Written by Jadzia Axelrod with artwork by Jess Taylor and lettering by Ariana Maher, DC Comics’ Galaxy: the Prettiest Star beautifully brings a cosmically queer romance story to life. The young adult graphic novel follows Taylor, an alien princess known as the Galaxy Crowned/Taelyr, who lives on Earth disguised as a human boy. At first, Taylor seems happy living a normal high school life as a basketball player with a cute corgi named Argus. Although there are hints that Taylor’s decision to hide who she is is taking a toll on her, she pushes those feelings aside. Taylor hides her incredible powers in fear of bringing the dangerous Vane to Earth. But after Taylor meets the Metropolis transplant (and super cute) Kat, she begins questioning the price of living an inauthentic life.
Throughout Galaxy: the Prettiest Star, Axelrod and Taylor illuminate the joys of gender euphoria and the dangers of sacrificing one’s identity for others. In an interview with Daily Dead, Axelrod and Taylor described what mattered most to them when creating a trans superhero story set in the world of the DC Universe. Also included with this interview is the graphic novel’s cover by Taylor and interior pages.
I love the book's dedication page -- “For the girl who needed this book ages ago, and couldn't find it.” For each of you, what do you hope she finds in these pages?
Jadzia Axelrod: I hope that they see themselves. When I was a teenager, I didn’t have a book like this. I couldn’t find a book where the trans character wasn’t a joke or a tragedy. The idea that a book would revolve around a main character discovering that being trans and queer is a beautiful, empowering thing? Out of my reach, then. So, I wrote it now.
The book is dedicated not just to the teen me who needed this book and couldn’t find it, but to all the kids who just needed something real, something that they could hold their hands and tell them they weren’t alone, that they weren’t destined for sadness and misery, that they are who they’ve always believed they are. That their future could have been one of happiness, one of love, and that the things that set them apart also make them great. So many of them never got that message, and we lost their light. Others learned it much later in life than they would have liked. I hope that the ones that are still with us find Galaxy, see themselves in the story Jess and I have created, and they feel a little more understood, a little less alone, and a little stronger to face the world.
That’s a lot to ask of a comic book fantasy, I realize. But what else are superheroes for?
Jess Taylor: Acceptance. That bone-deep knowing that regardless of what other people think, or how they see you, it's okay to be yourself, that there are people out there who will love you for it. But also, finding that acceptance means loving yourself, and being kind to yourself. Galaxy is a story filled with emotion - hope, anger, happiness - and not once is any aspect of Taelyr's personal journey shown as something she should be ashamed of, neither the pretty nor the ugly. The first time reading it through, that meant so much to me. When I was still struggling to figure out who I am it wasn't pretty or easy, and I felt so much shame wrapped up in both my feelings and the situation. I hope that people who read Galaxy, who need it, find the example of self-acceptance that I never had.
Early on in Taelyr's story, she compares herself a lot to Superman and imagines he's having an easier time living as an alien. With the exception of Jon Kent, Superman typically embodies a white cis-hetero perspective which allows him to move through life in a more privileged way than most. Is that why you chose to bring up Superman's legacy as Taelyr sets out on her own journey? To show how she's up against a whole lot more boundaries to overcome? And, what were some things you both wanted to ensure came across on the page in those moments?
Jadzia Axelrod: Spot on. You nailed it.
Taelyr’s idolization of Superman is two-fold. In the first place, Taelyr has spent her time on Earth trying to be a boy. How do you embody masculinity? You pick the best man you can, and you try to be like him. Taelyr chose Superman. What better choice for a paragon of masculinity? It’s right there in his name. And the fact that she chose him, of all people, underlines how impossible her pursuit of being a man is. No one can be Superman. Superman can’t even be Superman all the time. But Taelyr doesn’t know about Clark Kent, she just knows what Superman shows the world. She’s basing her idea of who she should be on an ideal that’s incomplete at best and fabrication filtered through many layers of media at worst. Which is a very teenager thing to do.
Superman is also there because the idea of Superman, as someone to look up to, is so wholly inadequate for Taelyr. Here she is, looking up at someone who shares so much of her history, but it doesn’t help her. It can’t. Superman gets accepted by everyone because he looks like a human white guy, and Taelyr…doesn’t. Like so many queer and trans people before her, Taelyr tries to see herself in someone who’s nothing like her because there’s just not another option that she can find.
Jess Taylor: I don't know if this was wrapped up in Jadzia's intent for these moments, but I always saw it very much as a foil? Or foreshadowing? Wanting to be a super-sona, only to realize her own self-worth as a person, without having to hide, and realizing it's not easier, but it is better. I know when I was drawing a lot of these scenes I had that kind of hero-worship in mind. I remember my own heroes from being a kid, thinking everything would be better if I could become them, or live like them. Now I'm in my thirties as an out non-binary person, and every day is a struggle but is better. We want to be those people because we see something in them that resonates with us. For Taelyr, that's her goodness, her morality. There are a few panels later in the book when Taelyr is ready to face the world as herself, where I've even referenced some classic superman poses for her - it's subtle, but I hope people pick up on it.
