Comics, LGBTQ, Sexuality

Put Down Grey and Read Sunstone Instead

Sunstone by Stjepan Šejić | Top Cow Sunstone Volume 1

Stjepan Sejic (w)(a)
Top Cow Comics
December 2014

If I catch you reading Fifty Shades of Grey, I am going to politely remove it from your grasp and hand you a copy of Sunstone instead. And if you’re into great characters and wonderful, sweet, funny romance stories that explore sexuality, then I am also going to hand you a copy of Sunstone.

To be clear, this is a story that heavily features BDSM, but I want you to set aside any preconceived notions you have about that and read it anyway. First of all, it is an incredibly beautiful, informative, and healthy exploration of sexuality that forces us to acknowledge that sex is a completely normal part of our lives which we need to stop being so damn taboo about. Now, while BDSM might be a kink for some people, that does not make it any less important as a part of sexual exploration. But the key to BDSM is something that, unlike Fifty Shades, Sunstone makes very clear: BDSM is about consent and it is about trust.

Lisa and Ally meet online and begin a friendship based on their shared kink and their respective roles as sub and domme. Their first in-person meeting has all the awkward moments that anyone on a first date can imagine, and as their relationship blossoms beyond the boudoir, it’s hard not to fall for the characters as well. Yes, this book features BDSM and erotica, but just as importantly, it is about very human characters that many of us can relate to in many ways. They explore their roles as sub and domme, but, mainly through Lisa, the story also deals with friendship, relationships, and that butterfly feeling you get in your stomach (and elsewhere) when you fall in love.

Sunstone by Stjepan Šejić | Top Cow

Love at fi — omg gotta peeeeee

The story frequently speaks about the various elements of BDSM (sometimes with far too many info dumps, but I can forgive this), categorizing those who enjoy such pleasures as “sexual nerds.” Ally and her best friend Alan are also gamers, and there are some amusing anecdotes that relate BDSM to massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMOs). As a nerdy gamer myself, the comparisons really ring true, further normalizing something that is generally considered a fringe past time–like so many other nerdy hobbies. But, I stress, you don’t have to be a gamer or into BDSM to appreciate Sunstone.

I am a big fan of Sejic’s art as well as his sense of humour. His paintings are not only gorgeous, but also extremely expressive. He is fantastic at capturing varied emotions and his characters feel very sexy and natural and comfortable in their own skin. Sejic seems to be a very open and honest person who enjoys sharing his work online via his Deviant Art page and other social media. I particularly love how he often humourously explains his wife Linda’s involvement in his creative processes. That’s how I learned of her work, Blood Stain, which expands on the MMO aspect we catch glimpses of when Ally and Alan break out the nerd references.

Blood Stain by Linda Luksic Sejic http://sigeel.deviantart.com/

Blood Stain by Linda Luksic Sejic

As he writes in the afterword, this is a project that resulted from his creative burnout during his time on Top Cow’s Witchblade. He suffered significant mental block–something any writer or artist can relate to. Sunstone was originally intended as a throwaway outlet for his creativity, harkening back to some erotic work he’d been commissioned to do before he accepted a position at Top Cow. But, as often happens, the characters started to tell their own story as Sejic created various non-sequitur strips. Eventually, with encouragement from Linda, the Sunstone graphic novels were born.

Whether or not BDSM is your thing, I can’t recommend Sunstone enough. Scratch the surface of this book and you’ll find a heartwarming little story about friendship and romance. My personal interest in BDSM doesn’t go much further than corsets and light bondage, but I’d like to think Sunstone is a reasonably good and respectful representation, and appreciate all the insights it offers. If you’re curious about the lifestyle, Sunstone is definitely a great place to start.

  1. Lindsey

    July 1, 2015 at 8:43 am

    I’ve been reading Sunstone on his dA account for a while now, but there is something different to reading it in hand. They’re both great experiences. I’ve probably said this before, but Stjepan Sejic is like my personal art-idol right now. I love the stuff he does, the stories he tells, and the cool guy he is. But reading that afterword in vol. 1 made it so much more real and I related to him even more from it.

