DC Comics is introducing a nonbinary version of the Flash during a major comic-book crossover event in January.
Jess Chambers, aka Kid Quick, will debut as part of an alternate-universe version of the Teen Titans in “DC’s Merry Multiverse,” a holiday-themed comic book anthology landing in stores on Dec. 9. The speedster, who uses they/them pronouns, will then get a major promotion and take on the mantle of the Flash during the “Future State” storyline coming to DC comic books in January and February.
“In DC Future State, the Multiverse has been saved from the brink of destruction, but the triumph of DC’s heroes has shaken loose the very fabric of time and space,” the publisher said in a release this year.
DC Comics has a long history of presenting alternate universes where familiar characters are reimagined — on Earth 43, for example, Batman has been transformed into a vampire. Earth 11 is not that dissimilar from the mainstream DC universe except the genders are reversed: Members of the Justice League, known as the Justice Guild, include Wonderous Man and Aquawoman.
In the “DC Merry Multiverse” vignette, the Justice Guild has been brainwashed by an alien invader, and it’s up to Teen Justice to stop their mentors and save the world before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Kid Quick is part of the adolescent super team, since their aunt is Jesse Quick, Earth 11’s version of the Flash.
Writer Ivan Cohen said it felt natural to introduce a hero that defied the binary in a story already commenting on gender.
“In the DC superhero universe we’ve got a superfast character, Kid Flash. And I thought about how ‘Kid’ can really be any gender,” Cohen told NBC News. “There are all these choices we can make — why don’t we do something besides what we would have made up if it was 1965?”
It was important that Chambers’ identity feel organic and not be a plot point, he added, especially in a story only eight pages long.
“That’s always a concern — you don’t want to just disrupt things for the sake of disrupting,” said Cohen, whose other work includes all-ages titles like “Loony Toons,” “Teen Titans Go!” “Scooby Doo, Where are You?”
“Kid Quick’s identity is baked-in enough that another character just asks, ‘Are they seeing anyone?’ and it’s understood.”
Setting the story on an alternate Earth also freed him up from decades of comic-book continuity.
“Earth 11 is such a blank page that making it more diverse didn’t require a lot of shoehorning. No one is going to run to their back issues and complain we contradicted something,” Cohen said. “If someone has a problem that a Flash from an alternative universe is nonbinary, there’s a lot of other comics they can read.”
The character was actually intended as a one-off, but when DC editors saw artist Eleonora Carlini’s character designs, there was a flurry of interest in using them beyond the holiday special. DC’s “Future State” event spans several miniseries, one-shots and anthologies with all-new characters taking on the mantles of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and other famous crime-fighters. A grown-up Jess Chambers debuts as the new Flash in the two-issue “Future State: Justice League” comic book, starting Jan. 12. How they made the leap from Earth 11 to the future of the mainstream DC universe remains to be seen.
“The excitement over this character is probably more because Eleonora did such a good job, not because of how I wrote them,” Cohen said. “She had free rein — we gave her a few notes, but she really found a way to make all the characters look cool and different from their mainstream counterparts.”
Kid Quick is one of a growing number of nonbinary characters emerging in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. DC’s “Suicide Squad” introduced The Aerie, a nonbinary anti-hero, in 2019, the same year Jacob Tobia began voicing nonbinary Double Trouble on the “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” animated series.
This fall, the third season of “Star Trek: Discovery” saw the arrival of Adira, the franchise’s first nonbinary character, played by nonbinary actor Blu del Barrio.
Spencer Harvey, spokesperson for the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, praised sci-fi creators for “helping to reach new audiences that may not normally be exposed to these identities, which has a profound impact on accelerating acceptance and understanding.”