Jess, I'd love to hear more about what went into the design of the full splash page where Taelyr first shows who she truly is. Throughout the book, there are a lot of geometric blocks and structures and I loved how it felt like she was breaking free of them all for one moment, at least, and we see a glimpse of her gender euphoria.
Jess Taylor: I'm so glad you picked up on that! Thank you! It was definitely done on purpose. I went through so many different layouts for that page until I found one that really hit the note I was looking for. I knew from the start that I wanted that page to feel like an explosion - the reader could finally see Taelyr for who she is, and she's radiant and wonderful, and has so much to give to the world. Nothing soft or gentle really worked for that, so I approached it as I would have an action scene - breaking down the structure of panels. Then it kind of came to me. In society, gender is this... neat little box that other people put you in for most of your life. Galaxy deserved to be free of that for her moments of euphoria, of self. The panels kind of took on the role of society - perfect little boxes - so I kicked them off the page, until (on her first reveal) shame and fear bring them back, as Taelyr retransforms. In all the euphoria moments from then on, I tried to keep panels for other people observing Taelyr's euphoria and keep Taeylr as free as possible.
As Taelyr's story goes on, her "dog" Argus plays more and more of a role. In regards to how Argus would look, why choose what looks like a corgi to be her loyal protector?
Jess Taylor: Argus! Honestly, Jadzia had already made this call by the time I was brought onto the book, but I wasn't about to argue. Corgis are fiercely loyal little gumballs and will try and stare down anything. I thought that was perfect for a protector. I also think it's fitting that they're very cuddly, loving, and sweet, and in this book especially, so much of what Taelyr needs is emotional support. While Argus is technically a little snitch, he's an enabling one and lets Taelyr get away with actually doing things instead of interfering. Plus, I got to stare at cute corgis for reference every day!
Jadzia Axelrod: Galaxy was always going to have an animal sidekick—no way was I writing a book without one. I love talking animals, and the idea of a superhero always accompanied by a chatty little dog on stubby little legs is just delicious to me. The visual alone is worth making Argus a corgi!
But on top of that, corgis are extremely smart. And they’re herding dogs; they’re bred to protect a flock. A friend of mine used to have a corgi and it was clear that the little dog saw himself as the protector of the whole family. So, when thinking about what Earth dog Argus, who is a combination bodyguard and super-computer, should look like, a corgi was the obvious choice.
Jadzia, you do a wonderful job of describing the pain of living in a body with the wrong assigned gender and all the layers of that realization and transitioning out of that space. It felt so apt when Taelyr speaks about how when she was living as a boy, she felt like she was never fully being able to breathe. Do you have a particular line that resonated the most with you when writing out some of these scenes? Or that you hope resonates with readers?
Jadzia Axelrod: Thank you! I have a few of them. There’s a scene where Taelyr is hiding in the bathroom, looking at her alien body in the mirror, and says, “I didn’t realize how much it hurt until it stopped.” I didn’t realize how much I was just in constant emotional pain until I started presenting as a woman and it stopped. People talk about how post-transition, trans folks’ selfies have life in their eyes, and it's true. I look at old pictures and I just see someone with a face full of pain, but I never recognized it as pain because I had felt it my entire life.
But my favorite is near the end, where Taelyr says what I think of as her “With great power comes great responsibility” line: “Being ‘normal’ was never, NEVER going to save me!” It’s a simple sentence, and it shouldn’t feel as powerful as it does. But if there’s one idea I hope people take away from this book, it's that one.
A large part of the reason why Taelyr is undercover in the wrong gender is to hide her identity from the Vane. What can you tease readers about these alien invader-like enemies' role and what they represent to the larger story?
Jadzia Axelrod: The Vane is a telepathically-linked insectoid hive-mind that believes they should exist everywhere by divine right. They see anything that is not the Vane as an insult and impediment to their existence. Other cultures, other people? Blasphemy that should be corrected.
The Vane is a sword of Damocles hanging over Taelyr’s head. They are out there, looking for her. They know she escaped, that she’s alive. And every moment that she’s alive, she is showing people that other options than being the Vane exist. Which is why they need to destroy her. The Vane is intolerance made manifest.
There's a great fashion show montage in the book that plays a part in the story's central romance. Jess -- how did you narrow down which kinds of dresses to draw Taelyr in? Were there any that didn't make the cut that you loved imagining too?
Jess Taylor: This is such a good question - honestly there were lots. Jadzia had already envisioned a cornucopia of dresses, and while planning that page, I definitely lent hard on that list. They were such a perfect fit for teen-movie prom tropes, through the ages! And for the rest, I used that as criteria to narrow down the shapes. Did they read as movie perfect? Were they playing into an existing teen trope? Did they fit an iconic period of time? All of Ozma is kind of set in this wonderful space-age bubble that's kind of timeless, and I definitely wanted the parade of dresses to be very distinct from that.
As for dresses that didn't make the cut? I would have loved to put Galaxy in a super frilly ball gown, or early on I had an idea for a sun/sky-themed dress with lots of sheer panels overlaid – we ended up using that cut for Galaxy's Party dress instead!
