Rawra Chin hails from Hypothetical Lizard, a graphic novel from Avatar Press in 2007. It’s based on an earlier short story by the great Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and other awesome things, and the comic version I have actually prints the story in the back, so you’re covered on all counts! It’s a fantasy story, bordering on horror. (CN: Rape/abusive relationship, sexual situations/nudity.)
The story takes place in a brothel called The House Without Clocks, which serves clients with particular needs… wizards, for instance. They have been known to reveal glimpses of powerful magic at the moment of release, and if those glimpses ever reached their enemies, the wizard could be killed or worse. The POV character, Som-Som, has had the two sides of her brain separated and one half of her face covered by a mask since she was a child, literally preventing her from forming statements about the things she’s seen or heard. What she sees with her left eye goes into the right hemisphere of her brain, where it can now never reach the left side to be converted into words. (There’s some fascinating science behind this). Thus, Som-Som is trapped as an observer. She can feel emotionally, but not ascribe words to things.
All of this is important, but again, Som-Som is the observer. What she observes is Rawra Chin, her friend who enters the brothel as an awkward boy dripping in undefinable charisma. Rawra Chin develops into a strangely compelling and beautiful woman who fascinates everyone, without anyone being able to explain why. Rawra Chin leaves the brothel as an adult for a successful acting career, mesmerizing audiences as she does everyone else, but for some reason she returns to see Foral Yatt, one of the male prostitutes who was her lover before she left. And she’s trapped. He takes away her identity bit by bit and it’s brutal. Som-Som observes like the readers do — unable to process, unable even to speak about what she’s seeing.
Hypothetical Lizard is a one-sitting story, maybe forty-five minutes, but Rawra Chin worked her charisma on me too — It’s been years, but I think about her all the time. She may have been the first transgender character I met. While the horror of the story is wrapped up in magic and fantasy and other dynamics, the twist of the knife is forcing Rawra Chin to not even present as male, but to be male when she is not, and that stuck with me.
And if you’re wondering about the hypothetical lizard of the title… It’s a mind game that runs through the second half of the story. A copper ball that may have a magic lizard inside it. The idea is to wonder if there really is a lizard inside, aware that you’ll never actually know…