Panel By Panel (2nd Edition)

Panel by Panel (with Swinebert and Dempsey 2.5.5


Swinebert: Yo Chicks and Chickies!

Welcome to the second edition of “Panel by Panel” where my pal Dempsey and I chat about out one of our many passions-COMICS! (and graphic novels)


Dempsey: This week, S.B., myself and our friend (and podcast director/producer), Taurean J. Watkins (aka “The Literary Rat), review Steven Universe, not the show (though we definitely will get to that) but the comics based on said show-

Steven Universe #1-#5

Steven Universe: Vol. 1-5

Publisher: kaboom!

(from BOOM! Studios)




From Taurean J. Watkins 

[aka “The Literary Rat”] (@Taurean_Watkins


(Left, Taurean J. Watkins,  

Right,  Steven Univserse Banner)

I fell in love with “Steven Universe” since it debuted on Cartoon Network over a year ago.


For those out of the loop (esp. those of you gave up on CN YEARS ago, but need to check back in for this one if nothing else) it’s about a kid who is half-human and half-gem, “Gems” are otherworldy beings with human-like forms, and that’s all I can share on that front without spoiling the story for you.


The series follows the adventures of our titular character,  and three of the of the “Crystal Gems” who protect Earth from intergaltic threats (Thematically, a mix ofThe Secret Saturdays” and “The Fantastic Four“).


(Left, “The Secret Saturdays, Right, Fantastic Four)


Garnet, the strong sem-silent type.


Amethyst, the free-spirited/scrappy foodie, also the youngest of the three, and Pearl, the level-headed, logical and slightly over-protective “Mother Hen” of the group.


The fourth was Rose-Quartz, the former leader of the Crystal Gems, and Steven’s mother, who (again for story reasons I won’t spoil here) passed on her powers to Steven, who slowly begins to awaken them and learn where he fits within the Crystal Gems, who act as his guardians/mentors in differing ways, and the humans who live in small costal metropolis of Beach City.


It’s the kind of show I rarely see much anymore, and was plesantly surprised to find on Cartoon Network especially.


This is one of the rare departures in CN’s series roster that has an overarching plot it’s building toward, while also having entertaining side stories weaved in.


A contrast departure to current hit series like “Adventure Time” and “Regular Show” which are more episodic and situational in nature (like many of CN’s first original series like “Ed. Edd ‘n Eddy“, Dexter’s Labrotory and “The Powerpuff Girls“). 




(Top, Adventure Time Blu-Ray Seasons 1-5

Middle, Regular Show Blu-Ray Seasons 1-3

Bottom, “Ed, Edd ‘n Eddy, Dexter’s Labrotory,

The Powerpuff Girls”)



While there are plot throughlines in Adventure Time, they’re more convoluted (esp. from season 4 onward), open-ended, and move at a slower pace.



If you like an overarching storyline, that’s a little loose in how it’s told (versus a more tradtionally lineral tale) this is the show for you!


It’s got it all: Multi-demenstional characters. A world with rooted back story that’s shared bit by bit when relevant. Action, drama, comedy, romance, and ocasional improptu musical moments that don’t feel either annoying or overdone.


It also naturally has a diverse cast of characters

(both in terms of ethnicity, age, life stage and personality) without coming off fake or forced. 

In many ways “Steven Universe” is for Cartoon Network what “Avatar: The Last Airbender”

(and it’s sucessor, “The Legend of Korra”)

did on Nickelodeon, takes the world and its characters seriously (no matter how offbeat and quirky they may be), gives them respect, but still has fun with them along the way.   

Avatar and Korra

(Top, Avatar: The Last Airbender – Books 1-3,  

Bottom,  The Legend of Korra – Books 1-4)

I highly recommend it to viewers who want something with a more defined plot, that moves a fair bit faster. On that note…

Steven Universe #1-#5

When I heard back in Summer 2014 there’d be a comic series based on the show, I was really skeptical, as these adaptations can go horribly wrong, something us book nerds at T.A.A. know all too well (RE: Books adapted to movies)

But I’m happy to say that for the first five volumes in, the team at kaboom!/BOOM! Studios have blown me away!