The story overall functions as more of an origin story of how Taelyr becomes Galaxy. What future quests would you like to see her take part in -- whether locally or on a grander scale in the DC Universe? I'd love to see her meet Jon Kent and would be fascinated to hear their conversations about gender identity and being Queer!
Jadzia Axelrod: I’ve got so many plans! I definitely want Taylor to go to Metropolis, and hang out in A-Town with the other aliens who have made Earth their home. I want her to chat up some other superheroes, Jon Kent included. I want her to go to space. I want her to be part of a superhero team. I want a veteran hero to take her under their wing. I want her to go to a Pride parade. I want her to wear a brightly-colored costume and fight giant monsters with her loyal corgi at her side!
We leave Taelyr in such an interesting place at the end of Galaxy: The Prettiest Star. It will be so cool to continue her journey, now that she has a better sense of herself and her own power. Taelyr’s main problem in this book was that she worked too hard to hide. I really want to explore what happens to her now that is she determined to never hide who she is ever again.
Jess Taylor: Oh I really want to see her encounter the Vayne. I want to see how it would affect her bonds with her family, and I want to see the kind of person she'd become when faced with that fight. I love character-driven stories and I think Taelyr's world is so rich in lore! I want to just dive right in. I'd also love to see Taelyr and Dreamer teaming up!
There are so many beautiful and heartwarming moments in this story. If you had to pick one panel or scene where your co-creator really shined, which one would it be and why?
Jess Taylor: Oh boy -- This is a hard one. Am I allowed to say the entire book?
Jadzia's writing really shines in the small, honest, and raw moments threaded through Galaxy -- Kat's anger at her Dad, Taelyr's strength and fear – but if I had to pick one moment, it would be the scene that I cried when I first read the script: When Taelyr is in the bathroom, looking at herself in the mirror. Jadzia said it above. “I didn't realize how much it hurt until it stopped.” It had me in tears my first read-through. I was just coming out at the time, settling into the idea that there could be an existence where I didn't feel so suffocated, so trapped, or so wrong. It sounds silly to say it now, but reading that scene is what finally pushed me to be out-out and lean into who I am. It's such a simple moment, but such a heavy one. Jadzia wrote it perfectly.
Jadzia Axelrod: I’m gonna cheat here and say the double-page spread where Taelyr sings “Suffragette City” at the bonfire. It’s such a beautiful composition and the colors are so rich and glorious. Depicting sound in comics is difficult, but Jess absolutely captured the feeling of the song in a way that looks so effortless (though I’m sure it wasn’t!) This is the first moment where we see Galaxy, instead of Taelyr, if that makes sense. The first time Taelyr shrugs off her doubts and becomes the bold, confident girl who can do anything. It's such a beautiful moment. That spread makes me smile every time I look at it.
If you could pick a handful of powers to describe or illustrate in future stories for Galaxy, which kind of powers do you want to show off that she has?
Jadzia Axelrod: I’ve got a lot of ideas of how Taelyr would use her powers in a traditional superhero slugfest, but more interesting to me is how she might use these powers subconsciously, just going through her life. Leaving a half-finished soda can floating in mid-air like a balloon because she needed both hands to do something and then forgot about her drink. Not realizing she’s making the lights around her dim when she’s feeling depressed. Attempting to keep a calm exterior while panicky static electricity sparks all around her. Part of the fun of this powerset is we can use her exterior environment to illustrate her interior emotional state, and Jess and I have barely scratched the surface of what we can do with that.
Also, we haven’t even gotten into Argus’s superpowers! Y’all have no idea what that little guy can do!
Jess Taylor: Throughout the script Jadzia would describe moments as 'Galaxy Vision', where Taelyr could see beings down to the nerves inside of them. I'd love to see that played into and explored more - it's such an amazing concept, that thought of an extensive 'sixth-sense'. Her manipulation of energy is such a brilliant visual concept I'd love the chance to put it to the page - to follow circuits in the wall, to blow out bulbs in anger, to see how far she can affect the physical world unknowingly.
"It takes strength to live as your true self, and one alien princess disguised as a human boy is about to test her power. A vibrant story about gender identity, romance, and shining as bright as the stars.
Taylor Barzelay has the perfect life. Good looks, good grades, a starting position on the basketball team, a loving family, even an adorable corgi. Every day in Taylor’s life is perfect. And every day is torture.
Taylor is actually the Galaxy Crowned, an alien princess from the planet Cyandii, and one of the few survivors of an intergalactic war. For six long, painful years, Taylor has accepted her duty to remain in hiding as a boy on Earth.
That all changes when Taylor meets Metropolis girl Katherine “call me Kat” Silverberg, whose confidence is electrifying. Suddenly, Taylor no longer wants to hide, even if exposing her true identity could attract her greatest enemies. From the charming and brilliant mind behind the popular podcast The Voice of Free Planet X, Jadzia Axelrod, and with stunningly colorful artwork by Jess Taylor comes the story of a girl in hiding who must face her fears to see herself as others see her: the prettiest star."