Character and/or relationship spoilers for several comics and one recently concluded animated series lay below. Be warned.
There is a severe lack of queer representation in children’s media, as the surprise and discussion caused by the recent finale to the animated series Avatar: The Legend of Korra illustrates. It is sadly rare to find a character who falls outside the heterosexual cisgender mold at all, much less one who is both a major character and respectfully portrayed. Seeing oneself reflected in one’s culture is always important, but in childhood and adolescence people are already struggling to find identity and to figure out how they relate to the world.
Fortunately, things are improving, if slowly. An increasing number of all-ages and young adult comics, for instance, predominately feature queer characters. Here are three really great ones.
Lumberjanes, created by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Brooke Allen and published by the Boom! Box imprint of Boom! Studios, is a traditionally published ongoing comic set at a summer camp about a group of girls with an uncanny ability for finding supernatural adventure, much to their cabin counselor’s chagrin. Lumberjanes is a fun adventure series, filled with monsters, magic, and friendship and featuring a diverse cast of awesome ladies. Along with being a really dang fun comic in general, two of the Lumberjanes girls crush on each other really blatantly. The first arc wrapped up in issue eight and issue nine of the series was released earlier this month while the first trade paperback, collecting issues 1 through 4, is due to be released in April.
Gunnerkrigg Court, a long-running webcomic created by Tom Siddell, follows Antimony Carver and her best friend Kat as they explore their strange, technologically advanced school and try to unravel its mysteries of it and its relationship to the supernatural creatures across the ravine. The main story gradually builds through short, episodic chapters that The comic spends some time on Kat, who is bisexual, figuring out and coming to accept her sexuality. Recent chapters have seen Kat enter a relationship with another girl (who is also bisexual) and along with them, the comic has two other non-traditional couples so far, including another same-sex couple and a couple involving two beings who are both typically gendered as masculine. Archaia Studios Press has collected the first forty-one chapters into four books, which they classify as for ages twelve and up, or you can read it online here.
Cucumber Quest, by Gigi D.G., is adorable. It’s a fun, brightly-colored fantasy adventure webcomic following destined legendary hero Cucumber, who would really rather be at school studying magic, and his friends as they go on a quest to save the world from the evil Nightmare Knight, who is perhaps less evil than he seems. This comic has lovable characters, a great sense of humor, and gorgeous art. The witch Peridot, one of the main antagonists, has an adorable crush on Cucumber’s sister Almond that is so obvious that every character and their dad can see it, at least one of the princesses of Dreamside is queer, and one of the Nightmare Knight’s generals is transgender. Two books have been printed so far through Kickstarter funding and the third one is due to be printed May 2015, or you can read the comic online here.
These are just three of a happily growing list. Have a recommendation for other comics that could be on this list? Let us know in the comments.