“I’m getting used to this.” Michelle Perez, with the help of Remy Boydell’s illustrations, tells the semi-autobiographical story of a young person making the transition from male to female through a variety of illustrated vignettes. Being a sex worker can be just as monotonous as any job. Transitioning while working as a prostitute provides a unique view into a profession that few dare speak of. The Pervert is honest, gritty, and heartfelt.
The unnamed protagonist takes the reader on a journey through the life of a transgender sex worker. The story is told through a variety of vignettes that take place at different places in the main character’s transition. The comic delves into the trials and tribulations of a prostitute with grim determination and a bit of levity. Some days the main character is having a heartfelt conversation with a lonely older man who just misses companionship while other times they are contemplating how they would be able to escape a violent john. The author does a very good job of humanizing a person who can spend much of their day being treated as an object for hire. The protagonist has a regular job and has bills to pay, they experience the joys and the heartbreak of a loving relationship, and they worry constantly about having enough money to survive. These are all completely relatable experiences and gives the reader a chance to empathize with the main character.
The protagonists’ clients come and go as a whirlwind of genitalia. They generally aren’t introduced as they are not important to the protagonist. The reader, however, is introduced to Tom, the lonely older man whose wife was trans, as one of the protagonist’s’ main clients. This is an interesting change and gives the reader a glimpse into the life of one who seeks such services. Tom isn’t portrayed as a sinister individual, but rather a man who needs someone to keep him company. The protagonist isn’t emotionally stable enough to truly provide what Tom needs, but this departure from the seedier elements of the profession is refreshing. This may be a sordid tale, but the author is careful to include these very real and emotional elements to give this graphic novel heart.
The Pervert has an accessible writing style. The story is told either through the protagonist speaking candidly about their work, almost as if through a diary or journal, or through conversations between various characters. The vocabulary is sad and desolate. There is a sense of desperation and unhappiness in the tone that sometimes mirrors the actions portrayed through the illustrations and sometimes it does not. The main character could be laughing in the frame, but the narration plays contrary to that vision. There is an underlying sense of despair and loneliness that comes through with the writing. Being a sex worker can be an extremely lonely profession. The main character is required to provide a variety of emotional and physical needs to their clients but receives very little, if any, emotional or physical comforts in return.
The artwork reflects this feeling, as well. The illustrator uses a lot of blue hues, particularly when the protagonist is servicing a client. When the protagonist is out and about with friends or lovers, the color scheme is much brighter and more colorful. This gives the reader that sense of duality that the protagonist experiences every day. The light and the dark.
The characters are depicted as anthropomorphized animals. The main character is a dog. Interestingly, most of the protagonist’s clients are not shown from the waist up. Only the older gentleman, Tom, and the occasional lover are shown in full and their animal identity is known. This appears to indicate more emotional attachment from the protagonist’s standpoint. The characters’ physical animal traits are made more obvious during coitus: tongues lolling, ears pricked or flat. The illustrations seem to comment on the very nature of sexual needs. We are all animals in the end.
The Pervert is strictly an adults only graphic novel. The artwork and the language used is graphic and explicit. While the nudity and depiction of sexual acts are not overly gratuitous, there is a lot of genitalia, bodily fluids, and various sex acts and is therefore appropriate for an 18+ crowd. Those who enjoyed The Pervert would also enjoy Sex Criminals and My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, other graphic novels that feature LGBTQ sex positivity. The world needs more graphic novels like The Pervert to remind ourselves that we are a diverse species and there is no such thing as “normal.”
By Michelle Perez
Art by Remy Boydell
Publisher Rating: M for Mature