This month’s “Batgirl #19” takes diversity to a whole new level.
Wired reports that the new comic reveals that “Batgirl’s roommate is a transwoman.” The character, Alysia Yeoh, is also bisexual. Writer Gail Simone says she seeds diversity as “the issue for superhero comics.” She explains that the “tentpole characters” in comics were created a half-century ago making them almost exclusively white and straight. She says, “”If we only build around them, we look like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show for all eternity.” Wired reports,
Simone attributed the inspiration for the character to a conversation she had with fellow comic book writer Greg Rucka several years ago at the Wondercon convention, after a fan asked why there were fewer gay male superheroes than lesbian ones. Rucka, who co-created (and rebooted) Batwoman as a lesbian character, replied that it would be a real sign of change for a gay male character to appear on a comic book cover — and an even bigger step for a transgender character to do the same.
“I looked out into the audience, saw dozens of faces I knew well — LGBTQ folks, mostly — all avid comics readers and superhero fans and DC supporters,” said Simone. “And it just hit me: Why was this so impossible? Why in the world can we not do a better job of representation of not just humanity, but also our own loyal audience?”
She added that she thinks most superhero comics readers don’t have a problem with increased diversity, but rather with stories that promote sermonizing over storytelling. Alysia will be “a character, not a public service announcement … being trans is just part of her story. If someone loved her before, and doesn’t love her after, well — that’s a shame, but we can’t let that kind of thinking keep comics in the 1950s forever.”
Although she can’t say which one, Simone plans to add another transgender character to a different comic she is writing as well. She says,
It’s time for a trans hero in a mainstream comic. I think it’s time to make that thing happen that Greg [Rucka] mentioned years ago. And it’s going to happen … I’m sure it’s controversial on some level to some people, but honest to God, I just could not care less about that. If someone gets upset, so be it; there are a thousand other comics out there for those people.