I thought I would write about something for Pride this month, but what to focus on? Ursula K. Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness has been dissected many times. Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner is ground-breaking and a great fantasy representative. There are more options available to me than I can count, but I finally found my topic: comic books.
Still pleasantly faced with many options (Do I talk about Batwoman? Do I profile Magdalene Visaggio?) I decided this time to focus on fantasy stories in comics. No capes today, no superheroes. You might be surprised at how many choices are out there in the LGBTQIA+ fantasy comic genre. Yes, there are actually enough options for me to call it a genre! Yes, there are tons of wonderful fantasy comics out there!
I hope that the importance of LGBTQIA+ representation in literature, no matter the medium or format, is an obvious one, but maybe it isn’t. Perhaps this is your first experience touching the fringes of Pride and are wondering why it’s important. From my heart to yours, I tell you this: yes it really does make a huge difference in the life of every person that falls under the rainbow-colored umbrella. Knowing we’re not alone is important for everyone, but beyond that, knowing we’re valid, accepted, loved even if we were the only one like us is even more so.
So, let’s talk now about comics celebrating that rainbow, with characters who are valid, accepted, and loved. We’ll start with classic floppy copies available at your local comic book store (or big bookstore, if you have none nearby).
“The Sandman: A Game of You” by Neil Gaiman and more amazing artists than you can shake a stick at
To be honest, The Sandman is the ultimate classic of the fantasy genre period. This is the one multi-volume story that I think anyone who has any interest in comic books and fantasy should read. That said, “A Game of You” is a gem within the dragon’s hoard of stories told in the series. It features no less than three queer characters, a no-bullshit witch, and has a another woman as its lead protagonist. It’s some of Gaiman’s most female-centric work and on top of it all is an amazing story.
“The Spire” by Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely
Spurrier describes the book as “one part ‘Mad Max,’ one part ‘Bladerunner,’ one part ‘Dark Crystal,’ one part nutfuck insanity” and I have to agree. But in a good way. This is story a of Sha, the police detective who deals with religious zealots, a new Baroness in charge of the city, and her own modified biology while investigating a series of murders. It’s surreal and inventive.
“Isola” by Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl
This book. Such gorgeous art, I can’t even. The story is good too, though so far we only have three intriguing issues to give us a taste of this world. It’s a great time to hop on this book, where a soldier guards her queen, who has been turned by some kind of magic into a beautiful blue tiger. The prologue is available online and I double dog dare you to not want to read the series after seeing it.
Those are frankly the tip of the iceberg, but they’re some of my favorites. And now, for those who want to read something RIGHT NOW, I give you some web comics to choose from.
“Goodbye to Halos” by Valerie Halla
You know that rainbow I’ve mentioned? This comic has characters from just about every color on it. A coming-of-age story about the main character, who falls from one world into another and discovers her powers, along with making strong friendships and figuring out the mysteries that surround her past.
“Eth’s Skin” by Sfé R. Monster
Gosh I love this one. The art is gorgeous, the world is inventive, the story is utterly charming. I will warn you ahead of time that this is not a finished tale, and it hasn’t been updated in a while. Like the best fanfic on AO3 that’s left you hanging, this story will leave you wanting more. But trust me, it’s still worth the read. Maybe if we all read it the author will be encouraged to come back and continue.
OK, OK, as an antidote to the unfinished stories above, I’ll leave you with a couple of short stories. These two webcomics are some of my favorite examples of the power of the medium. Both are interestingly of a similar theme, that of love that is sought and found through a sharing of magical items. They’re gorgeous and charming and lovely tales. I encourage you to go read them, they won’t take very long, well, unless you’re like me and need to pour over them over and over.
That’s my brief round up of favorites in the world of fantasy LGBTQIA+ comics. There are TONS more out there and remember I only focused on fantasy stuff I’ve actually read! If you want to explore some more, Comicosity has two stellar lists of comics that will serve you well. “We’re Here and We’re Queer: 35 Indie Titles Doing Right by LGBTA Fans” is a fantastic list of print comics you can find at your local store (and yes, often these are available digitally as well). “Out, Online, and Proud: 40 LGBTA Webcomics to Know and Love” will give you plenty of reading material to keep you going for a while.
As for me, the next book I’m going to sit and read is “The Tea Dragon Society” by Katie O’Neill. Lovely artwork and it’s about tea and dragons and memories. I’ll save you a cup! Happy Pride!