Life as a superhero may have its challenges, but things do come easier with superpowers. Less so when you’re the non-powered queer daughter of one of most famous members of the Titans. This is the story of Mandy, the daughter of the Tamaranian princess Starfire, who despite what everyone likes to believe, is anything but her mom. For Pride Month here at DC, let’s look at the thoughtful 2021 Young Adult graphic novel by writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Yoshi Yoshitani, I Am Not Starfire.


Mandy Anders is sixteen going on seventeen, and unbeknownst to her famous mother, she is not going to college. Having fled the SATs in the middle of testing, she’s resolved to live out her days in France (although she doesn’t speak French). Living her life under the weight of her mom’s celebrity, she doesn’t have many friends except for her buddy Lincoln…but there is a girl in her class she’s paired up with for a research project that she’s harbored a crush on for a long time. Popular girl Claire has a million followers on social media, so she wouldn’t want to hang out with Mandy—except it turns out that she does! Does she like Mandy for who she is, or is it simply to get closer to her famous mom and her famous superhero friends?

This is the conflict that Tamaki and Yoshitani have fashioned for young Mandy. On top of your garden variety high school anxiety stemming from tests, popularity, college and crushes, our young protagonist must deal with the stress of her lineage. It turns out life might not be all it’s cracked up to be when you’re the child of someone whose light casts a large shadow, especially when you can’t possibly live up to that blinding image. But then again, who could? Starfire is more glamourous and powerful anyone could ever hope to be. Mandy, like so many of us, is simply not.


When it comes to themes of self-discovery, teen crushes and the psychology of superheroes, Mariko Tamaki is an established pro. Her body of work and the accompanying awards all speak for themselves, but Tamaki makes I Am Not Starfire a subversive read right away. Mandy and Koriand’r may be very different people, but their backgrounds are similar—Koriand’r, as a princess, was also raised under weighty expectations. How the characters learn about each other and work to close their differences illuminates not only shades of Starfire we’ve never seen before, but also the world of DC.

Yoshi Yoshitani brings everything together with bubbly, expressive art. One of the most enjoyable aspects of I Am Not Starfire is how Mandy’s stream of consciousness and experiences are rendered through dreamlike, colorful splash illustrations. Yoshitani’s layouts are wonderfully presented, with warm colors often combating the dark grays of Mandy’s inner world. It’s a style not often seen in modern comics, and as such, carries welcome surprises from beginning to thrilling end as Mandy and Starfire’s differences are brought to a violent head.


  • Mandy has too few friends and is untrusting of most due to her famous mother, so the prospect that her classmate Claire might like her for who she is has higher stakes if she’s wrong. The anxiety, uncertainty and emotions that accompany young love—and particularly young queer love—are rarely so poignantly on display.
  • We’re familiar with Starfire through years of stories, but this is looking at not only her, but heroism in the DC Universe through a whole new lens. We don’t often see parents as superheroes in the DCU. Yet, Mandy’s story is one many young people can relate to when struggling with the expectations that have been placed on them, even if their parents are a bit more down-to-earth than Mandy’s Tamaranean mom
  • Yoshi Yoshitani’s artwork is always fun and energetic, but it’s delightful for longtime DC fans to see not only Starfire but the other Titans brought to colorful life in her style. From the shadowy Raven to the bootyful Nightwing, Yoshitani’s take on the characters speaks true to the classic designs while also contrasting with our mostly normal cast.
  • The Titans presented here are superheroes who have been around for over twenty years, so the inference of a new generation of young heroes coming after them reflects the essence of the franchise in a fresh and fun way. Plus, for older readers who first met Starfire in the pages of New Teen Titans in the 1980s, it’s a nice progression—if a little bittersweet—to see her now old enough to have a nearly grown daughter herself.


I Am Not Starfire’s really not about its superheroes, but about the people who are close to them. It offers a new, not commonly seen perspective on costumed crimefighting—one that suggests the unbridled adoration we give our heroes may sometimes come at an unseen cost. And it does all this while offering a look at the challenges of young queer love that will ring true to anyone who’s had to parse the uncertainty of teen romance, regardless of their sexual orientation.  I Am Not Starfire shows off DC’s strengths at telling continuingly relevant stories for YA readers, reflecting the struggles of their lives and the lives of others, even with the added element of a super-powered mom.

I Am Not Starfire by Mariko Tamaki and Yoshi Yoshitani is available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and digital retailers. It can also be read in full on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.

Donovan Morgan Grant writes about comics, graphic novels and superhero history for Follow him on Twitter at @donoDMG1.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Donovan Morgan Grant and do not necessarily reflect those of DC or Warner Bros. Discovery, nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.