In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to its knees. When we weren’t sheltering in place, we were advised to wear masks, wash our hands, and practice social distancing. We watched in horror as medical personnel worked around the clock to care for the sick and dying. Businesses were shuttered, travel stopped, workers were furloughed, and markets dropped. And people continued to die.
Amid all this uncertainty, writers and artists from around the world continued to create comics, commenting directly on how individuals, societies, governments, and markets reacted to the worldwide crisis. COVID Chronicles: A Comics Anthology collects more than sixty such short comics from a diverse set of creators, including indie powerhouses, mainstream artists, Ignatz and Eisner Award winners, and media cartoonists. In narrative styles ranging from realistic to fantastic, they tell stories about adjusting to working from home, homeschooling their kids, missing birthdays and weddings, and being afraid just to leave the house. They probe the failures of government leaders and the social safety net. They dig into the racial bias and systemic inequities that this pandemic helped bring to light. We see what it’s like to get the virus and live to tell about it, or to stand by helplessly as a loved one passes.
At times heartbreaking and at others hopeful and humorous, these comics express the anger, anxiety, fear, and bewilderment we feel in the era of COVID-19. Above all, they highlight the power of art and community to help us make sense of a world in crisis, reminding us that we are truly all in this together.
The comics in this collection have been generously donated by their creators. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this volume are being donated by the publisher to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) in support of comics shops, bookstores, and their employees who have been adversely affected by the pandemic.
About the authors
Kendra Boileau is the Publisher of Graphic Mundi and the Assistant Director and Editor-in-Chief of Penn State University Press. She developed the Graphic Medicine line of graphic novels for PSU Press and went on to launch the Graphic Mundi imprint in 2021. Boileau has been a judge for the annual Lynd Ward Prize for the Best Graphic Novel, and she serves on the Lynd Ward Prize Advisory Board. Boileau is also a French-to-English translator of graphic novels.
Rich Johnson is a publishing consultant and the founder of Brick Road Media, LLC. Previously, he held leadership positions at Lion Forge Comics and DC Comics, and he was the cofounder of Yen Press. He created the sales and marketing strategy for Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: Endless Nights, the first original graphic novel to hit the New York Times Best Sellers list. In 2011, Johnson was selected as a judge for the Eisner Awards, considered by many to be the Oscars of comics.
Featuring work by Gene Ambaum, Julio Anta, Ned Barnett, Ken Best, Armond Boudreaux, Eiri Brown, Thi Bui, Maureen Burdock, Roland Burkart, Pavith C, Brian Canini, Jason Chatfield, Lili Chin, Gerry Chow, MK Czerwiec, Zack Davisson, Joe Decie, Deloupy, Ignacio Di Meglio, Katy Doughty, Peter Dunlap-Shohl, Sarah Firth, Eduardo Garcia, Mike Garcia, Hatiye Garip, Simon Gentry, Aaron Guzman, Rivi Handler-Spitz, Justin Hansen, Kurt Hathaway, Mark Heinrichs, Natascha Hoffmeyer, Laura Holzman, John Jennings, Kang Jing, Quincy Scott Jones, Scott Jones, Jazmine Joyner, Rob Kirby, Rob Kraneveldt, Jesse Lambert, Kelly Latham, Janet K. Lee, Ajuan Mance, Luis Manriquez, Lee Marrs, Seth Martel, Tom K. Mason, Sean Seamus McWhinny, Ben Mitchell, Terry Moore, Eli Neugeboren, Tim Ogline, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, Willow Payne, Stephanie Nina Pitsirilos, S. I. Rosenbaum, Jacoby Salcedo, Kay Sohini, Arigon Starr, Emily Steinberg, Jay Stephens, Sage Stossel, Chris Summers, Tamara, Brenna Thummler, Seth Tobocman, Shelley Wall, Ian Williams, Richard You Wu, Zen, and Annie Zhu.