They nail the characters on all points, the dialogue, their mannerisms, and especially important for this series, the sizable supporting cast doesn’t get short-changed while centering on our gem-tastic quartet.


The bits with Steven and Lion in volumes 2 and 5 are especially touching/hilarious (for PEANUTS fans, think of the scenes with Lucy and Snoopy and you get an idea of what I mean).


I also love how they reference specific elements or episodes of the show without ailenating newcomers, but still reward long-time “Steventhusiasts” such as myself.


I’m also impressed how they use varying illustration styles throughout, often matching the tone of the story/vingette in each volume: Wispy and detailed for the warm fuzzy stuff, loose and super-stylized for the super-funny/quirky stuff, and something right in the middle when all the above are present in one story.


They all feel right and close in spirit to the art style in the series proper, but different enough so that it doesn’t have that generic feel like some comic adaptations of characters who aren’t native to the comics/graphic novel space.


Plus, I love the “Manga-Inspired” color spreads in-between the various stories in each volume. For those who LOVE the color spreads of “One Piece” and “Naruto” you’re in for a treat.


My only technical nitpick is that the speech bubbles can a bit hard to read, not so much the fonts they choose, but rather I think they can be a bit bigger to make for easier reading, but it’s a minor gripe for what is a stellar (so far) take on the world and characters.







Swinebert’s Thoughts

Swinebert (Grown Up 1.5)


Like Taurean, Dempsey and I are BIG “Steven Universe” fans, and we too were skeptical of how the comics would fare, but after Taurean read/vouched for them, D and I  jumped in, and we agree,

they ROCK! The comics totally capture the heart of the show and run their own creative  stroke through it to stellar efffect. 





Dempsey’s Thoughts


To get a little metaphorical, the characters in Steven’s “Universe” have a lot of paralells with my family.


No, we’re not a team of warriors weilding anicent magic, but the family dynamics of the Woyzeck Clan and Steven’s nontradtional family certainly have overlap.


(Langley Woyzeck, Dempsey’s Older Brother)

My brother Langley and I fight a lot, kind of like Amethysyt and Peral, only Langley’s not as goofy and isn’t quite as food crazy as me and S.B. are, and I used to be more uptight similar to Pearl, but I’ve lightened up in recent years.

Dominic Woyzeck

(Dominic Woyzeck, Dempsey’s Dad)

My dad and I have differing personalites and tastes, but we both LOVE Steven Universe, and while we used to be distant, we’re as close as Steven and his dad, though mine’s a tad more relaible and as smart as he is kooky!

My favorite story was where Steven and his friend Connie are trying to raise money give Beach City a new library and how Pearl’s neatnik ways lead to hilarious results!

I also loved how Pearl and Connie had an exchange on how “realistic” a book character should be portrayed, Swinebert and I had such a debate once, thankfully I didn’t grill S.B. too much…(LOL!) 

Final Thoughts

Taurean: A worthy companion series for new and diehard fans.

Swinebert: Hardcore Steven Universe must not miss this worthy companion adapatation.

Dempsey: Stven Universe enters the comics world without a hitch. 



You Can Find Swinebert & Dempsey On Twitter via @Swinebert_and_D

(Tweet them! They don’t bite…)






☚ They’re also on Facebook! 



T.A.A. on YouTube 2

They also contribute videos to

T.A.A.’s YouTube channel!

Check back next time for another edition of 
“Panel by Panel.”

Until then,

Keep reading, keep doodling,

and be careful not to get a papercut!


Oh, almost forgot-



(Steven Universe Intro –

Cartoon Network on YouTube)


Hey, we couldn’t feature something

“Steven Universe” related without a sing-along session!

Critter Chat with Swinebert & Dempsey Pt. 2

SD Critter Chat


This is part 2 of your lit. rat’s interview with swine-feline duo, Swinebert Glockchester and Dempsey Woyzeck, from T.A.A. FM’s upcoming podcast series, “Swinebert & Dempsey.


If you missed it or are new here, read part 1 of this interview. Okay, let’s jump back into it-

Taurean: Can you tell me about your fellow pet friends? What are they like?


