Tagged: Coagula

Joe Corallo, Year One

uncanny-x-men-600-iceman

younganimal1I started writing a weekly column here at ComicMix a year ago today. The past year I’ve given my thoughts on a number of issues focusing in particular on diversity in comics. Those issues have often involved LGBTQ representation. I’m going use this column to highlight some of the topics I’ve covered, see if anything has changed or if any predictions I had made turned out to be true and maybe add in an anecdote or two.

The second column I wrote for ComicMix was about Coagula, DC Comics first and only trans superhero. A lot has happened this past year as far as Coagula is concerned. She went from being an obscure character created by Rachel Pollack from a still uncollected run of Doom Patrol, a long cancelled series with seemingly little hope of being brought back as a monthly comic to being the flagship title for Gerard Way’s Young Animal imprint. Additionally, Gerard Way has stated he wants to bring Coagula back in his run. I can’t stress to all of you enough how great it’s been see this series of events unfold.

Another early column was regarding Alysia Yeoh, Barbara Gordon’s trans friend, getting married. Though there was a lot of press around that and Alysia Yeoh seemed to be gaining some interest from fans the character, one of the incredibly few trans characters that DC Comics has, faded into obscurity.

I spent no less than two columns discussing my displeasure with Iceman being outed. It’s been a long time since I discussed it so I thought I’d follow up on that. It took until All-New X-Men #13 for Iceman to pursue men and not just talk about coming out to someone. He embarrasses himself in a gay bar, runs out and runs into a guy named Romeo (I’m not kidding) who happens to be an Inhuman. I guess they wanted to make sure that character was named Romeo to make sure you’d get that Marvel is borrowing from Shakespeare here. The poor handling of Iceman being gay would almost be funny if it wasn’t so sad. It’s somehow managed to be worse than I even thought it was going to be, and I came in with low expectations.

beaton-david-bowieBi-erasure came up a few times discussing characters like Constantine who was being portrayed as straight in the now-cancelled NBC series and Marvel’s Hercules being portrayed as straight despite the character’s history of bisexuality. Bi-erasure came up again as Harley Quinn was portrayed as straight in the Suicide Squad movie and most recently with Gal Gadot confirming that Wonder Woman would be portrayed as straight for the 2017 film. If you want a bisexual Wonder Woman, stick with Greg Rucka for now.

I still don’t think Poe and Finn from Star Wars: The Force Awakens are in love with each other.

When David Bowie passed away early in the morning of January 11th, I had tossed out my previously planned column (with editor Mike Gold’s permission) and wrote about how much David Bowie had meant to me over the years. One story I had forgotten to include was the one and only time I was in the same room as David Bowie. I was seeing a Nine Inch Nails at Hammerstein Ballroom here in New York with my friend Jake back in 2005 with the Dresden Dolls opening. After they opened up in VIP balcony seating above us came out Chris Rock, Marilyn Manson, and David Bowie. The standing room crowd started chanting just being in Bowie’s presence. It got so loud and disruptive that he opted to get up and leave until the house lights went off so as not to draw attention away from Nine Inch Nails. Real classy guy. If you’re unfamiliar, give his album Station to Station a try.

Sam Wilson became Captain America in Steve Rogers absence, but now Steve Rogers is back and Sam Wilson has been relegated to being the second class Captain America.

If you haven’t seen that Netflix Pee-Wee Herman movie, it’s good, but it’s no Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

Eddie Berganza is still group editor of the Superman family titles at DC Comics which has continued to maintain exclusively male employment in the editorial department.

alters-1I’ve highlighted many different creators in the past year including Patrick Atangan, Steve Orlando, Rachel Pollack, Fyodor Pavlov, Howard Cruse, and Caitlin R. Kiernan.

Back in June, AfterShock Comics announced a new series, Alters, written by Paul Jenkins with art by Leila Leiz. The principle character, Chalice, is a trans woman and the hook for the series is “She can only be herself when she’s not herself.” I wrote about my reservations and the red flags I saw from reading the write ups. Paul Jenkins reached out to me and we conducted an interview for the following week. I want to stress that Paul was very polite and agreed to all the questions asked without any hesitation. Now that issue #1 is out we’ve seen the comic be met with mixed reviews, many of which unfortunately reaffirm my reservations based on the initial announcements. Paul Jenkins has done some incredible work including his Marvel Knights run on Inhumans which I can’t recommend highly enough, but the missteps in Alters would be hard to make a course correction on at this point, at least as far as I can tell.

