I had other ideas of things I’d write about this week. I’ve been reading a lot of Jon Sable lately, so I was thinking of writing about that. That might be next week’s column. It was also Pride this past weekend, so I decided on a light piece on Pride with some comic and graphic novel recommendations. I’m still gonna recommend some stuff to you, but this piece isn’t going to be as light as I originally attended.
I attended as a spectator down Christopher Street across the street from the Stonewall Inn. The streets were packed and everyone seemed to be in the right mindset. One of the first groups to walk was the Pulse Nightclub remembrance from G.A.G., Gays Against Guns. They all dressed in white representing one of the forty-nine who were killed by that senseless shooting. This was very powerful both last year and this weekend and I’m sure will be a fixture of Pride for many years to come if not ‘til the very end.
As the parade continued I was able to work my way to a better view. Many floats went by packed with people from all sorts of groups. From pro-LGBT religious groups to Target and Citibank. I did quite enjoy that when the Citibank float was passing by my view that Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” was blasting from said float. The humor was not lost on me. And yes, Citibank, It is too late to say sorry for those Thank You Points I got screwed out of when you changed your policy.
Something happened during the parade that I should have expected, but didn’t.
There was a protest. And it happened just about right in front of me with a few people in the way to somewhat obscure it. At first we all had no idea what the protest was for. No one around me knew if this was an anti-LGBT protest, which was what many of us thought at first, or if it was a far-left protest… which is what it ended up being.
There were twelve protesters. They had an anti-police brutality/anti-corporation banner. Something about no justice, no pride. They intentionally stopped the parade in front of Stonewall and in front of the NYPD band.
The crowd was all over the place. Someone close by was chanting black lives matter, which is important but was confusing while we were still figuring out what the protesters were there for, which was not Black Lives Matter. Most of the protesters seemed to white men or at least white passing. Some of the crowd started chanting for the police to remove the protesters after ten or so minutes. Eventually the police did so to some cheers and some confusion. It was a peaceful process.
Despite this, it still left me feeling odd and conflicted. On the one hand a lot of people were standing around waiting and not quite understanding what was happening, many of the protesters appeared to be on the more privileged end of queer spectrum, and the parade itself is already an act of defiance with a lot of messages regarding resistance and proper representation of the entire queer spectrum. On the other hand, protest is a fundamental right. Telling anyone where and when protest is appropriate is antithetical to the entire process. It is a slippery slope and far too important a right to risk restriction, whether you agree with the protest or not. It was also handled so peacefully that having any criticism of it just seems a bit out of place.
Despite the fact that this was a nationally televised event, I was still nervous at what the police may do and wonder what could have been if it wasn’t nationally televised. And it was all the more troubling that this was right by Stonewall.
I don’t know how I feel about everything that happened there other than conflicted. I don’t have the answers, but it’s the kind of incident we should be discussing together.
I stayed and watched the parade for another a couple of hours before heading out. Afterwards, I swung past Carmine Street Comics, which had some queer comics creators promoting their work. It was a pretty queer day all around.
This year was an important year for Pride, just as every year before it and every year after that it happens. Some places across the world didn’t have as successful a Pride as we had this year and it’s important to know and remember that.
There are so many more creators like them out there too. Queer comics is a whole world in among itself and they produce some of the most thought provoking and forward-thinking comics you will ever read.
I hope you had a chance to celebrate Pride this month, and I hope you keep celebrating by reading the works of those creators and a whole lot more.
This past week was quite busy. President Trump pushed back against a “so-called” judge, Melissa McCarthy nailed Sean Spicer on SNL, the Patriots pulled off a record-breaking upset that would have never happened if they were playing the Giants, and it was announced that Aspen Comics would be creating new comic with Scott Lobdell writing a black trans woman titled No World. As much as I’d like to hit on all of these topics, I’m going to focus on No World.
So let’s get into it. Aspen’s new comic is a team book. It will have characters from Soulfire, Executive Assistant, Dellec, as well as some new characters. Lobdell described one of the new characters as “Former NFL. 6’5. 250lbs. She’s here. She’s trans. She’s gonna kick evil’s ass!” You can see that Tweet here. We still don’t have a name or much of a background to this character outside of her being a former NFL player, but we have some information we can start examining.
Let’s start with former NFL player bit. When we’re dealing with a trans character and one of the only bits of information we get on them is about something from before they came out, that raises a few red flags. There’s a concern that when cis writers tackle trans characters, that there is an unnecessary focus on transitioning. Take a look at Alters where the character of Chalice is in the process of transitioning and we see her as her Charlie persona about as much as we see her as Chalice. If you look at trans writers like Rachel Pollack and Mags Visaggio, we see kick ass trans women without ever having to see them prior to their transition, hearing them go by their dead name or even knowing about it, and so forth. Unfortunately with her being a former NFL player we are likely here this character’s dead name multiple times. Sometimes cis writers do a good job with this like when Gail Simone had Alysia Yeoh come out as trans, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t approach this with some caution.
Moving on to her being 6’5 and 250 lbs, Scott follows that up using the hashtags #gnc, short for gender nonconforming, and #nonbinary. There is also an image of her that Scott shared with the line “passing is for footballs.” These elements are a bit more interesting. Trans characters in comics are mostly white and mostly attempt to pass. Trans characters of color, particularly black trans women, have been very rarely seen in comics and are also easily of the most victimized members of the queer community. This type of representation is sorely needed.
It’s also important to note that some people who consider themselves gender nonconforming or nonbinary may be okay with she/her/herself as well as they/them/theirself, so that could end up being just fine.
Scott Lobdell is no stranger to creating a trans character. He created Suzie Su for Red Hood and the Outlaws. This particular trans character was a very unflattering portrayal, a villain, and someone who was more than willing to murder children to get what she wants. It’s worth noting this was his only other portrayal of a trans character in comics that has made it into print and should at very least cause many to wait and see how No World plays out before praising or condemning this representation.
Unlike comics like Alters, No World has no trans representation in its creative team, which seems to be mostly straight cis white men. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but when tackling a character like this one it’s not necessarily comforting either.
Scott has at least stated on February 3rd that he’s consulting with some members of the trans community. You can see that Tweet here. He talks of a few trans friends that helped him as well, including Shakina who plays Lola on Difficult People. One thing you may notice following that link, at least at the time I wrote this, is that Scott Lobdell has yet to responded to Mags Visaggio’s questions and offering to consult with Scott on this character.
