Manga Focus by Dov Sherman
Japanese manga has acquired a great following outside of Japan, inspiring many American comic artists both in artistic style and literary technique. Although not always accepted as true manga by many manga purists, it is hard to dismiss the similarity which American manga such as Ninja High School and Reality Check! bear to manga drawn by native Japanese. While most of these American manga focus on common manga devices, such as giant robots, martial arts, or cyber-tech, the most significant are those which capture the layout and story-telling techniques most characteristic of the Japanese manga which inspired them.
One of the most striking of the American manga is Pervert Club, written and drawn by Will Allison and published by A. M. Works in 1995. Despite its provocative title, Pervert Club is not an Adults-Only comic book. Rather it is a sensitive tale of those feelings of alienation or otherness that most teenagers face in high school, leaving them the choice to either deny themselves and fit in or rally their courage and risk rejection as an outcast. It’s a common enough story but, this time, with a twist with which many TGForum readers can truly relate.
Calvin High School could be any average American high school and Malcolm Davis is just your average student, the kind of guy you’d easily forget as nothing special. Until his sister Mallory catches him raiding her panty drawer and he becomes the topic of a rumor calling him a panty-sniffer. But it’s just a rumor, as it turns out, Malcolm’s no panty-sniffer, he’s a Grade A Crossdresser and, with the encouragement of Spirit Club President and straight-A student Julia Davner, not only comes out of the closet but starts coming to school crossdressed on a daily basis.
This change in fashion sense, while wonderfully liberating, quickly alienates Malcolm from his best friend April Peabody who had, until his makeover, been just as average as Malcolm. But true friendships don’t die easily and April and Malcolm finally come to an awkward truce. April still doesn’t like Malcolm’s cross-dressing but she’ll still hang out with him. And this leaves us with that still unanswered question about the very nature of their relationship. There’s always been an underlying hint of attraction between the two which they’ve always been hesitant to acknowledge, much less explore.
And then there’s Julia and the other members of the Spirit Club which, as April discovers, is only a front for the Calvin High School Pervert Club, a group of sexual deviants of which Malcolm is the newest member. There’s infantalist Claire Patterson, submissive Mindy Tzung, Mistress Kimberly Mayfield, and voyeur Mirabelle Mayfield. Until Malcolm’s appearance, the club was exclusively female and so, for President Julia’s plans, Malcolm, the first male member of the club, is the most important member, the harbinger of the dawn of a new era. He’s a fundamental part of the Pervert Club’s ultimate goal: the eradication of society’s taboos and the freedom to live their lives openly.
Is Malcolm merely a pawn or a witting accomplice to the Pervert Club’s revisionary plans? With tension building between April and Julia, can Malcolm stay true to both?
Pervert Club gives a surprisingly realistic portrayal of crossdressing. Malcolm is strictly heterosexual and, while certainly a source for gender confusion, he’s no supermodel. In a surprising turn of events, Malcolm’s mother stands up to the school principal, defending Malcolm’s right to attend school in women’s clothing since his behavior doesn’t violate any written school rules and expelling him simply for being weird is unjustifiable. Such a supportive reaction is refreshing and heart-warming.
Malcolm’s classmates are much less supportive. For the first several issues, this takes the form of simple avoidance but, by issue seven, a couple of the school jocks make the inevitable physical attack, deciding to show the “faggot” what they think of him. Fortunately, the star quarterback comes to Malcolm’s aid, disgusted to see that a fellow teammate is a “woman-beater”. In an awkward moment, Malcolm finds himself accepting a date with his rescuer, fearful that, if he knew he had just rescued a transvestite, things could have quickly turned ugly. It is at this point that we discover the author’s true perversion — while Will Allison has clearly stated that he’s no crossdresser, who can forgive his naming the quarterback Brad Wright? Malcolm has a date with “Mr.Wright”? The most perverse of literary devices — the pun!
Pervert Club is a wonderful romantic comedy with which anyone who ever felt out-of-place can find common ground. But, for the transgender community, Pervert Club represents a profound milestone in the comic book market: a truly positive representation. Malcolm is honest, loyal, and courageous. He values his friendships deeply and isn’t afraid to stand up for himself. While most comic books portray crossdressers in the most stereotypical light and almost always only for comic relief or villainous device, Malcolm is very clearly the hero of Pervert Club and a hero whose inner strength anyone can admire. This comic book is a must-see for everyone.
Category: Product Review