Chris Gavaler Associate Professor of English

Chris Gavaler

Payne 305


M.F.A., Fiction, University of Virginia (2006).

M.A., English Education, Rutgers Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University (1992).

B.A., English, Rutgers College (1988).


Fiction, comics, pop culture


ENGL 202-Playwriting

ENGL 203-Topics in Creative Writing: Fiction

ENGL-ARTS 215-Making Comics

ENGL 308-Advanced Fiction Writing: Literary Genre Fiction

ENGL 369-Late 20th Century North American Fiction: Highbrow vs. Lowbrow

ENGL 370- 21st Century North American Fiction: Thrilling Tales

ENGL 413-Strategies in Narrative

WRIT 100-First Year Writing Seminar: Superheroes

Selected Publications


Revising Reality: How Sequels, Remakes, Retcons, and Rejects Explain the World. Co-authored with Nathaniel Goldberg. Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2024.
The Comics Form: The Art of Sequenced Images
. Bloomsbury 2022.
Creating Comics: A Writer’s and Illustrator’s Guide and Anthology. Co-authored with Leigh Ann Beavers. Bloomsbury 2021.
Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith: A Philosophical Account. Co-authored with Nathaniel Goldberg. Routledge 2020.
Superhero Thought Experiments: Comic Book Philosophy. Co-authored with Nathaniel Goldberg. University of Iowa Press 2019.
Superhero Comics. Bloomsbury 2017.
On the Origin of Superheroes: From the Big Bang to Action Comics No. 1. University of Iowa Press 2015.
School for Tricksters. Southern Methodist University Press 2011.
Pretend I’m Not Here. HarperCollins 2002.


