Gender Queer: A Memoir begins with an arresting image. As a student, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, taped over two pages of eir sketchbook with blank pieces of paper. The pages concealed an autobiographical comic about gender created for a school assignment, a topic that filled Kobabe with discomfort. In the opening of Gender Queer, we’re shown the censored pages—then, with an immensely satisfying “RIPPP!”, Kobabe tears away the paper, revealing the title page of Gender Queer itself.
Gender Queer is the self-portrait of a queer artist developing the confidence to tell eir story, in eir own words and on eir own terms. Narrating Kobabe’s gender journey from early childhood to the present,this graphic memoir chronicles eir efforts to build a life that affirms every piece of eir identity. There isn’t a single pivotal coming-out scene; instead, Kobabe embarks on a slow, continuous project of self-expression and self-knowledge, with results as precise and dazzling as the constellations that decorate the cover of this deluxe edition.
Maia Kobabe’s story begins with a California childhood spent catching snakes, making art, and feeling completely out of step with eir peers. A series of early crushes helps Maia to realize e’s bisexual, but this doesn’t explain the deeper discomfort e feels with eir body and assigned gender. Confused and discouraged, Maia catches hold of a pair of lifelines—coming to books as a late reader, and joining a Queer Straight Alliance at eir high school. Discovering stories that reflect eir own experiences, e begins to feel less alone.
Entering adulthood, Maia finds a word—genderqueer—that reflects the complexity of eir experiences. Just as important, e continues to collect touchstones that affirm eir sense of self instead of eroding it. There’s the first time e listens to David Bowie; the male figure skating costume that fills em with gender euphoria; the queer fan fiction that sparks eir sense of the erotic, yet ultimately makes em realize that e prefers reading about romance to experiencing it firsthand. Kobabe’s sophisticated artwork explodes to life in these moments, expressive full-color panels featuring inventive imagery such as Maia’s gender leafing out like a young seedling, or Bowie’s music as a full-body, cosmic experience (complete with rocketship).
Yet as Maia pieces together identity labels—nonbinary, mostly asexual, queer—and builds a network of supportive friends and family, the obstacles grow. Maia knows that as long as e minimizes eir gender, eir relationships and sense of self will suffer. But loved ones offer pushback when e tries to explain nonbinary identities; Pap smears are a source of trauma that medical professionals rarely take seriously; and everyday interactions come with a cost: Maia must stand up for emself, over and over, just to feel comfortable in eir own skin. This is the Maia who censored eir own sketchbook, and at the close of the memoir, this self-effacement is still palpable. Now a working artist, e hesitates over whether to share eir pronouns with students. “I think I’m carrying more fear than I need,” e realizes.
If Gender Queer is an act of bravery, it’s also a funny, sophisticated, deeply relatable coming-of-age story about charting your way alongside books and best friends into adulthood. Accessible but never didactic, Kobabe’s deft storytelling and polished, appealing artwork excels at communicating with a broad readership. For a queer and trans audience that has rarely encountered nonfiction centering nonbinary experiences, Kobabe’s memoir delivers affirmation, while for readers who are new to learning about queer identities, it educates and invites empathy. Gender Queer is also smart about the way it presents sexual material; this book doesn’t shy from frank discussions of sexuality, masturbation, and sexual health, but the content is contextualized in a way that is sensitive to the needs of younger readers, and Kobabe takes care to avoid explicit sexual depictions of underage characters.
The 2022 deluxe edition collects process pieces and select issues of the original Genderqueer comic strips, providing a snapshot of Kobabe’s creative process. An introduction by She-Ra and the Princesses of Power creator ND Stevenson reflects on the impact of Gender Queer since its initial publication in 2019. Stevenson writes about the book’s significance to himself and queer loved ones, as well as, briefly, those who have sought to remove it from public schools and libraries in “a last, desperate attempt to hammer an infinitely complex world into a small, unthreatening shape.”
Maia Kobabe’s introspective, joyful memoir is an important contribution to comics literature. It is highly recommended for any library collection serving adult and older teen readers.
Gender Queer: A Memoir, Deluxe Edition By Maia Kobabe Oni Press, 2022 ISBN: 9781637150726
Publisher Age Rating: 18+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Asexual, Bisexual, Queer, Genderqueer, Nonbinary
Jarad Greene (author of Scullion: A Dishwasher’s Guide to Mistaken Identity) writes and illustrates a graphic novel that is described in its blurb as semi-autobiographical. In the author’s note, he explains that both his struggles with acne and his asexual identity came later in life than they did for the novel’s fictional protagonist, the middle schooler Jay.
