As many of you may know, last week was the release of Batgirl #45, the issue in which Barbara’s former roommate/good friend Alysia Yeoh gets married to her lover, Jo. The resulting wedding was the first time in mainstream comics that a transgender woman got married. Googling this will lead you to a slew of articles and blog posts covering the groundbreaking nature of this issue. How important is this event though, and will this have any impact on mainstream comics? I picked up a copy so I could try to figure that out.
Like many a comic book wedding before it, it’s a filler issue. It’s about Batgirl at this wedding. This is an important point. It’s about Batgirl. It’s not primarily about Alysia and Jo. They’re the B plot of the issue. With the way the wedding has been hyped this past week, the cover for this issue, and thinking back not too long ago to Northstar’s wedding in Astonishing X-Men #51, it’d be easy to see how one might think that Alysia and Jo would be in the A plot. So if you haven’t read it yet and that’s what you were anticipating, I hope I helped you to avoid going into it with that mindset.
The fact that they weren’t the A plot shouldn’t be a bad thing. Yes, it would be great for diversity in comics if they were. However, the book is still about Batgirl, and not Alysia. Batgirl #45 is a twenty-page story. Six of those pages feature Alysia, and she has six word balloons throughout the comic. Her partner, Jo, is featured on three of those pages and has one line of dialogue, which is “And I love you.” Batgirl has ten times the dialogue that Alysia has, and the story is mostly about Batgirl and her relationships with Luke Fox and Grayson with the wedding as a backdrop.
None of that takes away from the fact that Alysia Yeoh is a long overdue representation in comics, and that she had an important moment in her life that Barbara got to be a part of. Current trans representation in mainstream comics is nearly nonexistent outside of Alysia. We do need trans representation outside of the heroes themselves as part of having a world more reflective of our own, and Alysia has been a step towards that. It’s not ideal, but this is where we are.
I encourage everyone who wants to see more and better representation to pick up this book if they haven’t yet at their LCS. If it’s sold out, ask them about ordering more. If we can show that trans representation can help sell comics, we will get more of it. That’s just how it works.
At the end of the day, both DC and Marvel, and nearly every other comics publisher for that matter, is a business first and foremost. They may be willing to occasionally take a risk, but when all is said and done they need books that sell. We could have a discussion about how we don’t necessarily know some of the sales potential more trans representation could have over time, and how maybe expanding that quicker could lead to great things for the publishers and the readers, but if we don’t buy and support the offerings they’re already trying to give us, than they’ll just stop where they are and potentially take years to try again.
This does not mean you can’t also demand more and demand better. Social media alone isn’t going to necessarily bring about the kind of characters and story lines you want, but it does have power. Earlier in this Batgirl run, as I mentioned last week, the same team that worked on the first trans wedding in comics wrote an issue with a story and dialogue that was considered transphobic. It was public outcry through social media that got us an apology and changes in the reprints of that issue.
People and companies can learn and adapt to changing demands from their customers. By both buying comics with queer characters like Batgirl and Midnighter, and speaking up through social media and other outlets available about these issues and what can be improved upon, we can assure a bright future for mainstream queer comics.