“Meant to Judge: The Vigilante Heart of the Superhero Genre.” Companion to Comics Studies. Peter Lang. Forthcoming 2024.
“Superheroes and Ethical Philosophy.” Encyclopedia of Heroism Studies. Springer 2023.
"Misdirections in Matt Baker’s Phantom Lady Viewing Paths.” Co-written with Monalesia Earle. Desegregating Comics: Debating Blackness in Early American Comics, 1900-1960. Rutgers 2023.
“How to Make Comics: What Are Comics?” MoMA Magazine. September 9, 2021.
“How to Make Comics: What Are the Elements of a Comic?” MoMA Magazine. September 16, 2021.
“How to Make Comics: Where Do You Begin?” MoMA Magazine. September 23, 2021.
Watchmen and Philosophy: Illustrating Time and Free Will.” Co-authored with Nathaniel Goldberg. The Palgrave Handbook of Popular Culture as Philosophy. Palgrave 2021.
Yes, Roya as Philosophy: The Art of Submission.” Co-authored with Nathaniel Goldberg and Maria Chavez. The Palgrave Handbook of Popular Culture as Philosophy. Palgrave 2021.
“Perceiving Images and Styles.” Co-author with Nathaniel Goldberg. Journal for the Philosophy of Language, Mind and the Arts, 2. 1. 2021.
“‘Which World Would You Rather Live In?’ The Anti-Utopian Superheroes of Gary Jackson’s Poetry.” Mixed-Race Superheroes. Rutgers 2021.
“Teaching the Art of Comics.” Innovative Teaching Experiments: Sociology Through Pop Culture. 2021.
“There and Back Again: A Philosophy of Revision for Fictional Narrative.” Co-written with Nathaniel Goldberg. Narrative. 28.3. 2020.
“The Literary Genre Effect: A One-Word Science Fiction (vs. Realism) Manipulation Reveals Intrinsic Text Properties Outweigh Extrinsic Expectations of Literary Quality.” Co-written with Dan Johnson. Scientific Study of Literature. 9.1. 2019.
“Does Belonging Belong in Comics?” The Cincinnati Review. 16.2. 2019.
“Three of a Perfect Pair: Image, Text, and Image-Text Narrators.” Image [&] Narrative. 20.1. 2019.
“Clarifying Closure.” Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. 9.3. 2018
“Undemocratic Grids: Eight Approaches to Accenting Panels.” Comics Grid. May 2018.
“Refining the Comics Form.” European Comic Art. 10.2. 2017.
“The Genre Effect: A Science Fiction (vs. Realism) Manipulation Decreases Inference Effort, Reading Comprehension, and Perceptions of Literary Merit.” Co-written with Dan Johnson. Scientific Study of Literature. 7.1. 2017.
“Dr. Doom’s Philosophy of Time.” Co-written with Nathaniel Goldberg. Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. 8.4. February 2017.
“Loving Lassos: Wonder Woman, Kink, and Care.” Co-written with Maria Chavez and Nathaniel Goldberg. Wonder Woman and Philosophy. Wiley. 2017.
“Marvels of Skepticism.” Co-written with Nathaniel Goldberg. Foundation: the international review of science fiction. 46.1. 2017.
“’I Want to Believe’ vs. ‘The Will to Believe’: Fox Mulder Meets William James.” Co-written with Nathaniel Goldberg. The X-Files and Philosophy. Open Court. 2017.
“Alan, Moore, Donald Davidson, and the Mind of Swamp Things.” Co-written with Nathaniel Goldberg. The Journal of Pop Culture. 50.2. April 2017.
“The Art of Literary Violence.” Ford City Workshop Anthology. Urban Farmhouse Press. February 2016.
“‘Something Like This Just Couldn’t Happen!’: Resolving Naturalistic Tensions in Superhero Comics Art.” Studies in Comics. 7.1. 2016.
“The Meanings of Comics.” International Journal of Comics Art. 18.1. Spring/Summer 2016.
“Economy of the Comic Bool Author’s Soul.” Co-written with Nathaniel Goldberg. International Journal of Comics Art. 18.1. Spring/Summer 2016.
“The Anti-Superhero in Literary Fiction.” IMAGE [&] NARRATIVE. 17.3. 2016.
“Time to Choose.” Co-written with Nathaniel Goldberg. Superman, Batman, and Philosophy. Open Court. 2016.
“The Rise and Fall of Fascist Superpowers.” Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. 7.1. 2016.
“The Pulp Fiction of Jennifer Egan.” The Writer’s Chronicle. 48.4. February 2016.
“Genre Apocalypse.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. January 26, 2015.
“Zombies vs. Superheroes: The Walking Dead Resurrection of The Fantastic Four Gender Formulas.” ImageTexT. 7.4. Winter 2015. Reprinted in Literary Criticism on Stan Lee (Layman Poupard Publishing).
“The Well-born Superhero.” The Journal of American Culture. 37.2. June 2014.
“Is and Isn’t: Literary Upheavals in the Post-Real Landscape.” The Writer’s Chronicle. April 2014. Reprinted in Phantom Drift. 4. Fall 2014.
“The Imperial Superhero.” PS: Political Science & Politics. 47.1. January 2014. Teahouse
“How to Teach Zombies.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. October 29, 2013.
“The Ku Klux Klan and the birth of the superhero.” Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. 4.2. 2013.
“Five Sentences.” The Exercise Book. Wellington, NZ: Victoria UP, 2011.
“Sylvester Long.” African American National Biography. Oxford UP. January 2008.
“Chameleons and Imposters: Marianne Moore and the Carlisle Indian School.” Co-written with Lesley Wheeler. Paideuma. 33.2&3. 2005.
“I Mend a Break in Time: An Historical Reconstruction of H.D.’s Wunden Island Ceremony in The Gift and Trilogy.Sagetrieb. 15.1&2. 1996.
“The Empty Lot: Spiritual Contact in Lenape and Moravian Religious Beliefs.” American Indian Quarterly. 18.2. 1994.
“Endnotes to ‘Righting the Margins: The Prosody of Prose in Language Writing.’” Poetic Briefs 17. August/September 1994.


