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Carina's Comic Corner: Rainbow Reads - Comics with Pride

Comics have always served as a subversive medium wherein we can explore topics that may be considered taboo or controversial and bring them into the mainstream. Queer themes, for example, used to be viewed as transgressive, but through media arts we are able to expose people to them and break down those biases. June is Pride Month, and we'll be having a double feature of rainbow reads. This post will highlight youth titles, and the next June post will cover adult comics. Read on for some heavy hitters in LGBTQIA+ comics for young people!

Lumberjanes, created by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Gus Allen, and ND Stevenson (Boom! Studios)

I may be biased with this one because Lumberjanes is one of my favorite comics of all time, but I promise it's worth the investment. What was originally anticipated to be an eight issue release ended up running for six years and seventy-five issues after growing wildly popular after the initial release of the first issue. The series takes place in a girls' summer camp and focuses on five wildly different best friends living in the Roanoke cabin: Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley. Lumberjanes may look "girly" on the surface, but the majority of its content is raucous action with a bit of an adventure-of-the-week format. Among the main girls, there are ample queer themes: Mal and Molly enter a relationship, and Jo is a transgender girl with two dads. There's even Barney, a younger boy from the camp across the river who experiences gender confusion and talks through it with Jo. At its core, though, Lumberjanes doesn't focus exclusively on the queer stories--it's just content about characters who happen to be queer, and oh, what a fun time it is.

Purchase Lumberjanes here.

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman (Hachette Children's Group)

Heartstopper is truly having a moment. Between the popularity of the Netflix adaptation and Alice Oseman's additions to the canon with the traditional novels This Winter and Nick and Charlie, but the OG comic is what started this phenomenon. Originally published on digital platforms Tumblr and Tapas as a webcomic, Heartstopper follows Nick and Charlie, who upon being sat next to each other in class develop a mutual attraction to each other and eventually start dating. The series has a robust cast of characters with many queer identities represented, and Oseman manages to seamlessly blend sweet romantic comedy with teen drama focused on themes like bullying, mental illness, and homophobia. The illustrations are full of delicate lines and sparse details, but the simplistic illustration elevates the nuanced narrative and helps to make it truly shine without all the extra bells and whistles. If you like ensemble stories with a lot of heart, this series will be a treat for you.

Purchase Heartstopper here, or read for free online on the platform of your choice.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic)

Powerhouse graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier never misses, and Drama is a staple of queer middle grade literature. Our protagonist is Callie, a musical theatre-loving middle schooler who is determined to help put on the best production her school has ever seen while on stage crew. She befriends twin brothers Justin and Jesse and they end up working on the play, Moon Over Mississippi (which by the way, is a totally fictional play but sounds like SUCH a good one). What comes from this is a super wholesome tale about friendship, belonging, and being yourself, and a kick-butt production of the musical. Drama time and time again ends up on the American Library Association's banned books list, with schools and libraries constantly being challenged for holding this title in their children's collections. However, Drama is a perfect example of why we need these queer stories for youth in the first place. With bright, animated stylization and believable, humorous dialogue, Drama proves itself worthy of all the accolades it's received.

Purchase Drama here.

Wandering Son by Shimura Takako (JP: Enterbrain, US: Fantagraphics)

First published in the serialized manga magazine Comic Beam, Wandering Son was considered a groundbreaking story when it was first released in 2002. The main premise is that of Shuichi, a middle schooler who is coming terms to the fact that she is a trans girl, and Yoshino, who is on a similar path as a trans boy. The two become friends and with a little help from some other kids in their class and even interact with a trans elder, a young woman named Yuki who is living her authentic life. The story covers concepts of closeting for safety while also knowing that you can be your true self with those who care about you. Japan has a very different approach to queer issues than Western nations, and it's refreshing to see a trans story from a non-US perspective. Wandering Son ran for over a decade before being turned into compiled into volumes and eventually being adapted into an anime, which gave it a revitalized fanbase in the 2020s, especially with Fantagraphics' promotion of the series. It's a timeless story that is guaranteed to make you shed a tear or two, both in sadness and in joy.

Purchase Wandering Son here.

Looking for reviews on upcoming releases? Maybe commentary on a specific title? Just want to find something new to read? Stay tuned for biweekly themed posts, standalone reviews of new titles before they’re published, and more!

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