One of the rising stars in comics didn’t get her start pencilling fill-in issues of Uncanny X-Men or Birds of Prey, but through Tumblr and a self-published webcomic. Webcomics have become a bigger deal over the past decade. Even some cartoonists like Randall Munroe of xkcd and Kate Beaton of Hark! A Vagrant have made a living through their webcomics. Without constraints of a publishing company or editor, webcomics are a place where unique voices can be heard, and topics considered to be taboo can be discussed. One of these unique voices is writer/artist Kate Leth, who is the creator of autobiographical webcomic Kate Or Die! She is a Halifax, Nova Scotia native and works at the Strange Adventures comics store. However, Kate or Die! is about much more than working in comics retail.
One of the best things about Kate or Die! is its wide variety of topics from being bisexual to making one’s own comics and starting Crossfit to funny ones about cats or Deadpool and Spider-Man slash fiction. Along with her work on her own site, Leth also makes insightful webcomics about the comics industry in a column on Comics Alliance. Like the rest of her work, it is both funny and poignant with topics ranging from why DC hasn’t greenlit a Wonder Woman film yet to her love for Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals. Over the past few years, Leth’s art style has evolved from black and white pencil sketches to used a varied color palette and different types of panels. Some of her more recent comics have also experimented with lettering and how words and pictures interact. But throughout her run on Kate or Die!, even as the art style has changed, her honesty and sense of humor has persisted. Her comics reveal that she has been through a lot of her life and had problems, but has overcome them. Kate or Die! shows that comics have the power to reveal the truth about us as people and provide hope and understanding.
As well as Kate or Die!, Kate Leth has done art and writing for some big comics publishers, like IDW and BOOM! She has drawn some beautiful variant covers for various Adventure Time comics, Bravest Warriors, and Midas Flesh for BOOM! as well as writing and drawing the “Kinsey’s Komic’s Korner” in a Locke and Key one-shot. Leth has a great passion for bringing the world of cartoons into comics, and her most recent (and arguably best) work is writing the Adventure Time: Seeing Red graphic novel with art by Zachary Sterling. This story is about Marceline the Vampire Queen and Jake’s search for her missing bass so Marceline can play it at her family reunion. Leth writes a fun action adventure story featuring a Pong-playing, sports obsessed witch and still focuses on how family relationships can be strained over the years. Leth combines the emotional authenticity of her Kate or Die! comics with the wild and wacky world of Adventure Time to create one of the best comics of 2014. The scenes at the end with Marceline and her dad reveal how much Leth understands about relationships and growing up.
Kate Leth is definitely an up and coming comics writer and artist to watch out for this year as she has another Adventure Time graphic novel coming out in Fall 2014 as well as Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy one-shot for IDW this summer. Until then, one can always peruse the archives of Kate or Die! or check out Leth’s Tumblr where she has a lot of her art, comics, and interesting links and posts about women in comics, other cool webcomics, attractive actors/actresses, and even selfies. Kate Leth is a good comics creator because her writing and art is simultaneously funny, vulnerable, and insightful. She has excellent storytelling skills and can write a long-form story about an Adventure Time fan-favorite or write and draw a fun two panel strip about how demented comments sections on websites are.