Visual art. “Ride Takes 2 Tickets.” North American Review. 2022.
Sequential art. “Family Resemblances.” Studies in Comics. 2022.
Sequential art. “Metropolis 2.Interim. 2022.
Sequential art. “My American Dream.” Grub Street. 70. 2021.
Sequential art. “Intro to Art.” 45th Parallel. 5. Spring 2020.
Visual art. “Seventies Celebrities,” “Botched,” “Graduation,” “Christmas 1902,” “Sister Squares.” The Petigru Review. 15. 2020.
Sequential art. “Necrobots.” riverSedge. 33. January 2021.
Sequential art. “How I Met My Wife,” “Wally and Egon,” “Hall of Mirrors.” Outer Dark Symposium 2020 Chapbook. August 2020.
Sequential art. “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.” [PANK]. August 2020.
Sequential art. “Judy Suite (six visual poems).” Chronically Lit. July 2020
Sequential art. “Missing Scenes.” Grub Street. 69. 2020.
Visual art. “Four Panels,” “Three Divers,” “Male Nude Sitting,” “Nude with Flag.” FishFood. March 2020.
Sequential art. “My Mother’s Ashes.” Big Other. February 2020.
Visual art. “Galleries.” Dream Noir. February 2020.
Sequential art. “Strips.” Lumina. 10.1. January 2020.
Visual art. “'Lady Frankenstein (1971), No. 1-9.” Abstract: Contemporary Expressions. January 2020.
Short story. “Unproven.” Book XI: A Journal of Literary Philosophy. 1.3. 2019.
Sequential art. “The Swimmers.” Ponder Review. 3.2. 2019.
Sequential art. “American Descent.” Scoundrel Time. October. 2019.
Sequential art. “Obscured Panels.” Sequentials. 1.3. 2019.
Sequential art & cover. “Don’t.” Two Cities Review. 22. Summer 2019.
Sequential art. “Made for Each Other.” Co-authored with Lesley Wheeler. Split Lip. August 2019.
Sequential art. “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” Empty Mirror. July 2019.
Sequential art. “Thought Bubbles.” Redivider. 16.2. Summer 2019.
Sequential art. “Muybridge, Nude Woman Washing Face, Animal Locomotion, Plates 412 & 413.” The Sonder Review. 11. Summer 2019.
Sequential art. “Expected Outcomes.” The Ilanot Review. Winter 2019.
Sequential art. “Muybridge Comics.” Aquifer: The Florida Review Online. December 2018.
Sequential art. “Queer Arrangements.” Sequentials. 1.2. 2018
Sequential art. “1917: Van Doesburg & Modigiliani.” Hair Trigger 2.0. 1.3. 2018
Short story. “Godmother.” Crazyhorse. 92. 2017.
Short story. “The Afterlife.” Image. 94. 2017.
Sequential art. “This Is Not Marilyn: The Dailies.” Sequentials. 1.1. 2017.
Short story. “Willing.” Phantom Drift. 6. October 2016.
Short story. “The First Week.” Crazyhorse. 88. Fall 2015.
Prose poem sequence. “Paragon Comics.” Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books. Minor Arcana Press. February 2014.
Short story. “A Working Theory of Everything.” Phantom Drift. 3. Fall 2013.
Short story. “The Way Home.” The Saint Ann’s Review. Summer/Fall 2012.
Short story. “Isn’t.” Phantom Drift. 2. Fall 2012.
Short story. “Talk to the Dead.” Tampa Review. 43.44. 2012.
Short story. “The Way Back.” Fiction. 58. 2012.
Short story. “A Very Light Fever.” Witness. 25.1. Spring 2012.
Short story. “Who’s Afraid?” Zone 3. 27.1. Spring 2012.
Short story. “Script Outline: ‘The One and Only!’ Draft 1.” The Pinch. 31.2. Fall 2011.
Creative nonfiction. “Supergirl.” Brain, Child. 12.1. Winter 2010.
Short story. “The Hole It Would Leave.” Crazyhorse. 77. Spring 2010.
Short story. “C+, B-, B, F, B, A, C-, A-.” dislocate. 6. Spring 2010.
Short story. “My Half.” Quarter After Eight. 16. Spring 2010.
Short story. “The Marriage of the Strawman and the Patchwork Girl.” The Literary Review. 53.1. Fall 2009.
Short story. “Almost Africa.” Saranac Review. 5. 2010.
Short story. “Waiting for You.” roger. 4. Spring 2009.
Short story. “G.O.D.” The Hudson Review. LXII.1. Spring 2009.
Short story. “Identical.” Potomac Review. 45. 2009.
Short story. “NAME: ___________.” Pank. 3. 2009.
Short story. “The First Documentary.” Witness. XXII. 2009.
One-act play. “The Chris and Alex Show.” Third Coast. Spring 2008.
Short story. “Truth.” American Literary Review. 19.1. Spring 2008.
Short story. “Is.” New England Review. 29.2 2008.
Short story. “Sixteen.” Short Story. 5. Fall 2008.
Short story. “Tax Information for Parents of Kidnapped Children.” Phoebe. Fall 2008.
Short story. “Regrets.” Beloit Fiction Journal. 21. 2008
Short story. “Indian Finds Blood on Trail of Lost Child.” South Dakota Review. 46.1 2008.
Short story. “The Bones.” Prairie Schooner. 82.1. 2008.
Short story. “Recipe for Giblets.” Crab Orchard Review. 12.2. 2007.
Short story. “Earth 2.” Harrington Gay Men’s Literary Quarterly. 8.4. 2007.
Short story. “Bury the Survivors.” minnesota review. 68. 2007.
Short story. “Ivy Miller Poses.” Southwest Review. 92.1. 2007.
Short story. “Best Adaptation.” Sou’wester. 35.1. 2006.
Short story. “Yes.” storySouth. Fall 2006.
Short story. “Simple Objects.” Boulevard. 22.1 2006.
Short story. “Burn This When You’re Done Reading.” Saint Ann’s Review. 6.1 2006
Creative nonfiction. “Paperback.” Texas Review. 26.3&4. 2006.
Ten-minute play. “Who’s on First: The Movie.” McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. 2005. Reprinted Toronto Star, March 12, 2005.
Short story. “The Passion of Joan Allen.” Black Warrior Review. 32.1. 2005.
Short story. “The Longest Distance.” Aethlon. 22.2. 2005.
Short story. “INT. HOTEL ROOM — DAY.” Hayden’s Ferry Review. 35. 2005.
Short story. “Plague of Frogs.” Image. 44. 2005.
Short story. “The Best and Worst Sex Scenes of All Time.” Shenandoah. 54.3. 2005.