    That aside, one thing I really love about Sunstone, besides the amazing story and the likeable characters, is that it demystifies BDSM and shows that its participants are real people. Ally is a smooth domme, but outside of scenes, she’s a complete adorkable fool. They worry about the same things as everyone else, like jobs, friends, and love. And it shows how BDSM is safely practiced, and even what happens when people aren’t safe. It explains the range of emotions people go through, but how they also keep themselves grounded so as not to lose their senses completely.

  2. Lindsey

    July 1, 2015 at 8:46 am

    One last thing to point out – if hot steamy lesbians aren’t your thing, the series will have multiple arcs – the first arc, Sunstone, is about Lisa and Ally. The second arc, Mercy, will be about Ally’s friend Alan and his relationships. I believe there is a third arc planned and I THINK it’s about Tom and Cassie, Alan’s married friends, but don’t quote me on that.

    1. Wendy Browne

      July 1, 2015 at 9:42 am

      I’ve actually read the second volume as well, and I believe there’s one coming out about Alan and Ally? Either way, I love that it shows various couples and in various situations. We’re mostly seeing Ally and Lisa in their down time, but I like that the other stories will likely do the same for the other characters to show just how totally normal everyone is.

      1. Lindsey

        July 1, 2015 at 9:54 am

        Yeah, vol. 2 is still the first “Sunstone” arc. I think the first arc goes all the way to vol 5 (could be wrong). Definitely vol. 4 at least.The one about Alan (which covers multiple relationships, not just Ally – sorry, I don’t want to spoil anything for his later relationships! 🙂 ), will be called “Mercy”. The arcs are named after the dom(me)’s safe word.

        1. Aaron

          July 1, 2015 at 2:05 pm

          Yep, Sunstone runs through book 5 (currently a couple of pages in on DA). Then Mercy with another 5 books currently planned for.

  3. Aaron

    July 1, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Sunstone has been one of my favorite things for a couple of years now after stumbling across it on DA via this adorable picture of Ally and Lisa holding hands: http://shiniez.deviantart.com/art/just-chillin-299385290 (Note: that image is totally work-safe, but the rest of his Shiniez account page is not )

    I love how sincere Sunstone is. I love that it’s sex-positive. I love that it’s an honest, informed, and HEALTHY look at BDSM. I love that it’s a great story with women as the main characters and narrator. I love the brilliant art, particularly Sejic’s incredible work with faces and expressions. I love that it can make me laugh and cry in equal measure (oh heavens how I’ve cried – ch.4 is a real kick in the heart).

    Enough gushing. The book is amazing, and as you note in the opening paragraph – if someone likes any of the things that Sunstone is about, they will most likely love this book.

    1. Wendy Browne

      July 1, 2015 at 7:59 pm

      Sincere, yes. It is such a wonderfully honest and open story about two people in love. So wonderful.

      Thanks for reading my review!

  4. Megan Purdy

    July 1, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    That speech bubble!

    1. Wendy Browne

      July 2, 2015 at 1:06 am

      His bubbles are crazy, but they add to the overall unique charm.

  5. DMaster

    July 3, 2015 at 1:19 am

    I just discovered this thing at my library randomly when I was looking for more work from Mr. Sejic after really enjoying his work on Rat Queens. I have only read the first volume, though I am eager for more. It’s funny, it’s adorkable, it’s hot, it’s aesthetic, it’s amazingly well-drawn and -written…any complaints on this book on the basis of its themes CLEARLY mark the complainer as someone who never actually read it.

    1. Wendy Browne

      July 3, 2015 at 9:15 am

      Seconding everything you said. Especially the “adorkable” part. That’s what I love most about it. That’s definitely not a word that would typically be associated with a story about BDSM.

  6. Skye

    July 8, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Sunstone is amazing! It’s the best example I’ve ever seen of how you CAN write and draw women in sexual outfits and situations without objectifying them.

    1. Wendy Browne

      July 8, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      Yes! I love that he initially jokes around in the opening monologue about the LESBIAN BONDAGE!!! to get you to stay and read, but for me, the sex was secondary. I wanted all the scenes of them hanging out and figuring out their friendship and budding romance.

  7. Adam

    August 23, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    I’ve read up to Volume 4 and I love this story. It is well written and drawn. I agree with everything everyone has said. It’s a incredible series and I would recommend others to read it as well. I can’t wait to read more.

    1. Wendy Browne

      August 24, 2016 at 8:27 am

      I still need to read volume 4. Glad to hear it’s still great!

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