Since the days of 8 Bit Theater, webcomics have been a continuously evolving medium. What used to be a tidal wave of comics created from repurposed game pixels has finally leveled out into something more conducive to tackling more serious issues. One such comic that I’ve been following for a long while is The Princess, drawn and written by Christine Smith.
The Princess follows the story of Sarah, a young girl in Everytown USA, who lives with her mother and gets into hijinks with her friends. Through the eyes and mouths of babes, Smith tackles many difficult issues including the effects of divorce on kids, abusive parents, and bullying. Of course, the hot topic of the entire comic is Sarah, who is transgender.
What sets this comic apart from others which also discuss transgender issues is how young Sarah is. For older readers enjoying the comic, it presents the idea that you don’t have to be older to realize how your life should be lived, and that it’s okay for a child to be transgender. For the younger audience—although I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how many of those there are—it offers reassurance that yes, this is okay. What they may be feeling is perfectly normal. Though it’s important to have media with this message for an older audience, presenting this message of acceptance and understanding in a manner that’s accessible to readers of all ages is invaluable.
With the aforementioned dealing with serious issues, I would be remiss to ignore the deep family and societal issues concerning our transgendered protagonist. For one, Sarah is bullied by a pair of kids who hate her for her differences—one of whom picks on her because he can’t understand his feelings for her (but this luckily isn’t presented in the typical ‘boys will be boys’ mindset). Aside from this, her mother also doesn’t exactly approve of Sarah living her life as Sarah. Her mother wants Sarah to be happy, but the fact is that she just doesn’t understand where her daughter is coming from most of the time. Initially she doesn’t accept it at all, but she does make the change and the effort to acceptance. But acceptance comes with an overprotective streak which causes a deeper rift between her and Sarah’s father.
Outside of Sarah, The Princess also offers a diverse cast of varying sexualities and nationalities. Sarah’s father is a proud gay man who wants his daughter to be able to live as openly as he can. Sarah’s first crush is an older transgender boy named Mars, who has an Indian girlfriend. Her best friend Erma, who protects Sarah with her words and her fists, is asexual. And in the more recent arcs, Sarah has a new crush and maybe-boyfriend, Jules, a young African-American. Literally every character is interesting and diverse, which is just how life is. Though Sarah faces a lot of hardships in her life, she has a bunch of people who love her and accept her for who she is, and that’s such an important message. This message, combined with a cute art style and excellent writing, well, there’s no way I couldn’t recommend it. Give it a read, if you have the chance!