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How Michigan Graphic Novelist Meggie Ramm Draws Strength from Nature

‘Batcat’ creator on their comics journey and being inspired by Michigan trees

Ashley D'Souza

Batcat is pink and round, and maybe you guessed it: part bat and cat. They love a good fish taco, their video games, being alone and they hate when people question the validity of their multifaceted identity. For Michigan-based comic artist and author Meggie Ramm, the inspiration for the character isn’t actually a bat or a cat. 

“Oh my gosh, I am Batcat,” they told Pride Source. “It’s an allegory for being nonbinary — having people say there are two options and you can only be one, and deciding that there’s a third option I’m going to stick with and everybody else can just deal with it.”

Batcat is the main character in a two-book-and-counting comic series by Ramm, whose second book in the series, “Batcat: Sink or Swim,” was released this April through Abrams Books. Their comics have also been published in The New Yorker. This wasn’t the career they imagined as a kid, though.

While Ramm enjoyed reading comics from a young age — they savored the funnies in the newspaper every week and had a penchant for "The Far Side" — they didn’t originally plan to create comics themselves. While growing up in East Lansing and Grand Ledge, they dreamt of becoming a marine biologist, and in 2009 they entered college to study science.

“I hardcore flunked my science classes, but I took one comic class by chance as a freshman that I did well in and loved,” they said. After their art professor at the University of Michigan suggested they pursue comics, they switched to art, getting their BFA and eventually earning a graduate degree in comics from the California College of the Arts.

One of Ramm’s first comics jobs was at The Michigan Daily, the University of Michigan’s student-run newspaper. At the time, they were still learning how to draw, and their comics consisted mostly of stick figures. 

“It was my first attempt at making comics that were funny to people other than just me,” they said. “I was just starting out, so it was really helpful that somebody was there to give me a chance. I would just submit ideas and they would say yes or no.”



1
Meggie Ramm. Courtesy photo

Staying afloat in the comics industry has been a challenge, though, and throughout their 15-year career, Ramm has often considered quitting due to low pay and pitches being turned down. They cited their partner Sam’s support and an ingrained “bullheadedness” from their family’s affinity for marathon training as what kept them from quitting. Their mom even surprised them by getting a Batcat tattoo.

These days, Michigan’s nature is one of Ramm’s primary motivations for continuing to create. After living in California for six years, they moved back and now reside in Chelsea with Sam. They recounted missing Michigan’s natural beauty while living in California — specifically, its trees.

“California has nice trees, but they’re not the right kind,” they said. “And I draw a lot of trees. Michigan is such a beautiful place, and there’s so much here that I want to draw.”

Nature’s influence on Ramm’s work is evident: Batcat lives inside a gnarled oak tree in the middle of a forest, and they encounter various other animals in their adventures, real and mythical. Many of the animals are warm, patient and welcoming, mirroring something else Ramm missed while living in California: the Midwestern charm of where they grew up.

“All the Michigan libraries and bookstores have been so kind,” they said. Ramm gave a shout-out to Sidetrack Bookshop in Royal Oak, which threw a book launch party for them the day “Sink or Swim” was published. “There’s a very Michigan kind of person, and it’s been nice being back here while my books come out because everybody has been so sweet about it.”

However, moving back to Michigan brought a different challenge: being accepted as nonbinary. When Ramm lived in California, many of their friends were also nonbinary, and people generally got their pronouns right. In Michigan, this hasn’t been the case.

“It’s difficult to navigate because you have to decide if you’re going to call out everybody who does it wrong,” they said. “It can be exhausting.”

Ramm currently works remotely as a comic designer, and their job is based in California. Their current coworkers get their pronouns right, but at their previous job at a bookstore in Chelsea, that wasn’t the case. They have, however, found an accepting queer community as an artist within the comic-book world. That part of their journey aligns with Batcat’s struggle with identity erasure, as Batcat’s dual identities as a bat and a cat are challenged by other characters throughout the first book. A group of cats claims Batcat will never be one of them, a group of bats questions if Batcat is really part bat because they can’t echolocate, and a skeleton tells Batcat they “don’t look like a bat” but “don’t look like a cat, either.”

Bat Cat Sink or Swim

By the end of book one, though, Batcat learns to accept themselves, with the help of some wise words from a pair of griffins: “You do not have to be one thing or the other. You can just be you.” Ramm’s message about gender has resonated with readers, and since the book’s release, Batcat has helped children navigate various identity struggles.

“I’ve had parents reach out to me saying their kids have gotten all kinds of different messages from Batcat beyond being nonbinary,” they said. “It’s helped them move back and forth between their different identities and even having divorced parents.”

In “Sink or Swim,” Batcat learns to face their fears and find courage through friendship,  all conveyed through Ramm’s deeply affirming storytelling. At the end of the day, though, Ramm cares more about giving readers hope and an escape than instilling a grandiose message.

“Being a kid is hard right now,” they said, acknowledging they’re already working on a third Batcat book. “If I can take a kid out of their worries for just a little bit, that’s enough for me.”



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