April 18, 2024
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April 18, 2024
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Teaneck Comic Author Brings ‘The Panic’ to Readers

Neil Kleid boasts quite the impressive comic book resume. Working in the industry since the early 2000s, he’s written X-Men, Superman and countless other stories—he even adapted Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt into a novel. He’s also a Modern Orthodox Jew from Teaneck, and his newest story, a digital comic book series from Comixology Originals that will then be adapted into print by Dark Horse Comics, promises to be a thrilling addition to his catalog. “The Panic,” which he co-authored with Andrea Mutti, is a deep, psychological look at how people react when the lights go out.

The concept for “The Panic” is simple: A group of commuters are on their way to New York from New Jersey when their train crashes beneath the Hudson River. The commuters have to work together despite their differences to survive. Kleid says the idea for the story came after 9/11, when he saw on the news how New Yorkers came together after the fall of the Twin Towers.

“It was very cathartic to witness,” Kleid shared with The Jewish Link. “I could only imagine what those poor people trapped in subways when the towers went down were thinking. Those thoughts made me think about the question: Can a group of people who come from different places put aside their prejudices to come together to stay alive?”

“The Panic” will debut digitally on May 3 and run for five issues—released monthly—before being compiled in print. Kleid says the story is meant to serve as a reflection of what modern America has been experiencing, and offer a hopeful take on the future.

“Because the cast of ‘The Panic’ is so diverse, we wanted to explore how each character’s specific ideology may have conflicted with another’s, in that they might not be able to get along,” Kleid continued. “There’s a lot of animosity at first, but one thing I wanted to stress is not to judge a book by its cover: Someone who looks trustworthy might betray you, while someone shady might save your life. I’m hoping that above the danger of the situation—the darkness, the claustrophobia, even rats—that there is hope for us as a people, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Kleid provided the story, while Mutti did the drawing. Kleid said Mutti’s art adds another layer of emotion to the characters and story, but interestingly enough, Kleid and Mutti have never actually met, having collaborated virtually throughout the entire process.

“[Mutti] is an incredible talent,” Kleid said. “We talked about the story over email and I’d send the script and he’d come back with notes. Sometimes a writer wants to put everything in the panel, but he really helped me rethink and adjust the logistics of the page. We worked together to create a comic I think people will really enjoy.”

One of “The Panic”’s main POV characters is Annie Delgado, a left-leaning liberal who Kleid described as a protestor, fighting for people’s rights. When the train crash happens she is traveling to New York with a friend.

“Annie is an interesting character to follow,” Kleid continued. “She’s very headstrong, but she’s also young and a little naive. She doesn’t make friends easily, and can also be vulnerable to people taking advantage of her. This puts her in contrast to another character, Rocco, who is a right-leaning Italian man. There are many other characters whose political, cultural and racial outlooks do not coincide. Those clashes will be important threads in the story, and whether or not they can survive may hinge on their ability to get along.”

Kleid’s first real book came out in 2003, a graphic novella called “Ninety Candles,” for which he received a Xeric Award, a prestigious publishing grant subsidized by one of the creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. From there he did a number of mini-stories, some of which included Jewish characters and storylines.

“I’ve hit a lot of different beats throughout my career,” Kleid said. “I love thrillers and superhero stories, but I always love getting to do a Jewish story every now and then.”

Kleid’s love of comic books started when he was young. His father would come home with bags of comics, and he began collecting them. His favorites were the old DC and Marvel comics, and he loved Green Lantern, Spider-Man and The Avengers in particular. As he explains, it wasn’t until the end of high school that he started reading independent books and learned that comic books can be more than superhero stories.

“The world opened for me, and I saw so much potential for storytelling in the medium,” Kleid went on to say. “I’m blessed to have had so much success in the field, and I’m so incredibly lucky that I get to do something that I love. Every day that I wake up and get to create stories and comics is like a dream.”

“The Panic” is available for pre-order on Amazon, at amazon.com/dp/1506728073. Kleid’s work can be found at bookshop.org/shop/neilkleid, at Barnes and Noble and in bookshops and comic stores across the world. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @neilkleid.

Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. He blogs at www.adamssoapbox.com

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