While in seventh grade, Jay was teased for having perfect skin by being called a porcelain doll. Now in eighth grade, he has severe acne which appears resistant to over-the-counter pimple ointments. He visits a dermatologist who suggests a six-month regimen of Isotretinoin, better known under the brand name Accutane. Accutane works by drying out the user’s skin, but it comes with a host of severe side effects. For Jay, the two most notable side effects are irritability and overheating—inconvenient in his Florida middle school, where both the literal climate and social climate are stifling.
A common theme in middle school stories is changing social dynamics, and we see them changing in A-Okay. Last year, Jay attended all of the same classes as his friends, but this year, his classes are full of strangers. His closest friend, Brace has joined a band, and no longer seems to have time for Jay. Even the new friends Jay makes want to talk about crushes, dating, and kissing; all of which are entirely uninteresting and irrelevant topics for him. He confides in a classmate that he feels like a piece of him is missing due to his lack of romantic interest. The classmate suggests he may be ace, and when Jay later researches asexuality, he feels a sense of affirmation; this touching panel depicts Jay lying on his bed with a self-satisfied look on his face.
The art has bold lines and vibrant colors in a mix of realistic and cartoonish faces, giving fans of the similarly-styled Raina Telgemeier books yet another reason to love this graphic novel. One special artistic touch depicts past events in monochromatic shades of purple, clearly delineating Jay’s previous school year from this one.
A-Okay belongs in most libraries serving upper elementary and middle schoolers. There is a dearth of clearly stated ace representation in literature, particularly in comics, and perhaps even more particularly in books with an intended audience under the age of 14. As a bonus, this book will, without much help, find its audience among fans of other realistic upper elementary and middle school stories, including the aforementioned Telgemeier, Kayla Miller’s Click series, Shannon Hale’s Real Friends series, and Svetlana Chmakova’s Berrybrook Middle School books.
A-Okay By Jarad Greene Harper Collins HarperAlley, 2021 ISBN: 9780063032842 Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13) Creator Representation: Asexual Character Representation: Asexual
The Nib compiles approximately fifty webcomics (many of which were previously published on thenib.com) from forty creators on a wide variety of LGBTQ+-related topics into this Kickstarter-backed anthology. The comics run the gamut from one-page funnies to ten-plus-page detailed glimpses into queer history. Associate Editor Matt Lubchansky’s introduction explains the origin of the title’s source, the phrase “Be Gay, Do Crime.” Lubchansky also discusses the significance of comics as a means to express queer identity in a singularly accessible manner.
Some of the most interesting comics in the anthology serve to educate readers about various aspects of the queer experience. These include histories, cultural and national disparities in treatments of queer people, and procedures like embryo adoption and securing birth control as an asexual person. One historical highlight is The Life of Gad Beck, written by Dorian Alexander, which details gay Jewish Beck’s resistance under Nazi Germany. Levi Hastings’ gorgeous illustrations are rendered in black, white, and pale blue, with thick outlines (there is no art tool information in the book, but it looks like Hastings used oil pastels). Another particularly informative contribution is Sam Wallman’s A Covert Gaze at Conservative Gays, an illuminating piece about historical and contemporary right-wing activism among queer people. At first glance, Wallman’s panelless comic closely resembles a infographic by a Mad Magazine artist; Al Jaffee comes to mind. But this black, white, and pink comic strikes a perfect balance between discussing “gay supervillains” like Milo Yiannopolous and more sympathetic conservatives like gun advocates in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Kazimir Lee’s What’s It Like to Raise Kids in Malaysia When You’re LGBT? is another interesting piece which details political perspectives and individual experiences of queer people in Malaysia. The standout art is reminiscent of a mid-20th century picture book; the full-color illustrations are predominantly in earthy reds, pinks, yellows, and browns, and there are minimal outlines in the characters’ block-like head and body shapes.
The anthology balances its drier informational pieces with funny one-page strips and relatable memoirs. A memoir highlight is Dancing with Pride by Maia Kobabe (Gender Queer) and is about eir experience in a folk dancing class where dancers are assigned different roles based on their perceived genders. The simple illustrations appear to be in pencil and watercolor, and feature a page where the dancers are lined up in order so their shirts make a rainbow, a very subtle and sweet nod to queerness in non-queer spaces. Another moving piece is written by Sarah Mirk and details activist Pidgeon Pagonis’s experience as an intersex child. The piece, Gender Isn’t Binary and Neither Is Anatomy, is illustrated by Archie Bongiovanni (A Quick & Easy Guide to Pronouns, Grease Bats). A couple laugh-out-loud funny highlights include Joey Alison Sayers’s The Final Reveal, in which the extremes of gender reveal parties are spoofed, and Shelby Criswell’s Astrological Signs as Classic Queer Haircuts.
