Robots and Relationships: Should You Be Reading ‘O Human Star’? [Sci-Fi Week]
With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today, and this week we’re focusing on some of the very best science-fiction in comics. Discover the world of tomorrow with Sci-FI Week!
Imagine waking up in a body that is your body, but isn't, 16 years after your death. The world has changed, partly through your own inventions. Another version of you exists, but she's not really you. Your old lover is still around, but maybe he doesn't need you anymore. Maybe this new world doesn't have a place for you at all. This is O Human Star.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
O Human Star is about Alastair Sterling, the man who invented the modern robot. After his death, his mind, including all his memories, is put into a synthetic replica of his human body. But it’s 16 years later, so things are... different. Robots are everywhere: driving cars, serving coffee, living within the community alongside humans. They have rights under the law!
Alastair finds his old business partner and lover, Brendan, who’s grown up and built their company into the world’s premier tech company in the years since Al’s death. He also finds Sulla, the first humanoid robot, made with a copy of Al’s mind. She doesn’t have his memories, but the rest is all Al (in a female body --- she asked for it a few years back).
The comic follows Al as he tries to reintegrate into the world and figure out who brought him back and why.
WHO’S IT BY?
O Human Star is written by Blue Delliquanti, a cartoonist from Minneapolis. She’s contributed to Smut Peddler, The Sleep of Reason, and Beyond. She’s currently working on a graphic novel called MEAL for Iron Circus Comics.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
Delliquanti describes O Human Star as a sci-fi family drama, and the description is apt. Brendan and Sulla have a wonderful father-daughter relationship, complete with occasional grumpiness and teenage excitement. When Al returns, they have to work to incorporate this new person into their family, and Al has to reckon with the fact that Sulla is him in some ways, and very different in others.
Webcomics tend to rely on readers getting invested in characters and relationships, as the story itself can take a while to build when the comic is released page by page. Al and Brendan’s relationship, especially as it develops in the flashbacks, is a gorgeous slow burn. Delliquanti’s art shows the pain and frustration of feeling attraction to someone while desperately trying not to. She draws men in a sexy way without it being exploitative --- she just shows us Brendan and Al as the other man sees them, sexy and real.
Science fiction provides a lot of room to explore issues relating to bodies, body modification, feeling comfortable (or uncomfortable) within a particular body, which can dovetail quite nicely with queer and trans themes. What's better is that Delliquanti doesn't use robots as a metaphor for queer and trans issues, but instead incorporates all these things together. She discusses this in more detail with ComicsAlliance in an interview from FlameCon.
O Human Star also doesn’t shy away from the social and ethical implications of robots and artificial intelligence. What does it mean to create a copy of someone’s mind and put it in a robot body? When does that person become a new person and not just a replica? Can we and should we use robotics to cheat death?
O Human Star was nominated for an Ignatz in 2015 and a Lambda Literary award the following year. It also won Best Self-Published Work and Best in Show at the DINK Awards in 2016.
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
Anyone who dreams of the future. Delliquanti does recommend young readers wait to read it, as there is some adult content.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?
You can read O Human Star online. It updates once a week on Mondays. Chapters 1-3 of the comic have been collected into O Human Star: Volume One, available in PDF or softcover format from the O Human Star webstore.