Graphic novels, comics, comic arts, graphic narrative, visual literature – there are many old and new forms of art and writing continually merging and morphing among communities of creatives, and likewise, more publications opening their submissions to such works or based in them entirely. In addition to the content, there are growing conversations around the forms. Enter SOLRAD: The Online Literary Magazine for Comics publishing daily Monday through Friday.
SOLRAD is a nonprofit online literary magazine dedicated to the comics arts. Run completely by a volunteer staff, SOLRAD publishes original content ranging from comics criticism, original comics, essays, interviews, and the promotion of small-press events and releases. The site is a platform for new, underrepresented, and otherwise marginalized creative voices, in addition to commissioning work from well-established cartoonists, critics, journalists, and authors.
SOLRAD’s name comes from the noun meaning a wavy line in illustration (especially comics) that represents light and/or warmth emanating from the sun or other light sources, and it fits perfectly with the mission of the publication. As Editor in Chief Daniel Elkin (he/him) shares the motivation for starting SOLRAD, “We believe that criticism of the comics arts is equally essential for the betterment of the form, education of the public, and to give the comics arts a place for reflection, discernment, and connection with the larger world. As more and more people are introduced to comics as an art form, the stronger our community becomes.”
“Even more than just this, though,” Elkin adds, “we wanted to provide a legitimate, transparent, and honorable platform that allows for the diversity of creators and critical voices that makes the comics community so rich. While there are certainly places within the comics ecosystem that provide safe spaces, we wanted to take it to the next level and raise awareness of the comics arts outside its own bubble of support and into the larger public sphere to the benefit of everyone involved.”
Elkin brings a wealth of experience with him, having spent over a decade in comics criticism with bylines at Comics Bulletin, The Comics Journal, Comicon.com, and more. Before SOLRAD, he ran the comics website Your Chicken Enemy. Using this expertise, Elkins reads each pitch and, if it seems a good fit for SOLRAD, asks the writer to send a complete draft. From there, Elkin works with the writer, suggesting edits and/or additions. Response time is usually a week to two weeks.
Elkin has found the work with SOLRAD rewarding: “Being embraced from the start by the comics community and moving into the greater arts world, becoming a champion for comics as a medium that deserves as much attention and discernment as any other artform.” And this likewise creates a rewarding experience for readers as well. “At SOLRAD, readers can find a vital place for quality criticism that engages with a given work fully and offers insight into the interpretive process a reader undertakes. Divining an artist’s intention is one thing, but whether or not it connects in the way they’re hoping it will, analyzing where it succeeds and/or where it falls short, is vital stuff for creator and consumer alike. SOLRAD has developed a reputation as an outlet for artists to count on for fair-minded analysis of their work.”
He encourages writers to take a look at SOLRAD and get a sense of our personality and standards before submitting. Some recent contributors to the site include Hagai Palevsky, Kawai Shen, Kim Jooha, Lane Yates, Rob Kirby, Tom Shapira, Tony Wei Ling, and Rob Clough.
Looking ahead, Elkin explains, “Besides continuing to publish top notch criticism from a diverse set of writers, we hope our grant writing activity will allow us to increase the honorarium we pay our contributors as well as move into new media and educational opportunities.”