House Bill 2 has a new foe — Chalice, a transgender superhero from the comic series "Alters."
Bret Parks, owner of Ssalefish Comics & Toys in Winston-Salem, commissioned a variant cover of the new comic series showing Chalice switching traditional female and male bathroom signs for placards that depict animals and aliens.
Parks said "Alters" is the type of modern superhero comic series that wants to represent the people we see around us all the time.
“It’s really a statement that I wanted to make about the world of comic books and how accepting that world is,” Parks said. “I kind of think the comic book world — comic book culture — is the last all-encompassing welcoming of everyone regardless of background, gender, handicap, race (and) age.”
Mike Marts, editor-in-chief of "Alters" publisher AfterShock Comics, said the comic book industry has traditionally been willing to tackle sensitive issues.
“Certainly the X-Men were at the forefront of tackling social issues of the day — Stan Lee in the early Marvel comics, certainly in Spider-Man, tackled things like race issues and drug issues. DC Comics did it with Green Arrow (and) Green Lantern," he said.
The comic series and the Ssalefish's HB2 cover help build awareness for LGBTQ issues, said Ashley Dai, UNC graduate and co-founder of Tar Heels For Equality, an LGBTQ organization.
She said it is important to create a community where people can feel comfortable being who they are, and with LGBTQ people currently underrepresented in media, the "Alters" series helps normalize being transgender.
“To see a superhero in that way and pitting them as the good or like the person you are rooting for, that could be amazing for people who are transgender," she said. "To see someone that they can get behind and really, not even idolize, but look up to.”
Parks said there has been an overwhelmingly positive response to the series, and he has received thank-you emails from comic book fans and transgender people across the country.
“I’ve sold Batman comic books for over 10 years, and no one has ever thanked me for having a Batman comic book,” he said.
Parks said there has also been some negative attention including the response of the Westboro Baptist Church.
“Someone from their Twitter page reinvented our cover art with hateful signs in place of the bathroom placards,” he said. “But I was telling my family, if a project I’m involved with has attracted the disapproval of the largest hate group in America then I think I’ve done something right.”
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