Thursday, January 9, 2020

In a Word: Trans - an autobiographical comic collection (LGBTQ+ Comic Review)

pink book background with white text with a male and female logo in scratchy white
"In a Word: Trans" by Justin Hubbell
Today's column is a bit different. Rather than giving a review, I want to highlight a very cool collection of comics by a non-binary transgender person, Justin Hubbell (they/them pronouns) called In a Word: Trans. Like my other columns discussing autobiographical works, I will not give a numeric rating because it is not for me to judge another person's life. Instead, I just want to talk about what this work includes so you can decide if it is something that interests you (and it should!).

In a Word: Trans is a collection of comics, by Justin Hubbell, many of which had been posted online prior to this collection. Others in the collection were done for personal reasons by the artist as part of their own processing over the course of exploring their gender and gender expression.

There are two really critical parts of this work that I want to highlight:

1) It's a work by a non-binary creator. It's so awesome to get this because there is so little non-binary representation in traditional media. Our non-binary folks, of all ages, need to see themselves and others on their journey. This has the potential to be a valuable mirror and window for those still exploring and perhaps a source of validation and affirmation to those who know their gender is non-binary.

2) It's messy. And I mean that in the best ways. We so often, as LGBTQ+ folks, hear just a very narrow set of narratives about what it means to be transgender, or gay, or asexual, or whatever, when in fact, there are infinite varieties of experiences. Justin Hubbell shows just how messy their own process of understanding themselves was. For many, realizing that it isn't a straight shot to the answer may come as a huge source of relief that they aren't "doing it wrong."

The comics themselves are broken into four sections that are roughly chronological through Hubbell's process of self-discovery and expression. However, interspersed within those are various advocacy comics promoting various topics such as pride in one's unique body or countering the few available narratives in traditional media. Those panels are less autobiographical but fit with the themes of the surrounding more personal comics.

Stylistically, the art is a familiar blend of indie-comic aesthetics (styles stretching back at least to the 1960s) and more contemporary comic styles. There are even panels with collaged photos. Some comics are one panel or one page, others are multi-panel or multi-page. There is a huge variety in the collection as a whole.

To give you a sense of the range, I took pictures of some pages in this collection. I apologize to Justin Hubbell for using these without permission, but hopefully they will be okay with it since I'm encouraging people to buy the book. (Also, sorry for the poor photography of the pages, their art looks must better in the actual book).

Sorry for the bad quality photo of this page - All credit to Justin Hubbell, taken from In a Word: Trans

Sorry for the bad quality photo of this page - All credit to Justin Hubbell, taken from In a Word: Trans
Sorry for the bad quality photo of this page - All credit to Justin Hubbell, taken from In a Word: Trans
Sorry for the bad quality photo of this page - All credit to Justin Hubbell, taken from In a Word: Trans

Sorry for the bad quality photo of this page - All credit to Justin Hubbell, taken from In a Word: Trans
As far as I have been able to tell, Justin Hubbell self-published this collection after a kickstarter (or similar) funding. It is well put together with high quality printing on good quality paper. It's quite professional looking and is a testament to their work, highlighting the comics well.

Overall, I really got a lot out of this collection as their journey was quite different than my own as a transgender woman. I also believe it is super important to have non-binary representation in media. The mix of humor, darkness, realism, fantasy, and advocacy in these comics are a real strength of the collection. I'm hoping more people find this comic because whether they are exploring themselves or learning about others, this is a valuable window into one person's trans narrative.

I believe you can still purchase it by going to:
A digital release is available at:


Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Remember: please talk about the work, and offer counter points to others' analyses but DO NOT ATTACK THE PERSON whose analysis you are countering. (no ad hominem comments) Thanks! <3