The Pervert is a graphic novel full about a transsexual. The colour palette is dark and the word choices are pretty harsh, full of LGBTQ’ slurs. The interesting thing about this read is the main character’s heartbreaking philosophy that her name does not matter, but instead her love for others. Instead of a name, we see them get called ‘f*g’ and various other slurs. The devaluing of the protagonist helps keep this work uneasy and disheartening. For as many names as we see the main character get called, we also see her through various sexual activities as she works as a prostitute. The main character may look like Snoopy, but this comic is not for the kids.
Written by Michelle Perez and illustrated by Remy Boydell, both trans women, the comic offers a portrait of trans sex workers, despite the fact that it revolves around an anthropomorphic dog. In the opening scene, Felina goes down on a “fiscally conservative, socially libertarian” guy in a fast food restaurant. While performing the act, she spaces out, focusing her attention on the dining establishment’s hypnotic ball pit and the kids playing inside.
The ball pit ― a space whose nostalgic associations and bright colours mask a shady underbelly ― is an apt metaphor to describe the story itself.
A conventionally cute character as the protagonist of such a gloomy story helps make the uglier moments of the subject matter easier to tackle. There’s also an emotional reaction in the reader from seeing characters reminiscent of those they are familiar with from their childhood.
“As a child, there’s a neural understanding that gets strengthened each time you read a comic or watch a cartoon,” Boydell said. “If you use a character design that taps into someone’s childhood memories, you really draw someone in.”
Being privy to both Felina’s verbalized and unverbalized thoughts, readers see in vivid detail the toll sex work takes on her sanity. “Each day of this, I’m just part of someone else’s day,” she divulges to her friend, a cam girl named Weed Trap. “All I’ve ended up doing is giving more and more to these f*cking strangers.
In its depictions of sex ― sometimes hot, sweet, perfunctory or uncomfortable ― between transsexual characters, “The Pervert” breaks new ground in comics. But neither author nor artist consider the novel a political statement. They see it as an autobiography, elucidating a story that’s rarely brought into focus, especially not in the comic world.