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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

When Shenandoah relaunched under the editorial vision of Beth Staples in fall 2018, I was lucky to be on board as the journal’s first comics editor. That rebirth issue featured comics artists Mita Mahato and Tillie Walden, and the subsequent issues have included seven more comics by creators: Miriam Libicki, Rainie Oet and Alice Blank, Marguerite Dabaie, Holly Burdorff, Fabio Lastrucci, Gregg Williard, and Apol Sta. Maria, Marlon Hacla, and Kristine Ong Muslim.

Issue Volume 70, Number 1 just went live this week, and I think Beth was being a little too kind to me, because it features almost twice as many comics titles as previous issues:

Also, unlike those first few issues that featured only works from artists I had personally solicited, these artists all found their way to our Submittable portal unprompted–which I take as evidence of Shenandoah‘s increasing reputation not just as a prestigious literary journal (it’s been that for decades), but now also as major home for literary comics. The term “literary comics” is a new one, but I’m glad to see Shenandoah helping to define it. I had organized an AWP panel on the topic, “Comics Editors & Literary Journals,” but the pandemic had other plans. Happily though, Shenandoah is expanding its comics reach with guest comics editor Rachelle Cruz curating the Spring issue (if you don’t know her textbook Experiencing Comics, you should check it out).

First though, let me give some teasers for the winter issue’s cast of artists, starting with Angus Woodward’s The Art Table.”  I’m especially impressed by how Angus pushes against comics conventions, while still providing the narrative pleasures of the form. 

Amy Collier’s “Birds You’re Watching and the Complex Histories You’ve Made up About Their Personal Lives Due to Boredom” is an especially (yet subtly) timely sequence that indirectly (and comically) evokes the psychological effects of the pandemic lockdown. 


Grey Wolfe LaJoie’s Unfished Unfinished in an artful comics ars poetica, shifting from black and white line art to full watercolor as it literally turns the form sideways. 

Mark Laliberte’s two excerpts from “AM/FM/PM” turn the form on its head, experimenting with the wonderful weirdness of juxtaposition (and, because of the online formatting, even a hint of match-cut animation). 


Jenny Lesser’s watercolors imbue her Anger Management with paradoxical pleasure that invigorates even the letters of the static words. 


We also owe Jenny an additional and massive thank you for the original watercolor portraits she painted of readers (poets, fiction writers, memoirists) from the Zoom launch party last week:

They’re all in the new issue!



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