Oh, and I took issue with Simon Pegg making Sulu gay in Star Trek Beyond against George Takei’s wishes even after asking George Takei first. It sounded like a cheap publicity stunt for some free marketing that backfired. Now that the movie is out, it happens that Sulu didn’t even get to kiss his husband in this movie who’s already barely in the film so it turns out I was right to be cynical about it. That column led to the liveliest discussion I’ve had on Facebook about anything I’ve written for ComicMix. Even more than that time I said we don’t need Iron Fist.

That about sums up my summing up of my first year as a columnist here at ComicMix. I’d like to thank Martha Thomases for suggesting me as columnist in the first place, Mike Gold for going with that suggestion, having faith in me to deliver on a weekly basis and for acting as a sounding board and mentor over the past year, and everyone else at ComicMix for being welcoming and supportive over the past year. Most of all, I’d like to thank everyone who’s been reading this column over the past year for your time and support.

I hope you’re as excited for what the next year will bring as I am.

 

Joe Corallo: Tragic Chalice

Alters 1 Last week it was announced that Aftershock Comics will be launching a new superhero series in September named Alters. The series will be seasoned comic writer Paul Jenkins’ second title with Aftershock, and it’s drawn by Leila Leiz. Though it will feature a few different kinds super powered humans, referred to as Alters in this world, the central character currently getting all the buzz is Chalice.

The gravity manipulating Chalice will be joining the ranks of characters like Coagula on the incredibly and embarrassingly short list of trans superheroes in comics. The hook for Chalice is that while Chalice presents as female, her civilian alter ego presents as male under the name Charlie Young. At the start of the story, Charlie is a college student who is currently transitioning in secret to Charlie’s family, though some friends may be aware. We just don’t have all the details on that yet.

Paul Jenkins himself is a straight cis white man, which he will readily admit. His mother who raised him is an out lesbian and he’s stated before that diversity is important to him, though in this case we should be careful not to conflate sexual orientation and gender identity. Mr. Jenkins in particular had in mind to put a trans character in this series from its onset. According to his own account, Chalice didn’t fully come into being until he met Liz Luu at a convention panel who suggested the idea of a trans superhero who had not yet transitioned and who could only present as the gender they identify as when in superhero attire.

With that in mind, I can’t help but be cautious about the idea. Before even delving into the concept behind Chalice, the initial reason I have for being cautious is that this is a character, though created by well-meaning allies, that did not have a trans creator involved. That is not to say that people can’t create characters outside of who they are and what experiences they have personally had over the years. However, we have seen time and again characters that have been created (or retconned in many cases) to represent the LGBTQ community that haven’t had LGBTQ input over the years with mixed results. Examples include most queer characters in 90s TV and movies, as well as Iceman’s coming out last year at Marvel, despite Brian Michael Bendis’ best intentions, which I wrote about here and here.

ChaliceNow let’s go into the character of Chalice herself. As I started to explain earlier, Chalice is a super human trans woman that can only be herself when she’s Chalice. Otherwise, she’s Charlie Young and presumably goes by male pronouns. The hook they proudly stress is that she can only be herself when she’s not herself. I have a problem with that.

Look, I understand issue #1 hasn’t even hit the shelves yet. However, Aftershock Comics and Paul Jenkins are certainly making it a point to do the rounds and build buzz for the book, and they’re working to get reactions from people. Positive reactions ideally, but still. The idea of a trans character that can only be herself when she’s in her superhero costume lends itself heavily to the tragic queer trope. It’s been done. It’s been done a lot. It was also done in comics like with Batwoman in 2013.