Swinebert: Sure! We’ve got tons of them, but the ones we’re most tight with our next door neighbors: Clarke, a Jack-Russell mix (OBSESSED with aviation and motorcycles), and his feline roomies, Chuck and Lilac.

 Clark, Chuck and Lilac(Left, Clark, Right, Chuck and Lilac – Neighbors)

Swinebert: There are the squirrels who live in our  backyard. At first, we were enemies after the prize acorns that grow in the many oak trees in our backyard. We’ve long since resolved that and became friends.


It took them a lot longer to warm up to Dempsey, his being a cat and all, they worried he’d try to hunt them down, but 


THe Backlot Squirrels

 (The Backlot Squirrels – From Left to Right:

Little Wally, Mac, Hazel, and Filbert)


Swinebert: We also have plenty of family who live in White Oak Acres. While we of course consider our humans (and their kin) family, I’m talking about our non-human relations-


(Swinebert’s Nephew, Trug)

Swinebert: For me there’s my darling nephew, Trug, as our regulars know, and his folks: my brother, Ross, and my sis-in-law, Flair. My Ma, Pa and two kid sisters live back on the ranch where I was born. I video chat with them three times a week, and we visit each other when we can.


My Grand-Hog Wes lives at the ranch, too, but he’s always traveling, even at his age, he rarely slows down. I hope I’m that gutsy in my golden years!


Dempsey: For me, most of the Woyzeck clan live in various parts of the U.S. and Europe. I  have to give a nod to my Uncle Briggs, my dad’s adoptive hedgehog brother. He lives in another town, but visits us often.


Dominic Woyzeck and Briggs Woyzeck II

 (Left, Dominic, Dempsey’s Dad. Right, Dempsey’s Uncle Briggs)


On that note, my sister Nina’s also adopted, but she’s not a cat, or a hedgehog-she’s a goat.

The Woyzeck Family

(The Woyzeck  Family – From Left to Right: Dempsey, Langley, Nina, Dominic and Claire)

Dempsey: Here in White Oak Acres there’s my brother, Langley, kid sister Nina, and my parents, Dominic and Claire.

Uncle Doyle and Aunt Moxie

(Left, Uncle Doyle, Right, Aunt Moxie)

Dempsey: In Summer 2014, during me and S.B.’s world tour holiday, I got to meet my Uncle Doyle and Aunt Moxie. They live in London. 


Taurean: Who are some your other friends and neighbors, both human and non-human? How you meet? What are they like?



(Connect with Thorne Thistlestop 

via @TheBookishFox on Twitter!)

Swinebert: Well, you know of our friend, Thorne Thistlestop

(aka “The Bookish Fox”) who’s the librarian at “Bookmobile Sentinel.”  A traveling library in our neighborhood.


Taurean: Something I always love to ask duos like yourselves is, who are your favorite duos?


Swinebert: I’ve got a soft spot for the classics: Laurel and Hardy, Gilbert and Sullivan, Cagney and Lacey-Swinebert's Duos - FINAL TRANS

Swinebert: But of course we’ve got awesome duets today-

Joe and Sparky, Cork and Fuzz, Herman and Rosie, the list goes on!

Swinebert''s Duos 2

(Covers for “Joe and Spark Go To School”, “Cork and Fuzz: Spring Cleaning”, and Herman and Rosie)

Dempsey: The comic nerd in me would say “Batman and Robin” in particular the Tim Drake Robin, as he had the most bittersweet connection with the dark knight.

Dempsey's Duos - FINAL TRANS

Dempsey: Also, literary duos of note for me are: Tom Sawyer and Hukcleberry Finn”, “Holmes and Watson”, and “Phileas Fogg and Passepartout.”

Dempsey's Critter Chat Playlist - TRANS

(Covers for “The Essential Indigo Girls”, “The Essential Simon and Garfunkel”, “The Carpenters: Singles: 1969-1981)


Dempsey: But I also love musician duos such as “The Indigo Girls”,

“Simon and Garfunkel”, “Puffy AmiYumi” and “The Carpenters.”


Taurean: Of course at T.A.A. we LOVE books, but we’re lovers of television, too, what are some of your favorite shows?


Swinebert: Here’s the thing, Dempsey and I like a lot of the same shows, but we have our differing tastes. So, first we’ll start with shows one likes more than the other. That okay with you?


