I had been away from comics for a hot minute, and then a friend recommended I check out a semi-autobiographical webcomic called Kate or Die, by a Canadian writer/artist called Kate Leth. He talked it up a bunch, so I was worried it wouldn’t be my thing and I’d have to hang my head while explaining meager results, seeing his face droop in the process. Incidentally, I had never read a ‘webcomic’ and barely knew what they were (though I didn’t tell him that).
Luckily, my friend and I never had to have a disappointing conversation of any kind, because I read the entire web archive of Kate or Die that evening and was totally hooked. Kate writes with unapologetic honesty, and it’s refreshing to read something that I feel actively engaged in. With simple sketches and a few small panels, Kate conveys emotion that is so startling, it jolts me awake.
Kate got her start working in Strange Adventures, a comic book store in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that has been voted the best comic shop in the world several times. She’s self-taught in comics, and has only been making them since 2010, but she’s done a bucketload of work since then.
It’s actually a really exciting time to be talking about Kate, because she’s so busy in the mainstream world that her webcomic is on hiatus (though she still updates the strip in Comics Alliance every other Monday). After the New York Times best-selling Adventure Time: Seeing Red graphic novel, Edward Scissorhands comic, the Fraggle Rock miniseries and more, Kate is writing the magical, all-ages adventure series, Power Up. This is her first creator-owned book with BOOM! Studio’s, and it’s gorgeously illustrated by Matt Cummings. Although Power Up follows origins that are similar to other comics–a group of unlikely people gifted with unexplained cosmic abilities–it separates itself by showcasing a wide-eyed, disaffected twenty something heroine who isn’t afraid to show her true self.
That sort of courage is reminiscent, I think, of Kate and her whole M.O. She’s going to write about challenging topics that scare the bejesus out of her and be who she is, no matter what’s at stake. Kate or Die is a perfect example. I have a deep respect for Kate in that sense; I’ll always go to bat for her.
As if Kate doesn’t have enough to brag about already, it was announced last week that she’ll be taking the writing reigns on Marvel’s Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat, with Brittney Williams illustrating. This is a comic I’m eagerly awaiting, and it can’t come soon enough.
So, no matter if you’re just getting into comics, or a seasoned comics connoisseur, I urge you to check out Kate’s stuff if you haven’t already. Start with her webcomic and work your way up. You’ll be rewarded with keenly observed, character-driven stories that not only ring true and are a pleasure to read, but they encourage you to look inward. That’s a scary notion, for sure. But as I think you’ll find, also a welcoming one.
Follow Kate on Twitter @kateleth, and check out her bi-weekly podcast; Less Than Live with Kate or Die (@LTLCast). She interviews writers and artists and gives comic book recommendations, and it seriously might be the best comics podcast out there.
Kate Leth fans, unite and show your undying love in the comments below!
IMAGES: Kate Leth/BOOM! Studio’s