XTC69 by Jessica Campbell
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
Jessica Campbell's humorous comic hits the patriarchy where it hurts and delivers quick wit and expressionist style. While some political points miss the mark, XTC69 from Koyama Press will have readers laughing out loud.
83 %
Adventurous

With our society’s history of rampant misogyny, indulging in dreams of a pro-female future can be cathartic. And Jessica Campbell is here to lead the charge with her hilarious sci-fi satire XTC69.

The Koyama Press comic cleverly skewers misogyny with a lighthearted story of femmes in space. Indeed, XTC69 presents the possibilities of a feminist future with quick-witted and irreverent humor. Campbell’s simple expressionist black and white artwork gives the comic a humorously choppy movement. All together, the quirky design and dialog makes the comic fun to read. But don’t let the silliness fool you: inside XTC69 is a nonstop denunciation of toxic patriarchy plaguing our planet. Campbell’s comic is missing some crucial elements to be called truly progressive, but, overall, XTC69 is an enjoyably entertaining female-centric space comedy.  

XTC69
Image courtesy of Koyama Press.

XTC69: Femmes in Space

The crew of the spaceship XTC69 is on a quest. The women on the planet L8DZ N1T3 (“Ladies Night,” get it?) must find a way to repopulate the planet. That’s where the fearless captain Jessica Campbell comes in. Coincidentally, it’s also where the last woman on earth, another Jessica Campbell, comes in. Together, the Jessicas must find a way to save the human race.

The premise is not unlike Y: THE LAST MAN or other post-apocalyptic comics, but XTC69 has a decidedly feminist lesbian twist. The candid humor mainly takes digs at misogyny. But Campbell fills the comic with astute and hilarious points about our culture in general. She sprinkles in jabs at life as a millennial art student as well as the cultural impact of Betty Crocker recipes. Jokes aside, Campbell also joyfully plays up the productivity of women in STEM and art fields. While the men in Campbell’s universe have devolved, the women from L8DZ N1T3 have advanced in both maturity and technological skill.

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Full Frontal Funny

Although the women in Campbell’s comic are remarkably advanced, Campbell’s artwork is wonderfully rudimentary. Nevertheless, women are visually front and center in the comic. The illustrations are oddly reminiscent of Nick Park’s animated characters Wallace and Gromit. But the black and white strip-style comic also feels like a grown-up version of the NANCY comics. As a result, the moments of adult and feminist humor pop. And like the classic “funnies,” Campbell’s artwork is more than meets the eye. The stilted movement is practically slapstick and adds to the ultra dramatic moments that help launch Campbell’s jokes.

The simplistic art also gives XTC69 an expressionist quality. Campbell is able to emphasize emotions rather than an objective reality. Ultimately, the comic is overly dramatic for the sake of humor, but the expressionism adds depth. As a result, Campbell’s comic can take on a more serious edge at times. 

XTC69
Image courtesy of Koyama Press.

Campbell does not shy away from nudity or homoerotics. But her rough illustrations make these moments even more funny. Additionally, there is an interesting dynamic of self-reflection. The name Jessica Campbell (whose initials, “JC,” also suggests a coincidentally biblical meaning), repeats. As a result, there are many moments where readers must wonder how the comic reflects Campbell’s own love affair with herself. With Jessica Campbell as the creator and the heroine, the comic suggests that women must demand recognition for their leadership roles.

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Sisters or Cis-ters?

The comic’s focus on over-the-top misandry is effective in terms of satire. However, the comic’s plot and overall execution verges on transphobic. Because Campbell’s plot hinges on the inability of women to repopulate their own planet, she inadvertently asserts that those women are all cisgender. On the positive side, according to the ship’s captain, the progressive planet L8DZ N1T3 is a matriarchal society that rejects gender assignments for newborns. However, because everyone on the planet identified as women, they eventually lost the ability to procreate effectively. The biological logic of L8DZ N1T3 is confusing, I’ll admit. And the unfortunate result is that women with penises are not necessarily included in the female future Campbell envisions. As a result of this trans-exclusive oversight, the otherwise progressive feminist plot loses its radical intersectional feminist edge.

XTC69
Image courtesy of Koyama Press.

Indeed, the comic reads more like a 1980s lesbian feminist manifesto. The emphasis is on a universe without men. The comic’s often homoerotic moments suggests the possibility of both lesbian separatism as well as political lesbianism. Including trans women in the discussion might have granted Campbell’s critique of contemporary feminism another level of sophistication.

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Final Thoughts: Mixing Humor and Politics

In XTC69, Campbell gives readers a funny look at women who call the shots, lead expeditions, and shut down the patriarchy, and the simple line drawings make the emotions and humor more vibrant. Still, Campbell’s comic does miss an important political opportunity. Although she tries to suggest that her plot is LGBTQ+ friendly by including notes about gender identity and nearly hypersexualized interactions between women, she ultimately leaves little room for trans women in the comic. As a result, the political satire feels dated. Trans-exclusionary feminism is not feminism. While XTC69 does not claim that only cis women are women, certain aspects of the comic’s plot are less than inclusive of trans women. When reading XTC69, look for the hilarious and punchy patriarchy slams, but be sure to remember a feminist future must move beyond the 1980s.

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