Blog

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. 


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.


Working With Superman

The news is out, y’all: I’m writing a book for DC Comics! Which is kinda something I’ve been preparing for my entire life.

And let me the first to tell you, it is utterly wild to be working with the Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman company. I am absolutely thrilled.

But what about the book, you ask? Here’s what I can tell you about it:

– The full title is Galaxy: The Prettiest Star.
– The artist is Cait Zellers. Cait is amazing and the work she is doing for Galaxy is stellar.
– It comes out in the fall of 2020. Since I already had a few people ask, no, you cannot pre-order it yet.
– The main character is not who you think it is. Whoever you’re imagining, it’s not them. I promise.

That’s about it! Everything else will have to wait until we get closer to publication. But that’s a lot more than I was able to say about it last week, so let us relish in this small victory!

Good luck with the dragon.


Little Hurt

My therapist asked me to do something creative about the ‘little hurt” we all keep inside. So, in the grand tradition of so many queer and trans cartoonists, I decided to have a talk with my younger self.

 

Hurt1
Hurt2
Hurt3

/Hurt4

Hurt5
Hurt6


The Brilliance Of A Translator


PROJECT: STARDUST has moved another glacial step toward completion. I mentioned how I couldn’t talk about it last time, and spoke briefly about it in August, and before that, last January, because being a Professional Creative Person probably contains about as much waiting as it does creating. And now, after a brief moment of contract-related excitement, the waiting begins again. So time spent waiting. There will be come a point very soon where STARDUST will be in my hands instead of someone else’s, and then it will feel like there is will be no time at all. Which will be followed by even more waiting. But eventually, after all that waiting, STARDUST will be something you can hold in your hands, which is all that I want.

Until then, here’s some other things for you to read. There’s a new FRANKENSTEIN’S SUPPORT GROUP I’m quite pleased with, as well as articles about Gordon Ramsay swearing at books, the horror of brushing your teeth, and Disney properties that wouldn’t make good Kingdom Hearts levels, over at Quirk Books.

My wife has started reading Timothy Zahn’s THRAWN book, and there’s a bit in there that is so brilliant I’m going to have to steal it. Being alien even by STAR WARS standards, Zahn has Thrawn accompanied through his travels by a translator, who lets him in on the details and history of each culture and noteworthy individual they encounter. This means that Zahn has a plot-relevant reason for info-dumping a bunch of world-building. More than that, Zahn has turned info-dumping into a story element itself, based on what Thrawn is ignorant of, what his translator chooses to reveal, what the translator keeps to himself, and what the translator himself misses due to his own limited POV.

I’ve always been fascinated by guide books, of the narrative implied by the way you talk about a place. By making your guide book an actual person, that narrative stops being implied. And to have it be a translator, to have someone literally have to interpret the designs of one character for another, is ripe with potential. I’ve got a fantasy story in mind that would benefit from such thing.

Fortunately, translators have existed since people started talking to another. None of us have to credit Timothy Zahn if we use this idea. I myself am foreswearing reading THRAWN myself, despite my love of the blue-skinned schemer, just to maintain plausible deniability.


February 1st was Hourly Comic Day, which I have participated in before. This year added Wednesday into the mix, which offered a much different day than the past. If you’re curious about how my day goes–in comic form!–you can read this year’s hourlies here.

The nice thing about Hourly Comic Day is it forces you to pay attention to your life in ways you normally don’t. It’s easy to get caught up in the broad strokes, and miss the details. Thinking about how you might illustrate any particular experience makes you realize how wonderful those details are. My life is pretty great right now. I hope yours is, too.

Good luck with the dragon.


Hourly Comic Day, 2019

51068982_2298733877024526_5641226276694917120_o

6:27am – Family Breakfast

51369887_2298735853690995_3261304891330527232_o

7:12am – Wednesday Selects Quality Literature

51128928_2298773990353848_6751884693223768064_o

8:44am – Cane Walkin’

