Read Like A Hawk

Hey, you! Excited about the upcoming HAWKGIRL l series from me, Amancay Nahuelpan and Adriano Lucas? Curious about what comics to read to prepare yourself for this high-flying heroine? Look no further! Here’s a guide to all of the  relevant previous appearances of Kendra Saunders, Hawkgirl!

Keep in mind, though, that you don’t HAVE to read any of these. HAWKGIRL #1 is very new-reader friendly, setting up Kendra’s current status quo without you needing any previous character knowledge. But, if you WANT to read more…

Kendra’s first appearance, first time she puts on the costume, first time she flies. More of a tone poem than a proper story, but it hits the right tone.

JSA 16-27
Kendra joins the JSA with issue 2, but is kind of in the background until the crackerjack “Injustice Be Done” arc, which has an *extremely* significant interaction with Tigress. Hawkman’s return follows, showcasing Kendra’s difficult relationship with the Hawk legacy. JSA 21 also includes a conversation with Zuriel, an actual angel. You don’t need to worry about him, but what they talk about is…relevant.

HAWKMAN (2002) 1-4, 8, 10-12
HAWKMAN revolves around, well, Hawkman, so not every issue is worth reading if you’re looking for Kendra. But! There’s some nice stuff here about Kendra’s family, especially her relationship with her grandfather, Speed Saunders.

There’s not a whole lot that we reference from Simonson’s Hawkgirl series that piggybacked off Hawkman’s numbering, but I really like the peer relationship it established between Kendra and Batman.

This run of JLA had a fun romance between Kendra and Roy Harper, but all you really need to know is they broke up. Messily.

Spoiler Warning: Kendra dies here. She gets better, but not for another decade or so.

Kendra returns! She’s now a part of the Blackhawks! Then she turns into the demonically-posessed Lady Blackhawk! Then she’s back to herself, but with Nth metal wings (that’s new) and complete memories of her past lives (also new). It’s a journey!

JUSTICE LEAGUE (2018) 1-39
Yeah, I know, this is a lot of comics, but Kendra is pretty central to this storyline, and we get some cool stuff in here like her relationship with Martian Manhunter, their alternate future child, and a fun meeting with Sheyera Hol, aka Hawkwoman.

HAWKMAN (2018) 22-29
Kendra isn’t in this Hawkman series at all–she was over in Justice League–and you don’t have to read the whole thing. But you may want to pick up the final issues and get in on what they reveal about the Hawk reincarnation legacy, and its future.

Again, not a book Kendra appears in, but if you wanted some backstory on Galaxy, who will be a supporting character, this is the place to start. Also good if you wanted to read something else written by me.

And that’s it! Again, you don’t have to read ANY of these comics to read HAWKGIRL. I explain things as you go, and some things–like about the villain Vulpecula–I made up out of whole cloth. Feel free to not do any homework at all and just enjoy the ride! 

Get Your Hawk On, Get Your Pride On

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’m writing the new Hawkgirl series for DC Comics! 

It’s true! That’s my name in the corner of this fantastic cover by the astounding Amancay Nahuelpan (pencils and inks) and incredible Adriano Lucas (colors). Honestly, I’m still having trouble believing its there myself. But there it is! I am immensely proud of this comic, starring characters I have intense affection for, and I cannot wait for you to read it this summer. Hawkgirl #1 comes out July 18 and it’s a blast from start to finish!

Here’s the official blurb:

A brand-new adventure with sky-high action, adventure, and intrigue… Kendra Saunders, the winged warrior better known as Hawkgirl, has been one of the DC Universe’s greatest heroes for a long time, serving as a member of both the Justice League and the Justice Society. But with the Justice League disbanded, Kendra decides she needs a fresh start and heads to Metropolis to begin a new life. That life is quickly interrupted by a mysterious villain with a powerful connection to the Nth Metal that makes up Hawkgirl’s wings and weapons. Hawkgirl will also feature a series of variant covers that recount Kendra’s DC history.