For the most part, I’m concerned about how this comic will play out. While there is evidence of talking with some trans women, there isn’t any evidence of Scott Lobdell consulting with people who are gender nonconforming or nonbinary. It seems this will also be a story that involves dealing with the characters life pre-transition. It’s also very possible that this character will not even be featured heavily in this series; it’s a team book.
I do hope that Scott will use his position in comics to help trans creators here on out. For example, Neil Gaiman wrote a trans character in The Sandman which helped get Rachel Pollack and Caitlin R. Kiernan noticed by DC Comics, which in turn lead to them working for thay company for years. While the character has been reexamined and there is valid criticism, by helping trans creators get noticed it shows that Neil genuinely cares about the trans community. Paul Jenkins on Alters got Tamra Bonvillain work on that title.
No matter how this particular title develops, I hope Scott Lobdell’s interest in the trans community goes beyond No World and that we’ll see him help lift up this group of comics creators that are too often overlooked.
This past week has been an interesting one for me as far as comics are considered. I finally finished Tom King’s twelve issue run on The Vision – easily one of my favorite comics that Marvel has put out in a long time, and that’s something I never thought I’d say about a comic starring The Vision. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor. A friend of mine wrote this about it a while back if you’d like to read up on it more first.
I finally started reading Jeff Lemire’s Trillium after putting that off for years. It’s a great read.
I also went through some of my piles of comics here and rediscovered my copy of Vertigo Jams. This comic, which was put out by Vertigo back in 1993, featured original eight page comics from the different creative teams; something I hope DC’s Young Animal line and others will do down the line. It really was a fun read.
Since this came out, Vertigo Jams included an eight pager from Rachel Pollack for Doom Patrol. I had honestly completely forgotten about this story and it was really exciting for me to read it again. It’s a cute little story about Dorothy accidentally releasing ghosts from their HQ and going out on the town with the S.R.S. to find them and bring them back. We get cameos from Niles Caulder, Robotman, and it ends with two queer women going home with each other after a date. What more could anyone ask for?
Speaking of Rachel Pollack, if you have an incredibly keen eye and a good memory, you may have noticed the Rachel Pollack reference in Gerard Way and Nick Derington’s Doom Patrol #2. In that issue, the Niles Caulder one page strip involves Niles in a hot air balloon passing a mountain with his face on it. Those of you familiar with Rachel’s run will notice that imagery of Niles’ face in a mountain running through issues #65 and #66 as part of the Sliding Through the Wreckage arc. If you think that comparison is a bit of a stretch, Gerard Way said it was a reference to Rachel’s run here.
While Gerard Way has been referencing Rachel Pollack’s run in the new Doom Patrol, DC has still not announced any plans to reprint her run. Please, if you are reading this, upset about this fact like I am, and are in comics journalism or know someone who is I’m asking you consider writing about this as well.
Her run on Doom Patrol is important in queer history and it’s important to get the works of incredibly talented people like Linda Medley and Ted McKeever, two artists that inarguably helped shape Rachel’s run, out there to more people as well. If you want to write about this yourself and don’t know where to start, reach out to me via the comments section and I will help you.
My final anecdote from last week for me in comics started Friday night getting drinks with fellow ComicMix columnist Martha Thomases. We discussed the state of the nation, what we have to do going forward under a Trump presidency, and Paul Jenkins. Martha is a staunch supporter of both the liberal wing of the Democratic party and of Paul Jenkins. She recently read Alters #2 and wanted me to read it to get my opinion to discuss it.
Spoilers ahead for Alters #2.
After more drinks than I care to confide to you, we went back to Martha’s so I could read her copy of Alters #2 and talk about it. The beginning for me was a little rocky. The issue opens with Chalice being interrogated by other Alters asking her probing questions including questions about the current medication she’s on and her DNA. It was a scene lacking in subtlety about Chalice’s transness and the sort of medical questions that could out her.
Shortly thereafter we have a sequence where Chalice is out of her superhero costume and at her home dressed as Charlie. She then has a verbal confrontation with her father that’s written in a way where it’s hard to tell if she’s talking about being an Alter, being trans, or both. That was the point of the scene, but it just didn’t feel entirely right to me. The issue wraps up with a physical confrontation that Chalice has with Matter Man in which Matter Man seems to go out of his way to use insults directed at Chalice’s femininity by both calling her a bitch and saying she punches like a girl. Perhaps if Matter Man only said one or the other it wouldn’t have stood out to me, but both was too much.
One thing I really appreciated was at the end of this issue they include a letter from Paul. The letter involved both a discussion with one of the trans people he has consulted with on writing this comic. Additionally, Paul Jenkins goes on to talk about the importance of respecting people’s gender identity and how dangerous, even lethal, it is to misgender someone. While I do have issues with the story in Alters so far, the second installment is showing more effort being put into raising awareness of issues affecting the trans community by having this letter at the end.
This led to a discussion with Martha on what it means to be an ally and a broader discussion on survival during the Trump years. Martha makes a point by saying that people like Paul Jenkins, someone who is sincerely trying to do a positive representation, is not the enemy and, of course, I agree wholeheartedly.
While I do understand the argument that some people might make about people how people need to avoid attacking those who are ignorant for using the wrong terminology, the flip side to that is that by framing the issue in that way we are continuing to look at everything through a privileged lens. Instead of catering to those more privileged in these situations we need to teach those more privileged that sometimes you have to sit down and listen instead of getting defensive or worse.
What Paul Jenkins has done, from what I can see based on Alters #2, is sit down and listen to some extent. He’s heard the criticism out there and is trying to take positive steps in the right direction. And while I still have my reservations, it’s still a great thing to see in a comic creator and I hope that Paul will be able to continue moving Alters down a positive path, including making a change in issue one for the trade to remove Chalice’s self misgendering referring to herself as the middle brother. Middle sibling or child works just as well.
Perhaps speaking to someone like Rachel Pollack, who has created a trans superhero for a team book before, could also be beneficial for someone like Paul. She certainly understands the topic on a level not many other people do and has written some profoundly moving moments with Coagula.
This week’s column marks my one-year anniversary of doing this at ComicMix. Though I’m tempted to do a year in review, this past weekend was New York Comic Con so that idea is going to have to be put on hold for at least a week.
