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Comic Book / The Backstagers

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The Backstagers is a comic published by Boom Studios (under the Boom! Box label). It is written by James Tynion IV (writer of The Woods and Detective Comics (Rebirth)), and primarily illustrated by Rian Sygh.

When Jory transfers to the private, all-boys school St. Genesius, he figures joining the stage crew would involve a lot of just fetching props and getting splinters. To his pleasant surprise, he discovers there’s a door backstage that leads to different worlds, and all of the stagehands know about it! All the world’s a stage…but what happens behind the curtain is pure magic!

The comic ran between 2016 and 2017, and consists of eight issues (labeled Acts), broken into two trade volumes of four. There were holiday special comics released for Valentine's Day and Halloween (collected in a third trade volume), along with a 3-book middle grade prose novels that consists of:

  • The Backstagers and the Ghost Light
  • The Backstagers and the Theater of the Ancients
  • The Backstagers and the Final Blackout

See Lumberjanes, this book's Distaff Counterpart, which is an also all-ages book that highlights young LGBT characters and their relationships.


Provides examples of:

  • Ancient Artifact: The book series expands on the mythology introduced in the regular comic series by introducing magical items that were responsible for creating the Arch Theater and the Backstage area. In addition to the Designer's Notebook; there's the God Mic, the Master Switch, the Ghost Light, the Show Bible, the Carpenter's Belt, and the Prop Box.
  • Ascended Extra: Adrienne, the deaf Backstager of the Penitent Angels, becomes Aziz's girlfriend in the Valentine's Day Intermission issue and then becomes a huge part of the second middle grade novel.
  • Big Beautiful Man: Hunter is explicitly designed to be a bit overweight, with a visibly big belly, and is also genuinely handsome and attractive as well as charismatic, confident, and an unapologetic gay flirt.
  • Big Bad: Thiasos, the shady organization that wishes to restore theater to the way it was before technology.
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  • Career Versus Man: Hunter and Jory's main conflict in The Backstagers and the Ghost Light, as Hunter trains to be main stage manager while balancing being a boyfriend to Jory.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Out of the main cast, Jory is bi, Hunter is gay, and Sasha is described as "anime," though it's indicated that he is attracted to men, (specifically, showing attraction towards a tool rat that turned into a handsome prince) in the Valentine's Intermission issue. Aziz is the only cis and straight guy of the cast, since while Beckett is also into girls, he's trans. The supporting cast has the male stage managers Timothy and Jamie as a couple, and faculty advisor Rample is also gay. Polaroid was gay as well, as he was Rample's boyfriend who died in the Arch-Theater and was brought back to life using the magic sketchbook.
  • Came Back Wrong: Mr. Rample drew Tommy in the sketchbook and threw it off the Patchwork Catwalk. Since anything drawn into the sketchbook affects the backstage tunnels, he came back, although this Polaroid is a dangerous and malicious entity.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Beckett, for Bailey Brentwood. He's hopelessly in love with her, but can't bring himself to ask her out. The subtext is that it's all in his head that Bailey will reject him due to him being trans, though Bailey hasn't shown herself to be judgmental towards Beckett's identity at all. Her outfits even have the color palette of the transgender pride flag.
  • Creator Cameo: The author and two of the illustrators appear as football players in act 7.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: What fuels the Backstage and the Arch-Theater is the audience's love of theater through their Willing Suspension of Disbelief to enjoy the story, characters and songs.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Sasha, who's quirky and spontaneous.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Aziz to Sasha, having promised Sasha's parents he'd keep him safe.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Chloe Murphy from the Ghost Light novel has a deceased little sister, and in trying to return her back to the living, goes to "extreme" levels in order to bring her back, something out of character for her.
  • Dead All Along: Polaroid claims that he and the Backstage crew of 1987 all died in the backstage. In reality, he's the only who never made it out alive.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The techies from Penitent Angels.
  • Drama Club: The comic's setting.
  • Eldritch Location: The backstage area, which leads to Arch-Theater, which doesn't follow any law of physics and has multiple branching paths along with weird creatures.
  • Friend to All Living Things: A bit of a ditz, Sasha is more than happy to make friends with tool rats given the first opportunity.
