Friday, 28 September 2012

Hero 9 to 5 Review

It’s an interesting story as to how I came across reading this independent graphic novel ‘Hero 9 to 5’.  I have met the books writer, Ian Sharman, at a number of comic conventions over the last few years and spoken to him about his work, yet I never had the opportunity to actually pick up his books and read them. 

One of my close friends, who is also a friend of Ian’s quite often tells me of Ian political views and the fact that he is a feminist.  Then he shows me this image that Ian posted on his Facebook page:

I have to admit my initial reaction to this image was ‘what the f**k?!’  I thought, here is a man who is trying to improve the comics industry for women and he produces a piece of work that depicts women like that?  I was so astounded at this that I added Ian on Facebook and outlined how I felt about this image.  This led to a long discussion between Ian and myself, with him defending the content of his work and me trying to indicate how that image could be seen as offensive.  After going back and forth for a while Ian sent me a copy of Hero 9 to 5 so that I could read it and see the internal content for myself.

So I read the book, and here are my thoughts on the book.

Hero 9 to 5 follows the super hero Flame-O, who works for Heroes 4 Zeroes, a company that provides hero protection for people that cannot afford cover from more expensive and more competent heroes.  The four issues contained within the graphic novel follows Flame-O and his friends at Heroes 4 Zeroes as they go from men and women working a job to actual heroes who stand up for what they believe in because they choose to rather than because they’re being paid.

Whilst I like this initial setup, of a world where heroes are just another emergency service, and that if you don’t have insurance you get the crappy guys, the fact that it is written as a parody takes a lot away from the enjoyment for me.  I believe that if this concept was written as a straight book then it could have been much better.  As it is there are many silly jokes and comments that are supposed to make fun of super hero comics, but for me just come across as un-humorous and their for the sake of it.

The plot seems to jump all over the place too, with one of the characters flip-flopping between good and evil almost every issue, with almost no explanation and no consequences for the characters.  Characters say and do things for the ‘comedy’ of a scene rather than for the plot or to build upon the characters themselves.  Yes, the book may be intended as a parody, but even the silliest comedy stems from something more than just being their for the hell of it.

There are some very interesting moments in the book, and the basis for more stories about these character where they can be given room to grow and mature, however not on volume one.  The book could have benefited from a larger page count, not to add more action or story, but for more characterisation, which as it stands often feels rushed and unrealistic.

If you are a fan of satire and silly comedy then pick up Hero 9 to 5 and give it a read as I’m sure you will enjoy it.  If you are a fan of super hero comics then yes, you too should give it a read, though be prepared for the fact that you may not like it.  This is a book that I believe you will either love or find ‘okay’ (love or hate is too strong a phrase to be used here as I don’t believe that there is anything here to truly hate).

In conclusion Hero 9 to 5 has an interesting concept and is written with great passion, and whilst it may or may not set your world on fire it is definitely worth the time to sit and read it.


Saturday, 22 September 2012

Coming Out

When I first figured out that I was trans it sent my world spinning.  For those reading this that have gone through the same thing I think you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, the realisation that this was going on was almost too much to bear.  To help make sense of it I had to tell someone, I needed to vocalise what was going through my mind, to have someone question it just so that I could try to understand it myself.

The first person I told was a close friend of mine that I knew was a very understanding and open minded person, I guess it was my ‘safest’ choice of people to tell as I knew that he wouldn’t immediately freak out about it.  Thankfully my instincts were correct and he sat down with me, listened to what I had to say and asked questions, comforted me when I cried and just treated me like a normal person.

After that came one of the hardest tasks I had, I needed to try and tell my family.  I spent the next weeks trying to psych myself up to telling them.  I ran through dozens of different scenarios in my head, different way that I could tell them, how they might react.  Every time I saw them I would try and bring myself to telling them, and each and every time I couldn’t go through with it. 

I felt so much fear and apprehension about what the outcome might be that I just couldn’t find the strength I needed.  I don’t think that it recall helped me that I’d been reading about other people’s coming out experiences, and whilst some of them were good, a large portion of them can best be described as ‘troubled’.

Luckily for me the choice of telling my family was taken out of my hand when my mother confronted me one Sunday afternoon.  She knew that there was something wrong with me, something that I wanted to tell them and I guess that she’d had enough of me getting so close to telling them and then backing out.

It wasn’t the way that I wanted to tell her, outside my house in a parked car wasn’t the bet location, but at least I’d told her.  Now it was time for the reaction.  She kept herself calm and collected, she asked me to go and see my doctor, to make sure that I was one hundred percent sure before I did anything or told anyone else.

I did as my mother asked, I kept it to my self, I went to my doctor and I explored every option before I did anything else.  Eventually, after a few months counselling, y initial self diagnosis was confirmed, I was transsexual.  With this confirmation came another hurdle that I would have to cross, telling the other members of my family.

Initially I wanted to hold off on telling them; after all I’m still waiting to start hormones so why tell them so early on?  However, yet again the option to wait felt like it was taken out of my hands.  Months before I had told the management team at work about my situation in order to get time off for appointments and to explain why some days I was massively depressed whilst at work.  Unfortunately it turns out that one of the members of the management team wasn’t to have been trusted, and proceeded to gossip about me behind my back and even told another of the employees that I was trans.

With the information seemingly spreading on its own out of my control I found that I had to tell the rest of my family now.  I didn’t know exactly who knew now, who had gone and told others, the one thing I did know for sure is that I didn’t want my family to find out through anyone but me.  So now I was faced with a situation where I would have to tell them.

A few weeks ago, on one of my regular visits to see my family, I was presented with the opportunity to tell them.  I was in the kitchen with my mum and dad and my dad asked me how things were going, which kicked started my conversation with him.  However, even though I knew I had to tell him there and then I just couldn’t find the words.  Trying to vocalise what needed to be said was so hard for me.

Never being one to miss an opportunity to talk my dad jumped straight in during this pause and bombarded me with a myriad of questions, ‘you’re moving back in with us?’  ‘You’ve got someone pregnant?’  ‘You’ve got a new job?’  ‘You’re gay?’

Finally managing to get him to stop talking I told him in as easy a way as I could manage.  ‘I’m transgendered.’  After a moment of confusion my mother jumped in and explained it to him by referencing a documentary they had seen the previous week (thank you channel 4) and my dad understood what that now meant.  Then came is reaction.  I was prepared for the worse, for him to shout and scream, to tell me that he hated me or didn’t want me in the family anymore.  However, his actual reaction was one that I hadn’t imagined hearing.  ‘Oh, okay then.’

That was it.  After months and months of building this moment up in my head and going through every conceivable reaction I never imagined he would just say ‘Oh, okay then.’ If anything it felt like something of an anti climax!

So from there he proceeded to ask me a few questions, which I answered the best I could, and he was still okay with it.  He told me that no matter what I did, no matter who I was on the inside or the outside, I was still a part of the family, and nothing would ever change that.

Luckily during all of this my sister was listening in on our conversation, and as such I no longer needed to tell her and had got out of another gruelling coming out.  So that was it, I was done.  My immediate family now knew and they accepted me despite it all.

I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders, despite the fact that there are still some people in my life I need to tell the three most important know, and they still love me.  It might sound like I’m bragging by continually stating that my family are okay with me, as I know not everyone is as lucky, but I can’t help it.  I love my family so much, and to know that I can put them through something like this and they’ll stand by me no matter what is amazing. 

I hope that anyone else who reads this and is going through the same situation is as lucky as I am.  Good luck to you all.