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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

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

I started this blog in the fall of 2011. It received a little over 18,000 views its first full year, a little over 32,000 last year, and 235,681 total. It is a tiny tiny corner of the Internet. I named it after a novel I drafted in 2011 and was hoping to promote. The novel remains unpublished, though I now have an agent submitting a graphic novel to London publishers, so my fingers remain permanently crossed. Since starting the blog, I’ve also published five academic books about (mostly) comics, including one out later this month (Creating Comics). A sixth is under contract for 2022. The first was a revised version of the blog’s first four years. Some of those posts still get the most views—not just in total, but each year. Here’s my 2020 top ten:

    1. Analyzing Comics 101: Layout
    2. Science Fiction Makes You Stupid
    3. Is Harry Potter a Superhero?
    4. Ferris Bueller’s Missing Sex Scene
    5. Why I Asked my University to Remove ‘Lee’ from its Name and my Town to Remove ‘Stonewall Jackson’ from the Name of its Historic Cemetery
    6. Hundred-Year-Old Racist Superman from Mars
    7. A Brief History of the Pornographic Superhero
    8. The Best (and Worst) Superhero Sex of All Time
    9. Why I Shouldn’t Be Fired for Teaching Comics
    10. Analyzing Comics 101: Rhetorical Framing

Only one of those was newly posted in 2020, which means the rest attract attention from somewhere other than the weekly links I post on my Facebook page, Twitter account, and my university’s campus notices. Seven of the ten are also high on my blog’s all-time top list:

    1. Science Fiction Makes You Stupid
    2. Is Harry Potter a Superhero?
    3. The Best (and Worst) Superhero Sex of All Time
    4. Hundred-Year-Old Racist Superman from Mars
    5. Analyzing Comics 101: Layout
    6. Jean Valjean, Wolverine, and What Boys (Are) Like
    7. Carrie White Vs. Jean Gray
    8. Why I Shouldn’t Be Fired for Teaching Comics
    9. Are Batman and Robin Gay?
    10. Layout Wars! Kirby vs. Steranko!
    11. Ferris Bueller’s Missing Sex Scene

Two have the words “sex” or “pornographic” in the title, which I’m guessing are very popular search engine terms. Type in “superhero” next to either and apparently my blog appears somewhere in the results list. The 2018 Ferris Bueller post has “sex” in the title too, so another mystery solved. I’m really not sure why Harry Potter is still getting so many hits in 2020 (I wrote it back in 2013), or, more weirdly, John Carter of Mars (though it did annoy some Edgar Rice Burroughs fans in 2012 when I published the post-colonial critique of the novel and film). My unfortunately click-bait titled “Science Fiction Makes You Stupid” got unexpected international attention in 2017, including from annoyed SF fans—though the actual post and the cognitive science research study it describes (as well as the follow-up study) should make a SF fan (like me) happy. At least the two “Analyzing Comics” make sense since analyzing comics is mostly what I do here. “Why I Shouldn’t Get Fired for Teaching Comics” is from 2019, so the youngest post on the all-time top ten and the second youngest for 2020. It was my response to an essay written and distributed by an alum suggesting that my courses and I be eliminated for dumbing down the W&L curriculum.

The outlier is “Why I Asked my University to Remove ‘Lee’ from its Name and my Town to Remove ‘Stonewall Jackson’ from the name of its Historic Cemetery” because it’s the only top-ten post from 2020 that was actually published in 2020. Since I wrote it in July, my town has renamed the cemetery. A statue of Stonewall Jackson was also removed from the Virginia Military Institute, the college literally next door to mine. My school’s board of trustees has not yet made a decision regarding our name.

I wrote “Why I Asked” for Rockbridge Civil Discourse Society, a Facebook group that I co-founded and was still moderating until fall. The group was designed to foster conversation between folks coming from opposite sides of the political divide. The issues of statue removals and name changes was getting a great deal of attention on the page, and the post was my attempt to explain my positions in a way that I hoped a conservative could at least understand (though almost certainly not agree with).

I had written “Why I Don’t Like Trump” in 2019 for the same reason: a conservative member of RCDS sincerely asked my why I didn’t like Trump, and I gave him the most thoughtful, non-inflammatory answer I could. I republished it in October—which is why “Why I (Still) Don’t Like Trump” hit sixteen on my top posts of 2020. Number fourteen was “How Rightwing Pundits Destroyed America and my Facebook Page,” published the same month. After moderating RCDS for three years, I got a little tired out. My farewell, “Things I Learned from Civil Discourse,” only hit thirty-one. It’s a list of best practices for trying to engage in political conversation with someone who doesn’t vote like you. Very few folks on the page follow them.

I also got a bit obsessed with poll watching in 2020, publishing a four-part series “Predicting the Next President,” which mapped the polling shifts and Electoral College predictions. It ended with “After Math: So How Wrong Were the Polls?” Short answer: pretty wrong.

I published twenty-four reviews of graphic novels. Since I started writing reviews at three years ago, those reviews have dominated my personal blog too.

Another eighteen posts focused on other kinds of comics analysis, my own comics, my creative process, comics I helped publish through Shenandoah, plus one comic my daughter made during the lockdown with one of her former students whom she was nannying after their pre-school was forced to close because of the pandemic.

There were also six posts about zombies.

Weird fucking year. Glad it’s over.


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