The stories we read growing up help shape our identity. We seek out characters that reflect ourselves so we know that we aren’t alone. For those in the LGBTQ+ community, mainstream media hasn’t always offered characters that portray their lives accurately.
We are currently in a renaissance of representation where queer people are beginning to have access to better stories. One medium being featured more in recent years is the world of comic books and graphic novels. From queer superheroes of color to rite-of-passage stories, the characters shown are unique, smart, and truly represent the queer community in its many colors. For cis straight people, it can be an excuse to read refreshingly diverse comic books and to become more informed allies!
In honor of Spirit Week, here are five graphic novels featuring queer characters that you don’t want to miss:
1. America by Gabby Rivera
First published by Marvel Comics in 2017, America Chavez (aka Miss America) is a queer Latina superhero raised by her mothers in an alternative reality. As a former Young Avengers member and current leader of the Ultimates, saving lives comes naturally to America. So, what else can an out and proud superhero do? Start college, of course.
Besides having a kick-ass fashion sense, the series takes a thoughtful look at Latinx identity. Also, (spoiler alert) we see her travel back in time and punch Hitler! Sadly the series was canceled this year, but you can still enjoy all 12 issues out now.
2. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
A graphic memoir, written in 2006, by Alison Bechdel – the woman who brought us the famous movie equality test – Fun Home is a look into how Bechdel learned to be an artist from her father, their relationship, her own coming out story, and her father’s sexuality. Written in the form of a diary, she brings readers back in time with gothic-style artwork and juxtaposes the story with clever literary classics.
3. Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh
I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t aware that this was a graphic novel, first published in French in 2010 before appearing in English in 2013, the same year that the movie adaptation of the same name came out. In this coming of age story, Clementine begins to find herself and what love means when she meets a self-assured blue-haired girl named Emma.
Beautifully illustrated, the honestly written personal narrative will draw you in from the first page. The movie has been criticized for being unnecessarily sexually graphic, but the book frames the couple’s sex as intimate rather than simply sexual.
4. My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris
If you love quirky stories, B-movie horror, and murder-mysteries, My Favorite Things is Monsters is definitely for you. Author Emil Ferris’ debut graphic novel tells the story of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, a half-Mexican tomboy who loves horror films and detective comics, as she attempts to solve the murder of her upstairs neighbor. In between sleuthing, Karen, who is depicted as a werewolf (to reflect how she feels about herself, as well as how society views her) is doing some soul searching as she harbors feelings for her best friend, Missy. Published in 2017, fans are eagerly awaiting the sequel. Come for the story but stay for the breathtaking portraits, all drawn with a ball-point pen.
5. Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Who doesn’t love a good feminist dystopian novel? In this futuristic story, non-compliant women are sent to an off-planet prison, controlled by patriarchal overlords. But if the newest femmes inmates work together, they might make it out alive. What’s refreshing about Bitch Planet (first published in 2014) is the diverse range of characters, who are drawn to represent all types of women, not just the stereotypical feminine characters we so often see in comic books.
Hopefully, these books will inspire you to seek out more graphic novels and comic books, even if you’ve never picked them up before. There are many more featuring empowering depictions of LGBTQ+ characters. Who knows, you might even want to try writing your own.