Comics Corner – Wonder Woman spin-off Nubia confirms trans women can be Amazons

At the risk of Comics Corner becoming a DC stan column, we have to give major credit to the publisher for its concerted efforts of late to increase LGBTQ+ representation in its pages. Recent moves have seen the establishment of major characters as queer –- from Tim Drake as Robin to Jon Kent as Superman –- plus the formation of an all-queer Justice League, and the foundations of a more diverse future line-up of heroes.

This week, DC makes a smaller but no less important move –- it’s made canonical that trans women can be Amazons, part of the all-female society of Themyscira that Wonder Woman hails from. It’s a brief moment in a wider and ongoing story, but one that the creators say will have ramifications going forwards. As ever in Comics Corner though, some background first to set the stage for the main event.

Nubia is Queen – and her starring series just made trans women canonically Amazons (Credit: DC Comics)

This week’s Nubia and the Amazons #1 –- the first of a six-issue mini-series written by Stephanie Williams and Vita Ayala, with art by Alitha Martinez, Mark Morales, and Emilio Lopez –- mostly focuses on the eponymous Nubia. The character has had many incarnations since her first appearance in 1974’s Wonder Woman #203 –- sometimes the sister of Diana, the original Wonder Woman, sometimes an ally from another tribe of Amazons, sometimes reimagined completely –- but is currently Queen of the Amazons while former monarch Hippolyta is out in the wider world serving as Wonder Woman in her daughter Diana’s place, who in turn has been on an odyssey through the Norse and Greek afterlives.

The new queen is plagued with nightmares and portents, memories of her own arrival on Themyscira and visions of something terrible happening at Doom’s Doorway, a portal to Hades buried in the depths of the island that must be constantly guarded by Amazon warriors lest hell itself escape. However, her concerns are diverted elsewhere when a new group of Amazons emerge from the Well of Souls, the first such arrivals on Themyscira in centuries.

With no memory of their identities, the new arrivals are introduced to Amazon society by their new sisters, testing their skills in archery, gymnastics, artistry, and more to determine where best to begin their new lives. Afterwards, the newcomers are welcomed with a grand feast, where they formally introduce themselves with their chosen Amazon names. Of the five, one in particular stands out –- a Black woman named Bia, who tearfully says “I don’t know how to explain it yet, but this exact moment feels like my soul has desired it long before I came here”.

Although it’s not an overt statement on the page –- yet –- trans and queer readers immediately read between those particular lines, taking to social media with excitement at Bia’s introduction. For anyone who may still find it open to interpretation as to whether Bia is a trans woman or not, writer Williams confirmed the character’s identity on Twitter.

“The answer to your burning question is yes. There are trans Amazons. One of the newest Amazons is a Black trans woman,” Williams wrote.

For those readers who may worry that Bia may fade into the background, or become a mere footnote in Wonder Woman history, fear not. Williams also revealed that there are deeper plans for the character in future.

“Bia will have a role on Themyscira beyond just existing –- she isn’t set dressing, she isn’t a box to tick, she is a fully fledged character that is important to her community,” said Williams, adding “just as Black trans women are important to us in real life.”

However, Nubia and the Amazons #1 also brings several elements of Wonder Woman mythology to the fore, some of which haven’t really been touched on for years, and which may have darker implications for Bia’s background.

The most important is the Well of Souls, re-established here as one source of new citizens of Themyscira. It’s a somewhat tragic one though – Amazons that emerge from it are the reborn souls of women killed by men in the outside world. That means that Bia –- and her reincarnated sisters Andromeda, Zina, Delphine, and Karessi –- all suffered ignoble fates in their previous lives. Whether this series or future stories will delve into these backstories remains to be seen, but even if that aspect is left as an unspoken part of their background, it’s sadly all too realistic given the rate of violence and murder inflicted on women, and Black trans women in particular, in the real world.

After arriving on Themyscira, Bia is also presented with a touching gift that hints at her trans identity (Credit: DC Comics)

The issue also slightly updates Nubia’s origin, with her now being the last Amazon to emerge from the Well of Souls hundreds of years earlier, right after the birth of Diana. It’s the latest of many revamps for the character –- and possibly not the last, with the recent Future State event seeing Nubia taking up the mantle of Wonder Woman –- but also ties into the mystery of why the Well of Souls seemingly shut down for centuries until the arrival of Bia and her sisters. The connection between the title character and the newest arrivals on Paradise Island seems central to the remainder of the series.

While Nubia and the Amazons also leads into the upcoming event storyline Trial of the Amazons, making it a series to watch for fans of the wider DC Universe, this issue offers a subtle but bold step in the re-queering of the Wonder Woman mythos. For decades, DC dodged the implications of an all-female society, despite Wonder Woman’s popularity with LGBTQ+ readers in particular, for fear of presenting one of their biggest characters or her background as anything other than straight. Thankfully, between an increasing willingness to show Amazons in same-sex relationships, and now the confirmation that trans women can be Amazons, Wonder Woman’s corner of the universe is looking a whole lot more inclusive. As Williams summed up on Twitter, “it is also important to make clear that Themyscira is a place for ALL women” –- and with this issue, it is.

Matt Kamen

Matt Kamen is a veteran media writer based in the UK, specialising in video games, film, and comics. If found, return to nearest coffee shop.