One thing that blurb does not say–which I have been given clearance to talk about–is that Hawkgirl will also feature none other than Galaxy! That’s right, Taylor Barzelay, the little trans alien lesbian that could from Galaxy: The Prettiest Star is ready for her first proper superhero adventure! Or at least, she thinks she’s ready….

Speaking of gays–alien and otherwise–DC has recently released the cover of The DC Book of Pride, a book I wrote that gives all the important info some of their fantastic LGBTQ+ characters!

Now, this book doesn’t have every queer and trans DC character (there’s about 200!) but it does have all of the noteworthy ones, plus a few obscurities I made sure to include. And yes, Galaxy is in there. The DC Book of Pride drops May 16.

Summer reading has never looked better!

Presents of Mind

She’s giving.

Usually I don’t post a picture in a tight dress until New Years, but I’m feeling generous.

It’s the season of giving, and I have been fortunate enough to receive some presents early. First off, The School Library Journal has named Galaxy: The Prettiest Star as one of the best books of the year! This is an incredible honor, and it is so amazing to see Galaxy up there with books I have read and know are just luminously brilliant. A “must buy” recommendation from the School Library Journal means that a lot of school libraries are going to be getting Galaxy. I hope it helps all the little queer babies lurking in their school libraries searching to make sense of themselves.

Discover the rich history of DC’s LGBTQIA+ Superheroes in this inspiring gift-title featuring detailed character profiles and comic book artwork

Celebrate Pride with DC’s LGBTQIA+ Superheroes.

Written and curated by DC expert Jadzia Axelrod, The DC Book of Pride profiles more than 50 LGBTQIA+ characters in detail, including Harley Quinn, Superman, Nubia, Robin, Batwoman, Aqualad, Dreamer, Green Lantern, and many more. Discover their fascinating origins, amazing superpowers, and key storylines.

“DC expert.” You know what that means, dontcha? None of you can argue with me about Batman anymore.

In all seriousness, I’m very proud of this book. It was a wonderful thing to research, diving deep into the histories of these characters and finding new reasons to love each and every one of them. This isn’t all of DC’s queer characters–there’s about 200, for starters. But this is a great introduction if you’re not familiar. And again, good for the queer babies.

And yes, Galaxy has an entry. Alysia Yeoh, too.

Another gift I’ve received early is that a handful of family members have come out as queer or trans to me in the past few months. As a public and approachable queer and trans person, I am accustomed to friends doing this, but the recent bravery of my family members to be honest with themselves has made my heart soar. When I came out as queer, I felt very alone my own family, a single rainbow thread in the more earth-toned tapestry of our familial connections. But being that bright as its benefits, not the least of which is that it gave others the courage to show off some colors of their own. It fills me with joy that the members of my family who are Family don’t have to feel alone, myself included. I’ve been smiling the whole the time writing this paragraph. Just ear to ear.

I saw an image on Instagram that said “Be so completely trans that everyone else feels safe to be trans too,” which has always been my goal. And if that’s not the gift that keeps on giving, I don’t know what is.

Good luck with the dragon.

Watch and Listen

One last glance back a summer, now that it’s gone.

The trouble with not doing this blog for months is that I haven’t mentioned a bunch of things I really wanted to talk about.

For example, I was on the TV! Twice! I know, it blows my mind, too.

First time was earlier this summer, as part of as part of 6abc’s Action News’ Pride Coverage this year. That’s right,that Action News. It was a great interview, filmed in the now sadly closed Amalgam Comics. I got to talk not just about Galaxy, but what she has already meant to the trans community. Give it a watch if you haven’t already.

And just last month I was on TV again! This time part of our local PBS station’s program You Oughta Know, filmed in yet another fantastic Philadelphia comic store, Brave New Worlds. Once again, I’m talking about Galaxy, and how important her story is to me and the people who have read it. It’s worth a watch.

And if that’s not enough of me talking about Galaxy, here’s several podcasts I made appearances on, sometimes with artist extraordinaire Jess Taylor

All of these were very fun to do, especially for an old podcast hand like myself. It’s nice to show up and have someone else ask the questions. Also, I am a delightful guest, if I do say so myself. Have me on your podcast!

