Prior to the late 1980’s LGBTQ characters were not allowed in comics by rule of the Comics Code Authority, which was a comics regulation system that most mainstream comics abided by during that time period. You could, however, find some diverse characters in the comics underground scene as early as the 1970’s. Today you can find LGBTQ+ characters as the stars of their own series and sometimes even see popularized characters become LGBTQ+ like Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, the Dora Milaje of the Black Panther series, John Constantine and more. The amount of small press and independently published comics starring queer characters grows every day! This article highlights some excellent Teen reads if you’re looking to spice up your shelf with some inclusive graphic novel readings.
Bingo Love by Tee Franklin is a story that follows two young black girls who meet at church and fall in love at first sight. Unfortunately they were forced apart by their families and society, and eventually married and had children with young men. 60 years later they reunited at a church bingo hall and their love was rekindled. This graphic novel explores what it is like to have to become someone different because who you are isn’t okay to the people in your life. It leaves us with a complicated, but happy ending and is worth the temporary heartbreak in the middle.
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen follows the journey of a young boy with immigrant Vietnamese parents as he figures out how to come out to them as gay. Incorporating traditional fairy tales into real life prose we travel with Tien between gorgeous worlds as he navigates a sensitive situation. Nguyen also does a wonderful job of illustrating the difficulties of growing up as a first generation American for parents and children.
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden is a gorgeously illustrated lesbian space opera. Two young girls meet at boarding school, only to be forced apart by tragedy. Will they find each other again? It’s a pretty big galaxy, read on to find out. If you love space operas this one offers all the brilliance of space travel in a fantastic watercolor-esque art style.
My Brothers Husband by Gengoroh Tagami is a heartwarming tearjerker and technically a manga! This story follows a widow travelling to Japan to meet his husband’s family. The reader learns a lot about Japanese taboos surrounding gay marriage, showing affection, and Japanese traditions in general. There are two books in this series and if the first one hooks you, the second one is just as compelling.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up With Me by Mariko Tamaki is a high school romance story that many folks may already be familiar with. A young girl navigates a toxic relationship with her on again off again girlfriend as this comic explores the strong bonds of young love romantically, and platonically. If you’ve ever seen or read To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before you will enjoy this graphic novel.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang is a delightful take on a medieval era prince who enjoys dressing as a girl. He and his dressmaker attempt to navigate this as best they can while keeping secrets and evading marriage attempts. With vibrant drawings and wholesome friendships this graphic novel is truly delightful.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker is a magical tale of friendship and romance as a young girl navigates magic, her dead parents, and her werewolf friend with the help of her queer grandmothers. A delight through and through.
World of Wakanda by Roxanne Gay takes place in the popular world of Ta’Nehisi Coates Black Panther. Two Dora Milaje, Ayo and Aneka, deal with the conflict of loving each other and their nation and having to choose what’s best for one while clashing with the other. It also introduces a truly complex villain, Zenzi, who I hope we get to see more of in future editions.