As is always the case when I read comic anthologies, there were pieces that didn’t resonate as well with me as those I’ve named above. Rather than specify them, I will argue that it is because this book features something for every reader. If a piece didn’t resonate with me, it is sure to resonate with someone else. The queer representation is so varied, with gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, nonbinary, intersex, and ace representation, and with countless intersectional queer identities, that I am confident every queer reader will find something to relate to in this book. Due to its array of art styles and queer representations, I would particularly recommend Be Gay, Do Comics for fans of Iron Circus’s anthologies, like FTL, Y’all, Smut Peddler, and The Sleep of Reason.
Be Gay, Do Comics Edited by Matt Bors ISBN: 9781684057771 IDW, 2020
Title Details and Representation NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Character Traits: Asexual, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Queer Gender Nonconforming, Genderqueer, Intersex, Nonbinary, Trans Creator Highlights: Black, Filipino-American, Puerto Rican Asexual, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Queer Gender Nonconforming, Genderqueer, Nonbinary, Trans
A quick recap of the first volume of Misfit City: Best friends: Ed, Wilder, Macy, Dot, Karma, Macy’s step-brother Todd, and Pip (the dog) discover a treasure map found in the chest of a long thought dead sea captain. Running from the Captain’s alleged long lost relatives, Luther and Millie Denby, the gang go on an adventure of a lifetime to find the treasure while navigating through friendships, love, trust, and growing pains. Volume 1 ends when Luther and Millie nearly kill Macy, and the gang finds Captain Denby himself by the entrance to a secret cave. What will happen next?
Follow up series volumes are like a band’s sophomore album; they’re not always as good as the first one. This is not the case for Misfit City, Vol. 2. The gang is in full force here, Kristin “Kiwi” Smith and Kurt Lustgarden keep the dialogue and pacing smooth as the story progresses. In an interview with Smith and Lustgarten, the two talk about divvying up the work where Lustgarten handles most of the action sequences while Smith handles the snappy dialogue during connecting scenes. Smith and Lustgarten, partners in work as well as in love, make brilliant co-writers as the transition between scenes is seamless.
The original art team of Volume 1 is also back, with line work by Naomi Franquiz and colors by Brittany Peer. Both Franquiz and Peer are as on point with the art as Smith and Lustgarten are with the writing. The artwork is smooth and crisp. I really appreciate the near sepia tones of the work. Bright colors are used sparingly but effectively as the action and plot progress. This is a difference from the first volume where the colors used were as striking as the gang’s personalities, but that is not to say it’s not effective here; rather the story has grown darker in tone, so the coloring selection seems wise and appropriate.
While my earlier review didn’t go into depth regarding the first volume’s inclusivity, I should clarify that by this I mean the series is inclusive of body type, sexuality, background, and race, to name a few things. Dot is a plus-size asexual girl, Ed is a tall, thin lesbian, Macy and her step-brother Todd are black, and the deputy sheriff is a Sikh. This book has a relatable character for nearly everyone. I personally connected with several characters, and it was nice to see representation of myself in a book which seems to so rarely happen. Smith is known for her riot grrl power writing and pop culture references (she wrote or co-wrote the scripts for the movies Ten Things I Hate About You and Legally Blonde), and these tendencies are in full power, which enhance the books’ appeal.
Does Volume 2 answer the questions posed in Volume 1? The short answer is “yes.” Smith and Lustgarten finely tune and solve the original mystery and a few subplots are also tightly closed. However, and this is a big however, in volume 2 they present new story lines and mysteries that open the door to future volumes, except, depressingly enough, there doesn’t seem to be any word on furthering the series. Sadly, Boom!’s website marks issue #8 as the series’ final volume, though we can always hold out hope for a revival.
I highly recommended Misfit City, Volume 1 and the same goes for Volume 2. The endings, as they were, are satisfying and the characters are well developed. Volume 2 is clearly a must-have if you’ve started the series. I would highly recommend the series for teen collections since there is a wide variety of representation in the book that can appeal to many. However, adult readers will also find a lot to love here. The girl power attitude and struggles of being a teen are also well thought out here. I would also consider adding it to lists for LGTBQ+ novels and art.
Misfit City, Vol. 2 By Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith, Kurt Lustgarten Art by Naomi Franquiz, Brittany Peer ISBN: 9781684151721 Boom! Studios, 2018 Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18) Character Traits: Black, Multiracial, Lesbian, Queer, Asexual, Genderqueer, Nonbinary Creator Highlights: BIPOC Creator, LGBTQIA+ Creator
Is it possible to save humanity from itself? This is no easy question for Run Wild’s young protagonists, Ava and Flynn. The sister-brother duo are the sole survivors of a mysterious “virus” that turns people into animals in this fantastical tale from author K.I. Zachopoulos and illustrator Vincenzo Balzano (co-creators of The Cloud).
Set in a dystopian future, the story follows the main characters as they embark on a hero’s quest to find their mother and right the world’s wrongs. The world they face is a dangerous one, overrun by wild animals that house the remnants of human souls. Some are friends and some are foes, and the two must learn to quickly discern the difference if they are to save humankind and start anew.
