It should be easy to imagine how important representation in the media is for trans people. Sadly, in comics, 2016 saw the active removal of a lot of trans representation, and some very poor cash-ins on the community too. One such removal was Sera, a trans woman of color in a lovely, committed relationship with Angela– the long lost sister of Thor and Loki in the Marvel Comics universe, and one of Marvel’s few lesbian characters. Sera is gone, and we need her more than ever.
Last year, 2016, was the deadliest year for trans people on record, breaking 2015’s all-time high of trans women killed in the United States. This year has already seen several murders of trans women. The majority of all of those murdered are women of color, and these murders are only a fraction of the tragedies occurring for the trans community in recent months. We have had estrogen shortages, a new vice president who lives his life in the battle against the whole LGBT+ spectrum, followed by a very likely transphobic supreme court justice, all of which have increased violence and hate nationwide.
At the end of 2015, Marguerite Bennett, Aaron Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans’ Angela: Queen of Hel came out. This wasn’t Sera’s first appearance; nor was it a big seller. However, what Angela: Queen of Hel did help to solidify were the many possibilities of the trans hero. Sera is magical and extremely powerful, so powerful that with just a little help she was able to project herself from Hel back to the land of the living. We saw that she was strong without question, even getting a glimpse of her in a reality in which she and Angela had not fallen for each other and where she still became herself–found a spell to transition into her ideal body–became powerful, and fought for herself. This contrasts with her being saved by Angela, although the details were always loose on that account since the writers didn’t want to tell a transition story.
What’s most important is we saw in Angela: Queen of Hel that Angela was loved romantically. While some may argue that having queer characters be associated as pairs is bad, there is no denying the amount of love trans people (of color, in particular) need. Trans people are the butt of jokes in comics; in previous years Chew had some blatant transphobia and 2016’s Wacky Racers was playing around with some offensive representation as well.
Sera isn’t just loved, though. She is strong. It seems that trans side characters are always the lesser of their partners, getting a smaller spotlight, being less skilled, be that in Shutter when the hero’s trans best friend gets hit with a rocket early on, the side character in Saga, or Alysia Yeoh in Batgirl. Lumberjanes bucks that trend, but outside of that comic book, I can’t think of an example where the trans character isn’t the one who is weaker and not performing at the level of the rest. Here, she’s the main character. Angela’s name is on the cover, but this is Sera’s story. In some ways it stinks that Sera wasn’t named on the cover; it would have been groundbreaking, but I understand that this book was spinning off of two other Angela titles so the brand name was required. This is the story of Sera’s suffering, of her joy, of her future, and of the love she shares with Angela.
Sera’s magic makes her a deadly foe against just about anyone. Sera’s humor and wit make her as good of a fourth wall breaker at their best. Sera is funny, charming, but in no way is she perfect either. Sera has tripped up, Sera can rush into things, and Sera (being an Angel in the Marvel universe) has likely hunted some people who didn’t deserve it. Despite all that she is good, she is warmhearted. She is a ray of optimism in a downpour of pain. Sera receives the suffering that many trans people have gone through, but shows us that there is a way to make it better. Sure, her way involves magics, but it was something she worked at, and that took time.
The end of Queen of Hel (spoilers) has Angela and Sera living some time of their life together with their adoptive daughter Leah. Angela and Sera live together in the suburbs happily ever after. It’s such a beautiful journey. We see them do so many cool things, fight big battles, sacrifice together, and fall in love. Then in the end, they are happy together. Here were queer characters who loved, who fought their way through Hel, who dominated their pasts, and embraced their future going boldly to a new life on Earth.
This ending managed to happen even after Marvel canceled Queen of Hel after a first issue didn’t meet big sales, thanks to everything going against it. It lacked marketing, and Marvel Editor in Chief Axel Alonso even denied the characters’ queer status. In a big rush of over 50 new launches to buy, stores simply had far less reason to take a risk on a book that seemed like nothing special. The dedicated fan base postmortem is way more than the odds gave it.
Where is Sera now? Well, sadly apparently not with her beloved Angela. Angela was added to the newest run of Guardians of the Galaxy for what looked like totally random reasons, back in a space bikini only months after her and Sera’s happily ever after (cuz what Bendis wants, Bendis gets). In fact, it seems this amazing romance is being erased from the Marvel Universe based on the February 2017 issue of Guardians of the Galaxy posing the question of how Angela is now “stranded” on earth despite Queen of Hel stating that was her new home.
The good news is that it appears Angela won’t be appearing in the Guardians Of the Galaxy comic once Bendis leaves it. Perhaps she will get to be happy with Sera (or we can just say she is). For my money, Angela has a place, and that is with Sera. They live together in the suburbs, and it works well for them. When reaching out to Bendis I got the common “wait and see” response. Fans have waited months now, and we haven’t even gotten a throwaway mention. How is anyone to trust waiting and seeing how it will be good? We have already been shown it done poorly. We’ve seen cis writers do trans characters badly. We’ve seen the way he writes Angela. Wait and see is just company speak. Reaching out to us is the only way to assure the community. Sera’s importance to the trans community should outweigh any “Wow, what a twist; she and Angela had a fight!” that Bendis or drama could throw at people. We need to remember that trans people matter, that our lives are valid, and one way to be recognized as human is to be represented in the media.
Trans people have been told to wait and see what Pence will do to them, to wait and see if friends and family can get used to them, to wait and see if this company or that one will ever make a trans hero, and to wait and see about nearly everything. Hell, in the UK trans people are put on a year long waiting list to see a doctor to see if they are trans enough. Then it takes about another year to actually start getting shit covered. Trans people don’t need to wait and see in our limited representation too.
Vote for Loki similarly had promises of “maybe Sera will be around, wait and see” only to not have her in the whole mini series (in her place, there was a slew of other potentially problematic stuff for trans people). After transphobic Airboy 2 hit shelves, insulting the trans comics community, writer James Robinson was signed onto Marvel to write Scarlet Witch. Marvel group editor Maddie Blaustein is still deadnamed by Marvel in backups. Current Marvel writer Gerry Conway had taken it on his back to defend commonly criticized Alters, fighting with nearly every trans person who challenged him. If we go way back in history, even Marvel’s current Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso once worked at DC, where he made the big editorial decision to cancel Rachel Pollock’s Doom Patrol. Doom Patrol is notable for being a trans writer’s work, writing a trans character, at the big two. Marvel’s history has not been one that openly embraces trans people.
Being told to “wait and see” here is really like being told to wait and see what happens when you set dynamite alight. You know chaos is most likely coming, and you should get the hell out of there. Bendis has said things like “just like every issue of Miles [Morales, Spider-Man] isn’t about his relationship troubles, so goes with Angela. Stay tuned. Its coming.” But he fails to see how wildly different this is. This isn’t about a straight character. We can go read a billion straight romances, in every format. This isn’t about a pair of cis lesbians either. This is a queer, trans woman of color.
Trans stories need to be told. They need the proper care. They need to be supported. Trans stories may not sell like gangbusters right away, but trans stories are new, and new things don’t just sell overnight. If we don’t foster characters like Sera we’ll never see them grow. Sera is so important, and she should be as important to the people behind the scenes as she is to the trans community. Sera brings joy, humor, and so much more to everyone who reads her, but right now she is trapped again, and I hope we can save her. I ask that you consider doing what you can to push editors at marvel or Bendis, or whoever might have some ability to write Angela and Sera, and push for them to do so. I don’t have a witty hashtag–something like #SeraMatters could help be a unifying call for us–but really I just hope you’ll share this piece (and that other trans people will add their thoughts).