Why eight questions? Because I had more than five and less than ten! Actually, there are more than eight because of grouping the questions by subject but – and you probably don’t care about any explanation I provide.
Previously I did a review of the Rat Queens One-Shot that focused on Braga’s life before Palisade, the Peaches, and the Rat Queens when she was still the Orc chieftain’s son, Broog. Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with guest artist Tess Fowler, Braga’s story is one of exploring the stagnant culture that breeds intolerance as Broog tries to pull his clan out of the rut of war and brutality, but meets resistance at every turn. Tired of fighting against his own people, Broog leaves his clan disappointed but hopeful that his clan will eventually come around. The issue is significant not just for addressing transgender characters in comics, but also for how the subject is broached. At no point does the transition from Broog to Braga occur within the story. Instead, Wiebe and Fowler make it about the environment surrounding Broog and the factors that push him to leave. It’s a brilliant story, so I reached out to Kurtis Wiebe with my eight questions and he was kind enough to answer them through email.
1. You dropped some hints about Braga in the first arc of Rat Queens. Were you intending to expand upon her character or was it the circumstances surrounding delays on the book that presented the opportunity.
KW: Originally we’d planned to do a one shot between arcs to fill the gap while Roc [Upchurch] finished the art for the upcoming one. We wanted to make sure that fans were getting some kind of Rat Queens story even if we didn’t have the main storyline coming out every month.
That said, I always like to drop small hints about characters throughout a series, including side characters, even if I never have the opportunity to fully explore the story idea. It allows me at some point in the future to further develop the concept if the opportunity arises.
That’s why I try to add detail with every character I introduce; it allows for that sort of storytelling freedom.
2. When you conceived of Braga in the Peaches, was she already a transgender character?
KW: If it wasn’t from get-go, she definitely was once I saw her illustrated. The thing was, so many of the side characters were just one offs I hadn’t planned to use again, but once I saw Braga in the first issue, I knew I wanted to do more with her. I’m pretty sure in the script to issue #1 I wrote “female half-orc” for one of the members of the Peaches.
When I saw the design, I knew I wanted to use her for more so I started writing out her background. From that point on, she was a trans character.
3. In the book, I love how you address the culture and the environment surrounding the transgender community instead of making the transition from Broog to Braga the main focus. Can you expand on how you and Tess came up with the structure of the story?
KW: I wanted to make Braga’s story something I could relate to, in particular, related to my experiences with the trans people in my life. So many of those experiences are really interesting conversations about life and love. Work and hobbies. And in reminding myself of that, I knew the issue about Braga would be the same. A story shared over coffee about her past. A trans person’s identity isn’t made up of their transition; yes, it’s a HUGE part of their journey, but it’s not the entirety of who they are.
I think writers often forget that when telling a trans character story.
Tess loved the outline I wrote, and she told me how thrilled she was that it wasn’t all about Braga’s transition, but about what led her to that realization. She really understood what this issue was about, and it a topic that held a lot of personal meaning to her.
4. Do you think the actual change from man to woman is even worth addressing?
KW: Maybe? I’d like to think what’s important is Braga’s realization that she is in charge of her own happiness and that she doesn’t have to be anything else other than her true self. I think that’s a lesson all of us need to learn. I know I did.
I know it’s an important part of Braga’s story, as it is for any trans individual, but part of me feels unqualified to tell it. Does that make sense?
All I know is that I really adore Braga and would do another issue if the opportunity came up.
5. What is your relationship to the transgender community? How do you feel about visibility and representation in comic books? Do you think mainstream and indie publishers are headed in the right direction with depicting more diverse characters?
KW: I have a few acquaintances and friends that are trans. Their stories are incredibly interesting, inspiring and at times heartbreaking. It’s absolutely important that the trans community is represented in the stories we tell. Historically, it’s shameful how they have been portrayed in fiction, often vilified.
I believe there are great examples coming out of fiction now and the more it happens, the more accepted it will become. I just want to contribute to that, do my trans friends proud.
6. Rat Queens is revealing itself to be more and more about the creation of misfit families. Dee left a small religious community, Violet defied conventions as a dwarf, and Braga left her people because of their stifling inability to change. What does Palisade represent to you in regards to the greater story within Rat Queens?
KW: More than anything: home. Someone pointed out to me recently that so many of my stories are about found families, and it was a big moment for me. I’d never realized that about my writing. I suppose we write about our experiences even when we don’t intend to.
I’ve often talked about the differences between me and my family. How I went from being religious to atheist and the impact that’s had on my life in relation to them. Feeling like an outsider in a lot of ways. I’m also adopted, and having a family I love that isn’t blood has taught me that family can be anyone.
A lot of the characters in Rat Queens are outsiders. They’ve taken a stand against their home and family, or find their views not welcome anymore. Palisade represents acceptance for anyone, a safe place for the weird and the outcast.
7. What did Tess bring to the one-shot as an artist?
KW: No one else could’ve done it. It was a personal story for her, and I think that bleeds through on the page.
8. Do you plan on writing anymore one-shots for characters in the Rat Queens universe? If so, who would be next on your list?
KW: There isn’t any immediate plans, but I think a Four Daves one shot would be fun.
I wholeheartedly agree! You can still find Braga’s one-shot on Comixology or your own local comicbook store and be sure to pick up Rat Queens #9 on February 25th!