Most of these things were recorded over the summer, in a whirlwind of interviews and signings and conventions. The cold has begun to set in, as autumn makes its presence known before giving way to winter. Summer, in its heat and excitement, seems so long ago. 

But what a beautiful moment in the sun.

Intentions of the New Year

We were Haunted Houses this year for Halloween. It was my daughter’s idea.

I’ve often joked that Halloween is my Christmas; the holiday I look forward to all year and put my heart and soul into. But there’s something deeper in the pull to look at Halloween as the end of the year. It is a harvest festival, after all. A time to celebrate the culmination of all our work since early spring with treats and masks and parties. Time to tell spooky stories, for we know the year is dying. Maybe we can steel ourselves through an unforgiving winter if we can manage to make horror our companion instead of our enemy.

The calendar says the new year starts in eight more weeks, but in my heart, it’s now. Happy New Year. Time to steady our resolve.

In such a spirit, I am trying to get back into good habits. I did yoga this morning for the first time in months. I like yoga because it forces me to present, to be intentional, about the way my body moves. I used to be a runner and lift weights, and the appeal of that was the opposite. Muscle memory could take over, and my mind was free to wander and think about other things. But with yoga I have be in my body, working with with strain, reveling in every quantum of euphoria a good stretch will bestow upon you.

To live in a body is to live in constant compromise. It grows at its own pace, on its own terms. More than once, my daughter has fixed her frustrated gaze on a favorite shirt that has committed the unforgivable sin of not keeping up with her rapidly stretching frame. Friends my age talk about “no longer looking like myself” as the weight of decades makes itself known on our faces. Our bodies keep the score, yes, but they also play their own games, with rules we aren’t privy to. 

No one knows this better than trans people. Perhaps the greatest gift we’ve given to society is to be living, breathing proof that you need not live solely on your body’s terms. The compromise can run both ways.

My body carries result of years of favoring some muscles and disregarding others, the atrophy that comes from being in the wrong shape. Shoulders rounded like spinning wheels, spine bent in the hopes of hiding within myself. I am trying to unlearn those lessons, to stand tall and unafraid. Grace is often defined as movement we can predict, the arc of a ballerina’s arm leading to a place we can can expect based on where it has been, and we are pleased to be proven correct. Henri Bergson called it “the pleasure of mastering the flow of time, and of holding the future in the present.” Bodies, even ones rendered awkward by years of misuse, can achieve grace. That’s what compromise is all about.

This is my hope for the new year, then. One of grace. One of intention. I wish to prescribe an arc for the future, and I am setting my intentions in motion. Let’s see if I can stick the landing.

Speaking of intention, I made a decision to decrease my presence on Twitter. I’ve been on it for 15 years and my use of it has never been a particularly healthy. With the new management, it was worth taking a long look at the site and what I was gaining from it, which turns out to be not a whole heck of a lot. I’m not deleting the account, but the only way it makes sense for me right now is as a book promotion machine. So that’s what it’ll be. Really, the only platform I use with any regularity is Instagram (though I have had fun on TikTok upon occasion). I’ve always felt social media was best for pictures, anyway. 

Save the words for other places. Like here.

Of Batgirls and Galaxies

I have some news. DC Comics news.

DC Comics announced its Pride lineup for this June, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a heaping helping of yours truly! Galaxy: The Prettiest Star is the headliner here, still coming out May 17th (preorder, if you haven’t already). Here’s the blurb:

In the book market and available everywhere books are sold, Galaxy: The Prettiest Star from writer Jadzia Axelrod and artist Jess Taylor will publish on May 17 to introduce entirely new characters to DC’s pantheon of heroes. DC can’t wait for you to meet Taylor, the Galaxy Crowned! It takes strength to live as your true self, and one alien princess disguised as a human boy is about to test her power!

Just in case it wasn’t clear, Taylor, the girl who will become the superhero Galaxy, is trans. We get all sci-fi and metaphorical with it, which I think confuses the marketing people, but the short version is Taylor is trans. She grew up as a boy, with a boy’s body, but her true identity is a girl. She’s also queer, and her romance with Kat, the cool girl from Metropolis is the lion’s share of the book.

