By Justin McCarty
PanelxPanel is a magazine by comic creators for comic creators. Its tag, “An in-depth look at the medium we love: comics,” says everything. It is a celebration of the comics medium. What Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou has created in magazine form is Inside The Actors Studio for sequential storytelling. In only three issues Hass has gotten creators to delve very deep into their collaborations and philosophies of creating comics. Sometimes the discussion is personal and frank as they discuss where their heads were at during certain points in the process.
For the uninitiated, PanelxPanel picks out one creator-owned comic every issue then thoughtfully walks the reader through the collaboration process. This issue features Savage Town, an excellent Irish graphic novel from Philip Barrett and Declan Shalvey. There is a discussion with the writers and artists. In previous issues, you could find process discussion from the colorist or the letter; or both. The focus is not on a how-to. Rather, it’s comics journalism, a conversation. For example, this issue features a discussion on the importance of setting in a story, as well as discussion on social stratification in criminal society. Regular articles include a roundup of notable creator-owned comics. This issue’s Craft Corner was a fascinating essay by Paul Allor on his thoughts on crafting a story. A must read for me. This issue also had Dave Gibbons!
The production design is high quality. When it is time for the creators to speak, it gives them all the room they need. When a creator wants to highlight a part of the process it gives you the print quality comic pages you need so you can see exactly what they are talking about. At ninety-plus pages there is so much you get from this book. Each issue gets better and better.
I was sold on PanelxPanel from the first issue. It sets a new bar for comics journalism. Full disclosure -- I got the subscription. It not only inspired me to try writing about comics, it has inspired me to try to write about and review comics holistically. This is opposed to separating art from writing because it is often a collaborative medium. I do believe reviewing comics is just as important as reviews in other mediums, like film. However, Ebert usually just evaluated a movie on its successes and failures, only highlighting individual components where they stood out. I may not always be successful and I hope to get better.
This isn't really a review. This is just me taking my opportunity to talk about a subject and magazine I am really excited about. There are no critiques. I know that as long as people want this kind of thoughtful comics discussion, this magazine will just continue to get better.