From the first page onward, the memorable characters make this tale a compelling read. Ava’s dark, anxious brooding serves as a counterpart to her younger brother Flynn’s optimistic, life-affirming disposition. The kindness of their animal allies, such as the giant fox who guides and protects, is a striking contrast to the savagery of the long-gones: humans turned into animals who have since devolved into something else entirely. These soulless creatures are nothing more than base instinct and primitive need, hounding the protagonists as they struggle to avoid the same fate.
Setting also is a doorway into the story, with its foreboding forest and barren ruins of once-great cities. The only traces of civilization that remain in this vividly realized world lie within the aptly-named Median, a midpoint between extremes where animals who hold fast to their humanity dwell. This safe haven does not remain untouched, however, as certain events transform the city into an arena for the battle of good and evil to unfold.
As a major thematic idea within the story, the conflict between good and bad, dark and light, also forces Ava and Flynn to face some difficult questions about the duality of human nature and whether or not our darker sides make a brighter future worth pursuing (let alone possible). It is the siblings’ deep love and devotion to one another that forms a thread strong enough to withstand the story’s many twists and turns; a much-needed reminder that humans do have their redeeming qualities.
Throughout the story, illustrations play a pivotal role in telling the story as well as creating its dreamlike quality. In fact, images dominate each page with multi-layered renderings of wispy, skeletal figures that float on the page like forlorn ghosts. This is fitting in light of the virtual extinction of the human race. Such pale faces and gaunt bodies give the story a surrealistic style that may be especially appealing to fans of Tim Burton and his macabre approach to artistry.
Balzano also uses color to represent different settings thematically. Black, gray and an assortment of murky hues represent the wilderness as opposed to the typical shades of green and brown. This is a forest that suggests there is something unnatural about the natural world. The dark color palette then forms a sharp contrast to the penetrating reds and yellows of the destroyed cityscapes. Often, the only sources of pure light radiate from the main characters and their fox-turned-mentor—tiny beacons in an otherwise dark world that often engulfs them on the page.
Although sparse, the text works seamlessly with the images to provide the basic story line from which the visuals enrich and elaborate. Especially effective are the speech bubbles done in solid red, drawing the eye immediately to the primitive language of the long-gones, whose only concerns seem to be hunting, killing and feeding. The result is chilling.
The story leaves readers with much to reflect on, from broad ideas about human existence to more story-specific concerns about what lies ahead for the protagonists. Along the way, Zachopoulos sprinkles in plenty of philosophical musings, which makes this book most appropriate for mature teens and adults. Fans of fantasy and post-apocalyptic societies also should enjoy this breathtaking read.
Run Wild by K.I. Zachopoulos Art by Vincenzo Balzano ISBN: 9781684150243 Boom! Studios, 2018 Publisher Age Rating: Adult
Raven Xingtao, whose story begins in the third volume of Princeless [see our review here], Jeremy Whitley’s Eisner-nominated series, is the daughter of the Pirate King and an accomplished pirate in her own right. She is heir to her father’s fleet, but her two greedy younger brothers convince her father that because she is a girl, she should be imprisoned for her safety instead.
Book One, aptly titled Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew, opens with Raven, newly freed from the tower in which her scheming brothers imprisoned her, on the hunt for a crew to sail a ship she’s stolen from another pirate. Book Two (Free Women), Book Three (Two Boys, Five Girls, and Three Love Stories), and Book Four (Two Ships in the Night) follow Raven and her crew as they learn to work together, face down their rivals, and grow strong enough to confront Raven’s brothers.
Initially, the story focuses on Raven’s single-minded quest for revenge, but as she assembles her all-female crew and sets sail, the story increasingly focuses on the connections among the women on-board and the way they protect and care for one another. The ship becomes a haven against the incompetent grandstanding common among the pirate men who challenge them along the way. Raven’s crew consists of women of diverse races, sizes, abilities, and sexualities. Multiple main characters are openly LGBTQ+, including Raven herself, and the friendships and romantic relationships among these characters feature prominently throughout the series.
Jeremy Whitley writes every issue of Raven the Pirate Princess, and it is similar in tone to Princeless. Raven and her crew are funny, resourceful, and endlessly supportive of one another as they learn to work together as a team. While this is not an Own Voices story, Whitley navigates Raven’s feelings and experiences, and those of the other crew members, with grace and thoughtfulness. Artists Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt (Books 1-3) and Xenia Pamfil (Book 4) complement the story with scenery and characters that are distinctive and rich in detail.
