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LGBTQ Graphic Novels and Comics: Keep Em Coming



Graphic novels and comics have long served as mirrors to societal values and issues. Over the decades, the portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters in these media has evolved from subtle subtext to explicit and celebrated representation. This timeline explores key milestones in LGBTQ+ representation in graphic novels and comics, highlighting how these works have reflected and influenced LGBTQ+ lives. Of course we have long tried to decode the X-Men parallels, and their have been much stronger representation lately in both the DC and Marvel Universes, but here are some you might not be as familiar with.


1970s: Subtext and Coded Representation

1. “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” by Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams (1971)

In the early 1970s, mainstream comics began to touch on social issues more openly. While LGBTQ+ themes were not explicitly addressed, the "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" series tackled various social justice topics, hinting at broader themes of inclusion and equality. This era set the stage for more direct representation in later years.

2. “Wimmen's Comix” (1972)

"Wimmen's Comix," an underground feminist comic anthology, featured some of the earliest depictions of lesbian relationships in comics. It provided a platform for female creators to explore themes of sexuality and gender, paving the way for more explicit LGBTQ+ content in independent comics.


1980s: Emergence of Explicit Representation

3. “Dykes to Watch Out For” by Alison Bechdel (1983)

Alison Bechdel’s "Dykes to Watch Out For" is one of the most influential LGBTQ+ comic strips, chronicling the lives of a diverse group of lesbian friends. Bechdel's work provided a candid, humorous, and poignant look at lesbian life and culture, breaking ground for future LGBTQ+ narratives in comics.

4. “Love and Rockets” by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (1982)

"Love and Rockets" introduced readers to a range of LGBTQ+ characters and storylines. The Hernandez brothers' pioneering work in the alternative comics scene brought LGBTQ+ representation to a broader audience, blending realistic portrayals with imaginative storytelling.


1990s: Increasing Visibility and Diversity

5. “Sandman” by Neil Gaiman (1989-1996)

Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" series is notable for its inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters such as Desire, a non-binary deity, and Hazel and Foxglove, a lesbian couple. Gaiman's work was groundbreaking for its time, presenting LGBTQ+ characters with depth and complexity.

6. “Stuck Rubber Baby” by Howard Cruse (1995)

"Stuck Rubber Baby" is a semi-autobiographical graphic novel that explores the intersection of race and sexuality in the 1960s American South. Howard Cruse's narrative addresses the struggles of a young gay man during the civil rights movement, offering a powerful commentary on the intersections of oppression.


2000s: Mainstream Acceptance and Celebration

7. “Y: The Last Man” by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra (2002-2008)

"Y: The Last Man" features several LGBTQ+ characters, including the enigmatic Agent 355 and the transgender character Dr. Allison Mann. The series was praised for its nuanced portrayal of gender and sexuality, contributing to greater visibility and acceptance in mainstream comics.

8. “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel (2006)

"Fun Home" is Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir, detailing her complex relationship with her father and her journey of self-discovery as a lesbian. The book received widespread acclaim, including a nomination for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was later adapted into a Tony Award-winning musical. "Fun Home" is a landmark in LGBTQ+ literature, illustrating the power of graphic novels to tell deeply personal and universal stories.


2010s: Diverse Narratives and Intersectionality

9. “Batwoman” by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III (2010-2011)

Batwoman, aka Kate Kane, is one of the most prominent LGBTQ+ superheroes in mainstream comics. Her character, a lesbian who balances her personal life with her role as a vigilante, brought significant LGBTQ+ representation to DC Comics. The series' critical and commercial success demonstrated the market's readiness for diverse superheroes.

10. “The Wicked + The Divine” by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (2014-2019)

This fantasy series features a pantheon of gods reincarnated as pop stars, many of whom are LGBTQ+. "The Wicked + The Divine" is celebrated for its stylish art and complex characters, exploring themes of fame, identity, and mortality. Its diverse representation has resonated with many readers, highlighting the importance of inclusive storytelling.

11. “Check, Please!” by Ngozi Ukazu (2013-2020)

"Check, Please!" is a webcomic-turned-graphic novel that follows the life of Eric "Bitty" Bittle, a gay college hockey player and vlogger. The series gained a massive following for its heartwarming and humorous depiction of Bitty's experiences with his team, friendships, and budding romance. Its success underscores the growing acceptance and desire for LGBTQ+ stories in the mainstream.


2020s: Continued Progress and Innovation

12. “Heartstopper” by Alice Oseman (2018-present)

Originally a webcomic, "Heartstopper" has been published as a graphic novel series and follows the blossoming relationship between Charlie, a gay teenager, and Nick, who initially struggles with his bisexuality. Alice Oseman's tender and realistic portrayal of young love and self-discovery has resonated deeply with readers, becoming a beloved LGBTQ+ narrative in contemporary comics.

13. “Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me” by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O'Connell (2019)

This graphic novel explores the tumultuous relationship between Freddy Riley and her on-again, off-again girlfriend Laura Dean. The story delves into themes of toxic relationships, self-worth, and the complexities of teenage love. Its beautiful artwork and emotional depth have earned it numerous awards and accolades, solidifying its place as a modern LGBTQ+ classic.


Additional Writing to look for from Intern Ben C:


The newest book, The Science of Ghosts, written by Lilah Sturges, tells the story of a transgender parapsychologist facing a conflict between her past and present. Also, it has to find what is real and what is fiction. A hostile ex-wife and clues to murder a long-forgotten will test her at every twist and turn. If you are familiar with the author, Lilah Sturges is known for co-writing with Billingham, the award-nominated author of the Jack of Fables series published by Vertigo and DC Comics.


The Misfits: A Royal Conundrum, written by Lisa Yee and illustrated by Dan Santat. When a notorious thief is out for priceless treasure, an elite team of crime-fighting underdogs, The Misfits, are on the case in this hilarious illustrated series from Newbery Honoree Lisa Yee and Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat. Lisa Yee is a writer and the author of Millicent Min, Girl Genius, Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, and So Totally Emily Ebers. Dan Santat is an illustrator known for his children's book The Adventures of Beekle:

The Unimaginary Friend, which won the 2015 Caldecott Medal for distinguished illustration.


Fantasy Sports 1: Court of Souls, written by Sam Bosma, in this adventurous journey, a young explorer and her musclebound friend go treasure hunting in a mummy's tomb, but if they want to get rich, they're going to have to best the mummy in a game of hoops. Can they trust their bandaged adversary to play by the rules? Who is Sam Bosma? After graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Sam Bosma taught in the Illustration department from 2011 to 2013 before moving to Brooklyn, NY. He won a Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators in the Institutional category and a Gold Award from Spectrum in

2013.


Out of Left Field, written by Jonah Newman, is about a high school kid named Jonah. He loves history class and nerdy movies, and his athletic ineptitude verges on tragedy. Jonah Newman, the writer behind Out of Left Field, is a cartoonist and editor who has worked in the publishing industry since 2018


The evolution of LGBTQ+ representation in graphic novels and comics reflects broader societal changes and the increasing visibility and acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals. From the subtle subtexts of the 1970s to the explicit and celebrated narratives of today, these works have played a crucial role in both reflecting and shaping LGBTQ+ lives.

As graphic novels and comics continue to innovate and diversify, the importance of inclusive storytelling remains paramount. These stories not only provide representation and validation for LGBTQ+ individuals but also educate and inspire broader audiences. By exploring the rich tapestry of LGBTQ+ experiences, graphic novels and comics contribute to a more inclusive and empathetic world.

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