Panel Mania: ‘Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics’

There’s a reason why Jack Kirby, co-creator of such iconic comics characters as the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, and Captain America, is called the “King of Comics.” One of the great innovators in the history of American comics, Kirby (1917-1994) is arguably the greatest superhero comic book artist of all time.

In the new graphic biography, Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics, comics artist and biographer Tom Scioli pays tribute to Kirby in a vividly illustrated and comprehensively researched examination of Kirby’s life and career, from his rough-and-tumble childhood on the Lower East Side of New York to his military service during World War II to the transformative comics he created for Marvel and later for DC.

In this 11-page excerpt, Scioli depicts Kirby’s early life on the Lower East Side and his early interest in becoming a cartoonist and comic book artist.

Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics by Tom Scioli will be published in July by Ten Speed Press.

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

Panel Mania: ‘Stuck Rubber Baby’

Originally published in 1995 by DC, the late Howard Cruse’s Stuck Rubber Baby is a pioneering graphic novel that explores politics, race, sex, and identity in the African-American and LGBTQ communities in the Jim Crow south.

In July, First Second Books will publish a new edition to mark the book’s 25th anniversary featuring rare phots, archival material, and an introduction by Alison Bechdel. Set in the fictional town of Clayfield, a stand-in for Birmingham, Ala., where Cruse went to college, Stuck Rubber Baby is the story of Toland Polk, a closeted young white gay man struggling to understand his sexuality in a town that is as viciously homophobic as it is brutally racist.

The book is partially based on Cruse’s experiences growing up in the 1950s and ’60s south, and is notable for its portrayal of Polk’s close relationships with members of the black community—queer and straight—during some of the most dangerous years of the Civil Rights Movement.

In this nine-page excerpt, Polk and his friends plan a visit to the Melody Motel, a secret meeting point for socializing (and political organizing) among local integrationist whites and blacks, as well as local straight and queer communities.

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

Panel Mania: ‘Weathering with You’

Acclaimed director Makoto Shinkai not only directed the Weathering with You anime released in 2019—he also wrote the novelization published in the U.S. and the forthcoming manga adaptation.
It’s the story of Hodaka, a teenage boy who runs away from his small island home to the big city of Tokyo during a time when it seems to never stop raining. In Tokyo he meets Hina, a young woman who appears to have a mysterious power to affect the weather—indeed he discovers she can stop the incessant rain and bring out the sun.
In this 10-page excerpt from the manga, Hodaka is onboard a ship heading to Tokyo when a storm begins to form ominously in the sky, taking a mythological shape before showering the ship with a powerful, drenching rain that nearly sweeps him overboard.
Weathering with You Vol.1 by Makoto Shinkai with art by Wataru Kobuta will be published by Kodansha in June. The excerpt is presented in a vertical scroll with the first few pages in color. Remember that manga reads from right to left on the page and within each panel.

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

Panel Mania: ‘Cuisine Chinoise’

A rising star in China, cartoonist Zao Dao makes her North American debut with Cuisine Chinoise: Tales of Food and Life, a delightful collection of food-themed short stories inspired by Chinese folklore and filled with monsters, demons, unusual heroes, and sumptuous dishes created with unlikely—and sometimes disgusting—magical ingredients.
Dao’s drawings offer great variety, alternating between lively comic caricatures, richly illustrated street scenes, and moody vignettes full of magic and fantasy.
In this 11-page excerpt from the story Hai Zi, a highly creative young chef—who is despondent because patrons have abandoned his restaurant’s unusual fare and because his father is gravely ill—is thrilled when two mysterious and hungry visitors arrive at his door.
Cuisine Chinoise: Tales of Food and Life will be published by Dark Horse in June.

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

Panel Mania: ‘Giant’ by Mikaël

Set in 1930s Depression-era New York City, Giant by Mikaël follows the story of a massive, laconic Irish immigrant (who harbors a deep secret) as he works high above Manhattan on the construction site of Rockefeller Center.
When one of his fellow Irish steel workers falls to his death from high atop the fast-rising tower, Giant is tasked by the union with informing the victim’s wife back in Ireland of her husband’s death. Instead he writes the wife pretending to be her husband, lying to her about his life in New York and sending whatever money he can to her.
In this 10-page excerpt, Mikaël renders the vibrant rough streets, colorful characters, and desperate poverty of 1930s New York City, while Giant exchanges letters with the unsuspecting young widow as she dreams of reuniting with her husband. Giant will be published in May by NBM.

