Panelology is a weekly podcast about comics. We talk about current books, what we're looking forward to, and how to get into reading comics in the first place.

It’s a Bird… (Vertigo, 2004; OGN)

Back in print as of last week, It’s a Bird… is a very different comic from the usual fare.  Steven T. Seagle tells a semi-autobiographical story about struggling with an offer to write Superman.  His disconnection from the character dates back to his childhood, when he and his brother read a Superman comic in a hospital waiting room.  It was the day their grandmother died from Huntington’s.

Steve’s story centers around Huntington’s.  It’s about his acceptance of the disease as a part of his family—and possibly a part of himself.  He has to unpack that idea, but as he does he pushes away everyone around him.  He tries to work through his fears and feelings by making sense of Superman.  As he does, two- and three-page stories breaking down Steve’s problems with the Man of Tomorrow intercut the narrative.  It’s a very personal story—almost like watching someone’s therapy play out on the page.

Teddy Kristiansen brings a fleetingness to It’s a Bird… that is a perfect fit for its memory-driven, first-person narrative.  Flashes of the past fade in and out as sketches of comic ideas flow from the conversations Steve has with other characters.  Every set of Superman-focused story pages has its own distinct style, as do those flashbacks.  Kristiansen manages these visible styles to not only ensure the book never feels choppy or broken, but also to prevent questions of when or where Steve’s thoughts take the audience.  On a similar note, Klein’s dialogue bubbles even reinforce whether dialogue is diegetic to a scene or between Steve and the reader.  Without Kristiansen’s and Klein’s efforts, It’s a Bird… could have been a befuddling read.

Whether you’ll enjoy It’s a Bird… comes down to what you are looking for in a comic.  If you want a personal story driven by literary thought, then go for it.  It’s not, overall, a depressing comic—the closest comparison I could make would be to Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire’s recent A.D. After Death.  Even then, this is a comic in the first person, with its roots in a real person’s struggles with fear of disease and mortality.  I’m glad to have read it, but if you’re here for escapism…well, this is not that.

Collected in

  • It’s a Bird… (OGN)


Writer: Steven T. Seagle | Artist: Teddy Kristiansen | Letterer: Todd Klein

The Bunker: Volume One (Oni Press, 2014; #1-4)

New X-Men: Germ Free Generation (Marvel Comics, 2001; #118-121)