I started Thursday morning by getting to the Javits Center around 9:00 am. After going through a few different lines, getting my bag checked, getting my badge scanned, and waiting on another couple of lines, I was in by about 10:15 am. I hit the show floor and did the rounds. At 11:00 am I went to my first panel.
Body of Evidence: How We See Ourselves in Comics had panelists ranging from librarians, comic creators, a performer and my friend David Baxter, as well as a physician discussing healthy body image in comics as well as touching on disabled representation. Most of the disabled representation revolved around the character of Oracle and a point that fellow ComicMix columnist Martha Thomases has made with me before: while it’s great to have disabled representation, why is it that a woman isn’t able to heal from her exploitive attack in a world where Batman breaks his back and recovers?
While the panel had passionate panelists making interesting points, the panelists were noticeably cis, able bodied, and white or white-passing (David is half Native American). That doesn’t take away from the points they were making, but seeing people of color, trans, and disabled people share their experiences would have been helpful and enlightening. Especially at a convention that ejected Jay Justice, a queer disabled person of color, from a panel because they couldn’t accommodate the scooter she needs to get around.
That panel was far from the only one that suffered from some lack of diversity. Along with fellow ComicMix columnist Molly Jackson, I attended the Wonder Woman 75 panel on Friday. The panel was majority male, and almost exclusively white with the exception of the legendary Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, who frustratingly talked the least during the panel. And despite Greg Rucka being on the panel, Wonder Woman being confirmed as queer was never mentioned. Perhaps it would have been during a Q&A, but the panel ended early without one. As one of I’m sure many queer people in attendance, saying that was disappointing would be an understatement. You’d think with Wonder Woman being on the cover of this year’s NYCC program for NYCC would have provided some motivation.
That night while waiting in line for another event, I was discussing the Wonder Woman 75 panel with a friend when two people on the line in front of me interjected. They told me how they attended the Queer Culture: LGBT Presence in Pop Culture panel and to their surprise the panel was exclusively cis white men, or at very least white-passing. Beyond that they discussed how that was a similar experience they had at other panels.
Friday was also the day of the DC’s Young Animal panel, and if you’ve been reading my column over the past year you could probably guess that was on the top of my list of panels to attend. The panelists included creators Gerard Way (Doom Patrol, Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye), Nick Derington (Doom Patrol), Jody Houser (Mother Panic), and Marley Zarcone (Shade, the Changing Girl). This particular panel was packed and had a very enthusiastic crowd. Fans of Gerard Way hung onto his every word as he talked about how the Young Animal imprint came to be and gave previews of the books to come. They even handed out a cassette (you read that right) with a new song of his. The highlight for me was during the Q&A when someone asked about queer representation and Gerard discussed how he has been talking with Rachel Pollack about her run and Coagula in particular and bringing her back. When he had mentioned how Coagula was a trans superhero the packed panel room cheered. This goes to show how starved people are for trans representation and further pushes the point I and others have been making for some time now; reprint Rachel Pollack’s run on Doom Patrol.
While I did enjoy the DC’s Young Animal panel quite a bit, it was again an all cis white panel. For this particular panel, similar to the Wonder Woman panel, it was because of the creators that were available or asked. The only way to have more diverse panels is to have more diverse creators.
And they shouldn’t be limited to diversity specific panels. The goal of those panels is to raise awareness. The idea is for panels on diversity to be a starting point of a conversation, not the ending point. We can see that with panels like Marvel: 50 Years of Black Panther featuring different creative minds behind the character, as well as the panel on Luke Cage. When you have people of color working on comics, they get to be on the panels to discuss them. We desperately need more of that not just because it’s right, but to ensure a future for comics.
The future of comics does not encompass the same demographics as before. Women, people of color, queer people, disabled people, and people that cover more than one or all of the above are reading comics. They want representation, and they want a seat at the table. That’s not to say they never read comics before, but many didn’t because they didn’t see people that looked like them or they didn’t tell stories that were in any way relatable. Straight cis white guy with superpowers trying to get the girl doesn’t really speak directly to the experiences of many of the groups I mentioned even in metaphor. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to in recent years who finally got into comics through small publishers and webcomics finally representing people like them because they honestly didn’t believe comics as a medium represented them.
Before I left NYCC on Saturday I got to be a guest at the Geeks OUT! Booth selling copies of my new comic as well as signing copies of their anthology I had been in last year. In the couple of hours I was at the booth, people of all different backgrounds came over and gushed over the items they were selling, like a t-shirt saying “Strong Female Character.” Many also stopped to take a preferred pronoun sticker from the table. They’d ask if they were free, and many asked if it would be okay to take an extra one for a friend. People were thrilled that a group like Geeks OUT! Was considerate enough to create stickers like these for everyone.
As comics fandom is becoming more mainstream and more diverse, comics need to keep up with these changes. NYCC 2016 is a good example of some efforts to keep up with those changes… but not getting there quite yet.
Last week DC Comics and IDW announced will join together to publish a 144 page graphic novel titled Love Is Love to raise money for Equality Florida to help the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, FL on June 12th. This groundbreaking venture between two comic book publishers and a nonprofit was organized by writer Marc Andreyko and will be retailing for $9.99.
Let’s let that one sink in. This is an important moment in comics history. Of all the causes over the years that comics have tried to benefit, this is the first time that mainstream comics publishers have stepped up to benefit members of the LGBT community in need. This is also the second time an anthology has come out to benefit victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting as Margins Publishing put out two issues of a digital zine titled Our Hearts Still Beat where 100% of the proceeds were donated to The Center in Orlando to directly benefit the queer community.
It fills me with pride that comic publishers are working to benefit the queer community. I’m proud of all the creators that have gotten involved and have given their time and talent to help others and I’m thrilled that mainstream comics is standing by the queer community. Despite all the positives and how proud we should be of DC Comics and IDW for standing with victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, we need to demand more for the queer community and the other less privileged and underrepresented groups.
Though DC Comics is helping with Love Is Love, they haven’t had a trans writer pen a story for them in fifteen years. Of all the work that trans writers have done for DC, only Caitlin R. Kiernan has had any of her work collected, and it was only a fraction of her work on The Dreaming that she shares with other writers in the collection.
While DC Comics is helping support queer people of color who were disproportionately affected by the Pulse Nightclub shooting, DC has very few queer people of color working for them in a creative capacity. Phil Jimenez has done great work at DC and has been given opportunities to work with writers like Grant Morrison and on important titles like Infinite Crisis. Ivan Velez, Jr. penned stories at DC for some time as well, but not in the past decade. Beyond that, few have had similar opportunities.
