Now it can be told!!!! I have co-created a brand new superhero for Marvel Comics (along with her best friend!) Meet Shela Sexton, aka Escapade. She's trans, and she's also a mutant. We'll meet her in the Marvel Voices Pride 2022 issue, and then see more of her in New Mutants this fall.
Shela is a thief and a trickster, who uses gadgets to pull off her heists. She doesn't like to rely on her mutant power, for reasons that will become obvious once you've read the story. She identifies as a supervillain — but a supervillain who only helps people. In the image above, she is flying across the ocean using her flying gloves and boots! Her amazing costume was designed by Eisner-nominated artists Ro Stein and Ted Brandt (Crowded), with colors by the wonderful Tamra Bonvillain. Editor Sarah Brunstad suggested the jumpsuit, and assistant editor Anita Okoye came up with the name Escapade.
One thing that was very important to me in co-creating this character: being a mutant is not a metaphor for being trans, and vice versa. These are just two aspects of her identity that sometimes intersect. Also: neither of those things defines her! She is a complete person!
Here's the design sketch:
Other gadgets that Shela uses in her crime spree include gravity dice (seen here making a hench-person float.) The gravity dice go from 1 (Pluto) to 12 (Jupiter). And rainbow glitter that confuses electronic systems.
I came up with SO MUCH backstory for Shela, most of which hasn't been seen yet. I know her parents' entire life stories! Shela is fun to write because she's just learning — we see her have her first ever fight with a superpowered person, and she's excited but also overwhelmed. She's very funny and quippy, but also wears her heart on her sleeve. And she is very suspicious of authority, including people like Professor X and Magneto.
Working with Ro, Ted, Sarah, Anita and Tamra has been a dream. And hands down, the most collaborative experience I've had thus far in comics. Everyone had major input — it all made this story BETTER. The character designs are incredible, and largely not based on my terrible ideas. But also, there are a million inspired storytelling choices in this issue that came from Ted, Ro, Sarah or Anita. It's been wonderful, in a very different way than writing on my own can be.
I guess I just wanna say... don't privilege writers over artists in comics. Also, don't ignore the contributions of editors! And letterers and colorists. This is a team effort, writing is just one ingredient. When a comic is running at full power, it's the sum of a whole bunch of awesome creative minds making absolute magic.
Shela's best friend and (literal) partner in crime is Morgan Red (he/they). Morgan is also a trans mutant! Look at those argyle socks — I love how Ted and Ro dressed them. <3
Shela's mutant power is incredibly useful and can get her into and out of lots of scrapes. But Morgan's power is perhaps a bit less handy — he can turn anything organic into chocolate. He's also a super-genius and is super resourceful, and has a super-strong bullshit detector.
I was very keen for there to be a community of trans mutants that Morgan and Shela could belong to, to help show that being a mutant isn't a metaphor for transness or whatev. And I ended up using some trans mutants created by Grace Freud in this same issue!
A third member of their party: Shela and Morgan live with a genetically engineered flying turtle named Hibbert, whom they "liberated" from a laboratory.
Hibbert kind of took on a life of their own through the artwork. Ro and Ted give Hibbert SO MUCH emotion and energy, it's amazing. When Morgan is worried, Hibbert worries too. When Morgan is pissed, Hibbert is SO PISSED. Hibbert often sits on Morgan's head.
There's so much more that I can't share yet. We did some stylistic things that just make my heart explode with happiness, but I don't want to spoil them. We packed so much into 20 pages in this first story. (And there's going to be more in New Mutants this fall, like I said.)
So listen... the deadline for your local comics shop to pre-order the Pride issue is Monday, May 16. That is FIVE DAYS FROM NOW. If you are interested in Shela and would like to see more of her, then PLEASE call or email your friendly comics retailer ASAP and ask for a copy. The way these things work is, if you don't pre-order, the comics shops don't bother to stock as many copies. Comics, unlike prose books, are non-returnable.
So if you're someone who's been saying, "I wish there were more trans superheroes." Or "I wish there were more superheroes who think they're supervillains." Or "I wish I could read a comic about a flying turtle"..... Please please please put your $$ where your mouth is.
We've seen it over and over again: things that we don't support go away. If you can afford to support this, please do. This Pride issue also has amazing work from Ira Madison III, Alyssa Wong, Andrew Wheeler, Christopher Cantwell, Grace Freud, Kei Zama, Lorenzo Susi, Stephen Byrne, Scott Henderson and tons of other amazing creators.
All you gotta do is call your local comics store by Monday and say "please set aside a copy of the 2022 Marvel pride issue for me," and they *should* know what you're talking about. And you'll have helped to keep superheroes queer!
My young adult debut Victories Greater Than Death has now been nominated for the Andre Norton, Lodestar and Locus awards for best young adult novel. And the sequel, Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, has been out for about a month and it's just chock full of magical space princesses, artists traveling outside the universe, people trying to make peace in spite of all the worst things people can throw at them, and tons more. Also, my short story collection Even Greater Mistakes has also just been nominated for the Locus Award too.
The latest episode of the podcast I do with Annalee Newitz, Our Opinions Are Correct, is one of my favorites. It's all about "the illusion of change" — the notion that long-running characters should seem to go through huge life changes, but they should never be permanent. Or actually matter in any way. Check it out in all the places you get podcasts from!
Victories Greater Than Death has been featured in Play Out Apparel's book club, and we're doing an Instagram Live on Thursday at 4 PM PT. Just look for @PlayOutNYC on Instagram on Thursday afternoon (or evening, if you're on the East coast!)
Tomorrow (Saturday) at 7:30 PM (doors at 7), I'm once again hosting Writers With Drinks at the Make Out Room, 3225 22nd St. in SF. This time around it's a fundraiser for district attorney Chesa Boudin. Featuring Jaime Cortez, Josiah Luis Alderete, Ramona Laughing Brook Webb and Shanthi Sekaran, plus one more person TBA. $5 to $20 NOTAFLOF! Vaccination and masks required, because we don't like terrible diseases.