Taurean: Sure, please proceed.


Swinebert: Okay, I love shows that don’t just tickle my funny bone, but assaults it! Shows like Zatch Bell, various “Peanuts” Specials, and Kodocha.


I also love shows that have food at the center: Antique Bakery, Toriko, and I’m So PSYCHED that Yakitate Japan’s anime is coming stateside!


Dempsey : For my part I LOVE shows where you learn stuff, like “Modern Marvels.” and “Bill Nye The Science Guy” DVDs that’s both fun and informative. But I also love fun documenterary-style series stuff like “Unlikely Animal Friends.” If you think Swinebert and me are an “Odd Couple”, some of the unions formed between varting species are even more out there, and seriously, I’m surprised Disney hasn’t optioned some of these stories for film.


They need to do more of the cool animal films they had in the 60s, 80s and 90s again! Anway, my girfriend Celeine and I are both big fans of “Too Cute” and “Inuyasha.”

Taurean: So what are some shows you both like?

 Swinebert and Dempsey's Fave Shows - FINAL TRANS

Swinebert: We’re both fans of “Sailor Moon” 

(we’re both die hard romantics),

 Naurto, One Piece, Avatar: The Last Airbender

(the non-James Cameron version)

and “The Legend of Korra.”



Taurean: What books do you think would make a great film or animated series that don’t yet have one?


Swinebert:  Otter, like you, D and I are big fans, we first met Otter on Twitter  (@i_am_otter), and we’re looking forward to her two books in 2015!

Otter Trilogy

(Covers for “I Am Otter”, “Otter in Space”, and

“Otter Loves Halloween!”)

Swinebert: As I commented on in your review back in 2014, my nephew Trug had a NAJOR crush on her.


Even though Otter turned him down (and he’s still perplexed about why she offered instead to set him up with Giraffe…) I was nevertheless impressed with his courage. The game of love, despite how cynical, comical and downright trvial we portray it, is NOT a game for wimps.


Like most things in life, it takes the guts of an olympian athlete, the , and the blindless optomism that’s easier for kids like Trug (with so much life ahead of him) than folks like me, who while nowhere near my final years, sometimes have a harder time keeping the faith.


After all, I’ve had many crushes, a couple serious relationships, yet nothing steady at the moment.


As I said then and still stand by now, he’ll make the one who finally does look his way a happy mate.


For my own part, I still believe that I will find a sweetie sow who makes my piggy heart skip a beat, and feeling my trotters are strolling on clouds.


While it’s never fun to come up short: be that flunking a test you actually studied for, , or as in in Trug’s case “Not getting the girl’


Dempsey: “Varjak Paw” needs to be a movie, and an awesome one! I like how the book has the action of “Warriors” but does it’s own thing.


But I’d be open to an animated series if it was done right and they don’t stretch the story too thin in an episodic format. 


Apparently, it was optioned at one point,

but nothing came of it.


Someone PLEASE make this film (or animated series) before I’m out of my nine lives!

Varjak Paw Duet

(Covers for “Varjak Paw” and

“The Outlaw Varjak Paw”)

Panel by Panel (with Swinebert and Dempsey 2.5.5

(Panel By Panel: with Swinebert & Dempsey Logo)

Taurean: As some T.A.A. fans know, we just launched “Panel by Panel” our comics/graphic novel column where you guys, and myself, review titles and discuses trends and opinions about this vibrant medium.

(Steven Universe Intro –

Cartoon Network on YouTube)

[The Literary Rat DARES you to sing-along…]

Taurean: I know on Facebook, you’ve professed your love for “Steven Universe.” I’m a fan, too, and I recently checked out the comics put out by “BOOM Studios“, and I was skeptical at first, but they blew me away!


Swinebert: We felt the same way at first, though we were excited when  we first learned about them last summer (before new episodes of the series resumed after a LONG break where we feared it was canceled) , we’ve been burned by bad comic versions of television shows or films we love.

But when we heard what you had to say about the comics, we gave them a go for ourselcves. As a fellow “Steventhusiast” we knew we could trust your vouching for them.


