Uncle is one of the characters in the sci fi series Trees by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard in which numerous alien structures, referred to as “trees” because of their cylindrical appearance and extremely tall height, manifested across the earth. He manages an apartment building to which he refers as the “Great Spaceship” in the city of Shu which is designated by the Chinese government as a “Special Cultural Zone” because of its very close proximity to a tree. He is outgoing person who cares deeply for the residents of his building, thus earning the nickname “Uncle”. He has a biting sense of humor. Uncle lived in Shanghai before coming to Shu on the very first day that its gates were opened. The people in Shu consider it a place of great personal freedom and expression whereas the Chinese government secretly considers it a laboratory experiment.
Uncle takes the newest resident of the “Great Spaceship”, a young man named Tian Chenglei from a small farming town, under his wing and asks another resident named Zhen to coax the man out of his shell. We learn from Zhen in a later scene that Uncle senses Chenglei to be a genuinely good person. Zhen and Chenglei spend the day and evening together and are shown afterwards to have had sex and spent the night together. We can presume that Uncle intended to play matchmaker between the two though this intent isn’t confirmed (at least in volume 1). Uncle’s most extensive scene occurs the day after Zhen and Chenglei have sex and consists of Uncle having a heart to heart talk with the young man about his feelings regarding his sexuality and his nascent feelings toward Zhen. Ellis uses Uncle to talk meaningfully and compassionately about the range gender and sexual identities and experiences to Chenglei and most importantly people reading the series. As the conversation ends Uncle lets Chenglei know with a bit of humor that he is transgender.
Uncle first appears in Trees #1 and his gender identity is disclosed in a later issue.
All rights reserved Warren Ellis and Jason Howard.