I still can’t believe this is coming out from the Superman people. What a time to be alive.

In addition to all that, on May 7, you can pick up an excerpt of Galaxy for FREE! That’s right, on Free Comic Book Day, a little slice of Galaxy will be available completely gratis! DC is only doing three FCBD comics, so the fact that one of them is Jess Taylor and my gay little baby is still hard to believe.

Speaking of Jess, how beautiful is this interior art for Galaxy?

The whole book is like this! Jess just killing it on every page.

But that’s not the only Pride-based news I have to share! DC is doing another Pride anthology of LGBTQIA+ creators telling short stories of LGBTQIA+ characters, and I got asked to write a new story with Batgirl and her best friend Alysia Yeoh!

Alysia Yeoh is a queer trans woman created by Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf back in 2011. This bit from Batgirl #10 sums her up pretty well:

 She’s an activist and a rabblerouser and I love her. And to be able to write actual Batgirl dialogue felt like something I’ve been training for my entire life.

Illustrating my first foray into the Bat-mythos (but hopefully not the last) is the incomparable Lynne Yoshii. It kills me that I can’t show you the JAW-DROPPING art Lynne is doing. In addition to drawing what is now the archetypal Batgirl in my eyes, she gave Alysia a PERFECT gay haircut, which, as you all know, is very important to me. She also put in a Schumacher reference I asked for, because she’s an angel.

This is all to say, I am continuing on my mission to make comics gayer. 

Good luck with the dragon.

The Prettiest Cover

Been awhile, hasn’t it? You look good.

I do, too. I’ll be honest with you, if I had known I was going to look like the picture above decades ago, I would have transitioned sooner. When you’ve spent your whole life hating how you look, it can be hard to even consider pretty as a possible option. And yet, here we are.

Speaking of pretty things, take a gander at the prettiest cover you ever did see:

That’s the astounding cover Jess Taylor did for our graphic novel, Galaxy: The Prettiest Star, which should be in your hot little hands May of 2022. I’m really proud of this book, and it gives me no shortage of joy to finally be able to share some of Jess’s amazing art for it. And let me tell you, the inside is just a gorgeous.

Here’s the official synopsis:It takes strength to live as your true self, and one alien princess disguised as a human boy is about to test her power. A vibrant story about gender identity, romance, and shining as bright as the stars. Taylor Barzelay has the perfect life. Good looks, good grades, a starting position on the basketball team, a loving family, even an adorable corgi. Every day in Taylor’s life is perfect. And every day is torture. Taylor is actually the Galaxy Crowned, an alien princess from the planet Cyandii, and one of the few survivors of an intergalactic war. For six long, painful years, Taylor has accepted her duty to remain in hiding as a boy on Earth. That all changes when Taylor meets Metropolis girl Katherine “call me Kat” Silverberg, whose confidence is electrifying. Suddenly, Taylor no longer wants to hide, even if exposing her true identity could attract her greatest enemies. From the charming and brilliant mind behind the popular podcast The Voice of Free Planet X, Jadzia Axelrod, and with stunningly colorful artwork by Jess Taylor comes the story of a girl in hiding who must face her fears to see herself as others see her: the prettiest star.
This book is very important to me, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is its pure, unabashed trans- and queerness. To be able to write this book, to paint every line with a rainbow and not issue a single apology has been incredible. Galaxy is about how being trans is beautiful and how queer love is transformative, and for those messages to be in a book with the “DC” logo on the cover is something I can’t process properly sometimes. It’s too big.

Maybe some closeted trans kid will find this book, and read it, and maybe they’ll think they could be pretty if they transition, too.

Speaking of being queer and talking about DC Comics, I’ve made a handful of appearances on the Gotham Outsiders podcast here recent. I’ve talked about BatwomanDC’s Pride special, and the (kinda) coming out of Robin. I enjoy the show a lot, so it’s nice to show up on occasion, even if I frequently put on my buzzkill hat and shout “This queer representation should be BETTER!!!” in the face of hosts Chris and TJ’s visceral enjoyment. 

This is my role, apparently. Because we do deserve better. It can always be prettier.

Unless, of course, it’s the prettiest. 

