This group of comics stood out so sharply for me as happiness-increasing portrayals of non-heterosexual and other queer folks. I couldn’t resist making a friendly post with all of them together, even though I could have put them into the more “topic” focused comics posts. Let’s get started, because I know you’re going to find something here to love.
My first recommended book is Band Vs Band Comix by Kathleen Jacques.
Right now, it looks like the only option for reading is online. [Update! You can now buy the hard copy book online too.] Here’s the page Jacques points to for what it’s all about, and I think it’s pretty neat:
Jacques describes it as a “retro-cartoon-inspired, queer, handlettering-obsessed comic series about rival girl-fronted rock bands” and I’m not sure what I can add to that! I supported it on Kickstarter mostly on a whim, not having a clue if I’d like it. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read, and it took me a dozen pages or more to get the hang of it. The characters are so funny, and the art is so cute, though, I couldn’t resist.
The awe-inspiring epic Dicebox by Jen Manley Lee.
Molly and Griffin are itinerant space station workers, bouncing from one job to the next. Partners, friends, ex-lovers maybe, non-sexual committed relationship? It doesn’t really matter. They’re together and they understand each other. Molly is the level-headed one, Griffin is the tempestuous one. Molly has strange visions. Griffin has a complicated past that by the end of this book, may be coming back to haunt her.
Their relationship is like most of the relationships in this book. It doesn’t matter what it’s called, or what the specifics are between the people involved. If it would be rude to walk up to someone on the street and ask them a particular question, Lee doesn’t feel the need to put a caption on the character or panel answering that question for the reader. Instead, she slowly builds a complex world out of characters of various genders, pasts, and interests. You can read Dicebox online, or buy Dicebox in Lee’s store. Very big book, very worth it!
The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by E.K. Weaver.
Oh, dude. Don’t get blind drunk two weeks before med school finals and right after you come out to your conservative parents and break off your engagement. That’s just not good. And if you wake up hungover with a stoner in your apartment and he says you agreed to drive him cross country and he’s going to pay for everything with cash? RUN AWAY. I don’t care if he’s cute and you really need to change your headspace and he’s good in bed and actually listens to what you say and accepts who you are as a person.
Seriously, I can see bad things happening! Where did all that money come from?! Aw hell never mind. Y’all are too cute. I’m just going to hope for the best. You can read TJ and Amal online, or buy the books.
Wandering Son by Takako Shimura.
I haven’t yet read all of this Japanese manga series that revolves around two transgender children. The first couple of volumes are very slow, so much that C-Man almost abandoned them. I hung in there because the delicate storytelling, combined with the attention to the characters’ emotional lives, told me it was going to pay off. It has. He was glad he stuck with it, too.
I know there’s a lot going over my head with the cultural references, but what sticks with me is the real worries and small victories of these two characters.
The next two are slightly complicated, so stick with me! This is why I haven’t done much with Marvel or DC characters in these posts, it’s often so hard to follow the characters from place to place.
Renee Montoya is a DC Comics character, whose story begins in Gotham Central: Half a Life by Greg Rucka, with art by Michael Lark. She’s a Latina homicide detective living and working closeted despite an active relationship. She’s tough, loyal, driven, but also sometimes a mess. In other words, she’s a kick-ass Latina superhero detective who is also a real person. Rucka’s a good writer, and he did amazing work with her story.
Pictured here, and linked to above, is the first volume of the Gotham Central collection which includes Renee’s “Half a Life” storyline. You might as well just go ahead and read all of Gotham Central, since it’s overwhelmingly excellent, even the parts that aren’t focused on Renee. Throughout the Gotham Central series, she has big changes in her personal life, gets abducted by a supervillain, and gets entangled in a police corruption case, so a LOT happens. If you have ever enjoyed an episode of Law and Order, read Gotham Central.
For the next steps of Renee’s story, you’ll need to head into the multi-authored, multi-artist DC Comics mega-series 52, which can be a little overwhelming for a non-DC person. Which I was when I read it. Watching Renee struggle to transform would have been worth it even if I hadn’t liked any of the other storylines, but I did.
Then after 52, Renee was featured in two stories as faceless hero The Question. The Five Books of Blood and Pipeline collect the two stories, both written by Rucka. (I was not wild about the coloring in Pipeline.)
Next we have a character who you’ll have seen in Renee’s backstory. Her breakout book was Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka, with art by J.H. Williams III, colors by Dave Stewart, and letters by Todd Klein.
The character of Kate Kane, a lesbian socialite in Gotham City, was introduced in the DC Comics series 52, eclipsing a much earlier straight version of the Batwoman character named Kathy Kane. Then in Detective Comics #854-860, we got the story collected as Batwoman: Elegy. This new Kate Kane was also a former soldier who left the military under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, to find a new mission fighting crime.
