Most kids dream of being superheroes when they grow up, but have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the child of a superhero? More specifically, the daughter of one of the most beloved Teen Titans — Starfire. Now imagine that you are the child of this Tamaran-born hero, but you’re nearly seventeen and you have never been shown to have any special powers.
Things would probably be pretty rough, right? School bullies would taunt you for your lacking heroics. The popular kids would buddy up to you because who doesn’t want to get in with the Titans? It’s already brutal out there, but Starfire’s daughter Mandy shows us exactly how hard it is to live in the shadow of her mother.
I Am Not Starfire is an Important Lesson in Being Yourself
When DC Comics first announced their young adult graphic novel I Am Not Starfire, it was met with outrage and vitriol, which has, unfortunately, become the standard for comics that break the historically straight, white, male hero stereotype. A certain subset of comic readers took offense to the idea that the scantily clad K’oriander could have a daughter who was the complete opposite of her. But Mandy is precisely what we need more of in comics. She’s brutally honest about who she is and unabashedly proud of it too. She’s goth, she’s queer, and she’s trying to find her place in the world beyond the glamour of her upbringing.
I Am Not Starfire is from New York Times bestselling author Mariko Tamaki, and artist Yoshi Yoshitani, whose combined efforts have created a world that is relatable to readers who are years removed from the trials of high school and those of us who don’t have a Titan for a mother. Young adult readers will quickly learn that you don’t have to be half-alien to know what it feels like to be out of place among your peers.
Mandy may not fight crime like her mother, but she does face impending adulthood and S.AT.s… Okay, well, she doesn’t exactly tackle these things head-on. But she does face her burgeoning crush on her classmate Claire with… copious amounts of nerves and a little skepticism. Alright, Mandy doesn’t possess any of her mother’s grace, superpowers, or tenacity, but she had plenty of merits on her own. After all, she isn’t Starfire.
Mandy is exactly what you expect from a goth teen who is rebelling against the system. She dyes her hair black to hide the hair that matches her mother’s, she skips school and walks out of S.A.Ts, and decides college isn’t for her. She contemplates running away to France and running away from her mother. But all of these quibbles with life get set aside when someone from her mother’s past arrives to turn Mandy’s life upside down.
Ignore what you may have heard on the internet about I Am Not Starfire. Tamaki and Yoshitani have created something really special with this graphic novel. Not only do we get to see a teen grow into her own as an individual, but we see that you don’t have to possess classic beauty, a perfect figure, or the most gracious personality to see yourself in a graphic novel. This is the graphic novel that so many young people needed decades ago, when they struggled with being accepted for who they are and not judged for who they were not.
I Am Not Starfire is out today. I anxiously await the news that we will be seeing Mandy in future graphic novels. We have seen who she becomes, but now I want to see where that takes her in the next stage of her life.