The last year has brought about something of a sea change for members of the trans and gender nonconforming (GNC) community, and today’s increasing examples of positive media representation will play a crucial role in making young people comfortable in their skins and with their identities. Comics have been progressively improving their genderqueer rep over the past few years. That’s a great thing for the medium; trans and GNC kids have a myriad of narratives that escape the tropes of teen fiction. Here’s some of the best GNC characters in new and recent comics.
Lumberjanes, by Noelle Stevenson and Brooke A. Allen
Lumberjanes has an incredibly diverse cast, and is a fantastic read even before it earns its place on this list. (There are three eyed magic foxes!) Then came issue #17, in which the cool-headed logician Jo was revealed to be a transgender girl. Not only was the reveal handled in a really cool, downplayed way, the series has continued to treat her well as a character. This issues won’t hit the collected trade editions until late this year, but the entire series is worthwhile; Primary writers Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Shannon Watters aim for an all-ages audience, with complimenting art by a host of artists (most regularly Brooke A. Allen), making it a great bet for readers young and old.
Runaways, by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona
It may be an older series, but it would be impossible to talk about transfeminine comics without mentioning the book that opened the doorway for mainstream trans characters. Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona introduce Xavin, a genderfluid Skrull who also happens to be regular cast member Karolina Dean’s live in gal pal. She’s also technically a space-faring warrior princess, so if gay-trans-space royalty is your thing (and we all know it is), you need to check this one out. Marvel recently recollected the complete series in four compendiums for easy reading.
Shutter, by Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca
Shutter is about a girl’s quest to discover who she really is, dealing with themes of family and the hard choice of identity versus obligation. Throughout, readers see glimpses of main character Kate Kristopher through the eyes of her childhood friend Alain, who happens to be transgender. When a Busytown Mysteries assassin tries to kill her, he fails in a hilariously cartoonish fashion, and when she returns, it’s one of the most satisfying moments in the series. Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca not only provide positive representation for young trans women, they faithfully address the same issues that many young trans people struggle with as they try to simultaneously please their families and simply survive.
Angela: Queen of Hel, by Marguerrite Bennett, Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans
Angela: Queen of Hel is worth reading for several reasons, none more important than the fact that Margueritte Bennett uses the book to place a trans woman of color at the heart of an Orpheus and Eurydice style romance. (When was the last time that happened?) Incidentally, that character, Sera, also winds up at the heart of a major Marvel franchise by the end of the book, inextricably tied to Angela. (Did we mention Sera is also super cute and constantly breaks the fourth wall? Be still, our nerdy hearts.) Without giving too much away, it’s also a rare book with a completely happy ending for the lady in question. We can’t recommend it highly enough.
Jem and the Holograms, by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell
Perhaps the predominant example of transfemme representation in modern comics. By its very nature, Jem was always going to be a feminist book, but between the holographic rock battles with full on psychedelics and massive food fights spanning whole music festivals (exactly as epic as they sound), we get a story that puts a cast of queer women in realistic, if comical, situations. One of them is a particularly awesome trans woman named Blaze, who ends up becoming the new guitarist for The Misfits, Jem and the Holograms’ rival band. On top of that, artist Sophie Campbell is herself openly transgender, which is unfortunately uncommon in the comics industry. Campbell’s art is complimented by Kelly Thompson’s down-to-earth portrayal of the pop culture icons whom the series spirits into the modern age.
The Wicked + The Divine, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
This one features two transfeminine characters, both of whom join the Pantheon, a group of gods that play music, party hard, savor their family feuds, and die within two years. (Of course, given the powerhouses in this brood, that’s perhaps not the most surprising end imaginable.) As Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have cautioned readers multiple times, almost everyone in this book will die by the end. That’s admittedly a bit of a downer, but in the meantime, both Cassandra (a trans woman who reports skeptically on the Pantheon) and Innana (a genderqueer femme who likes to stargaze) offer realistic and holistic views of transgender femmes, as Gillen and McKelvie carefully work to address transgender specific issues without making them the entirety of either character’s arc.
Chainmail Bikini, edited by Hazel Newlevant
One of the best queer inclusive feminist books currently on the market. This anthology collects stories from women who love games, and it’s worth reading simply for the sheer amount of perspectives it offers. Stories range in topic from shamelessly promoting a discontinued ’90’s magical girl tabletop RPG to explaining why we all should have gone to LARP summer camps. (Gay makeouts. The answer is incredibly gay makeouts.) The autobiographical stories of transgender women who game provide an incredibly relatable litany of experiences exploring gender through gaming, showing young trans readers that they aren’t confined to one narrative.
DC Comics Bombshells, by Marguerrite Bennett
This is one of two books featuring trans woman Alysia Yeoh, the other one being the recent Gail Simone and Fletcher/Stewart/Tarr runs on Batgirl. Both of these books are a blast, but Bombshells is particularly great, as Bennett (making a laudable second appearance on this list—respect!) casts Alysia as part of all-girl gang The Batgirls. We’re suckers for queer lady superheroes, so we’re already inclined to heartily endorse this book, but the alternate history Bennett crafts, and her creative take on classic DC characters, also make it an awesome execution of a promising premise. Then again, Bennett has proven to be pretty awesome herself, both in her comics and on social media, so it’s no surprise the book is so fantastic.
Wh0 are some of your favorite transgender comics characters?