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First issue cover

User


A 3-issue 48-page bookshelf format mini-series, DC Comics/Vertigo, 2001.

Category: coming-out.

Author(s): Devin Grayson, Sean Phillips, John Bolton.
Website: http://www.devingrayson.com

Meg and her sister Annie, by Sean Phillips

Fleeing reality by entering make-believe worlds from novels, comics, role-playing games, etc is something many people do, including Meg Chancellor, the main character in User.
It is not clear what this young woman despises more: her job, at a study agency, or her father, who let his wife leave them, while a friend of his hangs around his younger daughter. And when she finds the opportunity to enter virtual role-playing in a kitsch Camelot world as knight Sir Guilliame de la Coeur, she soon finds herself speaking in French as other people speak in tongues.

Devin Grayson, the writer, is working on this story with two artists who are perfect for their part: Sean Phillips handles the real world sequences, while John Bolton illustrates the virtual reality. Using an almost monochromatic palette, Phillips manages to give an expressionist aspect to his depiction of Meg's dreary daily life, and Bolton's brightly-colored art shows the vibrant, lively fantasy inhabited by pseudonyms of varied gender preferences.
That is one of the main themes of the story: of course, Meg spending more and more time in the computer world works as metaphor for her refusing to face her personal problems, but the main point of her choosing to embody a knight is that her avatar is a man, and she feels that as a woman, she has no power over her real life. Meg doesn't have confidence in herself as a woman, and does what other women in ages past have done... she decides to dress like a man. Those women were often tried as witches and burned, but nowadays, Meg just finds a virtual world to play with her new found, gender-crossing personality.
But it goes beyond that. Guilliame (an old, obsolete French first name) finds himself being seduced first by a woman (well, a female avatar, at least), which causes some shock for Meg when her avatar has virtual sex with the woman... and then shows everybody he's at least as interested in men as in women. Which makes the reader wonder about Meg herself. If she plays a bisexual man, is she a bisexual woman? Does the gender and sexual preferences of an imaginary projection of oneself reveal anything about the puppeteer manipulating it?

As you can see, what began as a general exploration of the significance of virtual reality quickly evolved into a personal reappraisal from a queer point of view. User asks some very important questions about the gender roles in our society, the specific weakening of women through the image they are trained to respond to, and the desires, repressed and otherwise, people can express by using masks and armors.

Sir Guilliame and McCravern, by John Bolton
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