Full-length play. The Zombie Life. Aura CuriAtlas Physical Theatre, Williamsburg, VA, July 2023.
Full-length play. The Zombie Life. Firehouse Theatre, Richmond, VA, in production for August 2021.
Online monologues. "The Zombie Monologues." Firehouse Theatre, Richmond, VA, August 2020.
One-act play reading. “The Afterlife.” Pittsburgh New Works Festival Original Play
Reading, November 3, 2017.
One-act play production. “Empty Plots.” Pittsburgh New Works Festival, September 2015.
One-act play production. “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” Pittsburgh New Works Festival, September,
Ten-minute play production. “Cell Phone.” Hell With the Lid Off. Thoreau, NA—A Production Company. Pittsburgh, PA, May 10- 11, 2014. Barhoppers, Charlottesville, VA, March 15-17, 22-24, 29-31, April 5-7, 2009. WOMENSCENE, Pittsburgh, PA, May 15-17, 2008.
One-act play staged reading. “Life on Mars.” Pittsburgh New Works Festival. August 19, 2012.
One-act play production. “The Tragedy of John Wilkes Booth.” Pittsburgh New Works Festival, September 8-11, 2011.
Short screenplay. “Mary’s Fare.” Filmed by Linda Byrket, Bret Dahlgren, Donald L. Drennan, premiered Cowtown Film Series—Shorts, Columbus, OH, December 2009.
One-act play production. “Vows.” Pittsburgh New Works Festival, October 1-4, 2009.
Full-length play staged reading. William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of John Wilkes Booth. Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, January 25 & 29, 2009. Workshop production, Virginia Playwrights Initiative, Hamner Theatre, Nelson County, VA, December 7, 2008.
Ten-minute play production. “Angie.” The Body Beautiful, Your Inner Vagabond, Pittsburgh, PA, January 21-25, 2009.
One-act play production. “Man Woman Hombre Mujer.” Pittsburgh New Work Festival, September 2008.
One-act play production. “The Chris and Alex Show.” Pittsburgh New Works Festival, September 2007.
Dance script production. “Re-Membering: The World is Made Daily in Our Hearts,” choreographed by Joan Gavaler, premiered November 2007, Williamsburg, VA. Adapted as dance script “Practice Songs,” premiered November, 1991, Columbus, OH.
One-act play production. “Moving Mary.” Pittsburgh New Works Festival, September 2006.
Short screenplay. “Who’s on First: The Movie.” Filmed by Socal Film Group, CA, premiered Austin Film Festival 2005.
Short screenplay. “Always Late.” Filmed by One Block Over. 2004.
Dance script production. “Virus Warning 42: A Poetry Reading,” choreographed by Joan Gavaler, premiered Williamsburg, VA, October 30, 2003.

