neil Gaiman, etc…

Read the whole interview here.

Dan Jurgens / @thedanjurgens  (writer, Nightwing)

Maus. To think you could tell the story of the Holocaust with mice… If I’d been a publisher and that idea dropped on my desk, I would’ve said to anyone, “You’re out of your mind.” But it was done and it’s brilliant.

Read the whole interview here.

Ashanti Fortson / @ashantifortson  (writer/artist, Cress & Petra)

Since I don’t think I can pick just one: all of Rosemary Valero-O’Connell’s work. It’s so clear, from each drawing of hers, how much she loves being alive. Her work is steeped in it. I greatly respect and admire that genuine love, tenderness, and vulnerability. Rosemary kicks ass.

Read the whole interview here.

Dan DiDio (former co-publisher, DC Comics)

Fantastic Four #34-50 is the sweet spot for Lee and Kirby. The level of inventiveness, creativity, scope, excitement. The pacing in those books. The amount of ideas coming at you — it’s a textbook example of the ability of comics to deliver awe and spectacle. I could read that over and over, and wish I could be a fraction as successful in 18 years as they were in those issues.

Read the whole interview here.

Stuart Sayger / @stuartsayger (writer/artist, Shiver in the Dark)

I often think of this magical time in comics: 1985-89. Frankly, the comic book industry was in a big decline and had been for decades; Marvel’s doing the best but no one’s doing what they used to be doing. When expectations are low and no one’s paying attention, you can do some incredible things. That was when Fantagraphics really gets rolling. Eightball and Hate get going around then. We’re allowed to have Elektra: Assassin, Watchmen, Dark Knight. You can do crazy things like Big Numbers. Moebius is starting to come over. Judge Dredd. Comic books are seen as this cool, dangerous, maybe even counterculture thing. The only people who are doing it are the people who really want to be doing it. That moment is an example of what the industry can be.

Read the whole interview here.

JM DeMatteis / @jmdematteis (writer, Deathstroke: Knights and Dragons)

Will Eisner’s A Contract with God: Brilliant. Heartfelt. True. Achingly human. A seamless weaving of words and pictures. Eisner’s stories were an incredible inspiration when I set out to write my autobiographical graphic novel Brooklyn Dreams — and A Contract with God is, in my opinion, the greatest work of a true master of the form.

Read the whole interview here.

Nadia Shammas / @nadia_shammas_  (writer, Squire)

The first book that made me want to start writing comics was Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. Some other notable ones I can think of off the top of my head were Y: The Last Man and This One Summer, which I still consider the benchmark for perfect comic storytelling.

Read the whole interview here.

Meghan Hetrick / @meghanhetrick  (cover artist, Vampirella)

Either Metabarons, or The Incal.  Both by Jodorowsky, but with different artists (Moebius being on Incal).  I also adore Blacksad — that book is just stunning on so many different levels.

Read the whole interview here.

Kaylee Rowena / @kayleerowena  (writer/artist, Decaying Orbit)

Everyone must be picking Rosemary Valero-O’Connell’s Don’t Go Without Me for this, right? I’m constantly awed by every aspect of her work. The panel layouts, the use of limited palettes, the storytelling. I’ve read this book probably at least a dozen times since I got it a few months ago.

Read the whole interview here.

Ned Barnett / @thenedbarnett  (writer/artist, Dreamers of the Day)

Reimena Yee’s The Carpet Merchant of Konstantiniyya is incredible. Reimena’s use of carpet patterns throughout the story, how her research makes the work sing but never overpowers the story. It’s a beautiful book, and I aspire to create a book that fills my readers with as much wonder and joy as The Carpet Merchant does for me.

Read the whole interview here.

Allison O’Toole / @allisonmotoole  (editor, Afterlift)

There are so many, but one I always want to talk about is Haruko Kumota’s Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. I admire Kumota’s deft handling of messy, complicated characters and relationships, and how she builds a compelling human drama while educating the reader about rakugo, a traditional Japanese form of storytelling. Rakugo is meant to be performed for a live audience, but the art is so expressive, both the figures and the compositions, that you’re drawn in with a clear sense of the different characters’ storytelling styles. There’s a trick later on in the series, where one character is doing an impression of another character’s performance, so Kumota recycles the same page layouts from the same performance much earlier in the series. It’s so clever! It also makes me cry every time I read it.

Read the whole interview here.

Shivana Sookdeo / @toastasaurus  (writer/artist, Flyover Country)

Skip by Molly Mendoza is absolutely stunning. It stretches a lot of what comics can do and be in fascinating ways while still being recognizable as a narrative. Molly’s totally a powerhouse.

Read the whole interview here.

Soo Lee / @soodlee  (artist, Charlie’s Angels vs. the Bionic Woman)

I remember being very moved by the books Laika by Nick Abadzis, Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell, and Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli. These stories have such a different pace than mainstream comics, where you can take your time on a feeling and a panel and they’re so human and relatable. A lot of slice of life genre mangas do this too and they’re absolutely beautiful. I want to be able to tell stories like that.

Read the whole interview here.

Mike Oeming / @oeming  (writer/artist, The After Realm)

There are some of the obvious choices, like anything by Will Eisner. The Building is one of my faves. Tilly Walden’s work really hits me as to what comics can be… like the expression of an idea told as a narrative rather than conflict or mystery to be solved in a three act structure. So, I really see her as transforming the typical language of comics. Mike Hawthorne’s Happiness Will Follow recently hit me pretty hard, not just for his talent as an artist, but how he expressed his life experience in the art form. He also introduced me to one of my favorite graphic novels called Six Hundred and Seventy Six Apparitions of Killoffer, which became really influential on my book, The Wild Rover, as it was a meditation on anxiety and neurosis. I recently read Lucas Harari’s Swimming in Darkness which was a very Lynchian-like story that managed to haunt me.

Read the whole interview here.

Kevin Sharp, Fanbase Press Contributor



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