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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

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

I’m delighted to see the new issue of Shenandoah is now online! I’m especially delighted to see the cover art by Leigh Ann Beavers. The piece is titled “whitethorn project: flattened whitethorn bouquet study no. 5“:

I’m probably a bit biased toward Leigh Ann, since she and I co-wrote Creating Comics and co-teach our hybrid creative-writing/studio-arts Making Comics course every other spring term. We were teaching it for the third time this past May when Beth (Shenandoah‘s editor) was in the process of selecting the image from an array of Leigh Ann’s works.

As usual, I had nothing to do with the cover art selection process. Unusually, I also had nothing to do with the comics selection process for this issue too. I became Shenandoah’s first-ever comics editor six issues ago in 2018, and though I hope to continue in that role indefinitely, it was an honor to step aside for Shenandoah‘s first-ever comics guest editor, Rachelle Cruz.

I wish I could take some tiny credit, but Beth and Rachelle met without my involvement, though I did know a little about Rachelle from her textbook Experiencing Comics (which I excerpted last winter for my WRITING 100 Superheroes seminar).

In addition to selecting comics, Rachelle selected a theme for her curated issue. Please read her introduction, “A Song or a Warning: Shenandoah’s Comic Artists Contemplate Survival,” for more detail, but bottom line: we appear to have survived the pandemic. Rachelle writes:

“In the summer of 2020, I was graciously invited by Beth Staples, editor-in-chief, to edit the comics section of the spring 2021 issue. “You can even come up with a theme, if you’d like,” Beth said. I’m privileged in so many ways (my ability to work from home is one of them), but the question, how am I—how are we—going to survive this, is one I wanted to ask cartoonists.”

Each of her three comics artists responded deeply.

In Trinidad Escobar and Meredith Hobbs Coons’ “So Much Good,” Rachelle sees: “Or survival as a bounding through our inner and outer landscapes to seek the intimacy of ourselves and others where there is ‘the rim light of your emerging joys’ and ‘so much good’ that emerges from this communion.”

Here’s the first page:

In Breena Nuñez “Invitation,” Rachelle sees: “Survival, or surviving, can be a space for holding our tears, our multiple embodied selves (younger and present) and our expectations of them.”

Here’s the first page:

And in Mita Mahato’s “Alligator Gut: A Representation of Survival with Papers, Polyethylene, and Residual Ink,” Rachelle sees: “survival as a complicated tangle of alligator guts, of what persists through paper-woven, collaged digestion.”

It’s wonderful to see Mita return to the virtual pages of Shenandoah, since she is also the first comics creator I contacted when I became editor. Her “Lullaby” appeared in Fall 2018, and her artwork was featured on the cover of the same issue, the first to feature Beth as editor. It’s equally wonderful to welcome Trinidad Escobar to Shenandaoh. When Rachelle mentioned during an early Zoom that she would be contacting her, I was thrilled. And I’m equally thrilled to be introduced to Meredith Hobbs Coons and Breena Nuñez.

Beth also welcomed another guest editor for the new issue. DW McKinney took over nonfiction (check out her introduction, “What is Home?: Shenandoah Essayists Eulogize and Celebrate Places of Belonging“). For this issue, poetry editor Lesley Wheeler also curated a special section on “uncanny activism” (a term she explains in her introduction, “A Grimoire: Poems in Pursuit of Transformation“). And translations editor Seth Michelson focused on Arabic poetry (“Contemporary Arabic Poetry in Contemporary Translation“). That’s all on top of the usual amazing array of fiction and nonfiction.

Check it all out!

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