Women creators are still not being represented in comics at DC as well as they were before the New 52. For the New 52, Gail Simone was one of the only women writing stories at first. Currently, the only all women creative team is for Batgirl and The Birds of Prey. All male creative teams are the overwhelming majority.
DC Comics still has an Eddie Berganza problem. While talk of his repeated sexual harassment of employees and freelancers has died down, he still holds the position of group editor of the Superman family books. They have yet to hire a woman to work on that editorial team since he took that position back after stepping down as executive editor.
They recently announced the people selected for their Writer’s Talent Workshop. For the purposes of full disclosure I did apply and was rejected. I was happy to see that the majority of the people selected were not straight cis white men, and that people of color including a Native American man were selected. That’s really great and that should be applauded. It was discouraging to see that out of the eight selected, only two were women and they were selected as a pair and all the men are solo writers. At a time when women in comics in particular are a focus of discussion to see a selection like this does come off as tone deaf.
Newsarama went on to say “Curiously, DC describes this group as “aspiring” writers in their press release, despite each have significant credentials inside and outside of comic books – including some which have done work for DC previously.” Using the term aspiring is certainly misleading when you have award winning writers and people working in the TV biz being selected. It seems like the high caliber of talent selected could have easily been found by traditional methods of editors scouting out talent. Women and people of color shouldn’t have to be incredibly talented award winners in their field to be extended an opportunity to take a class to one day possibly write for DC Comics (or write for them again). What makes this tone deaf is it comes off like these talents need DC Comics. The exact opposite is true.
That’s not to say DC Comics hasn’t done some great things and taken some risks recently beyond Love Is Love. Openly queer creator Steve Orlando was able to write a solo Midnighter series, the first openly gay mainstream solo superhero comic, for 12 issues. Though it was cancelled due to low sales, DC has taken another risk by bringing the comic back as Midnighter and Apollo which will be the first mainstream comic about a gay superhero couple. James Tynion IV, another openly queer creator, is writing Detective Comics, one of the biggest titles at DC Comics, with the openly gay Batwoman as an important character in the cast. Tamra Bonvillain, an openly trans colorist and rising star in comics, is on the reboot of Doom Patrol with heavy hitters like Gerard Way and Todd Klein. And Harley Quinn, an openly queer anti-hero, was the highest selling comic in the month of August selling upwards of 400,000 copies, written by the team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner with Chad Hardin on art. Dan Didio has even been cited by creators like Gail Simone as caring about LGBT issues, and all of this is powerful evidence that is the case.
Love Is Love is a great project and I’m proud of everyone involved and DC Comics as well as IDW stepping up and taking a stand here when it would have been much easier to not bother. And I really do love DC Comics. I love quite a lot of their properties, they have some great people that have worked for them in the past and currently, and they’ve worked on some great progressive things like Milestone Comics. That doesn’t mean more can’t be done, and it should be done.
There needs to be more intersectionality. We need more queer people of color and women of color. We need DC to use these Milestone characters and to reprint and make available the original runs. We need the works of Rachel Pollack, Maddie Blaustein and Caitlin R. Kiernan reprinted and trans writers new and old to be brought in. And we need less privileged people to rise through the ranks and be decision makers to help secure a future for comics in an ever changing market.
I can support DC Comics and praise the good work they do while also wanting more and wanting better. I love DC Comics, but… it’s complicated.
Last week I interviewed Rachel Pollack in this space. In my introduction I mentioned that only two trans women have written for DC before. That’s somewhat true, and somewhat not true. It would be true to say that only one trans woman had written for DC, and it would also be true to say that number is three. Rachel Pollack is the only one who has written for DC proper. The late Maddie Blaustein wrote for Milestone Comics, for which DC had (and has) the publishing and distribution rights. Rachel had created a trans character for comics. Today, I’d like to talk about Caitlin R. Kiernan.
In 1996, prior to becoming an accomplished and award-winning author, Caitlin R. Kiernan was an award-nominated author of short stories shopping around a novel. She was fronting a band called Death’s Little Sister, in reference to the character Delirium from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. In that year of 1996 she would be approached by the very same Neil Gaiman to write for The Dreaming, a Sandman spinoff, for DC’s Vertigo imprint. Caitlin R. Kiernan would go on to say yes, becoming the second and last trans woman to write for the Vertigo imprint.
For those of you keeping track at home, that means Neil Gaiman has played a crucial role in hiring 100% of the trans writing talent that has freelanced at Vertigo. If we add Maddie Blaustein to the mix, that’s still a sizeable 66.6%. Either way, not too shabby.
I don’t mean any of that to sound like a knock against Neil either. Quite the opposite. It’s great knowing that trans and queer representation was important to Neil at a time where the majority of Americans felt that it wasn’t even okay that we exist at all. It makes me more sympathetic towards his handling of the character of Wanda in Sandman as well considering the time that story had come out. You can see some of what Neil has to say on Wanda towards the end of this fairly recent article here.
Now back to Caitlin R. Kiernan, she would go on to write thirty-five issues, over half of The Dreaming. Working with people at Vertigo including Neil himself, she crafted stories in the dreaming with many characters we already know, like the Corinthian, as well as her own creations like Echo.
On earth Echo had been a male transvestite, but upon entering the dreaming she became a woman. Unlike Rachel Pollack’s Coagula and Maddie Blaustein’s Marisa Rahm, Echo isn’t trans in the same way. It’s through a sort of magic that Echo goes from being a male transvestite to becoming a woman in The Dreaming. That’s not to diminish the importance of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s contributions to comics or to imply that it makes Echo’s stories inherently less important than Coagula’s or Marisa Rahm’s, but Echo’s story and her journey as a character is certainly different, and it’s a story that does fit well into The Dreaming.
After The Dreaming ended with issue #60, Caitlin R. Kiernan would leave comics for the next decade before returning to the medium at Dark Horse, most notably with Alabaster: Wolves. Unlike Kiernan’s peers at DC Comics, she’s had six of her issues of The Dreaming collected in The Dreaming: Through The Gates of Horn & Ivory. This of course is just a fraction of her work on the title, and three of the issues in the collection are written by other writers. Any readers getting a chance to meet Echo in this collection will be disappointed to find that the rest of her journey remains uncollected.
