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Humanoid Car Robot as a Transgender Metaphor

Illustration for article titled Humanoid Car Robot as a Transgender Metaphor

Shortpacked! has it's supporters and detractors, but no one can say the long-running webcomic doesn't have a diverse cast of characters. Who knew that would include a car-turned-robot that could serve as a metaphor for transgender issues?

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To be clear, other than having various friends and family members who could fall under various LGBT labels (when they choose to use them), I am no expert on transgender issues. Also, spoilers for this storyline - I've mentioned Shortpacked! before, but this is an entire year-long storyline summed up in a few words. If you want to read it from the beginning, start here (at page 11 of the Ultra-Car appearances) and move forward.

Illustration for article titled Humanoid Car Robot as a Transgender Metaphor
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For the uninitiated, Ultra-Car is a background character who exists in the Walkyverse (a series of interconnected webcomics set in the near-future by David Willis ultimately concluding with Shortpacked! when it ends soon). Ultra-Car appeared as a vehicle in Walky-related comics back in 1999 (and I only discovered the Walkyverse about five years ago), but in April 2013, Ultra-Car took on human form - surprising many who knew the car by establishing her true form as female.

Illustration for article titled Humanoid Car Robot as a Transgender Metaphor
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Almost immediately, Ultra-Car caught the eye of Malaya, a woman who also served as the object of desire for a hapless, hetero young man (to no avail, of course). Despite initial protestations and the assertion of asexuality from Ultra-Car, the two entered into a relationship.

Illustration for article titled Humanoid Car Robot as a Transgender Metaphor
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At times, their rather difficult relationship has been really cute, but as relationships do, things eventually came to a head with the current storyline. Leading to Ultra-Car finally showing Malaya more of herself, and hoping her partner understands (image below). I'm unsure where this is headed, but in terms of using science fiction as a metaphor for the complexities of real life, this seems pretty affecting.

Illustration for article titled Humanoid Car Robot as a Transgender Metaphor
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Ultra-Car does not appear in David Willis' new universe comic (sort of a webcomic New 52 or Ultimate version, I guess) Dumbing of Age, but the new series will include an asexual, transgender woman named Carla.

Unrelated Announcement:

Nothing to do with anything, but I'll be making a presentation about comic book history on April 26 at the South Texas Comic Con in McAllen, Texas. Feel free to drop by if you're in town!

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