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

Panel Mania: ‘Poems to See By’

Published to mark the celebration of National Poetry Month, Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry by Julian Peters offers a series of delightful, often moving visual recreations of classic poems using a variety of visual styles.
Among the poets whose works are recreated in this book are Maya Angelou, W.H. Auden, Tess Gallagher, Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, W.B. Yeats, and others.
In this 10-page excerpt, Peters offers a five-page black and white version of Seamus Heaney’s “The Given Note,” and a five-page full-color version of Dylan Thomas’s “The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower.”

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

Panel Mania: ‘The Oracle Code’

The Oracle Code—by bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp, with art by Manuel Preitano—updates the Batman story of Barbara Gordon, daughter of Gotham City police commissioner James Gordon, who is paralyzed after a gunshot wound.

Reimagined by Nijkamp, an autistic YA author and advocate for the people with disabilities, Babs Gordon is now a teenager using a wheelchair, struggling emotionally with her disability. But she’s also a world class hacker who turns sleuth after she realizes something’s not quite right at Gotham City’s Arkham Center for Independence.

In this 13-page excerpt, Babs slowly comes out of her shell, trains using her wheelchair, and teams with a patient whose brother is missing in an effort figure out what’s going happening at the Arkham Center for Independence.

The Oracle Code published this month by DC Graphic Novels for Young Readers.

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

Panel Mania: ‘Everything Is Beautiful, and I’m Not Afraid’

Everything Is Beautiful, and I’m Not Afraid: A Baopu Collection by Yao Xiao is a delightful graphic memoir that collects comics from Baopu, Xiao’s monthly serialized webcomic, as well as new material.

An illustrator and cartoonist, Xiao was born in Tianjin, China, and has lived in the U.S. since 2006. Her comics capture her experiences as a young, queer immigrant striving to understand the complexities of her new life, while also grappling with her personal history.

In this 16-page excerpt, Xiao offers a series of thoughtful moments—sometimes comic, often poignant and inspirational—that visually distill the power of empathetic human connection. Everything Is Beautiful, and I’m Not Afraid is out now from Andrews McMeel Publishing.

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

Panel Mania: ‘Banned Book Club’

Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook, Ko Hyung-Ju, and Ryan Estrada is the true story of Hyun Sook’s years as a South Korean college student under the brutal military regime of the early 1980s.
Although the campus has erupted with violent student protests against the government, Hyun Sook, an apolitical freshman enthralled with literature and books, is uninvolved and fearful of her mother who disapproves of the protests and is dubious about her being in college at all. Hyun Sook is thrilled when she meets the handsome editor of the school’s student newspaper, who invites her to join his book club. But instead of discussing Moby Dick in a cafe, Hyun Sook finds herself, and her fearless pro-democracy book club classmates, forced into hiding under threat of arrest (or worse) by a repressive government.
Hyun Sook’s irresistible memoir conveys her political and social awakening with equal measures of hilarity and terror, as her eyes are opened to the brutal nature of the military regime. In this 11-page excerpt, Hyun Sook meets the members of the Banned Book Club who will transform her life as a student and as a citizen.
Banned Book Club will be published in April by Iron Circus Comics.
This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

Panel Mania: ‘Big Black: Stand at Attica’

Big Black: Stand at Attica is the memoir of Frank “Big Black” Smith, a prisoner-negotiator during the Attica prison revolt, and a grim history of one of the bloodiest rebellions in the history American prisons.
More than 1,200 Attica inmates took control of the prison in September 1971, captured 42 guards as hostages, denounced the facility’s brutal conditions, and called for more humane treatment of prisoners. On Sept. 13, 1971, New York governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered hundreds of armed state troopers to retake the facility by force in a brutal invasion that resulted in the deaths of 29 prisoners and 10 guards. Over the course of the assault, state troopers killed unarmed prisoners and hostages alike, and in the immediate aftermath, prisoners, among them Frank Smith, were viciously beaten for days on end.
Although the events at Attica forced the state to change prison practices, the uprising has come to represent the legacy of mass incarceration, a scourge that has devastated communities of color.
A man of intelligence and character, Smith (who died in 2004) was respected by inmates and guards. He survived sadistic reprisals at the hands of state troopers—though he suffered the effects of his torture for years afterwards—was released, and went on to serve as an advocate and counselor for prisoners and former inmates.
What follows is a 15-page excerpt from Big Black: Stand at Attica, out this month from Archaia.

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.