While yes, many other comics at DC have not been collected (I’m still waiting for volume three of John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake’s The Spectre) the fact that the only three trans women that have written at one DC imprint or another have had nearly zero success at getting their comics collected and in print beyond their initial release is troubling.
If DC Comics is going to talk about the importance of diversity, push characters like Supergirl, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Midnighter, and the new Superman, then I see no reason why they wouldn’t want to celebrate how they were ahead of the curve decades ago. They’ve solely been working up to this by reprinting Tony Isabella’s Black Lightning, but reprinting the works of Rachel Pollack, Maddie Blaustein, and Caitlin R. Kiernan is an important part of that. Reprinting Milestone Comics instead of sitting on them is important.
20That’s not to say this is just a DC Comics problem. Trans representation at other comics publishers is lacking as well. We’ve seen Sophie Campbell and Tamra Bonvillain getting more recognition for their contributions to comics, and that’s a step in the right direction. We’re seeing Mags Visaggio becoming a rising star with her comic Kim and Kim over at Black Mask Studios. However, we are not seeing enough trans and queer representation overall.
Hopefully we’ll see more trans writers telling their stories in comics. Not only people like Caitlin R. Kiernan or Rachel Pollack, but people like Sophie Campbell who have gotten greater name recognition as of late, rising stars like Mags Visaggio, Lawrence Gullo and Fyodor Pavlov, and the countless others out there around the world. Some of whom I’ve heard of and some I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing their work yet.
And maybe Marvel could hire one of them to write a story… as they’ve yet to do.
We geeks are a passionate group. Not just for the stories we love, but in most aspects of our entire existence. We look for ways to share our passion, like joining fan groups. And very often, we use our passion for causes that need our help. Everyday geeks champion causes around the world, whether it’s a fundraising event or just raising awareness for a comic creator in need.
Honestly, when I think about geek causes, I immediately think Captain Planet. Yes, I know that doesn’t make the most sense, but it is the truth. As a kid, I loved watching Captain Planet help out a group of diverse teenagers protect Mother Earth. And travel the globe without parental supervision. As a kid, I loved the idea of no parental supervision. Each episode gave a call to action based on that lesson of the week. Don’t litter, teach your parents to recycle, plant a tree. Simple but effective as a kid. But with those weekly lessons of helping others, along with my wonderful Girl Scouts experience, I learned a lot about giving back.
As an adult I quickly embraced the need for these events, throughout all the parts of my life. The best ones are always the geeky events, where my love for a TV show, comics, or any franchise can be shared while helping others. Nowadays we see geeky causes popping up frequently. Blood drives at SDCC, celebrities auctioning off set visits and trips to premieres, Browncoats Global Can’t Stop The Serenity fundraisers, 501st Legion raising for a variety of causes; these are just a few examples but there are so many more of varying size. Every group can find a charity group to support, a member to help. Or you can turn to the thoroughly geeky (but official) groups like Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the Hero Initiative.
A lot of my pieces include a call to action within them. Frankly, you would be hard pressed to find a week where a ComicMix columnist doesn’t have a call to action. Even yesterday, columnist Joe Corallo shared a call to action about supporting comics writer Rachel Pollack. But you don’t need to wait for a call to action to make a difference.
Since you are reading this, you are obviously a passionate geek. (Or a family member of mine.) And while I said you don’t need a call to action, I’m going to give you one anyway to get you started. So your call to action is to go out and find your cause. If you don’t like those that I mentioned above, ask your friends, your local comic shop, the Internet. Check with your favorite fan pages. Don’t just look for opportunities to give money, look for chances to make a difference. Use all that bubbling passion for geekdom towards something more.
(The ComicMix staff would like to congratulate Molly on her awesome conquest of the EtherTrolls!)
Over the past year I have been working on raising awareness of Rachel Pollack’s run on Doom Patrol. She’s not only one of two trans women to ever write at DC Comics, she’s also the only woman to write Doom Patrol.
When I was given a slot here at ComicMix to be a weekly columnist, I used my second column to talk about Coagula. Once DC Comics announced its plans to launch the Young Animal imprint helmed by Gerard Way and how Doom Patrol would be the flagship title, I wrote about my excitement and made sure to discuss Rachel Pollack’s contributions again. Months later I took to Geeks OUT to praise the importance of Rachel’s run to queer comics history. Most recently, I wrote up a piece last week on how Rachel Pollack has been forgotten by the comics industry at [insertgeekhere].
After a year of writing pieces on the subject, I finally got the chance to interview Rachel Pollack this past Saturday on her career in comics. Here is the transcript of that interview.
Joe: What got you into reading comics and what stood out about Doom Patrol?
Rachel: Well first I’ve read comics since I was a kid. So I’ve been reading comics all life, which is a very long time now! I’ve always loved comics. There have been these periods where I would grow out of it so to speak and then the comics would get better and I’d come back to it you know? And then with Doom Patrol I never read the original, and I forget how I came to read Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. I really don’t remember exactly how I came to read that except that it wasn’t Vertigo yet but it was associated with Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman which started before Vertigo so I was aware of it as part of that group. When I read it I was completely knocked out by it. I loved it. This is so incredible. A work of genius. And that’s how I came to read Doom Patrol.
Joe: You had gotten started on Doom Patrol after Grant was off the book. How did that come to be?
Rachel – What happened was I went to a party with people from DC with my friend Neil Gaiman and he introduced me to Stuart Moore. I mentioned my appreciation for Doom Patrol to Stuart and he said Tom Peyer is here at the party I should talk to him. So I told Tom I love Doom Patrol. It was the only ongoing superhero comic I was interested in writing at the time, if it was ever available. Tom told me Grant is actually leaving so why don’t I do a sample script and send it to him. And so I did that. He liked it enough to hire me.
Then I did that prank where I sent a letter to the letters column of Doom Patrol. I had to wait ages for Tom to get around to reading it. I wrote in this voice as a young fan. It read something like, “Dear Mr. Peyer, Doom Patrol is great! Grant Morrison is the most fabulous writer in the world. He’s a super genius! If he ever dies or gets sick can I write it?” And Tom finally reads it and calls me and tells me he loves it and to write more of these. Then in Grant’s last issue we’ll announce that you’ve gotten the job. So I wrote more letters and in the second to last one I wrote, ”I really wanna write Doom Patrol! I’m getting kinda angry here! I have friends. Don’t think I’m just a kid. You wouldn’t wanna have your head shoved in the toilet would you? Or sugar in your gas tank.” And then in the last issue of Grant’s run I wrote, “Gee Mr. Peyer I’m really really sorry about that! I got kinda carried away. The thing is I already told my mom I would be writing it and she told all her friends already. And so then Tom responded with, “Well what can I do? She told her mom. I have no choice! Rachel Pollack is the new writer of Doom Patrol!”
