These characters are Ed and Tim, from left to right. Along with Alice, I think they were the only white people in the whole strip.
Note, from the previous strips, was an openly trans character in that they were nonbinary. I’ll talk more about them later, but I’ve brought them up so I can relate them to how I conceived of Ed. Ed was going to be a closeted trans character – a transgendered man who didn’t readily tell people he was assigned female at birth. I wanted Ed’s trans-ness to be kind of a reveal at a later stage of the comic: not for trashy drama (that would be awful), but to make a point. Note was openly nonbinary, so I could confront readers with that directly. But Ed was my stealth option. I wanted people to connect with him and like him and then, bam, he happens to be trans. Yes: I wanted to set a trap for transphobic people, to put them in a situation where their preconceptions were suddenly confronted by someone they liked.
I’ve since wondered about whether that would have been disrespectful to trans people, or a positive representation as I’d originally intended. I figure that when you have multiple characters of a single group – in this case, transgendered people – you have a greater leeway to explore different issues with them. You can make their characters a lot more fleshed out and individual, because you’re not relying on them to single-handedly represent an entire group of people. If I made my only trans character a flappy too-loud enthusiastic gay guy (which Ed would have been), then I’m kinda pigeonholed into insinuating that all trans people are flappy too-loud enthusiastic gay people. But because I’ve still got Note, as well as another trans character called Kennedy, Ed is freed from his burden of sole representation. They can all be individuals first, who are also trans (though of course that would affect their personalities too, but it would affect each of them differently).
Kennedy never showed up in any of the strips I drew, but she was going to be a black trans woman. She was going to love horrible kitsch things and make movies like David Lynch meets François Truffaut. It’s a shame I never drew any comics with her, because she was awesome.
Tim, on the other hand, was a highly privileged white cisgendered guy who thought he had it toughest in the world, not from malice but from lack of exposure to people different from him. He was an obnoxious to be around self-important compulsive liar, and it wasn’t until Lore said he looked a bit like me that I realised I was writing a straight version of myself at age fifteen.
Those posters, incidentally, should be familiar to anyone who went to the VCA circa 2009. I dunno if they’re still hanging up there, but I can remember every movie poster in that building and where they were hanging. I have no idea why. I can’t even remember the name of the main road two minutes from my house. Brains are weird like that.