This Good Recommended Content is why I’m in this book club.
I often feel like queer people seeking representation and those who question what they want are talking past each other. People who have had representation know what it’s like without knowing the alternative of being ignored and dismissed in the media they consume. “Good representation” is more than A good, gay (cis white male) guy or the wholesome lesbian couple, though these are fun on their own. Nor is it a person whose entire purpose in a story is to be that token gay character. Real representation is just that—real.
Whenever someone asks me what I want in representation from now on I will wave this story in their face and shout “that! That!!”
Sam’s identity is not treated as something remarkable. It is a mundane thing to Berenice and even Nathan, who recognize and acknowledge this identity without making a fuss. When Boston mistakenly refers to Sam as “she”, Berenice gently corrects him and gives a brief explanation: “Sam is non-binary and uses “they/them” pronouns”. With only slight stumbling, Boston immediately corrects himself and no further comment is needed.
There’s a bit in there that I want to break down, and sorry in advance for how long my responses are going to be. This is just who I am.
Firstly, the encounter is not treated like it’s A Big Deal, but it’s also not avoided. There are times when representation exists but in a “The Love That Dare Not Speak It’s Name” way. It’s what I’d identify as queer subtext, meant to be received by those “in the know” (queer people and people familiar with queer culture) while allowing for plausible deniability. This often leads to those internet fights about whether such-and-such is “”really”” gay or whatever.
Secondly, I always get happy bubbles inside when one of my heroes acknowledges and treats people like me with dignity. That affirmation means more than most will ever know. Boston Brand’s blasé but respectful reaction is so good.
Later on, Sam accepts Berenice’s explanation about her sixth sense without question. It is explicitly and implicitly tied to their experience as a non-binary person. This is what could be termed “a queer experience”, as most queer people have already encountered the notion that one cannot reject someone else’s reality merely because that reality isn’t clear to you. It is important only to acknowledge and respect their experience.
This ties with another important point about representation. While most people would prefer queer rep not to be someone who introduces themselves with “hi, I’m gay”, being queer is an important aspect of our lives. Some people spend more time and effort in the community than others, but every non-straight, non-cis person has spent at least some time thinking about their identity. It influences the way we communicate, how open we are with others, and the kind of things we experience.
Tying Sam’s identity together with their storyline in this way is exactly the sort of thing I would like to see more of. There’s power in the queer experience, even if it’s not a superpower.
I am familiar with Deadman, and I’ve read a few stories featuring him or revolving around him. I wouldn’t say I’m incredibly knowledgeable but I am familiar with his origin and mission.
Putting these two together because I feel like they tie into each other.
Like any good comic, the art really supports the story here. The realistic expressions and proportions add to the sense that these are real people, even in the midst of a fantastic ghost story. The mansion is almost as important a character as the actual protagonists, and the time the artist spends creating a beautiful, old house with drafty, high ceilings and imposing doors sells the character. The writing, especially through Berenice and her view, sets the tone for the story right away.
Avoid houses with their own names, indeed.
On the whole, I enjoyed the narrative parallels of love and expectations/fate. The moment where we found out that Adelia is in fact the ominous shadow haunting the manor is the most clear moment, where it is obvious that the ghost subconsciously recognizes the danger Nathan poses to Berenice, so like the danger he posed to her. The platonic and romantic underpinnings of Sam and Berenice’s relationship is also underscored by the connection Boston and Adelia feel—two people whose experiences the them together and create a bond of understanding deeper than can really be expressed.
That beautiful sentiment of being fated to meet someone, or maybe more like recognizing the potential of connection with someone so similar to yourself, makes for my favorite bit of writing here:
This is powerful. I think it demonstrates the broader power of community and connection, something many queer people long for and feel isolated from.
Okay, thanks for sticking through that.