Author: Steven Appleby
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Penguin Random House UK
Genre: Graphic Novel
Source: Personal Copy
Let me just say this at the very onset: We need more books like Dragman. We need more representation of cross-dressing and for it to not be an anomaly. We need for children and teenagers to know that it is okay to want to dress a certain way and not go by what the world has prescribed for them. I wish I had a book like Dragman in my life when I was growing up.
I think it started when I was eleven or so. The desire to wear women’s clothes, but I wouldn’t dare tell anyone. Heck, I wouldn’t even try on anything. It was just a desire. I wanted to be Hawa Hawaii. I wanted to be Seema from Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja. As I grew up, I wanted to be Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I so wanted to be all of them. To dress and shine. To be someone else and feel empowered with the hair, the make-up, the clothes, the high-heels, and the confidence that I never had till I was way into my late 20s.
Dragman is about all of this and more. It is not just about a man who feels powerful when he wears women’s clothes. It is also about him not identifying as drag but as trans. It is so much more. It is also about what it means to be a superhero in times such as ours or at any time for that matter.
Within the first one-hundred and twenty-five pages you are transported to another world, with so many layers, it almost stuns the reader into awe and admiration for what’s going on in these pages. But let me not drift.
It does however take some time to get into the book, but once you do, you are hooked. August Crimp can fight crime when he is wearing women’s clothes, with his side-kick Dog Girl. This happened till he got married and had a kid. And now in the world an inventor has developed a device that can remove people’s souls and store them on small disks. People without souls continue living. However, they have no character or personality or perhaps even the will to live. In addition to this, trans women are being targeted by a serial killer.
Colour panels take over the current life, while the past is depicted in black and white. There are also sections of prose that describe violent encounters without any graphics, which helps propel the narrative. In all of this, I found Dragman to be so relevant, of course given the times we live in, and owing to the discrimination toward trans people and how they fight the battle head on. Dragman is a book that is most needed and I know that there will be more books such as this one. The balance of being a superhero and the dilemma of sorts, finally leading to acceptance of being trans is wonderfully depicted and illustrated.
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