Honors & Awards

“Expected Outcomes.” Nominated for Best of the Net, Creative Nonfiction by The Ilanot Review, 2019.
One-act play. “Empty Plots.” Outstanding Playwright award, Pittsburgh New Works Festival, 2015.
Short story. “Isn’t.” Phantom Drift. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 2012.
Short story. “G.O.D.” Other Distinguished Stories of 2009, Best American Short Stories 2010.
Short story. “Is.” Selected for The Real Unreal: Best American Fantasy 3. Edited by Kevin Brockmeier. Underland Press. 2010.
Short story. “Marriage of the Strawman and the Patchwork Girl.” Nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 2009.
Short story. “Identical.” Nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 2009.
Short story. “NAME: ___________.” Nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 2009.
One-act play. “Vows.” Outstanding Playwright award, Pittsburgh New Works Festival, October 1-4, 2009. Delauney Playwriting Award, University of Virginia, 2006.
One-act play. “Man Woman Hombre Mujer.” Outstanding Playwright and Outstanding Production awards, Pittsburgh New Work Festival, September 2008.
Full-length play. “The Last Video Store Starring Albert MacKenzie.” Semifinalist, City Attic Theatre Play Competition. 2008.
One-act play. “No Service.” Honorable Mention, FirstStage One-Act Competition 2007.
One-act play. “The Chris and Alex Show.” Outstanding Playwright and Outstanding Production awards, Pittsburgh New Works Festival, September 2007.
Short film. “Who’s on First: The Movie.” Director's Choice for Best Comedy, Smogdance Film Festival 2007. Silver medal for Short Short, Rebel Planet Film Festival 2007.

One-act play. “Moving Mary.” Outstanding Playwright award, Pittsburgh New Works Festival, September 2006.
Best Student Play Award, University of Virginia, 2006.
Short screenplay. “Always Late.” Audience Award Winner and Finalist for Cincinnati’s 48 Hour Film Competition 2004.
Henry Hoynes Fellowship, University of Virginia, 2004.


