While a new story featuring the original, child-aged incarnations of the Super-Sons was lauded as a major selling point for DC’s recently released Saved By The Belle Reve comic, the pair’s return centered not on their relationship or plot lines, but rather their introduction to and education on the concept of non-binary identities.
Hitting shelves on August 31st, the punnily-titled one-shot features presents readers with an anthology of school-themed stories set across the DCU, such as one wherein The Suicide Squad must pose as educators in order to protect a politician’s son, another which sees Batgirl and Nightwing ambushed by Mr. Freeze on prom night, and a new Gotham Academy chapter.
As noted above, one particular story which sparked anticipation for the issue was a new tale featuring Jon Kent and Damian Wayne, as penned by original series writer and concept creator Peter J. Tomasi, which was set to debut within its pages.
However, little did readers know that the story would focus on a new addition to their social circle rather than the titular offspring of the World’s Finest.
Titled “Back to School”, the story follows Jon and Damian as they start they return from summer break and start their first day of the new school year at the West-Reeve Academy (named after the iconic actors who portrayed the Dark Knight on television and the Man of Steel on film, Adam West and Christopher Reeve, respectively).
Eventually making it to their first lunch break of the year, the two take notice of a new, pink-haired student sitting alone in the cafeteria.
Wishing to extend a warm welcome, Jon moves to invite the new kid over to eat with him and his friends.
However, before he can even get out of his seat, the lone student has a tray of food dumped on them by a pair of bullies.
Rescued from further trouble by Jon and Damian before in turn pulling them away from a potential fist fight, the new kid proceeds to introduce themselves to the pair and, without prompting from either of them, reveals that they identify as non-binary.
“Last year, I changed my name to Sydney,” explains the Coast City transfer. “I felt the name my parents gave me was locked into a traditional gender that I really didn’t feel was who I am. I’m non-binary.”
(It should be noted that there are no clues, visual or in the text, given as to Sydney’s birth gender.)
The rest of their afternoon reads like a gender FAQ, as Sydney spends the next few panels detailing to the Super-Sons the concept of both non-binary identities and pronouns.
“Some people feel they’re a…mix of both genders,” their new companion tells them. “While others don’t feel like they identify with either gender.”
Turning to themself, Sydney asserts, “I identify with both,” before confirming that, as such, “I use they/them pronouns.”
“Some nonbinarypeople like me use the gender-netural pronouns they and them instead of she/her or he/him,” they tell the curious pair.
Over the next few days, Jon and Damian both reach out to Sydney in their own unique ways, with the former lending an ear to their problems and the latter teaching them hand-to-hand combat techniques so they can defend themselves should the bullies strike again.
Sure enough, the next day, the two lunch-spillers return to harass Sydney, this time hurling insults explicitly directed towards their non-binary identity, giving them a mashed potato moustache and declaring “You can play Santa, or maybe you’d prefer Mrs. Claus” before plopping a mob on their head and teasing, “Long hair is definitely you! Make up your mind, girl or guy!”
In response, rather than turning the other cheek, Sydney puts into practice the moves they learned from Damian, letting loose two hits which knock both bullies down to the ground in seconds flat.
Walking away from the scene, Jon quips to his new friend, “Guess you decided not to turn the other cheek,” who counters “I decided to turn theirs this time around” as their jacket gives way to a shirt which features the words “Not he, not she, just me” printed above the non-binary gender symbol.
DC’s Saved by the Belle Reve special is on sale now.