What My RPG Characters Are Doing Without Me

Awhile back, I thought it would be fun to have my roleplaying characters also experience quarantine, since all three of my games were put on hiatus. Naturally, they’re all talking to each other, even though they’re all from different worlds.





Trans Pizza Winner

Hey, look! I’m on the TVs!

It was, of course, a delightful experience to be interviewed about the cool things Lilah Sturges is doing with #transpizza. She’s a treasure, and “Trans Pizza Winner” is a title I wear with pride. Go on and watch.

I was recently reading about a larp that was specifically about motherhood, and it was…fine? It didn’t describe my experience with motherhood, but I’m sure it described someone’s. Larping is a strange beast, with very particular limitations. The representation of a child in a game about motherhood is a particularly difficult one—to have another player be the child doesn’t feel right. This larp decided to do away with a child representation altogether, and focus on times when the child isn’t around. Which is fine, but also not my experience. I’m writing this now while my mother-in-law takes my daughter to music class, but she’s still here, really. My daughter is still present, even when she’s gone. And to gloss over that seems…false? At the very least, not my experience.

With that in mind, and my tongue more than half in my cheek, I jotted down some thoughts on a larp about motherhood, that I will probably never write:

– Everyone gets a die. All the dice are different: 20-sided, 4-sided, etc. Roll the die to see how many steps you can take each turn.

– Each player gets a 15lb weight, a full glass of water, & 2 paper towels

– You cannot put down the weight. You cannot drink the water until the end of the session. If you spill the water, you have to clean it up.

– Players choose a nursery rhyme from a list provided.

– Each player must choose from the other players:

* Someone they want to say something important to.
* Someone they’d like to know better
* Someone they’re trying to avoid

– The game starts with all the players against the wall in a room, spaced far apart

– A timer is set for 3 minutes.

– When the time goes off, you must move the number of steps you rolled earlier along the wall in a clockwise direction.

– When you run out of steps, you must recite your nursery rhyme 5 times.

– You can only talk to someone if they are next you, you are not reciting your nursery rhyme, or you are not cleaning a spill you made.

– You cannot talk about your weight.

– Play continues at 3-minute increments for 1 hour

– At the end of the hour, the players put down their weight, drink the water they have left, and sit down for one last 3-minute interval in silence

‪- Then the players pick up their weight, say their nursery rhyme one last time, and leave

If anyone plays this, let me know. I have absolutely no desire to do so myself.

I finally finished Jeff Smith’s BONE, which is faintly ridiculous considering how much that series meant to me as a teenager and how many years I’ve owned the omnibus. It’s very good, as I am sure you have heard elsewhere. I should have finished it sooner.

One thing that struck me is just how small the story is. Which is an odd thing to say about a book whose chief plot is averting the end of the world, but it’s true. Everything, from the Bones getting kicked out Boneville to the saving of the world climax is stripped down to its component parts, making it really a story about the pain caused by the lies two small families tell each other. The end of the world, the fantasy tropes, all of that is set dressing for the wounded emotions of a handful of characters. Which is why its great.

An important lesson that I’m certainly taking to heart, as I am currently plotting out a new fantasy set dressing for wounded emotions…

Good luck with the dragon.

A Pretty Good Year

They say you were something in those formative years.

I spent the last days of 2019 back in North Carolina. I refer to the rural town where my sister still lives as “where I grew up,” though we didn’t move there until I was 12. Those teen years count for a lot, though, and it remains a pivotal location of my young life in a way our house up the curvy Appalachian mountain road does not.This was the first place I could truly explore on my own. The town itself, now a bustling refugee for folks who have chosen not to live in the larger cities nearby, wasn’t much to speak of when I lived there. But the dense nature that surrounded it was worth wandering. I have fond memories of hiking back down by the river, nakedly trespassing on other folk’s property in search of something to kill the afternoon. You can still do that, but now its a public trail, and it leads to the organic grocery store.At some point in my midteens, my impish spirit of adventure curdled, and walks to the woods began to have different purposes altogether. I remember dangling off the cliff face, my right hand gripping a root, the only thing that was keeping my body from crashing down onto the rocks below. I remember trying to find the strength to let go. Or, failing in that, the strength to climb back up.

