Comic books aren’t limited to superheroes and adventurers — and two Ball State graduate students are working to prove it.

Matt Schmalzer and Bethany Stayer began their project “Graphic Panel Review” while taking a summer class on literary editing. One of the projects was creating a literary journal.

“I wanted the project to be something interesting and something to [actually] do,” Stayer said.

"Graphic Panel Review" comic contest

Theme: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” -Oscar Wilde

Create an original comic that incorporates this theme in some fashion. Interpret that how you will.

Please limit submissions to short works of graphic fiction. Rule of thumb: Keep submissions no longer than five pages.

Contest ends: October 21

First Prize Winner: $60

First two (2) runner-ups: $20

Along with your submission, please include:

  • Your full name
  • Email
  • Websites (if any)
  • A short bio (3-5 sentences per artist)
  • Any additional information you want us to know
  • Indicate that you are submitting to our contest (Put “Contest Submission” in the subject line)

Email submissions to

Another part of the project was to find a gap in literature, and they noticed there wasn’t really a place for short comics to be published and shared.

“There is a very small number of online journals that cater to comics,” Stayer said. “They’re not easy to find.”

The first issue hasn’t been published yet; the two are currently hosting a contest to get the comic off the ground. They hope to publish in late November.

Schmalzer and Stayer have a clear idea of the type of stories they want to tell. Their inspiration for content includes “Maus” by Art Spiegelman and “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel.

“We want anything that uses a narrative to tell human stories,” Schmalzer said. “We don’t want to limit the creator, but there are so many adventurer and superhero stories already out there. We want people to push the genre in some way.”

Erin Moreno, a senior English education major, hopes to use comics in her classroom. She also had to create her own comic for a class, and thinks the project is interesting.

“Comics and graphic novels have lots of literary merit,” Moreno said. “I would love to work and be with people who see that, see the educational value.”

If she were to work with Graphic Panel Review, she would rather do the drawing only; it was her favorite part of creating her own comic, Moreno said.

Overall, Schamlzer and Stayer want to promote not only their comic, but also comics in general. The two actively promote events by Muncie comic book stores in hopes of being a general news hub, Stayer said.

“We’re working on making a community,” Schmalzer said. “There are so many people who are excited about comics and we want to appeal to them and make connections.”