Steven Universe #1-#5

(Steven Universe: Comics #1-#5, BOOM Studios)

Dempsey: We’ve read the first 5 books and knew we had to review these for “Panel by Panel” so you’ll have to wait and see what we thought…


To Be Continued…



Check back next Sunday for part 3 of my chat with Swinebert & Dempsey…


You’ll learn more about what they’re planning just for T.A.A. fans! A sneak peak of what they’re working on next, and a whole lot more!

Panel by Panel with Swinebert & Dempsey (1st Edition)

Panel by Panel (with Swinebert and Dempsey 2.5.5

I’ve long wanted to do reviews of comics/graphic novels on T.A.A. for some time, but it didn’t fit in the “Weekly Readings” format I use for picture book reviews.


Why? Because while picture books are just as visual as comics and graphic novels, the latter requires A LOT MORE of its readers.


They’re also a lot longer than picture books, and can tell more complex plots and often include at least one subplot.


The blend of words and pictures is more sophisticated than it might first look.


The stories in the panels, and occasional full page spreads, can be as complex or as simple as their creator(s) desire, FAR more freedom than the average picture book.


Those who say comics aren’t “REAL READING” are WAY mistaken! 


At T.A.A. we want to champion the fun, the fantastical, and fauna, that gives those without a voice in “reality” a voice on T.A.A. and beyond!


Your lit. rat came to comics FAR LATER in his life, and my tastes are highly eclectic, but because I have a limited pool of knowledge…

I’ve enlisted my friends/podcasting partners

(and self-proclaimed comics connoisseurs), Swinebert & Dempsey (@Swinebert_and_D), to take part in our comics/graphic novel reviews on T.A.A.

For our first edition of “Panel by Panel”, Swinebert, Dempsey and I are reviewing our mutual Twitter buddy, Eric Orchard’s debut graphic novel-


Maddy Kettle

(Book 1): The Adventure of the Thimblewitch

by Eric Orchard (@inkybat)

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions 

Pub. Date: September 30th, 2014


Swinebert: Yo Chicks and Chickies! Welcome to the first edition of “Panel by Panel” where my pal Dempsey and I chat about out one of our many passions-COMICS! (and graphic novels)


Dempsey: When our friend (and podcast director/producer), Taurean J. Watkins (aka “The Literary Rat), approached us to be on his reviews team, we knew we wanted to do comics, and it was unanimous what our first book would be…


 TJW Headshot V2

From “The Literary Rat”, Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins)

Something that I think has held some comics and graphic novels back is feeling they have to been in one camp versus another.


You either have to be “Funny” or “Dark and Brooding” but they can’t be both or a middle ground between the two.


Every reader wants something a bit different, and for me, generally speaking, I gravitate to books that can make me laugh, but they’re also not afraid to get serious when the story demands and deserves it.


Even when you’re writing about steampunk flying machines, witches and pipe-smoking critters, there is still a level of seriousness that the reader can take seriously in the context of the story’s world, the less it’s like ours, the more crucial that is.


Naruto and One Piece

(Naruto Vol. 5/Naruto Vol. 28, 

One Piece Vol. 11/One Piece Vol. 61)

Series like “Naruto” and “One Piece” are great examples of this.


Like the series above, this book has a very distinct art style, the mural-like compostion is apparent from the cover onward, the panels are clearly defined without looking sterile.

I love the use of shadow and light at play, and the soft rounded/angular look to the characters.

Even the clouds have their own distictive look, slightly reminiscent of those old school cloud trails via 1930s cartoons with a slight nod to the psychedelic 60s in terms of color shading. This mix of bright colors and mural-style presentation made the book feel modern yet retro in the good sense of the latter.

My road to reviewing “Maddy Kettle” is an intersting one.

Often writers debate amongst themselves if social media is worth their time, and if so, what platforms make sense for them.


I know many of my favorite authors simply aren’t interested in social media or simply find it too much of a time suck that would prevent them from writing actual books, they don’t even have a basic website (which I think even the most luddite folks need, but I’m not getting on that soapbox here! LOL).


But for me, I would likely never have learned about “Maddy Kettle” had I not been on Twitter and started connecting with artist-author Eric Orchard (@inkybat on Twitter), at least not as soon as I did.


