A brilliant poet and philosopher once wisely stated, “We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.” (That would be RuPaul, obvs.) This mantra has never been more true or applicable to superheroes. The entire superhero aesthetic — the alter ego, the masks, the capes, wearing underwear on the outside, the colorful and dramatic code-names — is as drag as it gets. Superheroes are total drag queens, minus the key fact that nearly all cisgender male super characters aren’t queer nor are they fronting exaggerated femininity for entertainment purposes, but for the sake of argument go with it.
Conversely, drag queens are real-life superheroes. Superheroes are mythic, made-up cultural icons; drag queens are real-life myths made up to be iconic.
Superheroes and drag queens are hugely popular and both are having a major moment in pop culture, so it was only a matter of time before the two crossed over into each other’s worlds. Especially the world of superhero comic books.
Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass is just such a book. The upcoming graphic novel successfully meshes superheroes and drag queens with equal parts quirky humor and thought-provoking gravitas. Written by Mariko Tamaki, the out Eisner Award-winning writer (the Oscars for comic books), and with gorgeous artwork by Steve Pugh, Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass is the tale of teenage Harleen Quinzel (the soon to be costumed Harley Quinn) and the power and importance of a chosen family. Harleen’s happens to be a delightful gaggle of fabulous drag queens.
The graphic novel doesn’t just feature drag queens, nor does it use them as mere background elements to the story, rather the queens are lovingly included as vital pieces of Harleen’s story. In speaking about the book, writer Tamaki tells The Advocate that the queens help Harleen “create an identity for herself that is something bigger, something bolder than the girl she was when she arrived in Gotham.” In fact, it is a drag queen who provides Harleen with the name Harley Quinn.
For Tamaki, drag queen culture is pure magic. “Drag is theater, it’s fashion, it’s its own kind of superhero thing,” Tamaki says, adding it “seemed like the perfect setting for a character like Harley Quinn to hone her iconic style, to learn the power of some paint on the face and a faux fur bolero.”
Along with the inclusion of drag queens, Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass is a tale about a girl “fighting the good fight,” about friendship (an activist version of Poison Ivy also appears), about standing up to corporate greed, the struggle and pain of growing up, and lots of chuckle-worthy dialogue. Oh, and a scary but cool version of the Joker plays an important role in the graphic novel as well.
Look for Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass in stores on September 3. You can also pre-order the comic here.