So … let’s have a chat.

When I started making The Utopian comics back in 2009, I didn’t really think much about the diversity of the cast. I was drawing from a lot of my own experiences at high school in Las Vegas in the 1990s, and many of the characters were based on people I knew, while others were fully imagined but based very much on real experiences. When T-Rex was introduced, it was as a tertiary character, a member of a gang who was fighting with a guy from a rival faction (based on another real experience in school). He happened to be black (the other guy wasn’t). It wasn’t inaccurate to portray a banger as black. But it was stereotypical, especially in a world I’d created where the lead characters were mostly cis-gendered white people.

So when I launched The Utopian Foundation a few years later, I was more conscious of that, and wanted to somewhat course-correct. The cast now better reflects the real world (I’d like to think), and not only features diversity culturally (reflecting my own multicultural upbringing), but also stars a character bound to a wheelchair, which was definitely something I saw lacking in comics outside of, say, Barbara Gordon/Oracle for a while at DC Comics (Professor X doesn’t count; that dude can astrally project and control minds–plus he’s been cloned or healed like a dozen times).

I am also aware that turning T-Rex into the “former gangbanger turned social activist” is cliche as hell, but again, it is inspired by a lot of actual stories I’ve heard and read, including those told in The Interrupters. Plus, much like Nate Aguila going from a one-dimensional meathead jock to a more fully realized person, I wanted to bring more depth to T-Rex, showing him caught between two worlds but never really feeling part of either.

(Also, I was watching The Wire while writing these strips. So, yeah, there’s a lot of David Simon going on here, too.)

Anyway, long story short: I’m just letting these characters tell their stories and trying to be as earnest as possible. And hopefully tell an engaging story(ies) that people of all stripes can connect with. And if not, well, at least I tried.