In that same issue I wrote this essay praising Grant Morrison in my serious writer voice. It just seemed to me it was so obvious that it was a joke and yet all of these people thought it was real! Some were really angry thinking I got this job just by writing letters. Others thought if they wrote letters they could write a comic. I was shocked that people could be so silly, you know?
Then I went to some other party at DC and I met this group of people. One was from the New Yorker Magazine and one was from the Village Voice and they asked you didn’t get the job from writing letters? I was like oh my God you people are nuts! So if you never heard that story that’s how the letters came to be.
Joe: When you started writing on Doom Patrol Tom was still editor, Richard Case was still doing layout work, and Stan Woch was still on the book as well. So basically you were one of the only new elements to the book. How was stepping into the role of writer with so much of the prior team on board at first and how did you start making this run of Doom Patrol your own?
Rachel: I was actually really thrilled that Richard Case was staying on for my first story arc. I love his art. I guess they were hoping that the transition would be smooth. I kind of did my first story as a homage to Grant’s beginnings. His first story was Crawling Through The Wreckage and I called mine Sliding Through The Wreckage. Tom had said to me Grant wouldn’t give any information. I think Grant wanted the series to end after he left. I’ve never had this confirmed but it was always my impression. Like how Russell T. Davies believed the BBC should let him kill off Doctor Who. But they didn’t.
So Grant wouldn’t give much information. The only information Tom had for me was that Robotman would be left and Dorothy, there had to be somebody in bandages (that’s what Tom wanted), and the Chief would be a head without a body. This turned out to be a Grant Morrison joke. Because Grant did this one off issue of a dream where the Chief lost his body and was a literal talking head, but I just went with it. I gather, like I said I never got the information from Grant, that he thought it was absurd. I thought it was hilarious. Since Tom said we need someone in bandages I introduced George and Marion, a couple in bandages. Then I introduced Kate Godwin but that was seven issues in. My first issue was 64 and issue 70 was when Kate Godwin appeared.
Joe: How did you go about creating Kate Godwin, a.k.a. Coagula?
Rachel: I was told that the current artist needed a break and I should do a one off story that could be done with a different artist. And I wasn’t pleased with the idea because I always tended to think in large story arcs. So I had to think of something and I came up with this ridiculous villain called Codpiece. And then somehow I just decided without even really thinking about it to introduce this transsexual lesbian superhero.
At the time I was involved in transgender activism and someone asked me if Kate Godwin was based on me and I said to answer the question, she’s based on a couple of friends of mine. But it wasn’t this big decision like I was trying to have this crusade. I just thought it was a cool thing to do.
The theme that had been emerging in my run was people having issues with their bodies and accepting their bodies. I always thought that was implied in Grant’s run. Dorothy was ugly, Cliff had a brain in a robot body, the Chief was in a wheelchair, Rebis was in bandages and so on and so on. I just made it more explicit. George and Marion were the first characters I had the idea of having accept themselves. And there’s a scene in that issue, the Codpiece issue, where George and Marion are heading to town and they ask Cliff and Dorothy if they want to come and they both make excuses. Dorothy says how can you stand it having people stare at you all the time? George and Marion say they have two choices: either they can go enjoy themselves and have people stare at them or they could stay home all the time and hide. George and Marion would rather go enjoy themselves and have people stare.
Codpiece himself was freaked out about people not liking him because he thought they would think he had a small penis which was all in his head. The first scene of that issue shows Codpiece’s origin. He’s in high school and he asks this girl why won’t you go out with me? She doesn’t want to say because you’re an asshole so she says because you’re too small. He’s wounded from this exchange and takes it as her implying he has a small penis. It becomes a fixation of his. And we see this over the years even though there is no evidence of this.
Then we get to present day where a prostitute says to him if you’re worried about being too small why don’t you wear something? He responds by developing this ridiculous codpiece costume. My idea was that it’s a parody of the ridiculous weapons in comics in the 50s and 60s. Like how Green Arrow would have a quiver on his back that would somehow contain boxing glove arrows and rocket arrows and so forth. So Codpiece had a boxing glove weapon and so on. Apparently some people thought I was attacking the fans. That I was somehow judging the fans as inadequate in the sense of their masculinity. Weird!
I guess it was in contrast to him and to some extent Dorothy and Cliff that I had this character come in, a transsexual lesbian. It was also because of a friend of mine, to go back to my earlier point. Her last name was Chelsea Godwin. She had asked me if she could be in the comic because she always wanted to be a superhero so I was sort of thinking of doing something for her. And Kate came from Kate Bornstein who was this brilliant transgender activist and performer. So I was paying homage to my friends.
Kate became a regular character. And a thoughtful character. A lot of people connected with her. Some people didn’t obviously. I didn’t get a lot of criticism that I was being too much of a trans activist, but rather that I was being too much of a feminist. That I was forcing feminism down their throats is what some people said. Some also said I was being too obscure. That was in the early issues. I was following Grant’s tendency to be obscure, but I perhaps took it a bit too far. As time went on there was more structure to the stories, but by that time we had already alienated some readers.
Joe: Do you have a favorite moment from working on Doom Patrol?
Rachel: Well I just really loved doing it. I loved telling these stories that were so outrageous. I loved the characters. We came up with some interesting ideas. I liked the character False Memory which was another single issue story.
There was one thing that happened shortly after we introduced Kate. We got a letter from a young transsexual reader from England who stated that she was wanting to kill herself, but never dared and because of the character of Kate Godwin she was able to come out to her friends. She was finally able to tell people because what we were doing made her finally feel that it was possible to have a life being herself. It was very powerful. We may have saved someone’s life. It was amazing. I wonder how that she’s doing now. It was a long time ago. Hopefully she continued to move in a positive direction.
Joe: You also worked on other books at DC including New Gods. Can you tell us about that?