There really is a skill to reading comics and graphic novels. Just as there is great skill in crafting them in the first place.


From developing the story, scripting the dialogue, drawing the art (or hiring the illustrator if the author’s not also the illustrator, the latter a lot more common in the comics/graphic novel space than picture books), and bringing it all together in the final book we buy.


As an author myself, I know firsthand that some of the hardest things to pull off, look the most effortless to lay readers, and from the cover onward, you can feel the care and attention that went into this book. 



Swinebert (Grown Up 1.5)Swinebert’s Thoughts

Back in Fall 2014, when I got my hooves on “Maddy Kettle” I knew from the first few pages this was a book I’d always cherish, and the fact that it’s the first of a multi-volume series only has me jonesing for the next installment. 





Side Note: Since Dempsey and I first connected with artist/author Eric Orchard on Twitter, we often wondered where his *handle “Inkybat” came from, and after reading “Maddy Kettle”, we now know… 

[*Handle is another way of saying Nickname or Username.]

Anyway, back in late Summer 2014, my nephew Trug saw the cover (while D and I were conversing with the author on Twitter), he said, “Uncle Swinebert, to the bookstore, now!”

The book wasn’t out yet, but our pal and producer, Taurean J. Watkins, found the book on Net Galley, and after checking it out himself, he shared it with me and Dempsey, and I shared it with Trug, and here’s what he says-


“I’ve been in love since seeing the cover (back in August) I finally read it and it ROCKS! I’ll be on ‘Cloud Nine’ to get the next installment.”

-Trug Glockchester















 Dempsey’s Thoughts

I LOVE heroes, or in this case HEROINES, like Maddy for many reasons.

First, she LOVES books, as do I, be they fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and (obviously) comics and graphic novels.

Second, she’s not afraid to take charge of a situation, even if those closest to her (such her overprotective yet thoughtful parents, who when this story begins are Kangaroo rats, more on that later…) would rather her take a “wait and see” approach, which in real life is sometimes the best move, but doesn’t nesscarially make for thrilling storytelling.

Third, she drives her own story, BUT, is not above getting help along the way.

While first-time entrepenuers often shout “It’s all about getting off your duff and being your own boss” most of us need SOME help from others to either just get started on reaching our goals, or after we’ve reached our goals, keep it going if’s something that requires ongoing commitment versus a one-time push that requires less hands-on proddling. 


It’s like the difference between day camp versus a tradtional summer long camp.


Any leader worth his or her salt knows that while looking out for their team is essential, if you can’t also rely on the the team you’ve assembled or grew over time, you’re doing them and yourself a disserivce. 


Just how we need to remember that every viewer or reader is an actual living being , not merely a statistic, we need to treat our team members with the same level of respect we’d want as the team leader.


Maddy has those qualities that allow her to take the lead, but not be arrogant during times she needs info she can’t get on her own.


That’s something we bookish types tend to have in common, our curious thirst for knowledge allows us to not feel above seeking council from others.


Asking for help isn’t the same is asking somone to “do it for you” and that’s the kind of nuance we don’t teach kids enough or at all.


This book shows that difference in a non-preachy manner, as the best stories speak for themselves (though that doesn’t make marketing them any easier for some of us).


Final Thoughts

Taurean: A spunky steampunk fairy tale with NO shortage of charm and wit.

Swinebert: Maddy Kettle is Acorn-Tastically OUT OF THIS WORLD!

Dempsey: A crackerjack start of what looks to be a hearwarming yet gutsy series.


Check out our fan book trailer for

“Maddy Kettle (Book 1):

The Adventure of the Thimblewitch”


Check back next time for another edition of 
“Panel by Panel.”



Until then,

Keep reading,

keep doodling,

and be careful not to get a papercut!



UPDATE 3/31/15: T.A.A. recently learned Eric Orchard (creator of Maddy Kettle) is being hospitlized after a violent misunderstanding with police last night.



On behalf of Swinebert & Dempsey, and everyone at T.A.A., our thoughts and prayers go out to Eric and his family.



Taurean J. Watkins

Founder and “Literary Rat”

Talking Animal Addicts