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. 

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.





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


6:27am – Family Breakfast


7:12am – Wednesday Selects Quality Literature


8:44am – Cane Walkin’


9:29am – Watching Sesame Street/Drawing Comics


10:40am – Unexpected Naptime Means Unexpected Worktime


11:27am – Pickle Break


12:12pm – Checking On Wednesday


1:42pm – Storytime


2:01pm – Innovative Song Lyrics


3:29pm – Important Conversations


4:57pm – Wednesday Learns A New Word


5:23pm – Shoveling The Sidewalk To Cameron Esposito


6:39pm – Have Cane, Will Travel


7:21pm – Marvel Strike Force Blues


8:33pm – The Negotiations Begin


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