Rachel: Yes! I was really thrilled to write it! Tom Peyer had gotten the job to write that, but he wasn’t that wild about it, so he asked if I’d be interested in writing with him and I jumped at it. Jack Kirby’s New Gods I think about in the same way as Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. It’s a work of genius, you know? Even more, New Gods to me was so powerfully from Jack Kirby’s subconscious. You know, Kirby is known for his art primarily and New Gods was known to be kind of primitive in the writing, but actually it was so powerful on this raw level that it didn’t matter that the dialogue would be clumsy at times. An example was there was one issue with this character who was a revelationist, Glorious Godfrey, and at one point Darkseid appears and Godfrey says to Darkseid that they have to manipulate these people and Darkseid says he likes him because he’s brash but that he’s the revelationist, but “I am the revelation, the force at the core of all things.” You could tell Kirby meant it. It wasn’t just some throwaway comic book line.
So I was thrilled to work on that comic. Then Tom dropped out and I was writing it by myself. I was never thrilled by the artist though. With Vertigo I would always have some say in the artist but with the mainstream DC they insist on having these artists and he just did tits and ass all the time. It infuriated me. I used to joke with people that I would have quit if they didn’t fire me!
What happened with the comic was I got a letter from the editor saying the current artist was fired. I was happy. I really didn’t like him because of how sexist he was in his style of art. Then the next letter I got was you and I are fired too!
Apparently John Byrne had decided to take over New Gods and got rid of everybody. The same way he took over Doom Patrol after me, after a gap. With Doom Patrol too he wanted to sweep away everything previous and go back to what he perceived to be the true Doom Patrol before Grant Morrison.
Joe: How did you end up leaving comics?
Rachel: Well to be honest my stuff wasn’t selling that well, so things got cancelled. Doom Patrol got cancelled because sales went down below a certain point and the irony is not that long after that sales point would have been great because the sale of comics at the time were declining so rapidly. But compared to the previous sales from Grant’s books and Sandman, they cancelled it.
And actually my editor on Doom Patrol at the time, Lou Stathis, had died which was very sad. He was a wonderful man, and he had been my champion at DC. In fact, he said to me one time they wanted to cancel me and he told them, “Look, if Vertigo isn’t going to publish Rachel Pollack then what’s the point?” He thought I was doing daring things that no one else was doing and that’s what Vertigo needed.
When he had died Axel Alonso had been the assistant editor on Doom Patrol and of course now he’s the editor-in-chief of Marvel. He wasn’t interested in the kind of things I was doing. He was interested in war comics and other genres and didn’t want to continue Doom Patrol at that time as sales were below a certain point.
I had done some other things at DC too. I did a one off issue of The Geek with Mike Allred that I enjoyed a lot. I also did a one off issue of Tomahawk. It was funny, they enjoyed taking these older characters from the 50s or so and doing revisionist stories with them. I was asked what would I like to do and out of my subconscious came Tomahawk. It was never my favorite as a kid. I had read it though, and obviously in my subconscious I wanted to do a story about the whole European attitude to the forest and the Native Americans as the original idea was be frightened by the forest and be frightened by the savages.
Then Stuart Moore started the science fiction imprint Helix and I got to do Time Breakers which I had a real great time doing. I had wanted to do a time paradox story for a long long time and this was my chance to do one. It was so much fun!
Joe: Once Time Breakers was over was that it with you and comics?
Rachel: I forget if it was Time Breakers or New Gods. The stuff I was doing didn’t sell well enough and they were no longer interested in ideas from me. It was unfortunate. I loved doing comics. Hopefully there will be more. Some possibilities for doing something in comics again. There are one or two things I’m currently interested in doing.
Joe – Your whole run of Doom Patrol is on Comixology and has been for a couple of years. How does that work for you?
Rachel: It doesn’t. I know nothing about it. No one told me about it. I really don’t know. I have no idea how that happens. I assume that if DC was making some money on it that they would be paying royalties no matter how tiny to myself and the artists.
Joe: So you haven’t received any money from Comixology?
Rachel: I never even received official acknowledgement that my comics are there. So I know nothing about it. I would have thought that somebody would say something.
Joe: Does DC own the rights to all of your comics work?
Rachel – No. Time Breakers is owned by me and Chris Weston. I guess that’s the only one. Every other one I worked on was with existing characters and properties. It’s the only creator owned comic I had published.
Joe: Any plans on possibly reprinting it?
Rachel – Well there are some possibilities. Nothing definite yet. Chris and I are hoping to get it reprinted. Chris took it on himself to get the rights reverted from DC which didn’t cost him anything, it was just time consuming. They had to give over some files and other things to us. They were very nice about it, was just a matter of getting them to do it.
Joe: Looking back on your Doom Patrol run would you say it was ahead of its time?
Rachel: I don’t know. It’s hard to say. Certainly afterwards Vertigo became less involved in superhero stuff. I do think it was too radical for some people. A lot of people found it hard to get. A lot of comics fans have this idea that the writer should disregard everything beforehand and write something new, which particularly male writers tend to do. Without really thinking about it I wanted to follow up on some of the things that Grant did.
Some people thought I wasn’t enough like Grant, and other people thought I was too much like Grant and then they’d say I wasn’t a good enough Grant. They thought I was imitating him, but I wasn’t good enough. In fact what I was doing was my own take on things, but inspired by what he did. A lot of people didn’t want that. They didn’t like the feminist positions I was taking. They felt it was weird for weird’s sake. Certainly Grant did the same thing. Invisibles was very weird. More so than Doom Patrol, but people still liked it. What can you do, you know?
Joe: Currently DC is relaunching Doom Patrol starting Wednesday September 14th with Gerard Way writing.
Rachel: Which is exciting! Just a few days!
Joe: You’re already a fan of Gerard Way?
Rachel: Yes. Without knowing it or remembering it was him at the time, I read Umbrella Academy. I really liked it a lot. Then you told me he would be writing Doom Patrol and planned on bringing back the weird, I reread the Umbrella Academy stories after that. I love them. I’m really excited he’s writing Doom Patrol. Then he got in touch with me which I was delighted about. E-mail exchanges. I really like his approach. Wanting to bring back the weird. Not just Grant in Doom Patrol, but all the British Invasion stuff, like Peter Milligan’s Shade The Changing Man. I’m excited that Young Animal will be like the old Vertigo. I read the eight-page preview of Doom Patrol too and it’s great fun!