51041772_2298791153685465_4507106274894151680_o

9:29am – Watching Sesame Street/Drawing Comics

51263692_2298822107015703_6063773800749596672_o

10:40am – Unexpected Naptime Means Unexpected Worktime

51395711_2298848277013086_8262107924503986176_o

11:27am – Pickle Break

51588422_2298866127011301_4374488362082369536_o

12:12pm – Checking On Wednesday

50998005_2298916090339638_2248610379561172992_o

1:42pm – Storytime

51104870_2298917323672848_7395064408101093376_o

2:01pm – Innovative Song Lyrics

tumblr_pm9pd8aGFP1qztcxpo1_1280

3:29pm – Important Conversations

51286785_2299039616993952_3140968660839956480_o

4:57pm – Wednesday Learns A New Word

51218523_2299043703660210_4419310344430682112_o

5:23pm – Shoveling The Sidewalk To Cameron Esposito

51506017_2299058303658750_395885604031692800_o

6:39pm – Have Cane, Will Travel

50956238_2299103040320943_995017641854763008_o

7:21pm – Marvel Strike Force Blues

51152209_2299104216987492_5130121869936033792_o

8:33pm – The Negotiations Begin

51149349_2299117213652859_2743473771217158144_o

9:09pm – All My Lullabies Are By The Mountain Goats


New Year, New Pajamas


Happy New Year! I have new pajamas. One should always start the new year with new pajamas.

2019’s pajamas are purple, with little hedgehogs on them. The hedgehogs’ bodies are made up of flowers, implying either a conjoining of animal and vegetable that no god ever intended, or simply a group of critters unusually taken with self-decoration. Either way, I approve. There’s a story in both.

Forgive me, reader, it has been months since my last newsletter. There is, obviously, a lot to unpack that happened between now and the end of August. A non-exhaustive list: I made Halloween costumes for my family,  I met with the people who will eventually be publishing STARDUST (remember, not its actual title), things got bad for trans people, my mother passed away, I had my computer break–the repair of which was so costly, there was a moment right before Christmas where were seriously wondering if we could afford food. Oh, and I’ve been testing out a new name.

Hello, I’m Jadzia. We’ve met.

Honestly, I don’t want to talk about it (in the case of STARDUST, I can’t talk about it). Let’s leave the past in the past. It’s a new year, with new pajamas. Let’s move on.

But, I will say this: I don’t think I was recognized at my mother’s memorial.

As a trans person, this is, of course, the dream. One wants to go through life unencumbered by the baggage of a gender presentation that never quite fit. We had very nice family portraits made years ago when my father was still alive, and I said it was okay to put one of them up in the memorial. There is a odd measure of comfort that folks did not connect me the slump-postured bearded boy with a smiling mouth but painfully hurt eyes, even if that was no doubt the expression I was making for most of the evening. I wore red and black, like I did in the portrait, a bit of children’s TV-show costuming continuity. Connection through broad shapes and colors.

One person asked my relationship to the deceased. When I told them I was her daughter, they said “Oh! You must be Kate!”

Must I? Is too much to ask that my sister not be my mother’s only daughter? She held that title for almost 40 years. Surely she care share it. Surely.

If there ever was a time to for people to look at the woman I’ve become and see the boy I was, it was then, at that memorial. But that may have indeed been too much.

While my brother and sister, recognizable despite years of fluctuating weights and various hair experiments, were who everyone flocked to and offered condolences, I was left aimless. I floated around the room like a ghost hostess, thanking extended family members for coming. Why was I the butler at my mother’s memorial? Something to do, I suppose. A middle child to the end, I held my grieving in, and made sure everyone else was comfortable.

But even this has it’s limits. We had put a display of the quilts Mama had made in a corner, and I was sitting there as everyone was starting to pack up. When it came time to fold up the quilts, I dutifully handed the one next to me over. And then, holding this quilt that she meticulously sewed with her own two hands, I lost it. I started crying and couldn’t stop. Mama would never make another quilt. This was the last of them, the last of her. I could feel her echo when held that quilt, the remains of her touch.  I was not holding her, only the part of the world that wouldn’t exist without her. And now there would be no more of those.

My mother’s friend June, who once put up my drawings on her refrigerator, sat there with me, letting me pour it all out. How fitting that I get my cathartic memorial moment after everyone is gone. The chairs are being put away, the tablecloths are being folded, and I finally have no other responsibility but to weep into a crumpled quilt.

We didn’t hold this memorial at our home, as we did when my father died. Cancer ate him alive in tiny bites, like a swarm of ants, giving us plenty of time to plan. Mama mailed my daughter an envelope of stickers one morning and was gone that afternoon. Thanks to theater-friends in the area, I found a place that would let us hold the memorial for free. I found a caterer. I wrote her obituary. I did all of this. It may be crass to bring this up, but I’m doing it anyway. I bring this up because I want credit. Because I want acknowledgement. Because I want to be recognized as my mother’s daughter, mourning for her loss.

I signed enough documents identifying me as her son in the days before to have this distinction. I think I earned it.

My New Year Resolutions are nothing special, this year. I want to meet all my deadlines. I want to take all my medications when I’m supposed to. I want to get out of bed when the alarm goes off. I want to be the person I plan myself to be, the woman with hedgehogs on her pajamas who answers to Jadzia.

Let’s see if I can make it.