Being queer is not tragic. Being trans is not tragic. Having a character whose tragedy in life is rooted in their queerness is lazy writing and shouldn’t be acceptable to audiences in 2016. Yes, plenty of characters have tragedy that lead them to being superheroes. Spider-Man losing his Uncle Ben, Batman losing his parents, Superman losing his home planet, and so forth. None of them had something tragic about them based on them being cisgender or heterosexual. And to be clear, I don’t mean to be conflating gender identity with sexual orientation with that previous statement. My intention was to address queerness broadly and to stress how those characters mentioned are cis het.

Even characters in teams like the X-Men or Doom Patrol that don’t like the side effects of their powers aren’t burdened by their sexual orientation or gender identities. Hell, Coagula is an out and proud trans woman in her first pages of Doom Patrol twenty years ago. That’s not to say that Aftershock Comics or Paul Jenkins are consciously supporting the tragic queer trope, but that doesn’t change the fact that when you make the central internal conflict of a character their queerness and promote the comic with that as the hook, that you are feeding into that trope.

Beyond the queer is tragic trope, it’s also made clear that this story will involve the character of Charlie Young transitioning in secret from her family. Popular media is obsessed with transitioning. Whether it be Caitlyn Jenner, TV shows like Transparent, or movies like The Danish Girl, the media can’t seem to get enough of it. That’s not to say that Charlie Young’s transitioning will not be relatable to someone out there in the trans community just coming out or planning on doing so. However, people like Caitlyn Jenner are interviewed and analyzed by cis reporters, and shows like Transparent and movies like The Danish Girl star cis actors in the lead roles, and characters like Chalice are being written and illustrated by a cis creative team (the colorist is trans, but that’s not a position with creative control in a narrative sense) which means we see these more popular glimpses into the trans community and physical transitioning safely through a cis lense.

Trans people and the trans community do not exist to transition for our entertainment. Not to mention that not everyone in the trans community transitions, has the same goals in their transitioning or transitions in the same way. Not everyone is concerned about “passing” as one gender. Some people in the trans community are non-binary as well.

They are more than their transitioning, and we need to stop acting like that’s the only story worth telling with trans characters, or even the most important story to tell. Characters who are often played by or written by cis people in the first place, only adding to how cis people use trans people for entertainment, oscars, and pats on the back for being oh so progressive.

Aftershock Comics, Paul Jenkins, Leila Leiz, Liz Luu, and other people who are working on Alters in some capacity all seem to be creating characters like Chalice with the best of intentions. They all appear to have a vested interest in increasing diversity in comics, and it’s certainly nice to see how many women are working on a book like this when the mainstream comics industry still sorely lacks hired female talent, which is something important to Paul Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins also have a history of writing quality comics.

That being said, if you want to tell more diverse stories with rich characters of different backgrounds, then you need to hire people with those backgrounds. We need more diversity behind the pages just as badly as we need them on the pages.

I’m hoping that Alters will be a deeper, richer story for Chalice than the press hits lead on. I’m hoping a character like Chalice may be around long enough to develop and grow into something more than a tragic queer trope and a way to continue feeding these obsessions with physical transitions and people “passing.” Mostly, I’m looking forward to the potential that a character like Chalice could bring to getting more comics publishers to green light more projects with trans characters.

And hey, maybe they’ll even get a trans writer or illustrator on it too.

Joe Corallo: The Right Way

Gerard Way

This past weekend was Emerald City Comic Con. It’s one of the up-and-coming cons that seems to be getting exponentially bigger and more important to the industry every year. I have yet to have the pleasure and privilege to attend ECCC, but it’s on my bucket list.

ECCC has increased in importance to the point where some major announcements in the comic world are now made there. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, announcement made was from DC Comics. They announced a new DC imprint headed by Gerard Way titled Young Animal. The flagship title of this new imprint will be Doom Patrol; the first issue of which will be hitting the shelves in September of this year. I know he’ll be writing or otherwise involved in all the titles Young Animal is putting out including Shade, The Changing Girl, Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye, and Mother Panic, but today I’m focusing on Doom Patrol.

doom-patrol-1107bGerard Way has stated the plans for Doom Patrol will be to pay homage to all the previous iterations while creating a unique story. In this interview, it’s discussed how Way has read every run of Doom Patrol and that there are great elements in all of them (that may be overly generous, but that’s not the point) which this run will make nods to.