  • Gadgeteer Genius / Mad Scientist: Straddling the line between them when up in his booth, Beckett is good enough with his lights that he is able to run a show from a single handheld control pad, as well as set an entire show's light cues to run on autopilot while Beckett runs into the Backstage. Before his transfer, he helped one of the Angels with something called a "Stitch-o-matic".
  • The Grinch: For most of the Valentines issue, Beckett is this for Valentines Day in place of Christmas, even being called a "Valentine's Grinch" by Hunter. He gets over it.
  • Has Two Mommies: Timothy, who off-handedly mentions his two fathers in the Halloween Intermission.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Polaroid, who haunts the Arch-Theater. He is a facsimile of the real Tommy who was lost and later died in the Arch-Theater in 1987, brought to life by Rample.
  • In-Series Nickname: The Coolest Girl in the World, aka Bailey Brentwood.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Sasha is excitable, sweet, cute and adorable, and everyone who encounters him loves him and wants to protect him.
  • Jerk Jock: Kevin and Blake McQueen, the high school drama club version of this. They are to the Backstagers what actual jocks would be (and were) to them.
  • Keet: Sasha seems to have a nonstop sugar high at all times. He can't even stay quiet backstage.
  • The Lost Lenore: Tommy aka Polaroid for faculty advisory Elliot Rample. Rample was part of the lost stage crew in 1987 and while he eventually found everyone and made it out, Tommy was lost for months and died and Rample found his body. Rample ends up drawing him in the magic sketchbook so he can be alive somehow.
  • The Mentor: Rample the faculty advisor to the Backstagers, through his prior experience with the Arch-Theater.
  • My Greatest Failure: Elliot Rample or "Monkey," managed to get the 1987 crew out of the tunnels one by one... except for Polaroid, who was too far back, and by the time Rample found him, Polaroid was long dead. The Valentines Day issue reveals that Rample keeps a photo of himself and Polaroid with him, and every Valentines Day he retreats backstage to the lights room to remember Polaroid.
  • Myth Arc: Hinted at in the comic series and expanded upon in the middle grade series, but it involves the Backstagers discovering the magical items responsible for the magic of the Backstage area and the Thiasos working against them.
  • Meaningful Name: The Backstagers attend St. Genesius Prep, named after the Roman patron saint of actors. The shadowy orgnaization Thiasos are named after Thiasus, the revelers and retainers of Dionysus. The Penitent Angels seem to get their name from Pelagia the Penitent, a Christian saint.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Jory is new to the Backstagers, and serves as the Audience Surrogate into the magical world behind the curtains.
  • Nice Girl: Bailey, the apple of Beckett's eye. She's funny, smart, a great actress and stands up for herself against the McQueen twins.
  • Nightmare Face: Most appearances of Polaroid show his face as a combination of Glowing Eyelights of Undeath mixed with Hidden Eyes topped off with a jagged Slasher Smile.
  • Odd Friendship: Hyperactive and childish Sasha and laid back and sensible Aziz.
  • Older Than They Look: Sasha is actually a juinor and the second oldest in the group, as revealed in The Backstagers and the Ghost Light, it's just because of his short stature and child-like demeanor, everyone treats him like a kid.
  • One-Gender School: St. Genesius Preportory High which is an all-boys school and it's right next to Penitent Angels, an all-girls school, a school Bennett attended before coming out as trans.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Backstagers, who get constantly ignored in favor of the Onstagers, the main actors who get the most visibility in the production.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The senior stage mangers Timothy and Jamie, along with Rample to the Backstagers.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Jory and Hunter, who start dating towards the end of the comic series.
  • Significant Sketchbook: A sketchbook Jory finds as also magical as it can alter some of the Arch-Theater's properties as well as create things inside of it. Rample draws Tommy in it after he dies because he couldn't stand the thought of him being dead.
  • Sixth Ranger: Reo, who joins the Backstagers after the events of The Backstagers and the Ghost Light.
  • Straight Man: Aziz, narratively and literally as he is the only straight and cis male in the main cast.
  • invokedSuppressed Mammaries: Beckett wears a binder, which is displayed in issue 3.
  • Take That!: When the theater club puts on a play named Lease (a reference to RENT), the characters give a pretty negative impression of it, calling it "the most touching musical about exploiting the poor and never having to be accountable for your actions".
  • They Do: After a healthy amount of Ship Tease, along with a parental roadblock, Jory and Hunter start dating at the end of the series.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Beckett and his Diet Coke obsession.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: The Backstagers and the Penitent Angels thought they were only in the the Arch-Theater for a couple hours. Turns out they were back there for a couple MONTHS.