Panel Discussion Turns 2

pd2ndbdayPLAYBACK:stl's  comics section celebrates its second birthday! Join our illustrious Comics Editor for a stroll down memory lane, including a list of highlights of the last two years.




Hellboy Jr. illustration by Paul Little. 


Hellboy Jr. illustration by Paul John Little. Hellboy Jr.created by Mike Mignola. 

Comic books are in my blood. Growing up in a household with two older brothers who were already voracious comic book readers, four-color funnybooks were always a presence in the house. They were what I asked for as bedtime stories, they were what I used to learn to read when I couldn't stand to wait until bedtime to get my fix, they were what I spent every penny of my allowance on, and ever since I was given the very first comic books I could call my own (Amazing Spider-Man #257 and Marvel Tales #171, if you're curious) they've been gradually claiming more and more real estate in whatever place I've called home.


Music, it should be noted, is an equally huge part of my life, and when I first joined the PLAYBACK:stl staff just in time for the November 2004 issue, I was ecstatic to be able to share my love for my favorite bands with the world. Over the ensuing months, I contributed loads of music reviews, previews, and interviews and loved every minute of it, but folding my passion for comics into my duties at Playback seemed so out of the realm of possibility that I didn't even consider it.


Then on June 3rd, 2005, during one of the many comics-related discussions I had with then-Contributing Editor Bryan A. Hollerbach on our staff e-mail list, I made the off-hand comment "Anybody else think that Playback needs to add a comics section?" The response from Jim and Laura (the people who run the show ‘round these parts) surprised me: "Great idea. Now get to work!"


Panel Discussion made its debut in the August edition of PLAYBACK:stl magazine, featuring an interview with indie comics star Alex Robinson (Box Office Poison, Tricked), my now-defunct preview column "Three To Read," and two graphic novel reviews by fellow Playback staffer Carlos Ruiz and my good friend Greg O'Driscoll. I'd be lying if I said I really knew what I was doing at that point, but with the help of Carlos, Greg, Byron Kerman, and a handful of one-off contributors, each issue just got better and better. After one year of monthly dispatches, the print edition of PLAYBACK:stl ceased publication. With the magazine now going as a web-only concern, I used the flexibility of the format change to my advantage, and with the help of an influx of fresh blood in the form of new writers Elizabeth Bolhafner, Paul John Little, Nick Main, and James Nokes, Panel Discussion jumped from monthly to weekly.


August 1st not only marks two years of Panel Discussion but also 11 straight months of weekly updates, with brand spankin' new reviews and previews brought to you every Friday through the magic of the internets. And this is just the beginning: with a trio of new writers — J. Bowers, Gabe Bullard, and Jared Vandergriff — joining the Panel Discussion staff during the month of July, expect to see even more great reviews every week. And if you're wondering why Hellboy Jr. is wishing us a happy birthday above (in a drawing lovingly PhotoShop-ed together by Playback's own Paul John Little), it's because we have a special birthday present for you: an interview with one of the greatest artists in comics today, Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy. Click here to read the interview.


So thank you to Laura Hamlett and Jim Dunn for giving me this great forum, the freedom to run it as I wish, and their help and assistance when I need it; thanks to Bryan Hollerbach for his advice and encouragement in the early stages; thanks to the fine folks at Star Clipper for their constant support since the very beginning; a huge thanks to my stable of writers both for making my job easy and making me look so good; and an extra special thank you to all of our readers. Stay tuned, because it's only going to get better!


In honor of our second birthday, here's a look back at highlights from our first two years, including our complete interview archives as well as my own personal favorite articles from each of our regular contributors. If you enjoy these articles, browse around the rest of our archive; there's plenty more great reviews where these came from. | Jason Green


Panel Discussions: The first two years

Click the names of each creator to jump to the interview. 

  • August 2005: The one that started it all — Alex Robinson discusses his original graphic novel Tricked.
  • October 2005: Superstar writer Jeph Loeb jumps from DC to Marvel, and tells us his plans for wrapping up Supergirl and kicking off The Ultimates.
  • November 2005: Savage Dragon creator and Image Comics publisher Erik Larsen discusses his plans for Dragon and the state of Image Comics.
  • December 2005: Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley chat about their work on Invincible.
  • January 2006: Fred Perry gives us the skinny on his manga-style series Gold Digger.
  • February 2006: Gerard Jones speaks about his work adapting Rumiko Takahashi's masterpiece Maison Ikkoku into English.
  • March 2006: Aaron Williams previews his miniseries Truth, Justin, and the American Way.
  • April 2006: Novelist Charlie Huston sinks his teeth into superheroes with a run on Moon Knight.
  • May 2006: Michael Avon Oeming mixes sex with swordplay with Red Sonja.
  • June 2006: Editor Jenifer Morgan reflects on the first year of the female-centric manga anthology Shojo Beat.
  • July 2006: Steven Grant lays out the facts in the murder mystery CSI: Dying in the Gutters.
  • October 2006: Comics guru Scott McCloud discusses his new tome Making Comics and his nationwide tour to promote its release.
  • October 2006: Iranian-born creator Marjane Satrapi reveals her latest graphic novel, Chicken With Plums.
  • November 2006: St. Louisans Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt blend prohibition-era gangsters with the paranormal in The Damned.
  • January 2007: Writer Steven T. Seagle discusses his sexually-charged series American Virgin.
  • April 2007: A quick three questions with Warren Ellis about his new series Doktor Sleepless.
  • April 2007: Steven Grant is back, this time with commentary about his new crime comic Two Guns.
  • July 2007: SuperSpy creator and St. Louisan Matt Kindt prepares for a series of workshops on the art of creating comics, and gives our Nick Main the inside scoop.
  • August 2007: Hellboy creator Mike Mignola looks back at his entire career, and tells us what's next for the red-skinned hero.

Review highlights of the first two years

Digging through the archives to prepare for this walk down memory lane, I re-read nearly every single one of the comics reviews to so far grace these pages. There are countless excellent articles, but the list below represents, to my mind, the best of the best from each of our longtime regular contributors (and, because I'm an egomaniac, I included my favorites of my own reviews as well). Spanning 14 different publishers and countless genres, these give an excellent overview of what Panel Discussion is all about, but if you're hungry for more, there's plenty more where they came from. You can always find links to all our reviews at


Reviews by Jason Green:

Reviews by Elizabeth Bolhafner:

Reviews by Byron Kerman:

Reviews by Paul John Little:


Reviews by Nick Main:

Reviews by James Nokes:


Reviews by Carlos Ruiz:

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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