Comic book store features transgender heroine

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Comic book characters have long fought against supervillains, mad scientists and alien invaders, but on the cover of new comic book out this week, a superheroine takes on North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2, widely known as the bathroom bill.

Ssalefish Comics, in the Silas Creek Crossing shopping center, has commissioned an exclusive cover for “Alters” No. 1, a new series from AfterShock Comics that focuses on Chalice, a transgender superheroine. The cover makes fun of HB2 by depicting Chalice holding up a unisex symbol to replace the sign on a bathroom door.

A provision of HB2, signed into law earlier this year, requires people to use restrooms that match the gender listed on their birth certificates.

Ssalefish occasionally commissions retailer-exclusive covers, and has previously sold exclusive covers for comics including issues of “Batman: Dark Knight,” ”Sesame Street,” ”Black Eyed Kids” and “Faith.”

“I wanted the cover to take a jab at HB2, but I didn’t want anything over-the-top,” said Bret Parks, the owner of Ssalefish. “I thought this was a direct and effective way to comment on HB2, but at the same time not alienating a comic book fan who just wants to read the comic.”

This cover is unique to Ssalefish, but the interior contents of the comic are the same nationwide, and the story itself does not involve HB2. The interior of the comic is written by Paul Jenkins, a British comic writer, and illustrated by Leila Leiz.

Jenkins and Joe Pruett, the publisher and a co-founder of AfterShock Comics, reached out to Ssalefish back in June.

“They had started to promote the book, and thanks to the mess that is HB2, they wanted the support from a high-profile North Carolina store,” Parks said. “I agreed immediately. Since June, North Carolina has really been hit hard in terms of entertainment boycotting. I am hoping to get the message across that North Carolina as a whole still supports art and diversity.”

The cover art for this exclusive edition is by Richard Case, a longtime comic book artist who lives in Hillsborough.

“Richard Case was the obvious choice for three reasons,” Parks said. “He is a great comic book artist, he lives in North Carolina, and he drew a transgender character in Grant Morrison’s ‘Doom Patrol’ comic book.”

The book is on sale today, and Jenkins and Case will attend a special event at Ssalefish from noon to 3 p.m. Sept. 17 to sign copies of the comic and talk with fans. The exclusive-edition comic will sell for $10, which also acts as a ticket to the Sept. 17 event. The store is also selling unsigned copies online. The standard edition of the comic has a different cover by artist Brian Stelfreeze and sells for $3.99. Ten percent of proceeds from the sale of the comic book will be donated to Equality NC, an organization fighting HB2.

Response from his customers has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Parks.

“I have actually had parents buy the book in tears because they were so happy that their transgender kids were so openly represented,” he said. “I also received emails from comic book fans all over the country thanking me for supporting a book like ‘Alters.’ That kind of response means a lot to me. It also helps get the comic into the hands of more readers, which is ultimately my goal.”

He had one Facebook user tell him that they were “no longer a customer,” he said, but “most customers have either strongly supported it or just ignored it. I am perfectly OK with that.”


Information from: Winston-Salem Journal,

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