While Princeless is suitable for audiences of any age, Raven the Pirate Princess includes content that may be better suited to the tween and teen crowd. For example, when Raven is interviewing pirates to form her crew in Book One, most of the humor hinges on the reader understanding the references behind the sexism of the male candidates (“You’re probably not even a real pirate girl,” one laments. “I bet you don’t even know what Captain Fraction’s name was before he changed it!”). Though younger audiences may certainly enjoy the series, and there is no content that would be inappropriate for this age group, some cultural references and tongue-in-cheek jokes may fly over their heads. This title will appeal most strongly to readers who recognize and appreciate these references to real-world frustrations.
There is one caveat to my enthusiastic support of Raven the Pirate Princess: there is a sharp thematic change between the third and fourth volumes. Book four came out after a year long hiatus and features the opening arc of a new title (Raven The Pirate Princess: Year Two). The focus of the story veers sharply away from the camaraderie and revenge narrative driving the first three books and toward shallow disagreements and manipulative cat-fighting among the crew members, whose personalities deviate significantly from their Year One counterparts. The plot of books 1-3 goes unmentioned entirely. It is a significant and jarring departure from an otherwise very strong series.
Despite my disappointment in the fourth installment, it is worth purchasing the series in its entirety, as Raven the Pirate Princess is still ongoing. Book Five: Get Lost Together was released on June 26th. While Princeless vol. 3 establishes the context for Raven’s story, it is not necessary to read Princeless before beginning the Raven series. Raven is structured with new readers in mind, and the first pages provide enough exposition to follow the story fully. This series is an excellent purchase for fans of Princeless and other high-energy and relationship-driven adventure series, including Lumberjanes, The Legend of Korra, and Misfit City.
Raven the Pirate Princess, vols 1-4 by Jeremy Whitley Art by Rosy Higgins,Ted Brandt, and Xenia Pamfil vol 1 ISBN: 9781632291196 vol 2 ISBN: 9781632291295 vol 3 ISBN: 9781632291400 vol 4 ISBN: 9781632292643 Action Lab, 2015 Publisher Age Rating: 9-12 years
A little while ago we put together a post of the best LGBTQAA+ comics for kids. It’s taken longer than we intended, but here’s the follow-up list featuring comics for teens and adults!
[Editor’s note: Many of these titles have multiple volumes and in those cases we have just listed the first in the series.]
Another Castle: Grimoire By Andrew Wheeler and Paulina Ganucheau Published by Oni (2017)
Elevator Pitch: In this colorful comic, Princess Misty is kidnapped by Lord Badlug, a tyrant who rules over a land of ruin populated by monsters. He plans to marry her and use her to conquer her father’s kingdom, while Princess Misty plans to take down Badlug’s reign from the inside. Then she learns more about Badlug’s realm and realizes that overthrowing him might not lead to a simple happily ever after for anyone.
Appeals to: Fans of fantasy and cute, punchy retro art. Content Notes: Mild violence Suggested Age Range: Teens and older kids Contributed by Nic Willcox
The Backstagers, vol. 1 By James Tynion IV and Rian Sygh Published by BOOM! Box (2017)
Elevator Pitch: Jory is the new kid in school and needs somewhere to go while his mom’s at work. He ends up joining his school’s drama department, where he discovers a hidden, magic world backstage. Putting on a great play will require strong bonds and enough bravery to dive into a fantasy portal and return unscathed.
Appeals to: Theater kids, quirky outcasts, lovers of cute and colorful art. Suggested Age Range: Teens Contributed by Thomas Maluck
Batwoman: Elegy By Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III Published by DC Comics (2011)
Elevator Pitch: Batwoman is the Jewish lesbian DC superhero you didn’t know you were missing. In this volume Batwoman takes on a maniac known as Alice, who believes Gotham is Wonderland and everyone who lives there are expendable extras in her story. Batwoman (aka Kate Kane) is the female version of Batman (aka Bruce Wayne) with the same amount of tech, the same amount of women, and because of her military background, more guns.
Appeals to: Those who enjoy different takes on Alice in Wonderland, are looking for a more grown up Batgirl, or like superheroes with military backgrounds like Captain America. Content Notes: The usual street level superhero fighting. Suggested Age Range: Teens and Adults Contributed by: Danielle Boyd
Cry Havoc, vol. 1: Mything In Action By Simon Spurrier and Ryan Kelly Published by Image Comics (2016)
Elevator Pitch: A lesbian werewolf soldier, Lou, is recruited with other supernatural beings to take down a rogue military operative in Afghanistan. The story uses color-coded panels to depict three different eras in Lou’s life. Lou is living her “normal” past life in one stage, preparing to attack in Afghanistan in the second stage, and has already been captured in the third.
Appeals to: Fans of Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now who’d like a supernatural angle. Content Notes: Violence, language, sex Suggested Age Range: Adults Contributed by Thomas Maluck
DC Bombshells, vol 1: Enlisted By Marguerite Bennett, Marguerite Sauvage, and others Published by DC Comics (2016)
Elevator Pitch: Your favorite female DC superheroes (and villains) are reimagined and plunked into World War II to fight for truth, justice, and freedom. Based on the incredibly popular DC Bombshells Collectibles line and set in a universe where—when the world is on the brink of disaster—the Allies call in the superheroines.