In particular, it looks like this run will be heavily influenced by Grant Morrison’s run considering Flex Mentallo is one of the characters who appears to be in the preview art. And keeping in the tradition of the other runs, Robotman appears prominently as well. Gerard Way continued to reveal more on Twitter. Way tweeted that there are “special plans” for Dr. Caulder, which seems to reinforce the idea that Grant’s run having made Caulder a more complicated character will continue.

The most interesting thing about Doom Patrol that was revealed on Twitter (and I’m incredibly biased here) is how much Gerard Way loves Rachel Pollack’s run on the series. Way even specifically mentioned love for Coagula in an exchange. You can read that here. At least one other person I saw tweeted at him about Rachel’s run too which was nice to see. Though it’s not explicitly mentioned that Way would bring back Coagula, this is certainly the most positive statement in regards to the notion that’s been made since Rachel Pollack’s run came to an end.

I won’t delve too deeply into Coagula as that was what I dedicated my second column on here to. Please feel free to read it if you haven’t. In short, she’s DC’s first and only trans superhero. Not that they haven’t had trans characters in comics that aren’t superheroes, or that they haven’t printed other books with powerful trans characters, but they weren’t DC properties (Grant Morrison’s Invisibles is creator-owned for example).

Coagula, and Rachel Pollack herself, are important parts of history at DC Comics. I’m not going to say we need Coagula now more than ever. We’ve needed her ever since she came into existence. What I will say is that it’s not too late to make things right.

I understand how many people might not realize how big this is, but this is a big deal. In the decades since Rachel’s run, multiple failed attempts to revive the series have taken place. All of which got cancelled sooner than Rachel’s run and all of which have tried treating the Doom Patrol as a superhero team. That’s a mistake. They aren’t. Arnold Drake and Murray Boltinoff with Bruno Premiani created this team and set the groundwork for things to come. Grant Morrison with Richard Case understood that groundwork. Rachel Pollack with Linda Medley and Ted McKeever understood that too. No one else has understood that in the same way for decades until now.

I had the opportunity to talk to Rachel Pollack after my brief Twitter exchange with Gerard Way. “Wow! Times have changed.” she said. She went on to say that she’s a fan of Gerard Way’s Umbrella Academy. Who knew?

I’ll be honest, I was skeptical at first when I heard DC was bringing back Doom Patrol. Not because I doubted Gerard Way’s ability to write or craft a story, but was it going to be done right? Obviously right in this context is subjective. Like the feeling I get whenever I meet a Doctor Who fan and they tell me that their favorite Doctors aren’t either Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, or Peter Davison. Sure, they may like Doctor Who, they may have a great reason for liking the Doctor they like, but it’s not my Doctor Who.

When you’re a big fan of a work, your strong attachment to it tends to be linked to aspects of that work. For me with Doom Patrol, it’s the weirdness, it’s the absurdity, but it’s also the heart. It’s not just revealing a contradiction to defeat the Scissormen (thanks Glenn!), or stopping the men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. from exterminating eccentricity, but it’s Robotman risking life and mechanical limb to save Crazy Jane by going into her mind and riding with the Conductor to find her. It’s Robotman learning about Coagula and discovering more about himself through his initial bigotry to become a better man than he was before. It’s about heart, love, and acceptance. It’s about life and its power to take away from you and how sometimes it can feel like everything has been taken away, but sometimes you crawl from the wreckage, get back on your feet and slide in the wreckage and before you realize it you’re shining through the wreckage of your life.

Gerard Way gets Doom Patrol. It’s been decades since someone has gotten it quite like this. More than any other comic coming out this year from the big two, I am looking forward to this one the most. I’ll be buying multiple copies of issue #1, giving them to people who will take it, and spreading the good word. Doom Patrol means something to me. Maybe it’ll mean something to you too. And DC might have finally got it right again.

I’m looking forward to the ride. I’m thrilled that we’re being led by someone as talented as Gerard Way who understand this property so well and is a genuine fan of the series. And I’ll gladly follow Way’s run on Doom Patrol to the gates of hell, which in all likelihood is probably already on the team’s agenda. Maybe this will help finally get Rachel Pollack’s run reprinted too. Because honestly, who doesn’t love Coagula?