Charlie Jane Anders Introduces Escapade, Marvel’s New Mutant Hero
Make way for Shela Sexton, AKA Escapade, who will make her Marvel debut in the pages of ‘Marvel’s Voices: Pride’ #1 this June.
Make way for Escapade! In MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE #1, which releases in June, Shela Sexton will make her debut as Marvel’s new trans mutant Super Hero, and she’s not alone. She’ll also bring along her best friend and fellow trans mutant Morgan Red, as well as their genetically engineered flying turtle Hibbert. Together, they’ll embark on a high-flying, yet intensely personal mission that will take them from floating party barges all the way to the mutant nation of Krakoa – and the Marvel Universe may never be the same.
Speaking to Marvel.com, Escapade co-creator Charlie Jane Anders described Shela as “a total goofball” with “a super strong sense of justice” and “a profound loyalty to her friends.” She explained the pros and cons of Shela’s circumstance-switching powers, as well as Shela’s motivation for becoming a hero and her “skeptical” view of the mutant nation-state of Krakoa. She also praised Ro Stein and Ted Brandt’s role in designing Shela, broke down the importance of Shela’s trans community and found family and more.
MARVEL.COM: If you were introducing Shela to your friends, how would you describe her to them?
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: Man, I wish I could hang out with Shela in real life. She is a total goofball, a cool weirdo who has a super strong sense of justice and a profound loyalty to her friends. Until recently, she believed that everything would always be okay as long as she and Morgan were there for each other, but lately she's been realizing life is more complicated than that.
MARVEL.COM: Mutant powers often come down to the luck of the draw, but as her co-creator, what made Shela’s powers the right (or wrong) fit for her?
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: Shela's ability to switch circumstances with another person is super fun to write, because it has so many different possible applications. If you're holding her at gunpoint, she can reverse it so she's holding you at gunpoint. If you're the Mayor of New York and she gets close to you, she can become the Mayor of New York for a while.
It's a power that has a lot of potential pitfalls, and there are plenty of ways it can go wrong. I had thought of this superpower a few years ago and had been looking for the right place to use it – and Shela seemed like the perfect person to wield this mighty power.
MARVEL.COM: Tell me a little about working with Ro Stein and Ted Brandt on Shela’s design. What did they bring to Shela that surprised you?
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: Oh man, working with Ro and Ted was a dream, and I'm so, so grateful to editor Sarah Brunstad and assistant editor Anita Okoye for making this happen. They were absolutely essential to bringing these characters to life – like, my initial designs for Shela's costume as Escapade were...not good. I made a bunch of terrible sketches that I hope nobody ever sees.
I think Sarah had the idea of the jumpsuit and Anita came up with the actual name Escapade. Afterwards, Ro and Ted came up with the cropped jacket she wears. Also, they decided her boots should match her blue hair-tips.
Also, when it came time to design Morgan, Shela's best friend, my only stipulation was that Morgan should not own any T-shirts, because I was trying to avoid a whole host of nerd stereotypes. Ted and Ro suggested making Morgan dapper, and that's how we ended up with bowties, sweater vests, argyle socks, and so much wonderfulness besides.
MARVEL.COM: What makes Morgan an essential part of Shela’s story? (And don’t forget Hibbert – I’m pretty sure we need to know his origin story, too!)
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: I really felt like "chosen family" was an important thing to foreground here. Plus, I wanted Shela to have a really strong relationship that she could be anchored to. I spent a lot of time thinking about Morgan, and how they and Shela had grown up together. I eventually arrived at the thing where Morgan was there for Shela when she was first transitioning, and the two of them kind of supported each other through their transitions when they were kids.
I feel like we are all nothing without our relationships. Morgan really grew as I was writing him, and I started to love his sense of humor and his infallible B.S. detector. I feel like even though Morgan's mutant power is not as useful as Shela's, the two of them make an amazing team and Shela can't really accomplish as much on her own.
Meanwhile, Hibbert is my new obsession, mostly thanks to Ro and Ted's artwork. Hibbert is a genetically engineered flying turtle who was "liberated" from a laboratory by our heroes, and clearly, he is very attuned to Morgan's moods and feelings. I love watching Hibbert react to everything that's going on with Morgan.
MARVEL.COM: There are many facets to Shela’s character – she’s a thief! she’s a superhero! – which means she’s got a lot on her plate. What really drives Shela to do what she does?
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: I think, originally, Shela just wanted to have cool adventures and help people – and one of the ways she helps people is by stealing from people who deserve to be stolen from, so she can use their stuff to help more people. But when this story picks up, Shela has a new motivation driving her crime spree and her heroism: she was shown a vision of the future, in which something really terrible happens, and it's kind of her fault, and she'll do anything to change that future. She's forced to make some choices that she never thought she would make.
MARVEL.COM: Shela’s transness is an essential part of what makes her who she is. How does this piece of her identity impact her worldview and her approach to being a hero?
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: It was really important to me to have a whole community of trans mutants in this comic – not just Shela and Morgan, but others. (And then it turned out writer Grace Freud had already created some wonderful characters in her comic in the same issue.) I wanted it to be super clear that being a mutant is not a metaphor for being trans, and vice versa.
I think that Shela has experienced some rejection because of her transness, but she's also found an amazing community that supports her and lifts her up, and this has changed how she thinks about being a hero for sure. She wants to be there for everybody who's been left behind, and she wants to help people feel like they can belong and be seen and loved. That was something I really hope everyone reading this comic, especially young trans people, take away from it.
MARVEL.COM: As a mutant, Shela is also part of their society – whether she wants to be or not! Where does Shela fit in with the citizens of Krakoa? What’s her relationship with them like?
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: Honestly? Not great. Shela is very suspicious of authority, and especially authoritarianism. She doesn't love the idea of a mutant nation-state, with all of the nationalism that this implies. She knows what it's like to be oppressed and mistreated for who you are, but she also feels like mutants aren't any better than anyone else, and she's not sure she wants to belong to a nation that's going to tell her what to do with her powers and her life. She's just very skeptical about the whole shebang.
MARVEL.COM: Shela makes her debut in MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE #1. What are you most excited for readers to encounter in her debut story?
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: I love that the story starts off with a good old-fashioned heist, involving hacking and guns and robots and supervillains, and Shela gets through a whole lot of dangers using her wits and the technology she's scavenged. Also, every time Shela and Emma Frost are together, sparks fly.
MARVEL.COM: What can you tease about what’s in store for Shela during your NEW MUTANTS story arc?
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: I'm working on it right now! In NEW MUTANTS, Shela has to function as part of a team (that's not just her and Morgan) for the first time, and she has to deal with some folks who really believe in the dream of Krakoa. There is a LOT at stake, and let's just say that Shela has a lot to learn.
MARVEL.COM: What is your greatest hope for Shela’s role in the Marvel Universe?
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: I'm having so much fun writing Shela and Morgan (and Hibbert); I really hope I get to keep writing them for a long time! But also, I hope that they take on a whole life of their own, and I get to see other people's takes on them. Honestly, if I ever go to a convention and see someone doing Shela cosplay, I would probably burst with happiness.
Meet Shela in MARVEL’s VOICES: PRIDE #1 when it goes on sale 6/22.
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