Appeals to: People who like to read alternate takes on their favorite superheroes like DC Elseworlds or Marvel What If’s, also fans of WWII settings and female superheroes falling in love with each other. Content Notes: Regular superhero violence Suggested Age Range: Teens and Adults Contributed by Danielle Boyd
The Heart of Thomas By Moto Hagio Published by Fantagraphics (2013 (originally serialized in Japan, 1974))
Elevator Pitch: Thomas and Juli’s relationship is cut short by Thomas’s untimely death. However, a new student arrives who looks exactly like him! How will the student body react and will Juli project on the poor student to an unhealthy degree?
Appeals to: Shojo and yaoi fans, sparkles and roses, boys boarding schools featuring dramatic slaps. Suggested Age Range: Teens Contributed by Thomas Maluck
The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded By Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis Published by Harry N. Abrams (2016)
Elevator Pitch: Alan Turing was a gifted mathematician whose genius made him indispensable to the Allies in World War II. His valuable work with codebreaking machines collided with social norms as the British government punished homosexuality.
Appeals to: Math geeks in need of another patron saint, historians of World War II and queer life in England. Suggested Age Range: Teens Contributed by Thomas Maluck
Kim and Kim, vol. 1: This Glamorous, High-Flying Rock Star Life By Magdalene Visaggio and Eva Cabrera Published by Black Mask Comics (2017)
Elevator Pitch: A space bounty hunting team made up of two Kims. When their bills pile up they decide to take on a bounty that far exceeds their pay grade and end up on a wild universe spanning adventure.
Appeals to: Fans of space team up books like Guardians of the Galaxy, people looking for books about trans characters who aren’t transitioning any longer, but just living their life, and fans of quirky independent publishers. Content Notes: Some language Suggested Age Range: Teens and Adults Contributed by Danielle Boyd
Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink By Milk Morinaga Published by Seven Seas (2013)
Elevator Pitch: This collection of romantic short stories follows teen girls at two all-girl high schools. It explores a variety of different situations and debunks some myths and misunderstandings about lesbian relationships. And it’s cute and sweet!
Appeals to: Anyone who wants stories that take lesbian relationships seriously in a wide variety of forms, but is also light and fun. Content Notes: Brief nudity, implied sex Suggested Age Range: Teens and adults Contributed by Nic Willcox
The Last of Us: American Dreams By Neil Druckmann and Faith Erin Hicks Published by Dark Horse (2013)
Elevator Pitch: Ellie and Riley have grown up in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a parasitic fungus. Military authoritarians rule inside the walls of society, while zombie-like hordes ravage outside. They cannot resist an invitation to join the insurgent “Fireflies” and live a life of free rebellion.
Appeals to: Gamers who enjoyed The Last of Us and look forward to its sequel. Content Notes: Violence Suggested Age Range: Teens Contributed by Thomas Maluck
The Less than Epic Adventures of T.J. and Amal By E. K. Weaver Published by Iron Circus Comics (2015)
Elevator Pitch: Amal, running away from dealing with the fact that he just came out to his parents, meets up with TJ, who’s looking for a quick escape out of town. They take off across the country on a road trip that ends up an adventure, a playlist fueled conversation, and just maybe a powerful romance.
Appeals to: Anyone who’s a sucker for a good road trip tale will love this, and the romance is beautifully wrought in body language, heated glances, and so much humor. Content Notes: A number of explicit sex scenes keeps it for adults. Suggested Age Range: Adults. Note: This one is available in an omnibus from Iron Circus Comics, and I do recommend getting the omnibus edition if you can. Contributed by Robin Brenner
The Movement, vol. 1: Class Warfare By Gail Simone and Freddie Williams II Published by DC Comics (2014)
Elevator Pitch: A group of superpowered teens fights corruption in Coral City. Along the way, they will also confront some of their personal demons. This two volume series packs a punch—both due to its action-packed plot and the diverse cast.
Appeals to: Superhero fans. Content Notes: Superhero violence Suggested age range: Teen and Adults Contributed by Megan Rupe
My Brother’s Husband By Gengoroh Tagame Published by Pantheon (2017)
Elevator Pitch: When a Canadian arrives at Yaichi’s door and introduces himself as the husband of Yaichi’s late brother, everyone in the household must learn to deal with this new normal. From the neighbor’s blatant prejudice to Yaichi’s own latent homophobia, to Yaichi’s young daughter’s swift acceptance of her new uncle, the book shines a spotlight on Japan’s largely closeted gay culture, the pervasive cultural discrimination of homosexuals, and the notion that one must be “taught to hate.”