Panel paper. With Nathaniel Goldberg. “Ordering Comics.” Philosophy of Comics conference, Columbus, Ohio, August 2023.
Panel paper. “Black and White and Color: Reprinting Race in Jaime Hernandez’s Mechanics.” Comics Studies Society conference, Denton, Texas, July 2023.
Panel paper. “Drawing Pandemics.” Graphic Medicine conference, Toronto, July 2023.
Panel paper. “White Supremacy in Marvel Comics.” Northeastern MLA conference, Niagara Falls, March 2023.
Panel paper. “The Comics Form.” Advancing Comics Theory (chair), Northeastern MLA conference, Baltimore, March 2022.
Panel paper. “The Color of Paper: Racial Invisibility in the Comics Medium.” Invisible Lines conference, Venice, June 2022.
Panel paper. “Superhero Islamicism: An orientalist history of the 20th-century character type.” Muslims in Comics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor/Zoom, October 23, 2020.
Lecture. “Weirding Whiteness: Genre and Eugenics.” Outer Dark Symposium, Atlanta/Zoom, August 16, 2020.
Panel paper. “Making ‘the Invisible Art’ Visible: Theorizing Undrawn Comics Content.” Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association. Pittsburgh, November 2019.
Panel paper. “Graphic Violence.” MLA International Symposium, Lisbon, Portugal, July 2019.
Panel paper. “Making “the Invisible Art” Visible: Theorizing Undrawn Comics Content.” Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association. Pittsburgh, November 2019.
Lecture. “A Brief History of Swamp Things.” The Outer Weird Symposium. Atlanta, April 2019.
Panel paper. “Modernist Alternatives to Heroism in 1930s America.” Modernist Studies Association Conference, Columbus, OH, November 2018.
Lecture. “On the Origin of Supermen.” Colby College, November 21, 2017.
Panel paper. “The Proto-Barksian Dialect of Frans Masereel.” Modernist Comics Panel (chair), Modernist Studies Association Conference, Amsterdam, August 2017.
Panel paper. “Resolving Naturalistic Tension in Superhero Comics.” Mid-West Popular Culture Association Conference, Chicago, October 9, 2016.
Guest lecture. “Supermania.” Marymount College Manhattan, New York, September 26 & 27, 2016.
Panel paper. “On the Origin of Superheroes.” Mid-Atlantic Popular Culture Conference, Philadelphia, October, 2015.
Panelist. “1940: World War II and Comics.” Wizard World Comic Con Pittsburgh. September 12, 2015.
Panel paper. “Donald Davidson and the Mind of Swamp Things.” Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association International Conference, Reykjavik, Iceland, July22-24, 2015.
Panel paper. “‘Super’ History.” Super Heroes Before Superman. Comics Arts Conference, Wonder-con, Anaheim, CA, April 3, 2015.
Panel paper. “The Literary Superhero.” Northeast Popular Culture Association Conference. Providence, RI. October 24, 2014.
Panel paper. “The Well-born Superhero.” Michigan Statue University Comics Forum. February 25, 2014.
Panel discussion participant. "Contemplative Practices in Higher Education." Washington and Lee University. February 27, 2014.
Featured lecture. “Goon Squad is Pulp Fiction.” Tom Wolfe Weekend Seminar. April 6, 2013.
Featured lecture. “Alice Munro.” Nobel Prize Luncheon. November 13, 2013.
Panel paper. “Zombies vs. Superheroes: The Walking Dead Reboot of Fantastic Four Gender Formulas.” University of Florida Graduate Comics Organization’s 11th
Annual Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels. March 15, 2013.
Playwriting seminar. Virginia Writers Club, Staunton, VA. February 24, 2013.
Panel paper. “Recreating, Rewriting and Reinventing Myth,” AATE and ATHE Conference, New York, 2009.
Featured lecture, fiction contest judge. “He Said, She Said: Strategies for Using and Framing Dialogue.” Chesapeake Writers’ Conference, Glenns, VA, October 2003.
Commencement speaker. Harrisonburg High School, Harrisonburg, VA, June 2003.
Program session leader. “Creative Writing: A Tool for Critical Thinking in the New Era for Literacy.” VRSA Conference, Roanoke, VA, March 2003.
Panelist, Virginia Festival of the Book, Charlottesville, VA, March 2003.
Panelist, Harriette Austen Writers Conference, Athens, GA, July 2002.