Misfile is the kind of webcomic I don’t want to read… or at least I thought so until I read it. It’s a comic about a boy who gets turned into a girl, and all sorts of drama unfolds — basically, what looks like your everyday paint-by-numbers “transgender comic” plot. The surprise, and the thing that makes Misfile stand out in my mind, is the fact that it actually does this generic plot well, which is new to me.
Most transgender comics turn into a) sexist nonsense, b) fetish fuel, or c) both. In fact, I’d say the majority are both. Misfile, with very few exceptions, manages to avoid these pitfalls. It actually gives a fairly realistic portrayal of the situation, and uses it effectively to tell an interesting story.
The story starts out seeming very weak: the main character, Ash, wakes up one day to find out that he’s switched sexes. An alcoholic angel tells him that it was a filing accident in Heaven, and that Ash needs to keep things quiet or else face the possibility that the filing accident will never be repaired. History itself has been altered so that everybody believes that Ash has been female his entire life; everyone except Ash, of course. To make things worse, this filing accident also caused a former student of Ash’s high school, Emily, to lose two years of her life. Ash and Emily have to stick together to stop themselves from going crazy while the alcoholic tries to sleeze his way back into Heaven so he can fix the mistake without alerting the Big Boss.
I was immediately put off by the ridiculous premise and the fact that the story involves a real-world religion in its plot. However, as I read more into it, I started to understand it better and it bugged me a lot less. I think the comic gets off to a bad start, but it recovers fairly quickly and, for the most part, sails smoothly from then on. Most of the mileage of the story goes into Ash and Emily coping with their new lives. Ash focuses on the different expectations put upon him, and how his past is different due to a slightly different upbringing. Emily focuses on how she was an overachiever — getting accepted into Harvard prior to the misfile — and struggles to decide where she wants to go with her life. (She tries to find her Point B.)
Emily’s story is much more realistic, obviously, and it provides a nice contrast to the fantastic problems that Ash faces. Still, Ash’s predicament is executed more masterfully than I’ve ever seen in a transgender comic. The new gender isn’t treated like it’s a totally different species, but it’s not meaningless either. Ash acts the same in terms of personality, but he finds out that some things in his history have changed because of how others treated him differently. The best example of this is in Ash’s parents. Ash lives with his father after his mother left him at a young age. He had a distant relationship with his dad when he was a boy, but his dad treats him with much more affection when he’s a girl. I think it’s a smooth commentary on how distant and awkward father-son relationships can get, and I have to applaud the writer for including it.
The writing in general is very good, which is what really makes this comic work. Some of the actual dialogue can come across as forced, with characters often spouting their innermost feelings for no reason, but it’s pretty good on a whole. It makes you care about the characters, and it feels relatable despite the implausible situations. That’s what makes the story so compelling.
Misfile is a great read overall. It’s a rare transgender comic that actually takes itself seriously, and it shows. There’s no real sexual content or swearing, so there isn’t much to complain about: it’s just a solid webcomic, and I highly recommend it.