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Summer Comics Poll: Meet Our Expert Panelists!

Back in May, we asked you to tell us about your favorite comics and graphic novels — and you rose to the challenge. We got more than 7,000 nominations, so while you all are lolling around in the frosty air conditioning (or outside in the sun ... weirdos) we've been working away to whittle those thousands of nominations down to an awesome list of 100. Also, OK, I read a lot of Elfquest. For work! Really!

We couldn't have done any of this without the help of our Fantastic Five, the expert panel of creators and critics who helped curate the final list. When I asked them to come up with a superhero team name, they settled on "Pentacomix," so here they are, the amazing Pentacomix!

G. Willow Wilson read her first superhero comic at age 9 — it was a handout in 5th grade health class, an X-Men themed anti-smoking booklet. "To me, comics are the most deliciously immersive reading experience, both a way to escape and a way to engage," she says. "From a creator standpoint, writing comics is challenging in a way that writing prose is not. The form is everything. You work within constraints that force you to distill your story down to something very concentrated. It's nerve-wracking and transcendent all at the same time." Wilson currently writes the Hugo Award-winning comic book series Ms. Marvel for Marvel comics; she's also the author of a novel (no graphics), Alif the Unseen, and a memoir, The Butterfly Mosque. She lives in Seattle with her family.

C. Spike Trotman runs Iron Circus Comics.
/ Courtesy of C. Spike Trotman
Courtesy of C. Spike Trotman
C. Spike Trotman runs Iron Circus Comics.

Artist and writer C. Spike Trotman lives in Illinois; she founded in 2007, and it's since grown to become the region's largest comics publisher. Her notable work includes the Web comic "Templar, Arizona," the Smut Peddler series of erotic comic anthologies, and Poorcraft, a graphic novel guide to frugal living now in its third printing. She's a Kickstarter early adopter who helped reshape the way small presses pay for themselves; Iron Circus is also the first comics publisher of note to fully incorporate crowdfunding into its business model.

Maggie Thompson is an Eisner Awards judge and edited <em>Comics Buyer's Guide</em> with her late husband, Don.
/ Brent Frankenhoff
Brent Frankenhoff
Maggie Thompson is an Eisner Awards judge and edited Comics Buyer's Guide with her late husband, Don.

Best known to NPR audiences as the mother of Pop Culture Happy Hour's Stephen Thompson, Maggie Thompson used comic books to learn to read in 1947, when she was 5. She and her late husband, Don, produced what may have been the first fanzine devoted to comic art; they called it (yes) Comic Art. Eventually, they ended up editing Comics Buyer's Guide, the comics industry newspaper, a job she continued following Don's death in 1994. "Comics have educated me, entertained me, and supported me," she says. "Unsurprisingly, I think comics are pretty great."

<em></em>Critic Etelka Lehoczky has been reviewing comics for NPR since 2013.
/ Courtesy of Etelka Lehoczky
Courtesy of Etelka Lehoczky
Critic Etelka Lehoczky has been reviewing comics for NPR since 2013.

Etelka Lehoczky has been reviewing comics for NPR since 2013, but she's been reading them since she discovered Quimby's store in Chicago back in the 1990s. "I love comics because they unsettle the reader, constantly pulling the eye in unexpected directions — and they can be deep and silly at once," she says. She's reviewed books for The New York Times and The Washington Post, and she writes about small business for Inc. magazine.

And last but so very much not least, our own Glen Weldon. Glen, as you probably know, writes for the NPR website, is a panelist on Pop Culture Happy Hour, and the author of two very nerdy books. He's written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, Slate, The Atlantic, and just a hell of lot of other places.

Glen Weldon writes about comics for NPR — and you can hear him on Pop Culture Happy Hour.
/ Faustino Nunez
Faustino Nunez
Glen Weldon writes about comics for NPR — and you can hear him on Pop Culture Happy Hour.

"The judging panel talked a lot about how we wanted this to be more than a list of the usual, albeit deserving, suspects --MausPersopolisFunHomeJimmyCorriganEtc — and more a true engine for helping people discover new stuff," Glen says. "Turns out, asking people to name their personal favorites — not 'the best' or 'most important' — resulted in a happily idiosyncratic list that'll do just that."

And you can find that list online Wednesday — click here, or go to npr.org/nprcomics!

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Petra Mayer died on November 13, 2021. She has been remembered by friends and colleagues, including all of us at NPR. The Petra Mayer Memorial Fund for Internships has been created in her honor.