I climbed up, obviously. Up and out of that town and began the process of unearthing the parts of me that a denial bred of survival buried. I left. Though I still visit for holidays.

My sister still lives in the house I was a teenager in. Our first night there, I found myself walking around the yard and thought “I was a girl here,” which felt right in way that almost embarrasses me to think about. I was a girl there. I also was not. That dissonance is a hard thing to parse, but I the very least I can be a girl there now. And that feels the most right of all, a calm center amidst the storm of discomfort that I associate with the place. It felt weird to feel comfortable there, but we’ve both changed, and no longer look as we once did.  And I have finally resigned myself to being a visitor, no longer trying to make a place that didn’t want me a home.

But with that comfort came something else, an unshakable desire to be seen, to be acknowledged. I wanted the town itself to acknowledge who I am now, somehow. Some representative to see me now, and claim me as more than just a visitor. The double edged sword of trans-existence; the desire to be recognized and unrecognizable at the same time.

I met up with some old friends, who were as overjoyed to see me as I was them. But it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. After all, most of them were visitors themselves, having made lives in other towns, other states, other countries, only to be drawn back into orbit by the holiday’s pull. Seeing them was wonderful, but not what I was strangely aching for.

I did finally get what I was looking for, but not in anyway I expected.

A trans pre-teen clocked me as I came out of a toy store on the last day of our trip. She came over, nervously hovering. She very much wanted to ask me something that she didn’t have the words for, I could see that. But we did speak to each other for a few minutes about the pig puppet I had purchased for my daughter on impulse. She helped me name it–“Pebbles”–and then quickly ran away.

There’s a lot of talk about how visibility isn’t enough, and that’s absolutely true. But I also think that it’s very easy to forget how important visibility is. I don’t know what it would have meant to see someone like myself as I am now, with a wife and child and a general aura of accomplishment, when I was this girl’s age. She’s already got an edge on me, thanks to 25 years of social progress and increasingly easy access to information. I couldn’t have started transitioning when she did, no matter how much I wanted to. But even with her headstart, it was clear that seeing me, a stranger who was nonetheless connected by ways neither of us expected or intended, meant something to her.

I didn’t have a chance to say this before you ran away, but it was very nice to meet you, Lily. Thank you for seeing me.

Looking back on 2019, it appears I spent the lion’s share of it raising my delightful child, writing my dream project–more on that in a moment–and getting more involved with my local queer community. This is a fantastic way spend a year, if I do say so myself. Try it if you can. A pretty good year. After the rollercoaster that was 2018, I take a year spent achieving modest goals and leave it at that.

I wrote a great many words that will not see the light of day until months or even years from now, but I have a handful of things you can read immediately, if you are so inclined:

Gordon Ramsay Skewers Classic Books
Benign Situations That Could Easily Turn into Horror Films
Lesser Known Kingdom Hearts Worlds
Games to Play with your (Evil) Genius Toddler
Literary Characters Give Dating Advice
Gothic Tales of the Thrift Shop
What If George R. R. Martin Had Written Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle?
Coffee Orders of Fictional Characters
Terrify Your Friends With This Halloween Party How-To!

And there were two installments of Frankenstien’s Support Group, Chapters 18 and 19, both of which are extremely good in that monsters-and-feelings vein you know I like so much. There’ll be more of those in 2020, mark my words.

Speaking of that dream project, Publisher’s Weekly had nice article about what’s coming ahead for DC Comics, and they mention Galaxy: The Prettiest Star. If y’all wanted to know what it was about, well, here ya’ go:

The second YA title, Galaxy: The Prettiest Star, is written by Jadzia Axelrod and illustrated by Jess Taylor. It is about a princess-in-exile whose home planet is under attack as she is kept safe as a teenaged boy on Earth, with a normal life and a female love interest. Her life goes into turmoil when her true identity is revealed.
More than that, well, you’ll have to wait for the book, won’t you? Summer 2021 is the current release plan, and trust me, it’ll be worth the wait.Good luck with the dragon.