Joe: You mentioned a couple of comics projects you’re interested in before. Are you looking to get back into comics?
Rachel: Yes, yes. There’s an anthology project that I hope to do one or two stories in that I’m very excited about. I was also approached by someone I know who is launching a line of comics for women readers and I was asked about contributing to it. I’m planning on doing a story for it that I had in mind for a long long time so I’m hoping that it’ll work out.
Joe: Do you feel your contributions to comics like Kate Godwin are important to this generation of queer comics fans?
Rachel: I can tell you for a fact that they are. I went to a literary festival in Winnipeg recently kind of expecting that no one would know who I was since I haven’t written stuff on that subject since the 90s in my more activist years. It turned out that when I got there that to my surprise I was kind of a hero and one of the main reasons was Doom Patrol. A lot of young people doing webcomics were there and they were all Doom Patrol fans. They were all thrilled that someone had done this back in the 90s.
I recently did an interview for a website highlighting trans women and they included an article they had about trans characters in superhero comics. They had some previous attempts at trans characters on the list, but stated if you’re looking for a good example of a trans superhero look no further than Rachel Pollack. I was very honored. A new generation has been finding my work and viewing me as a role model. It’s been very exciting for me.
Joe: Before we wrap things up, anything else you’d like to add?
Rachel – I hope people read the new Doom Patrol coming out. Gerard has some great plans for the book and if you’re a fan of my run there will definitely be surprises in store for you. You’re gonna love it!
Oh, and one thing that I’d like to end with is that I’m glad I got to do some stories based in mythology for Doom Patrol. They were some of my favorites. There was the Teiresias story which I loved doing. And the last story I got to do involved Kabbalah which was something I had been interested in for some time and it turned out to be the perfect ending to my run. It’s interesting that things happened that way. I loved that I got to have a 15th century Kabbalist be one of the characters! I’m sure many Rabbis would be horrified.
Joe: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me about your comics work, and I hope we get to see new comics work from you see!
Rachel – Thank you for reaching out! It was very enjoyable. I had a good time.
Last week, DC Comics released a free preview of its new Gerard Way-curated imprint, Young Animal, with the tagline “Comics For Dangerous Humans.” Outside of the credits listed on the inside front cover and a couple appearances of the new DC logo, it’s made to look very different from what DC puts out. This sixteen-page preview is digest sized, in black and white, and has no ads for anything other than Young Animal titles.
The wraparound cover feels is a silver age throwback. Older iterations of the Doom Patrol are prevalent, as are Cave Carson and Shade The Changing Girl. This reminded me how both Doom Patrol and Cave Carson were co-created by Bruno Premiani. Hopefully they’ll showcase this in the credits of the comics. Bruno Premiani is an underrated artist in the grand scheme of things and more people read comics today should know who he is.
DC has been doing a good job as of late crediting creators in their comics so it’s very possible we’ll see that. Shade The Changing Girl is based off of the original male counterpart created by Steve Ditko, adding to the decades long tradition in comics of rebranding Steve Ditko creations for more profit than Steve Ditko made.
Once you open this preview zine, the interior cover has a letter from Gerard Way. In it he discusses not only the contents of the preview zine but how different Young Animal is for him than his previous comics outings. He inspires confidence in the reader, as well as the importance of collaboration and how everyone working on a Young Animal comic believes in the power of these characters and the power of the stories they’re telling with them. For me, this letter did exactly what it was intended to do: inspire confidence in the reader and make me more excited to read these comics than I was beforehand.
After Gerard’s letter we get a character profile of the lead from each of the four Young Animal comics. This includes Shade The Changing Girl, Cave Carson, Space Case from Doom Patrol (presumably the lead), and Mother Panic. Like in the old DC Who’s Who (edited by ComicMix’s own Robert Greenberger), these profiles are full of information that helps flesh out the characters and make us care about them before the first Young Animal comic hits the shelves. Good call on Gerard Way’s part.
The rest of this preview is filled with black and white, unlettered pages from the four different titles. The art for these titles does look top notch.
It all ends with a page showcasing the creative teams on the titles. Sixteen people in total. I had mixed feelings here.
On the one hand we have seven out of sixteen creators being women and that’s great. One of which, Tamra Bonvillain who I previously mentioned is also working on Alters for AfterShock, is trans. I don’t know how much queer representation we have on the creative teams beyond her, but it’s something. It’s especially promising that she is on Doom Patrol, a series that has dealt with queerness to some extent with Grant Morrison and even more so with Rachel Pollack, but not so much since then.
To have just shy of half the creators being women and having three of the of the four titles focus on women is important. We also get to see more of Todd Klein’s lettering and who would ever say no to that?
On the other hand, there was something missing: people of color. Seeing the creative team being all white or at very least all white with a couple or so white-passing (I don’t have DNA samples or their ancestry.com logins) made it stand out even more to me that the characters in all the books are white or white presenting. Yes, Shade The Changing Girl is an alien, but she looks white.
In all my online poking around, the only character of color I could see in preview images was Joshua from Grant Morrison’s time on Doom Patrol. Rebis might count technically, but was either referred to as Larry, the original cis white male host of Negative Man, or Rebis. The character’s blackness was completely erased save for one scene early on.
This is not anything that I feel is malicious or even intentional. Clearly Young Animal is trying to tell interesting stories and attract new readers or bring back old readers who enjoyed the early comics at Vertigo. They want to appeal to women as well. However, not all women are white.
That sounds harsh, but there isn’t really another way I can put it. I think Gerard Way is doing something great with what we know so far of Young Animal. I enjoyed Umbrella Academy. Each one of these titles look interesting to me and I will be giving them all a shot. I even plan on buying extra copies of Doom Patrol #1 to give to people to get them into it too. And every single interview I’ve seen or statement I’ve read from Gerard Way fills me with confidence in this project at a time where I’m not easily made to feel confident about a mainstream comics endeavor.
That being said, I do hope we see more characters of color in the comics than we’ve been seeing in the previews so far, and that as Young Animal hopefully succeeds and grows that we’ll see more creators of color joining the fold adding more comics with characters of colors moving the plots forward.
I’m excited to get in on Young Animal at the ground floor and I hope many others out there are as well.
Of course I always like seeing more queer representation too. Especially for titles like Doom Patrol. I heard a rumor that Rachel Pollack still has more Doom Patrol stories to tell and that this time she’ll get the recognition she deserves.
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.
Gerard 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?