Scan for discussion: character design in Orbital

Scan for discussion: character design in Orbital

To let Wikipedia do the talking for a moment-- Orbital is a Franco-Belgian comics series written by Sylvain Runberg, illustrated by Serge Pellé and published by Dupuis in French and Cinebook in English. We were tweeting about space comics the other week (@womenoncomics, hit us up), and Hannah Chapman from Comic Book Slumber Party mentioned Orbital as a favourite. I just read the first volume, and I

To let Wikipedia do the talking for a moment–

Orbital is a Franco-Belgian comics series written by Sylvain Runberg, illustrated by Serge Pellé and published by Dupuis in French and Cinebook in English.

We were tweeting about space comics the other week (@womenoncomics, hit us up), and Hannah Chapman from Comic Book Slumber Party mentioned Orbital as a favourite. I just read the first volume, and I want to share a scan, a bit of context, and a question: What do you think?

The protagonist of the book is an earth-boy from Poland. He lost his parents to violent politics, and has broken records and boundaries by becoming the first human to be granted membership into the–I’m paraphrasing–galactic united nations’ diplomatic corps. Those humans, they’re so destructive. It’s particularly controversial because his fellow First and eventual colleague is from a race that suffered devastating losses in the face of human colonial aggression. In living memory. They’re (kind of) cops! They’re partners! How will they ever get along?

By utilising their diplomatic training, I hope. That’s a cool angle on mismatched co-workers.

The first volume gives only marginal insight into the personality of our Human. He’s shown to possess the strength of character to be excessively accommodating towards people he is aware he can hurt. But the book quickly introduces the turf war between one planet’s immigrant human mining population, the civilisation in power on this planet, and a non-sentient species native to the miners’ tunnels. There’s a lot going on.

Including:

orbital

 

The exclamation mark at the end of that last caption box sounds worse, to me, isolated from the rest of the book, the rest of the scene. If you’re up for giving the benefit of the doubt, give it there.

But what do you think? How does it strike you that this black, feminine-coded character design is established as gender-irrelevant? Is it weird that the book establishes a male/female divide in this culture? Do you like it? Have you been waiting for something like this? Do you see something in it that can hurt real life non-binary human people?

Let’s talk about it.

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Claire Napier
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