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09 October 2008

Fiona Mallratte's (Steve Lafler's) TRANNY

Tranny by Fiona Mallratte (whom I feel safe in guessing is really Steve Lafler.)
80 page graphic novel.  6 x 9.  Color cover with black & white interior.


Ya ever have one of those days where you write a brilliant review of a comic book and accidentally delete it?  Yeah...well, I'm actually glad I deleted that review because the timing is better now.  Tranny is  a perfect book to recommend for Halloween.

This book is not a minicomic but the subject matter qualifies it for review here under the "other" category.  I am aware of Lafler's work mainly through mentions I have read on the internet.  I have previously visited his website and enjoyed his comics but I think this is the first Lafler book I've held in my hands.  It is a very good book and I am really glad to have it.  From the cover and presentation I was expecting it to be a long story about the Fiona Mallratte character and his transvestite adventures but it is really a themed short story collection.  The lead story is about a transvestite and even includes a how-to shopping guide but the theme of the book is more about changing identities than genders.  What a perfect topic to explore through comics with it's history of secret identities and costumed crusaders.  
Lafler covers the superhero angle on identify issues with a fun Jimmy Olsen and Supergirl spoof.  Then Lafler plays the horror comic angle with a great looking werewolf story.  While there are how-to moments and some great jokes on cross dressing the book is strongest when it studies the psychology of people who enjoy playing around with their identify.   It makes the case that a man dressing as a woman is no more absurd than a  man dressing as a super hero.  I think there is a lot of potential in the exploration this idea.  Our movies and television are becoming increasingly dominated by costumed and multi-identity characters.  From Batman to Heroes to Hannah Montana.  Take a look at any photos from ComicCon or DragonCon and you will see a staggering amount of folks escaping their daily identities.  Changing identities is becoming as commonplace as changing hair styles.  Are transvestites the future?


If not transvestites then maybe guys in tights.  The last story in the book is the longest and the strongest.  From the text: "What kind of a whack job would put on a mask and a skin-tight suit and head out into the city after midnight?  I mean, what is this guy really up to?  Is he fighting crime?  Hell no, he's just going clubbing-"  This story has the most auto-bio feel of the bunch and the main character's name is also Steve.  It gets right to the psychology of changing identity by sending Steve to a psychologist but the clever gag of the thing is that dressing up in tights is the one thing Steve won't tell his doctor about.  If this story and the other stories have a weakness it is that they all feel more like great beginnings than complete tales.  
I suspect this will be a book I will return to from time to time.  I enjoy Lafler's drawing and storytelling.  His drawing is not as strong and pleasing as Gilbert Hernandez's (But to be fair, who's is?) but it has a similar feel to it.  It's that feeling where the pages feel like you've just caught Dan DeCarlo drawing dirty pictures of Betty and Veronica.  There is a lightness and spontaneity to it but but it is also joyfully lurid.  
Lafler demonstrates some impressive storytelling chops as well.  Each of the short stories is laid out and paced with a tone that suits the genre he is exploring.  The horror spoof has the look and feel of horror comics.  The Jimmy Olsen spoof has the look and feel of silver age Superman comics.  All together it makes for a well rounded book.
This book is a perfect pre-Halloween read and would make a great gift for your adult Halloween party friends.  (Plus, it has the Ninety Nine Dollar Drag Makeover guide if you need a costume.)  I also recommend you visit Lafler's websites.  There are a lot of links to various sites and projects he has put together. (And even a YouTube page of Fiona's videos.)  Rather than have one uniform site he seems to have various pages for various ideas and projects.  It will take some clicking to go through it all but it is worth the time.  I especially like El Vocho and his abandoned web comic Cute as a Button Tough as a Tiger.  Check them out.


Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith
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