Appeals to: Anyone who may be facing difficult conversations, both on the giving and receiving ends. Content Notes: Some minor nudity (butts), but only in the bath, where it makes sense to be naked. Suggested Age Range: tweens, teens, adults Contributed by Eva Volin
Nimona By Noelle Stevenson Published by HarperTeen (2015)
Elevator Pitch: Lord Ballister Blackheart is, like most villains, usually unsuccessful against his heroic nemesis. But that’s before he gains an enthusiastic and incredibly powerful sidekick, the mischievous shapeshifter Nimona. How will Ballister handle actually winning, especially when it turns out the stakes are higher than he realized and Nimona may not be who he thinks she is?
Appeals to: Fans of snarky takes on fantasy and superhero stories. Content Notes: Some violence, but nothing gory or detailed Suggested Age Range: Teens and adults Contributed by Nic Willcox
O Human Star! By Blue Delliquanti Self published as webcomic (2015)
Elevator Pitch: A man wakes up to discover that he is sixteen years in the future and now inhabiting a robot version of his original body. Uneasily reunited with his old partner (and old flame) and his adopted robot daughter, who is trans, they start to unravel their history and build their future. With two gay protagonists and a trans teen, this is a wonderful, funny, smart look at what makes us “human”.
Appeals to: If you want Blade Runner minus the ominous pomposity and grim outlook plus a lot more diversity in the cast of characters, this is for you. Content Notes: There is romance on an adult level and on a teen level, none of it especially explicit. Suggested Age Range: Teens and adults Note: This is available currently only directly from the creator’s website, but it’s worth it. Contributed by Robin Brenner
The Other Side: An Anthology of Queer Paranormal Romance By Various Published by Other Side Press (2016)
Elevator Pitch: Nineteen stories by 23 different creators, representing a diverse assortment of queer narratives. The majority of these stories achieve a sweet kind of charm, often portraying romances between a human and a ghost or creature.
Appeals to: Anyone howling at the moon for more queer representation in comics. Content Notes: Brief nudity Suggested Age Range: Teens Contributed by Thomas Maluck
Rat Queens, vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery By Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch Published by Image Comics (2013)
Elevator Pitch: The Rat Queens are a misfit party of women adventurers on the lookout for cash in a sword and sorcery world. Comprised of an elven mage, a dwarf warrior, an atheist cleric, and a halfling, the Rat Queens face all manner of unique trials involving assassins, grotesque monsters, and Lovecraftian cultists.
Appeals to: Fans of Dungeons & Dragons. The sword and sorcery theme makes it accessible to fantasy fans, however the imaginative script and the hilarious banter among the women sound like they could come from a most spirited D&D session. Content Notes: Language of a sexual nature and nudity make this a title strictly for adults. Suggested Age Range: Adults. Contributed by Allen Kesinger
SuperMutant Magic Academy By Jillian Tamaki Published by Drawn and Quarterly (2015)
Elevator Pitch: Marsha is crushing on Wendy but doesn’t know how to approach her. Her predicament is the closest to “normal” among the superpowered students of this prep school that contains all the drama of a normal high school plus massive doses of non-sequitur humor.
Appeals to: Webcomic addicts (this started online), high school dramatists, existential absurdists. Content Notes: Language, nudity (brief and non-detailed) Suggested Age Range: Teens Contributed by Thomas Maluck
Wandering Son, vol. 1 By Shimura Takako Published by Fantagraphics (2011)
Elevator Pitch: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. Both are trying to keep their identity exploration secret but are subject to prying eyes and childhood gossip. This series treats both their journeys into gender identity with sensitivity and insight rarely seen in comics.
Appeals to: Coming-of-age enthusiasts, anti-bullying narratives, compassionate trans narratives. A lot of the book’s strengths lie in fairly subtle social interactions. Content Notes: Content-wise, this series is pretty clean in the first volume, but in subsequent volumes, the children develop a friendship with an adult trans woman, Yuki. She and her boyfriend’s scenes breach some sexual topics and use risque humor; Nic’s review goes into detail. Also, Takako acknowledges how some of her characters look confusingly alike. While the English editions of this series have been discontinued, the eight available volumes are absolutely worth reading! Suggested age range: Teens and Adults Contributed by Thomas Maluck
Weirdworld, vol. 1: Where Lost Things Go By Sam Humphries and Mike Del Mundo Published by Marvel (2016)
Elevator Pitch: Becca is an ordinary Earth girl in a dangerously weird world, but her new friend Goleta the Wizardslayer will help her get home. Becca’s got some regrets about the Earth life that awaits her when she comes back, but for now she has to survive the perilous realms before her and outwit sorceress Morgan Le Fay.
