Paul Jenkins’ ALTERS may be the first mainstream superhero book with a transgender protagonist

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AfterShock Comics, announced with much fanfare last year, has been rolling out dozens of comics since December, but they’ve just announced the one that MAY be their breakout hit. At AwesomeCon I got to catch up with writer Paul Jenkins (Wolverine: Origin) quite a bit, and he couldn’t stop talking about ALTERS, a book about people who are “different” from what’s expected…but who get their superpower from those very differences. The main character, a transitioning woman whose superhero name is Chalice, is one such Alter, but other characters in the book have “disabilities” that become “abilities.” And Chalice has not only her secret superhero identity but a real life secret identity as her family does now know she is transitioning.

Now I know what you are thinking: another cishetwhiteman writing about the other. Alters will definitely be judged on its own merits, but I can say with certainly that Jenkins is incredibly passionate about this book, and about sending a message about heroism, who can have it and where it comes from. I saw him talking about it to many people at the show, and I am not exaggerating to say that sometimes people got a little damp in the eyes hearing Jenkins talk about it. He’s that passionate. And AfterShock has assembled a diverse creative team with at least one trans member, colorist Tamra Bonvillain. Leila Leiz takes over on art for subsequent issues.

The book has a write up in the NY Times today that goes into more detail:

The series was created by the writer Paul Jenkins, a comics veteran whose credits include Origin, which detailed the early days of Wolverine. For Mr. Jenkins it is a passion project, one he has pursued since 2005. He gives a lot of credit to his mother, a gay single mom who raised him and his brother in Dorset, England. “If we ever get to a point where issues such as race, sexuality and gender identity are a nonissue, we will have arrived,” he said. “That’s my Mum talking right there.”

With the Alters — this comic’s term for people who have some kind of empowering anomaly — Mr. Jenkins, 50, is set to explore characters who have special abilities and physical, chemical or mental challenges. One story will focus on an unattractive heroine. “The TMZ report would be ‘Ugly Chick Saves World,’” he said. Another will focus on a shape-shifter who becomes quadriplegic and faces a choice: remain that way and live or opt for a final change that will grant mobility but prove fatal after a month.

 

I expect this book to get a LOT of scrutiny from the comics community, as it should as it speaks directly to the issues that so many readers are most passionate about in comics today. Will is stand up to that scrutiny? Time will tell.

ALTERS #1/ $3.99 / 32 pages / Color / on sale 9.7.16
writer: Paul Jenkins
artist: Leia Leiz
color: Tamra Bonvillain
cover: Brian Stelfreeze
Diamond Order Code: JUL161167
1:10 incentive cover by Brian Stelfreeze; 1:25 incentive cover by Tony Harris
From a diverse team of creators composed of differing genders, gender identities, ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations comes a groundbreaking new series featuring the world’s first transgender superhero!
As the world struggles to accept the emergence of a new kind of mutant species known as alterations, or “Alters,” a young woman begins her transition from male to female only to find herself also transitioning into a powerful Alter. Faced with persecution by the multi-powered fascist known only as Matter Man, she will face the world as Chalice–a  hero for a new age. But as Chalice navigates the path to becoming her true self, she must juggle the complications of her civilian life and the responsibilities of her newfound power.
This groundbreaking series–years in the making–begins the saga of a young woman who can only really be herself…whenever she is not herself.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Does a non-super hero in a superhero universe count? If so, Milestone’s Marisa Rahm – protagonist of “Deathwish” – predates this by a couple decades.

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