For Trans Day of Visibility we wanted to honor a few of our personal favorite trans and nonbinary creators in comics!
( A big thanks to fellow WWAC-er Zainabb Hull for helping to organize this piece)
In no uncertain terms, Jay Edidin is a constant inspiration to thousands of trans folks in & around this industry. Beyond just being inspirational, Jay is a true leader of our community. His bravery, his tenacity, his compassion, and his energy is the “chapter 1” of so many other trans people’s stories of self-actualization. His work as one-half of Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men is demonstrably the reason that the X-books and the field of criticism itself are where they are today. A podcast with such a direct and deceptively mundane name is the gold standard of comics criticism for thousands. It’s responsible for a renaissance of trans critics using their voices to better this industry. Jay is also a fantastic writer, and one whose journey inspires me personally every day. Jay’s Marvel comics debut, Marvel Snapshots: X-Men is a diligent, nuanced, and masterfully-crafted dissection of one of comic’s longest running characters, Scott Summers, aka Cyclops. That Edidin was able to effortless create an origin story for a character with so much history, some sixty years on, is a monumental feat. But beyond any of that, Jay teaches us one of the most valuable lessons, he teaches us about our voices and their inherent value. He teaches us how to be creatives and activists in the same breath. And he teaches us to love each other and how to fight for each other. In 2021, Jay Edidin is a blessing to our community and to chickens everywhere.
It would be hard to overstate the influence that Steven Universe has had on parts of the queer community. There are so many things about the show that mean so much to me and countless other queer folks all around the world—from the profound themes of acceptance and self-love to featuring a queer wedding on a mainstream network television cartoon aimed at kids. But for me as a non-binary person, the biggest example of this is Stevonnie, who I will always remember as the first time I ever saw myself represented in a character on TV. Stevonnie represents an absolute celebration of being authentic and amazing and loving their non-binary self. They were so deeply inspiring to me, even in my 20s, that I almost can’t imagine how validating it must have felt for gender non-conforming kids to see themselves on screen like that.
And all of this great, important, deeply validating stuff is thanks to Rebecca Sugar, whose gentle kindness is apparent in every aspect of Steven Universe. The work Rebecca put into pressuring Cartoon Network to green-light queer content not only allowed this incredible show to exist, but also paved the way for countless more creators to tell stories like these. When they came out as non-binary in 2018, it was almost as validating for me as seeing Stevonnie for the first time. Not only can characters like me be on television, but people like me can be the ones creating them too.
Carta Monir inspires me in so many ways. She’s extremely talented and creative and does super interesting work with interesting media, like her Game Boy camera zines. Her work is honest, vulnerable and poignant. (If you haven’t read Napkin, you’re missing out on something very special.) She’s beautiful and she loves herself—and her frequent “being trans is a gift” tweets make me feel beautiful too. She’s open about her sex work and how much she loves doing it, which I find incredibly empowering. Carta is always unabashedly herself.
But her work empowers other trans people in more concrete ways than just being an inspiration. She also runs Diskette Press, a micropress out of Ann Arbor, MI that publishes beautiful risograph art and zines, some of which are made by Carta but many others by up-and-coming trans creators. Diskette represents everything that’s so beautiful about making art at the personal and community level and it’s a gem—like Carta herself—that we are lucky to have.
Kylie Wu is probably best known for her webcomic Trans Girl Next Door, once a staple of Tumblr and now sporadically updated on her Patreon, where she would dish about the nitty gritty of being a trans woman, dating, and pretty much anything else. Her work is cheeky and sexy, but it’s not just the jokes that kept me coming back — it was the way Wu was unafraid to go there, and be crass or messy or weird or gross, and above all, honest. The nitty gritty details were present along with cuter, more palatable strips. It was comics as processing, almost, and a kind of self-analysis that I, in 2014, was desperate to see from queer artists. Wu wasn’t necessarily trying to present a pat version of life as a trans women, or trying to teach a cis audience a lesson, and in that sense her work has always felt refreshing. Her current comics on Patreon are still diary-style insights into her life that cut incisively into topics like sex addiction and sobriety, and the way she invites us into her whole life still inspires me.
— Kat Overland
Sophie Campbell’s work recently came onto my radar as I rediscovered the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a property I hadn’t engaged with all since my youth in the early nineties. During her time on the series she’s created the fifth turtle, a femme identifying fifth member of the squad named Jennika, created and introduced a queer love interest for her, and has shifted the focus of the over-arching story from ninja action all the time to recovering from loss, community building, and found family. Themes any trans person will tell you are close to home. Through Sophie’s writing and art, the turtles feel like whole characters, who experience the thrill of their lives along with the pain. They share in each other’s struggles and lift each other up. Her work is inspiring to me in how subtle it is, and how big a difference it makes. While Sophie isn’t making them overtly queer or trans, her influence on the Turtles and their world in IDW’s flagship TMNT series is proof positive that allowing trans creators to steer the ship creates more inclusive and nuanced characters, worlds, and stories.
Vita Ayala has been a hero of mine from the jump. Admittedly I came to their work through the X-Men as I do with all things. They’re work on Prisoner X, was an incredibly nuanced deconstruction of identity and self-actualization within the Age of X Man event. From there, Vita has continued to amaze. Their work on the New Mutants line is breathtaking, and sure to define the title as no other writer has been to prior. And their creator-owned work continues to impress and amaze. Vita’s sense of character and genre consistently create uncanny stories that are warmly familiar and ground-breaking all at the same time. Beyond their work though, they have taught me so much. They navigate the complexities of the world and the comic industry with a level of grace and humanity that should be instructive for everybody around them. I’m confident in saying if everybody in the industry was like Vita, the industry itself and the world at large would be a better place.
Listen, I’m getting in on a technicality here, but Nicole Maines is writing a story for the DC Pride anthology, so she counts. Nicole’s been so vastly important to my life and career, that I can’t overstate her importance to me. She’s spent her entire life advocating for trans rights, fighting against discrimination as a child and then providing some of the best representation for trans people in television, by showing us that we can be superheroes too. I cry when I think about how much she means to me, and how happy I am that trans youth have her to look up to. I can’t wait to read her story in June, and whatever comes next.
Obviously not her real name, but Jones is what she chooses to be published as so that’s what I’m going with. There are an increasing amount of trans cartoonists in the world, which is a delight in itself, and few stick with me more than the work of Pseudonym Jones. From her autobiographical comics on Twitter to the collected adventures of her characters Fanlee and Spätzle, she manages to tell charming, hilarious trans stories without sacrificing an ounce of authenticity and honesty over being trans in our current world. Whatever form her work takes, whether it’s random one-off doodles or a long-form narrative, I will always make time to see what new creation she’s thrown out into the world, and you should too.