John Jennings is a retired associate professor in the Department of History at Trent University, former member of the Canadian Equestrian Team, and currently the member for Ontario on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. He has written extensively on the North West Mounted Police, Aboriginal-European relations in the Canadian and American wests, and the role of The Canoe in Canadian history and culture.
Jay Stephens created the popular Chick and Dee comic for the 20th anniversary of chickaDEE Magazine. He is also the author of Monsters! and The Land of Nod Treasury. He lives in Los Angeles, CA where he works on his Emmy-winning cartoon series Tutenstein.
Abby Hershler (MD, MA, FRCPC) is a psychiatrist and Lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
Ian Williams is the author of the Giller Prize–winning novel Reproduction. His last poetry collection Personals was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award. His short story collection, Not Anyone’s Anything, won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for the best first collection of short fiction in Canada. His first book, You Know Who You Are, was a finalist for the ReLit Poetry Prize.
Williams holds a Ph.D. in English at the University of Toronto and is currently an assistant professor of poetry in the Creative Writing program at the University of British Columbia. He was the 2014-2015 Canadian Writer-in-Residence for the University of Calgary’s Distinguished Writers Program.
“By all counts, this is a significant and monumental work. We see where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re headed. Each story here has something important to share and the book adds up to an authentic and valuable response to one of the greatest challenges of our lives.”
“A broad range of voices covers pandemic experiences in every facet of our lives, from housing to mental health to historical context. Together, these stories highlight the medium’s inherent strengths in conveying our complex humanity. Essential and accessible.”
—Nate Powell, artist of the March trilogy
“In a diverse, impassioned book, these quick responders illustrate the impact of the pandemic with work of lasting value.”
—starred review, Kirkus Reviews
“COVID Chronicles embodies what comics can do so well: it’s an extraordinary and diverse collection of graphic narratives that bear witness to the pandemic as it continues to rage.”
—Josh Neufeld, author of A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge
“Never has the need for empathetic, well-rounded, and intelligent physicians been more crucial to the betterment of society. COVID Chronicles will be a fantastic addition to any library's medical humanities collection given its relevance to the current social, cultural, and political climate. The artists' stunning illustrations and relatable prose will at once make the reader laugh and cry, feel enraged and hopeful.”
—Tenley Sablatzky, Journal of the Medical Library Association
“Impassioned and impressive. . . . Captures the anxiety, courage, and surreality of the current era with a visceral quality that lingers.”
“This collection offers unique, informative descriptions in meditative or documentary-style narratives to the global experience of living through the pandemic. It is diverse in expression and information. Graphic medicine is an impactful medium to discuss observations during global trauma and this is a unique collection.”
—Suzanne Jeanette Larsen, Doody's Review Service
“As a taxonomy of the many voices around the pandemic, COVID Chronicles is a substantial and wide-ranging anthology.”
—Bruno Savill de Jong, Broken Frontier
“Wonderful art often emerges from pain and its rippling effects. The virus offers this silver lining of talented folks sharing their moments from 2020's year of hell.”
—Paul Levitz, author of 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking
“Making sense of the past year is no easy task; it requires an anthropologist’s eye and a psychologist’s ear, an artist’s observation and a writer’s empathy. The complex form of comics is ideally suited to this task, and COVID Chronicles is impressive as both an archive of the new normal of COVID-19 and a provocation to never return to the old normal.”
—Candida Rifkind, Winnipeg Free Press
“COVID Chronicles will prove to be an indispensable work of graphic medicine, a testimony to a dark but unforgettable chapter in our common history.”
—A. David Lewis, author of The Lone and Level Sands
“Like the way panels and gutter space work together in a single comic, the stories in COVID Chronicles work together to link a remarkable variety of experiences from this shared pandemic while simultaneously connecting with the reader’s own life and imagination. This is the power of such volumes: to relate, to inform, to unify, and to witness. COVID Chronicles will prove to be an indispensable work of graphic medicine, a testimony to a dark but unforgettable chapter in our common history.”
—A. David Lewis, author of The Lone and Level Sands