After the events in Elegy, Batwoman got her own series by J.H. Williams III and W. Hayden Blackman, with additional art by Amy Reeder. This continued for multiple books (Hydrology, To Drown The World, World’s Finest, This Blood is Thick) before DC told Williams and Blackman they couldn’t have Kate get married, along with other editorial fiats. They left the book.
So, so sad! Their mix of superhero butt-kicking, mythology, magic, conspiracy, and romance was really working for me! Kate could be stubborn and difficult to work with, but she was also deeply committed to making the right choices, even when they were hard. The art in this series was beyond gorgeous.
Now back to indie-comics-land, where the publication histories are far simpler.
Shadoweyes by Sophie Campbell. Scout, the main character of Shadoweyes may or may not be queer, but this book stands out to me because one of the most important secondary characters is transgender. Scout’s best friend Kyisha is a trans woman – you can see her here, the one with the braids:
Kyisha does experience discrimination. But when you go to school, and you’re dating, and you have a crime-fighting best friend who’s permanently transformed into a blue alien monster, your gender identity and any flak that comes with it is just one part of your life, you know?
Hopeless Savages by Jen Van Meter, with various artists. Hopeless Savages made an appearance in my recommendations for Older Kid and Young Adult comics, but the truth is I bought it for myself. And have read it multiple times. I may have also kissed the cover after I read it the first time. The first arc is mostly focused on the youngest daughter of a family created when two punk rock musicians got married, moved to the suburbs, and started a family. Her brother, Twitch, is gay, and as the collected edition goes on we get more and more of his story.
His lost romance and his little sister’s fledgling one collide beautifully at one point, and it’s so sweet it practically brought me to happy tears. This is is not a “suffer because you’re gay” story. This is a “sometimes love is hard, and sometimes it’s awesome” story with a happy ending.
And finally, Kay and P by Jackie Musto. We supported this on Kickstarter and we were SO happy when we finally got to read the books… after storing them under heavy things for weeks to reverse the damage the post office did by rolling up the package and shoving it in our mailbox!
This book is in the GLBTQ+ post because I’m avoiding spoilers. To put it anywhere else would give away something you don’t find out until late in the second book. And it totally surprised me!
In fact, Kay is not a witch, and she does not talk to dead people. Just her invisible skeleton companion, P. He’s been with her since she was a child, though she’s (mostly) learned to stop drawing attention to him these days. He makes life complicated sometimes. But he’s also her best friend.
Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag (a graphic memoir) by A.K. Summers. When self-proclaimed butch dyke Teek and her partner Vee decide it’s baby-having time, they have NO idea what they’re in for. The usual pregnant-woman physical complaints, plus a whole different level of identity issues for Teek. I laughed at the comment in the Acknowledgements that “straight women want to read something other than dreck about pregnancy too.” While I’m not straight, I completely agree that even gals who have babies in the most traditional way don’t necessarily want sunshine and sparkles pregnancy tales! And this book is not sunshine or sparkles. It’s honest, raw, real, thoughtful, incredibly funny, and has a happy ending.
O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti.
When Alastair Sterling wakes up, his last memory is of collapsing while coughing up blood. Where is he? When is he? And most importantly, what is he? A robotics genius who has awakened as a robot, it turns out, though no one seems to know how it happened. He tries to reconnect with his lover and colleague Brendan, but it’s complicated. Their relationship was secret when Sterling was alive, and he’s been dead for 16 years. It’s a science fiction setting, but at its core, O Human Star is about humans (and robots) doing the best they can to relate to each other. The art is grounded and confident. Humans (and robots) are solid and real.
C-Man had low expectations of this because it started as a webcomic. He declared it one of the best books he’s read that year. (And we read a lot of books.) I adore it and I can’t wait for a second volume.
What Did You Eat Yesterday? by Fumi Yoshinaga.
Shiro is a lawyer who spends his nights cooking gourmet multi-course meals at home. He shares the meals, and his home, with his boyfriend Kenji – though Shiro isn’t out at work. This is a “slice of life” comic, bouncing around between different happenings in Shiro and Kenji’s lives, past and present. Foodies will love the in-depth step-by-step recipes and Shiro’s explanations of why he prepares the food as he does. The rest of us can skim those parts and get to the next “adventure” as Shiro stays closeted at work, Kenji doesn’t, ex-partners pop up, legal cases arise, and grocery prices are tracked very closely. (If there was extreme couponing in Japan, Shiro would do it.) I’ve read a few volumes now, and I’m looking forward to working my way through the rest of the series.
And those are the books! If you’ve read any of these, or have suggestions for what I might read next, please leave a comment. And if you liked this post, I’d be so grateful if you’d share it to help others find it.
And that’s the list of our best-loved graphic novels and comics with GLBTQ characters, and even come folks beyond those letters, yay! If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments – and thanks for sharing on social media or with friends!