My name is Christianne Benedict. I make comics. I read comics. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t read comics. My earliest memories of traveling with my family included sitting in the back seat of my dad’s 1966 Bonneville (a car so large it affected the tides) with my brothers, reading Richie Rich and Uncle Scrooge and Little Dot and Baby Huey comics on long trips, a memory associated with early seventies country music, which my dad had on eight-track. The comics I liked the best were the Dell horror comics (Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Boris Karloff’s Thriller). I still remember a story in one of those in which a kid ordered a packet of sea monkeys from a comic only to have one of them grow into a monster. I was a monster kid then. I’m still a monster kid now.
I don’t think I ever considered myself a collector of comics until the Christmas when my stocking was filled with a couple of Marvel comics. I still have those even though I don’t have any of the Archie Digests or the Uncle Scrooges or the Dells. The one that really hooked me was Micronauts #1 which became the first comic I went out of my way to buy every month. I don’t remember when is started drawing my own comics. Early teens, I think. I never showed anyone these comics. I was hiding a good portion of myself from the world by that point. I knew I was trans by then, and putting myself out there by showing people my comics seemed insanely dangerous, lest anyone deduce things about me from the comics I created. And yet, I persisted.
I went to college and got a degree in art. One of my art professors was Frank Stack, who was an important underground cartoonist. At the time, the self-publishing movement spearheaded by creators like Dave Sim, Jeff Smith, and Colleen Doran was getting up a head of steam and after I graduated, I decided that I might try it myself. I drew a long graphic novel while I was working as an institutional graphic designer. I might even have published it had the crash of the mid-1990s not decimated the market place. In retrospect, I’m glad that I didn’t. It’s not very good and worse, it’s riddled with an unconscious self-loathing and internalized transphobia that I had no idea was there when I was drawing it. One of these days, I should probably burn the stack of pages I have in a portfolio in the back of my closet. I never want that thing to see the light of day.
I never stopped reading comics, but I did stop buying them for a while when the need to do something about my gender became too great to ignore. Hemorrhaging all of my money on my gender identity didn’t leave a lot of room for discretionary spending.
A funny thing happened on the other side of transition, though. Suddenly, I was able to put my fill self into art, including comics. Moreover, was willing to show my art and comics to people. When was a young comics fan, my comics gods were the members of the Studio: Bernie Wrightson, Barry Windsor-Smith, Michael Kaluta, and Jeff Jones. Imagine my surprise to discover during my transition that Jones was trans. Another early influence, Vaughn Bode, was apparently also trans. Suddenly, there were possibilities.
I started drawing comics about life as a trans person, which I posted on my art blog and on Tumblr. I submitted and was accepted to Womanthology and was afterwards asked to contribute a piece to Womanthology:Space. I was asked to submit to Voices Against Bullying. I was accepted to a couple of other pending anthologies. It’s weird: when I was a kid, I wanted to draw horror and superheroes, but as an adult woman, I find myself drawing comedies and queer porn melodramas. Go figure. I don’t know if I ever bought into the notion that comics were a boys club, and even if they ever were, they’re not now and never will be again. Comics have provided me with pleasure and purpose over the whole of my life, and I’m glad that I’m not alone. I am comics. WE are comics.