Appeals to: Fantasy fanatics, those who enjoy swords ‘n’ sorcery. Content Notes: Fantasy violence Suggested Age Range: Teens Contributed by Thomas Maluck
The Wicked + The Divine, vol. 1 By Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie Published by Image Comics (2014 – present)
Elevator Pitch: The world’s greatest pop stars are manifestations of the gods. Downside: they will die two years after receiving their holy form. The latest batch of musical demigods have plenty of baggage and more than a few deadly secrets.
Appeals to: Fans of Young Avengers or Phonograph (same creative team). Content Notes: Nudity, swearing, blood Suggested Age Range: Adults Contributed by Thomas Maluck
The Woods vol. 1 By James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas Published by BOOM! (2014)
Elevator Pitch: A high school is transported to an alien planet, and nobody knows what to do next. The teachers and faculty want everyone to stick together. The bullies want to treat their classmates like trash. A select few run off to take their chances in…the woods.
Appeals to: Fans of Kazuo Umezu’s The Drifting Classroom, high school mysteries like Morning Glories but with dangerous alien flora & fauna. Content Notes: some violence Suggested Age Range: Teens Contributed by Thomas Maluck
Zodiac Starforce By Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau Published by Dark Horse (2016)
Elevator Pitch: A group of magical demon fighting high schoolers come together to fight mean girls and intergalactic demons set on conquering our universe.
Appeals to: Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sailor Moon Suggested Age Range: Teens Contributed by Danielle Boyd
The title, Anything That Loves, references the old adage, and oftentimes, insult, that bisexuals, unable to chose between women or men, are eager to have sex with anything that moves. The term was swiftly and proudly reclaimed by many members of the bisexual community — from 1990 until 2002, the San Francisco Bay Area Bisexual Network published a widely-read magazine called Anything That Moves to explore the complexities and diversity of the bisexual community. The comics anthology, Anything That Loves, picks up on their community-building and missionary spirit, working to educate readers on the possibilities of non-binary sexuality.
The cartoonists represented in the anthology range from comic strip writers to web cartoonists to experimental artists. Many reflect on their personal experiences of bisexuality, though some tell fables (which include mermaids) to illustrate their points. Cartoonists, Leanne Franson and Jon Macy, have been producing comics on GLBT topics for more than a decade and offer a seasoned perspective, while newer artists like Kate Leth, MariNaomi, and Sam Orchard offer fresh perspectives. Some stories focus on the challenges of explaining bisexuality to one’s partner, while others skewer prejudices in the gay community against a fluid sexual spectrum. A few explore other modes of non-binary sexual expression like asexuality, cross-dressing, and the transgender experience.
The project is ambitious — so many different ways to approach sexuality, so many different, colorful styles of illustration, from line drawing to manga-esque to retro-throwback. But, it doesn’t quite click. Much has changed for the GLBT community in the last 10 years: American culture has made great strides towards acceptance and inclusion, though it still has a long way to go. Within the GLBT community, the reclamation of the word “queer” and the younger generation’s emphasis on less restrictive sexual labels has broadened many people’s perspectives on sexual identity. With that in mind, the educational nature of many of these comics feels stale and obvious. At this point, most people picking up a sexuality-themed comic will understand that sexuality is necessarily complex and exists on a spectrum. Anything That Loves struggles to acknowledge that it understands that too. Though it might serve as a serviceable introduction to the bisexual experience for readers less well-versed in GLBT topics, more rawly emotional personal stories and fewer simplified, impersonal narratives would better enlighten those who’ve never encountered GLBT issues in any form before.
That said, this book is a wonderful example of how the queer community has embraced the comics medium throughout the decades. In a stroke of brilliance, Erika Moen’s personal narrative of evolving queerness is included and is also referenced in Lena Chandhok’s “Comics Made Me Queer.” Chandhok cites Moen’s work as a godsend in her own path to self-acceptance. This feeling of passing the torch, of chronicling the evolution of the GLBT community through comics may not have been the original intention of this book, but it’s a happy outcome, and makes the book worth a look, even with its imperfections. There’s some adult sexual content and some nudity, but only at the service of stories, so I would recommend it to any adult and mature teenagers.
Anything That Loves by Charles “Zan” Christensen, Carol Queen Illustrated by John Lustig, Adam Pruett, Agnes Czaja, Alex Dahm, Amy T. Falcone, Ashley Cook, Caroline Hobbs, Bill Roundy, Ellen Forney, Erika Moen, Jason A. Quest, Jason Thompson, Jon Macy, Josh Trujillo, Dave Valeza, Kate Leth, Kevin Boze, Leanne Franson, Leia Weathington, Lena H. Chandhok, Margreet de Heer, MariNaomi, Maurice Vellekoop, Melaina, Nick Leonard, Powflip, Randall Kirby, Roberta Gregory, Sam Orchard, Sam Saturday, Stasia Burrington, Steve Orlando, Tania Walker, Tara Madison Avery, Mike Sullivan ISBN: 9781938720321 Northwest Press, 2013