Year One

A column article, Kate Or Die by: Kate Leth


With the year drawing to a close, Kate decided to take stock in the way she knows best: through pretty pictures. It's been a wild ride and we're super excited to have been a part of Kate's journey to the "big time" and we hope you'll enjoy this summary of the year as much as we have! And don't worry, Kate will be here in 2012, unless her plan to be a part of every great indie comic that exists actually happens. In which case we will be forced to lock her away in the CB cellar. Just kidding. We love you Kate! But please don't leave us. Please.


Sometime last November I met a boy, and the night we met I drew him a picture of a woman throwing up into her hands. It was the first thing I'd drawn in two years. There's an inside joke written on the drawing that I no longer get, and it's made with pens I've long since lost. That was the Christmas I started making comics.

It's been a year, and I can hardly believe it. If I told you that last summer, the only comic I'd read was Hark, A Vagrant and that I couldn't tell you who Michael Allred was, much less that his X-Statix Omnibus would be at the top of my wish list a year later, would you be surprised? That before I started working at a comic book shop, I hadn't read through a graphic novel since high school?

It kinda freaks me out.

So here we are, December of '11, and I'm looking back at all that's happened. I've gone from zero to sixty since I picked up those discount pens, and I think it's time I sat down and said thank you to all the people who've led me to where I am now. I've been to two conventions, been published in two comics (Locke and Key: Clockworks #3 came out just last week) and am about to launch submissions for an anthology that I'm co-creating. I've met some of the most wonderful, creative, inspiring people and they've taught me more in the last year than I ever could've predicted.

The guy up there in panel two, that's my boss. He's the owner of Strange Adventures, a string of three comic book shops on the east coast of Canada. He's also one of the best human beings alive. Seriously, ask around. It's science. I wouldn't be in comics if it weren't for Cal, who kicked my ass every day to start writing and drawing. It started with a few hand-drawn signs in the shop and progressed into strips and comics, which he got printed for me when I was clueless as to how to do it. Cal's the measure of what a comic book store owner should be. Smart, encouraging, friendly and a total hardass when the situation calls for it. He makes me want to be a better person, want to prove his suspicions right; that I can do something with this 'art' habit.

Cal sent me off to TCAF (The Toronto Comic Arts Festival) in the spring, and it was absolutely a gateway drug. I wax poetic about the show, but it's everything I love about comics. Small press, indie stuff, webcomics, illustration; my people. It was eye-opening, seeing all of the folks there for the first time and having a blast. I came home determined to better myself and my work, to be there at a table next year. Since the show, I'm surprised at how many creators I meet online who turn out to be regulars of it, fan-boys and fan-girls of the DIY atmosphere.

It was shortly thereafter that I became involved with Womanthology, and through it met dozens of creators that I would later share table space and pizza with at NYCC. I say it again, but I am constantly shocked by how welcoming the community of women in comics can be. I've met so many of them in just seven or eight months - Renae de Liz, Becky Cloonan, Erika Moen, Megan Gedris, Katie Shanahan, Jordyn Bochon, just to name a few - all of them friendly and responsive. It's a reaffirmation of what I believe I can do, seeing their accomplishments in real time.

'Course, the biggest break I had this year was with Locke and Key. Gabriel Rodríguez and Joe Hill took a chance on my work and brought me on board to fill the back page of each issue of their fabulous comic. I can't thank them enough, and it was a damn thrill to see the first issue I contributed to go to a second printing. Not to mention a friendly costumer and an unexpected email leading to an upcoming collaboration with The Strange Talent of Luther Strode . . . It's hard not to be grateful pretty much all the time.

It's hard to avoid that feeling. The holidays are coming up and I'm all cinnamon cookies and hugs. Before I melt into a pepperminty pile of mush, I'd like to say this: I am incredibly lucky to have what I have, and I'm excited to see where the next 365 days will take me. Changing from a girl with no direction and a whole mess of problems to the girl I am today took a lot of work and a hell of a lot of brush pens. I have no delusions of grandeur here. I know things are just beginning, I know the time and effort it will take to get where I want to be. Unlike last year, though, I believe I can get to that point. As with most things I do, I'd like my first year in comics to serve as an example of what's possible with a lot of hard work, determination and a knack for social media.

I owe it to the folks who read my columns, who re-blog my comics and link to my art and buy things from my online shop. To my friends who didn't mind not seeing me for weeks at a time, or who were at least kind enough not to say anything. To the coworkers who put up with me cutting and assembling my prints when I should've been sorting back issues. To the artists who shared my comics and gave me tips on how to get the most of out of the postal system. To my boyfriend, my roommate and my cat for putting up with my divided attention. To coffee, my phone, Netflix and sales on watercolor paper at the art supply store. To Tumblr. Good grief, to Tumblr.

Have a good holiday, everybody. Comics Bulletin has done so much for me this year, and I hope you'll stick around for another one. I promise, I'll get riled up about something again soon. For now, though, let's all have some hot chocolate and curl up with a good book. Preferably, one that involves a few mysterious keys.

When she's not working at Strange Adventures, Kate Leth can be found at the original kateordie as well as in the backpages of Locke & Key, with the just released one-shot Locke & Key: The Guide to the Known Keys being her debut. She is also featured in the upcoming Womanthology and is hard at work on Drawn Out, an anthology devoted to coming out stories, which you can read about here.


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