Trailblazing trans author and DC Comics writer Rachel Pollack dies aged 77

Rachel Pollack

Rachel Pollack, an award-winning trans author, tarot expert and comic book writer credited with creating the first mainstream transgender superhero character, has died aged 77.

Pollack was a prolific writer and leading authority on divinatory tarot who published seven novels and four collections of short stories from 1971 onwards, along with more than 20 non-fiction books.

Her wife, Judith Zoe Mateen, shared a post on Facebook on Friday (7 April), confirming the writer’s death after a years-long battle Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Pollack’s long-time friend, the author Neil Gaiman, took to Twitter to share the sad news with followers, writing: “She was my friend for 38 years and I will miss her. Sending love to Rachel Pollack wherever her journeys take her.”

Rachel Pollock was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1945 and transitioned in her early 20s, when she moved to the UK.

In 1996, Pollack took over writing the comic series Doom Patrol on DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint, creating a run of issues over the next two years that addressed topics rarely dealt with in the art form, including sexual and gender identity and menstruation. 

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In Doom Patrol, Pollack introduced the trans character of Coagula, credited as being the first mainstream, explicitly trans superhero.

DC Comics posted a tribute to Pollack on their official Twitter account, expressing “deep sadness” for her passing.

The post reads: “DC is deeply saddened by the passing of Rachel Pollack. Her trailblazing work on DOOM PATROL changed DC forever and inspired a generation of talent, setting a new bar for ambition and experimentation in superhero comics.

“She loved the medium, and it loved her back.”

Throughout her career, Pollock won numerous awards for fiction, including the 1997 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel for her book Godmother Night, the 1994 Nebula Award for Best Novel for Temporary Agency and the 1989 Arthur C. Clarke award for Unquenchable Fire

Pollock was recognised as an expert on the tarot, writing several books on the subject and creating her own deck, Shining Tarot Woman. She helped to create the Vertigo Tarot Deck alongside Gaiman and illustrator Dave McKean, and wrote a book to accompany it.

Pollack was part of a group that created the first trans manifesto, published by the Gay Liberation Front in their 1972 newsletter. It was called “Don’t Call Me Mister You F**king Beast”. 

British writer and critic Roz Kaveney, who was also a member of the small trans activism group, told The Guardian: “Rachel was a crystallising force in the trans movement and so many other areas.

“She was perpetually an inspirational figure, and was one of the first professional trans writers who had a career while out, and proved that it was possible to do that.”

Fans shared their appreciation for Pollack’s cultural contributions on social media, with one writing: “DC Comics’ first transgender superhero appeared in a Doom Patrol comic, and that was made possible by Rachel Pollack.

“Thank you for your contribution to these beautiful stories, rest in peace.”

Another dubbed her “one of the greatest real life superheroes”.

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