8 Essential Books in the Queer Comics Canon

More than a decade ago, when Batwoman was reimagined as a gay character, it was a big deal. She was a woman in comics who dated and danced with other women, experienced heartbreak, and went through many of the mundanities of relationships that queer people aren't often afforded in mainstream media. Katherine "Kate" Kane was revolutionary.

She was, and is, also not alone. LGBTQ+ people are now featured in a lot of comics. In fact, when it comes to queer representation, the Marvel and DC movies and television shows are pretty far behind their paperback counterparts. Batwoman is only just now getting a her own show, and Marvel is promising that a gay character is coming, but such a character has yet to be seen. It's no wonder, then, that when movie fans start speculating about whether or not Captain Marvel and Valkyrie might be a couple, most readers have to hold back the "Well, if you read the comics…" from their lips.

Look beyond the superhero fare and there are even more queer characters filling comics panels. With a barrier to entry that can be as low as setting up a Squarespace account, indie comics featuring LGBTQ+ people are everywhere. And the mainstream titles are beefing up the queer storylines too. It's a lot to take in. Don't know where to start? Below are some of the best titles out there, from simple stories to superhero sagas.

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    Check, Please!

    Macmillan

    Check, Please! had the humblest of beginnings—starting as a class assignment for author Ngozi Ukazu, the webcomic grew a loyal online fanbase, and eventually got published as a book. It follows freshman hockey player Eric Bittle, or “Bitty,” navigating student life and playing hockey for his fictional liberal arts school. It’s a wholesome story, one that’s more about friendship than hockey. It’ll leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling, but will also punch you in the gut when you least expect it.
    How to read it: In print, or online.

    America

    Marvel

    America Chavez is one of the Young Avengers (a great queer story in its own right) who grew up in a queer utopia with her two mothers and is mourning their loss while also navigating the "real world"—and the racism, sexism, and homophobia that comes with it—for the first time. Plus, it features a queer woman of color punching Hitler in the face.
    How to read it: In print.

    The Witch Boy

    Graphix

    In the world of The Witch Boy, all girls are witches and all boys are shapeshifters. Our protagonist struggles with those expectations and trying to be himself in a world that penalizes him for that. The Witch Boy was written as a children’s comic, but still has enough complexity and intrigue for an adult reader. And it's great for facilitating conversations between parents and their children about gender and gender roles.
    How to read it: In print.

    Bingo Love

    Image Comics

    This indie comic made a lot of best-of lists last year, and with good reason. The book follows two queer women from their teenage years in the 1960s to the present day. It’s beautifully written and illustrated, and it tells a story you likely haven’t heard or seen before.
    How to read it: In print.

    Iceman

    Marvel

    Iceman is just one example of the benefits that comics have over films. The same character can be written over and over again in various iterations and interpretations. In this case, 2017 Iceman is recently out and finding community while also learning to accept himself as both a mutant and a gay man. X-Men have long served as an allegory for various marginalized groups over the years, and that’s true two-fold here. Bobby Drake’s double minority identity is framed throughout the series through the lens of his parents who love him but say all the wrong things in a way that rings very true, and highlights the importance of having queer writers behind queer stories.
    How to read it: In print.

    Jughead

    Archie Comics

    In a similar vein of reinterpreting a familiar character—in this case an Archie one—Chip Zdarsky’s Jughead Jones made headlines in 2016 when he came out as asexual. It was a move that was very much in character for those familiar with the (pre-Riverdale) burger-loving guy.
    How to read it: In print.

    O Human Star

    Blue Delliquanti

    This futuristic sci-fi webcomic is about a man who wakes up to find that he's been dead for 16 years and his brain has been uploaded into a robot’s body. It explores nature-versus-nurture and how much society and our upbringing impacts our relationship to ourselves and our genders, and it only gets more complex as the comic goes on.
    How to read it: In print, and online.

    A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns

    Oni Press

    A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns is a great example of a comic being used as a tool for education. As genderqueer author Archie Bongiovanni explains in the book, it can be exhausting for trans and gender-nonconforming individuals to explain their pronouns and identities to others over and over again. This book does some of the heavy lifting, and its compact print size makes it easy to whip out should you run into someone who needs it.
    How to read it: In print.


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