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Graphic Novel Friday: LGBT in Comics

Since 1997 (although their efforts date back to the late 1980s), the Lambda Literary Foundation “nurtures, celebrates, and preserves LGBT literature through programs that honor excellence, promote visibility and encourage development of emerging writers.” Their efforts expanded last week with the following good news for comics fans:

"For the first time ever, the Lambda Literary Awards will honor LGBT Graphic Novels in their own category in keeping with the explosion of titles, and talent, that have enriched LGBT literature for years. The new LGBT Graphic Novels category is defined as “any work –fiction or nonfiction– that uses a combination of words and sequential art to convey a narrative and is published in book form (as distinguished from periodical comic books). Open to any genre or topic this category includes graphic novels, graphic memoirs and comic anthologies.”

While we wait for the award winners to be announced in spring of 2014, here is a list of our favorite graphic novels that have LGBT themes and/or characters. It’s by no means comprehensive, and we’re hoping Omni readers will add their favorites to the comments!

  • Love and Rockets by Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics): Ongoing for over 30 years, the rich world created by an artistic band of brothers is still ahead of its time, involving LGBT characters and issues without pandering or overt “special messages.” These are life stories, told as life unfolds—with humor, heartbreak, and perseverance.  (See also the recent and very cool Covers collection and our reading guide to the series.)
  • Dykes to Watch Out for by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): Here is another long-running literary comics staple, this time focusing on a predominantly lesbian cast that ages and grows as the stories publish.
  • Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III (DC Comics): DC certainly made headlines when it announced the first openly lesbian character in the Bat-family, but Rucka and Williams transformed her into more than a costumed hero; she’s imbued with true character, full of pride, mistakes, and—yes—heroics.
  • Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse (Vertigo): Set in the early 1960s and in the American South, protagonist Toland Polk maneuvers his sexuality in a tumultuous time period, set against civil rights, racism, activism, and coming-out culture.
  • Wandering Son by Shimura Takako and Matt Thorn (Fantagraphics): This beautiful literary manga follows the lives of two fifth graders, Shuichi Nitori Yoshino Takatsuki, as they both question their gender identities in the wide-eyed and often cruel period of adolescence.
  • Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood Books): After her high school boyfriend commits suicide, Kimberly Keiko Cameron must confront mortality among other powerful teen emotions. Things grow even more complicated after Kimberly (nicknamed “Skim”) suspects she has feelings for an older female teacher.
  • X-Factor by Peter David and Valentine De Landro (Marvel Comics): This long-running superhero investigative book went from cult-favorite to spotlight darling when it introduced a romantic relationship between teammates Shatterstar and Rictor, which led to a 2011 GLAAD Award for Outstanding Comic Book.
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (Mariner Books): Bechdel turns from fiction to memoir in this celebrated look at the author’s life with her closeted gay father, and how his story affects her own.
  • The Authority by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch (DC Comics): Sure, we’ve winked at some superheroes from time to time (“Are they or aren’t they?”), but characters Apollo and The Midnighter do not shy from their identities inside or outside their costumes. Instead, they sustain a healthy and romantic teammate relationship.
  • No Straight Lines edited by Justin Hall (Fantagraphics): Readers could skip the entire list and pick up this popular anthology that celebrates “queer comics” with contributions from Bechdel, Cruse, and Dan Savage, among many others.



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