LGBTQIA+ Graphic Novels
In 1954, Frederic Wertham published the now infamous Seduction of the Innocent, linking juvenile delinquency to comics. Testifying before Congress in 1954, Wertham stated emphatically that “it is my opinion, without any reasonable doubt, and without any reservation, that comic books are an important contributing factor in many cases of juvenile delinquency.” The ensuing uproar on comics’ deleterious effects on the nation’s youth led to the creation of the Comics Magazine Association of American which in turn issued the Comics Code Authority (CCA).
While the adoption of the code by publishers was voluntary, comics without the CCA logo faced an uphill battle in terms of distribution. This de facto censorship system was wide-ranging, touching on such things as how persons in authority could be portrayed, how crimes could be presented, directives on illustrations, and the portrayals of marriage and sex.
The CCA had a long-term chilling effect on the portrayal of LGBTQIA+ characters in mainstream comics; However, its creation led to the vibrant underground comix movement where artists and authors ignored the strict code. Though the CCA was revised several times in the 1970s, loosening some restrictions, it wasn’t until 1992 in Alpha Flight #106 that Marvel’s Northstar stated, “I am gay.” The CCA was totally abandoned in the early 2000s.
Today, though there is still progress to be made, LGBTQIA+ persons and characters are found in graphic novels from superhero-themed to memoirs. The Lilly Graphic Novel Collection is a great place to begin your exploration. Below are a few highlights from our vast collection. Enjoy!
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. In this award winning graphic memoir, Bechdel chronicles her relationship with her distant father, an English teacher and director of the town’s funeral home, “Fun Home” to the Bechdel family. From childhood through her coming out to her parents, Fun Home explores Bechdel’s fraught relationship with her father, the exploration of her sexuality, and a tragedy that leaves her much to reckon with. Fun Home was adapted for Broadway and has the distinction of being the first Broadway musical featuring a lesbian protagonist. It won the Tony award for Best Musical in 2015. Bechdel is also the author of the critically acclaimed Dykes to Watch Out For series.
Bingo Love by Tee Franklin (author) and Jenn St.-Onge and Joy San (artists). In 1963, Hazel and Mari meet at church bingo, and their friendship grows into love. This new found love, however, is unacceptable to their families and their community, and Mari’s family moves away. Many years later, after Hazel and Mari each married and raised children, they reconnect at a bingo hall and realize that their feelings are unchanged. Fifty years later, through strength and determination, they claim the life that they always wanted. Bingo Love started as a Kickstarter project until it was picked up by Image Comics.
Our Work is Everywhere by Syan Rose. This graphic non-fiction work highlights the diverse voices in the queer and trans communities. Rose has a broad definition of work, not just what we do in our professional careers but also the ways that we improve ourselves, our communities, and our world. Interviews with queer and trans organizers, health justice activists, martial artists, and more are included, accompanied by Rose’s beautiful and expressive illustrations.
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe (author) and Phoebe Kobabe (colorist). Both a memoir and an introduction to eir family and readers on what it means to be non-binary, Kobabe (e/em/eir pronouns) chronicles eir journey of self-identity. Kobabe’s touching and honest story is a useful guide on gender identity for everyone.
Heartstopper by Alice Oseman. Begun as a serial webcomic in 2016, Heartstopper, available now in two printed volumes, introduces readers to Charlie and Nick who meet and develop a friendship at a British all-boys grammar school. The friendship grows into love. Optioned by Netflix, Heartstopper is slated for live-action adaptation in the near future.
These influential and impactful works are among the hundreds of titles in the Lilly Graphic Novel Collection, located in the first floor Carpenter Room.